Froome moves a step closer to Dauphiné victory

Chris Froome (Sky) moved a step closer to his fourth stage race victory of 2013 when he defended his overall lead on the penultimate stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné at Superdévoluy.

Entering Sunday’s final stage to Risoul, Froome holds a 51-second lead over teammate Richie Porte, and there is a striking symmetry with Sky’s dominance in the same race 12 months ago. On that occasion, Bradley Wiggins claimed overall honours ahead of then-Sky teammate Michael Rogers, and this time around, Rogers – now at Saxo-Tinkoff – is in third place, 1:37 behind Froome.

“I wouldn’t say the race is over yet. Tomorrow is still going to be a really hard climb to Risoul,” Froome said, according to his team website. “If you have a bad day in the mountains you can still lose minutes. It’s still all to race for but I’m feeling confident – especially with Richie Porte in second place. It puts Team Sky in a really strong position."

Froome, who finished fourth overall in last year’s Dauphiné, is leading the Sky line-up this time around and he was able to rely on the support of a solid coterie of men in black on the Col du Noyer. After Ian Stannard and Edvald Boasson Hagen chased the early break in the valley beforehand, Vasili Kiryienka and Geraint Thomas set a searing tempo on the climb itself before swinging off.

Alberto Contador took up the pace-making at that point for Saxo-Tinkoff, and while Peter Kennaugh was dropped soon afterwards, Porte remained on hand to ride shotgun with Froome. The Tasmanian even went on the attack on the final climb to Superdévoluy and although he was unable to catch stage winner Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), he finished the stage in third place.

“Today was another hard day on the bike – a lot of climbing and naturally with that amount of climbing it was going to be a hard race to control," Froome said. "I’m really happy with the work that my team-mates did. Again they stepped up and helped me to defend the yellow jersey. In the final, Saxo Bank took up the pace on the penultimate climb, I think with a view to securing third position.”

If Froome holds off the attacks on the summit finish at Risoul on Sunday, he will seal his fourth stage race win of the season after the Tour of Oman, Critérium International and Tour de Romandie, while Porte also claimed victory at Paris-Nice. The main objective, however, is the Tour de France.

“If I can win the Dauphiné, that will be another step towards the Tour de France and another experience to use as leader of Sky,” Froome said, according to L’Équipe. Indeed, immediately after the Dauphiné, Froome will set about reconnoitring some Tour stages in the area, including the race’s second time trial.

“After the Dauphiné, we’ll stay at Risoul to ride over some of the Tour parcours,” he said. “After that, we’ll have a week-long train cap at Châtel, but in any case, I won’t take part in the British championships [the weekend before the Tour.]”

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