Team Sky were always likely to play a part in the finale of stage 2 of the Criterium du Dauphine, but they animated, rather than dictated the action with several riders attacking on the final set of climbs before team leader Chris Froome crossed the line in 8th place behind winner Jesus Herrada (Movistar).
Froome held his third place, his deficit to race leader and arch rival Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) holding at 13 seconds, just where it had been at the start of the stage. This may not have been a mountain showdown, but it certainly gave a few inclinations and hints as to how Froome and his team would ride throughout the week, and perhaps the Tour.
"I just tried to stay out of trouble and stay near the front," a panting Froome told Cyclingnews just after he crossed the line.
"We came with numbers, guys who are leaders in Landa, Poels, Kwiatkowski, and Henao. All these guys can win bike races so why not use those cards."
Few would argue that Team Sky are not the strongest squad in this race, and the riders who rolled off Froome’s tongue are all capable winners. Kwiatkowski, Landa and Henao all attacked on the final two ascents in a bid to win the stage and put pressure on Contador and the other GC riders. In one sense it was a rather un-Sky tactic considering the team have been criticised in the past for the successful but somewhat controlling way in which they have dominated Grand Tours. The third category climb to Chalmazel-Jeansagnière didn’t lend itself to such a pattern, but Team Sky nevertheless showed signs of a new way in which they might approach the Tour – one in which rapid accelerations from pure climbers isolate rivals before Froome attempts to land the knockout blow.
"We've got some great signings for this year and it's great that we're able to ride like that. The legs felt good in the final," Froome said.
"Kwiatkowski, Poels, Henao, they're all leaders in their own right. We had the numbers and it would have been a shame, and as we're not in the leader's jersey at the moment we need to put pressure on the guys who are defending by riding with an aggressive tactic," Froome told the press when he reached the team bus.
"We didn't end up with the stage but it worked out how we wanted it to."
At the podium celebrations a little way from the Team Sky bus, Alberto Contador pulled on yellow for the third day in a row but he commented to Cyclingnews that it was clear Team Sky meant business and that they were here to win the race.
As for Froome, he even managed to surge to the front on the final ramp to the line.
"In the last few hundred meters for me I felt good so I pushed on and got a top 10. I’ve had good feelings so far and there's still a lot of racing to come this week. From the prologue and from today I've got a good feeling about it."
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