“Obviously I’m still finding the race rhythm but I’m feeling better and better as I do more days of racing,” Froome said following Thursday’s second stage of the Dauphiné. “I’m feeling optimistic about the Tour.”
Froome’s performance at the French five-day race has been far from confirmation that the Briton will line up in Nice in two weeks to try and win his fifth Tour de France. On Wednesday, Froome was dropped from the main field with 8 kilometers remaining.
Froome was dropped again on Thursday, but only after he made some strong efforts near the front. As he dropped off from the lead group with 4.5km left to climb, a commentator from British broadcaster ITV wondered aloud, “Is this Froome preparing, or is this Froome saying goodbye to a place in the tour?”
The punishing climb up the Col du Porte is always a good indication of form ahead of the Tour, and for much of the 10km, Ineos appeared to be back to full strength. The entire team took turns pulling on the front, and their relentless pace-setting crushed the main group, leaving the strongest contenders left to fight for the stage win.
Froome was initially part of the lineup led by Dylan van Baarle, Jonathan Castroviejo, and Michał Kwiatkowski.
With 4.5km left, riders began to drop off the lead group. Froome was one of them.
As Kwiatkowski powered away on the front it was Froome who pulled to the side of the group and watched the favorites go by. The Ineos train rumbled on, with Geraint Thomas and Pavel Sivakov each taking a pull. When Sivakov finally pulled off only Egan Bernal was left to contend with Jumbo-Visma’s Primož Roglič and Sepp Kuss.
Bernal attempted to lift the pace just inside of 1.5km to go, but was marked by Kuss and Roglič.
According to Froome, keeping Bernal in GC contention has always been the team’s goal.
“Egan has done really well in Occitanie and Tour de l’Ain,” he said. “We had a victory and a second place, so the whole team here is trying to look after Egan and try to put him in the best place to go for the victory.”
Bernal now sits in the fourth position for GC. After the first day of racing on Wednesday, he made it clear that he wants Froome on the Tour squad, and after today’s stage, Froome echoed the encouraging words of his teammate.
“Every day is a test and every day is about pushing the condition,” Froome said. “I’m really happy with the progress I’ve made so far – it’s been really encouraging.”