Road

Froome after Dauphine win: ‘I’m not quite at my best’

Chris Froome wins the Critérium du Dauphiné, but he admits he's not in top form with the Tour de France less than three weeks away

MILAN (VN) — Sky’s Chris Froome won the last two stages of the Critérium du Dauphiné over the weekend to secure the overall title, but he still has to improve for the Tour de France next month.

Froome won the Saint-Gervais stage below Mont Blanc Saturday and Sunday, attacked American Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) to take the stage to Modane and his overall leader’s yellow jersey. The Brit won the race by 10 seconds over van Garderen.

If his rivals looked worried the way Froome zipped away with the stage wins, they should not be — they should be doubly concerned because Froome explained he is not at his best with three weeks still to go to the Tour start in the Dutch city of Utrecht.

“If I have to be honest, I’d say I’m not quite at my best,” Froome explained in south-central France this weekend.

“I still have a lot of work to do between now and the Tour de France, that’s one of the reasons we are here, to test and to see where we are at. I’m happy with where I’m at, it’s a good place to be at this time of season.”

Last season did not go as well for Froome, who was sick and suffered some back issues in the lead-up to the Tour. The 2015 season has been relatively kind to Froome so far. He slugged it out with the best grand tour cyclist of this generation, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), and came out on top of the general classification in Spain’s Ruta del Sol. After a quiet run through the Volta a Catalunya and the Tour de Romandie, he returned to win the Critérium du Dauphiné title. Giving a bad omen to his rivals, he last won the Dauphiné in 2013 en route to a Tour de France victory.

Though slightly off in the team time trial Tuesday, Sky hit the all marks in the remaining stages with help from riders like American Ian Boswell. Froome did the rest.

When he shot clear Saturday for the stage win and bonus seconds, van Garderen said “he went by so fast, there was no way to get on his wheel.” Sunday, it seemed only to be when, not if, Froome was going to distance van Garderen for the stage and yellow jersey. He did so with 2.5 kilometers remaining up the hairpin-laden climb to Modane.

Van Garderen again managed well even if not having the speed. He was the last to remain with Froome and though dropped, maintained tempo to save his second place overall.

Froome appears to be on another planet compared to his Dauphiné rivals. Only the experienced Contador and mountain goat Nairo Quintana (Movistar) were missing from the cast — they’re both scheduled to race the Route du Sud before the Tour.

“Arriving to my best form for the third week of the Tour? If we could have it exactly how we want it, that would be the best scenario,” Froome said.

“We just have to get through the first week first and then see where we are at. I don’t expect all the GC guys to make it through the first week without any big … You look at any grand tour … At the Vuelta a España last year, Quintana dropped out, at the Tour last year, myself and Alberto dropped out, the Giro d’Italia this year, Richie [Porte] dropped out … Every grand tour, one, if not more, of the big contenders are going to drop out.”

Froome will back off and fine tune his motor before the Tour starts in Utrecht. Sky has pencilled in a reconnaissance of some mountain stages and some aerodynamic testing before July 4. If all goes to plan, Froome will arrive at the start line fitter than the version of him fans saw in the Dauphiné.

“I definitely feel that I had a bit slower build-up to the Tour this year, I don’t think that’s a bad thing,” added Froome.

“I’m exactly where I need to be. We have under three weeks to the Tour now, I still have one or two little things to touch on in term of preparation. Things are looking good.”