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Froome crushes the opposition in the short 10.4km opening time trial by putting a massive 7 seconds into Contador in an exciting battle between the Tour favourites

Photo: Sirotti

ALBERTO CONTADOR

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BOB JUNGELS

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CHRIS FROOME

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CRITERIUM DU DAUPHINE

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08.06.2014 @ 15:19 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Chris Froome (Sky) proved that there is no need to worry about his condition for the Tour de France when he won today’s opening time trial of the Criterium du Dauphiné in commanding fashion. The Brit produced an amazing performance to put a massive 7 seconds into key rival Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) on the short course while Bob Jungels (Trek) saw himself getting relegated to third after leading the stage for most of the day.

 

Chris Froome may not have been his dominant self in the sprint season but there is no reason to fear that the Brit won’t be ready for the Tour de France. Today he fired a warning shot to his key rivals when he won the opening time trial of the Criterium du Dauphiné in commanding fashion.

 

The race is usually the big dress rehearsal for the Tour de France and this year maybe even more than before as it has attracted the three biggest favourites for La Grande Boucle, Chris Froome, Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali. And the three stars all proved that they are fully ready for their biggest goal of the season as they all performed excellently on the short 10.4km course in Lyon.

 

At the first time check on the top of the only climb of the course, they occupied the first three spots, with Nibali setting the best time, 2 seconds faster than Froome and 3 seconds faster than Contador. However, the second part suited the TT skills of Froome more than his rivals and it was no surprise to see the Brit gain time on his rivals as they powered along flat roads to the finish.

 

In a TT where most riders were separated by mere seconds, Froome opened a gap that was far bigger than most other differences as he crossed the line as the final rider to beat Contador my 8 seconds. Nibali faded a bit towards the end and had to settle for 8th which is currently an encouraging result for the Italian after the public turmoil during the last week.

 

Contador may have been beaten by Froome but for him to finish second in such a short time trial, is certainly an encouraging sign as well and he proves that he will be a big challenge for the defending champion in the upcoming mountain stages. Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) was another big winner among the GC riders, with the American posting the fourth best time.

 

Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) and Tejay van Garderen (BMC) both finished in the top 10 while Jurgen van den Broeck (Lotto Belisol) did really well to take 17th in a stage that didn’t suit him. As opposed to this, pre-stage favourite Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) could only manage 20th in a stage where the TT specialists found it hard to make a mark.

 

One rider to shine, however, was Bob Jungels who was an early starter. The Luxembourgish champion set the fastest time and led the race for most of the day until he was beaten by Contador – the third last rider to start. In the end, he took an encouraging third place to prove his great potential.

 

Froome has now proved that he has the upper hand when it comes to time trialling but tomorrow he will need his climbing legs. The race continues with its first mountain stage which brings the riders over five categorized climbs before the summit finish on the top of Col du Beal. The final ascent is not overly tough but will offer a first glimpse of the internal climbing hierarchy.

 

A short opener

After a one-year absence, the opening time trial was back in the Criterium du Dauphiné as the riders kicked off the race by covering a 10.4km course in Lyon. After a flat opening, they went up a category 4 climb where the first time check was taken before a technical descent and a long, flat section brought them to the finish.

 

The first rider down the ramp was Bartosz Huzarski (NetApp) who set a time of 13.43 but he didn’t enjoy his lead for long. The second rider on the course was Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) and he would quickly have 19 seconds off the mark set by the Pole.

 

Kelderman holds off challengers

Kelderman held off the challenge by Simon Spilak (Katusha) who had set the same time as the Dutchman at the top of the climb and Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r), Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEDGE) and most notably Lieuwe Westra (Astana) – who had been very fast in the first section – all failed to challenge the youngster. His teammate Lars Boom may have given him a scare as the Dutchman was a lot faster at the top of the climb but at the finish he was only second.

 

Kwiatkowski was second at the time check but did a surprisingly poor second half to slot into fourth. While most eyes were on the Pole, Jungels had started his ride and after passing the time check in third, he did a great second half to move into the hot seat, beating Kelderman by two seconds.

 

Disappointment for Porte

Maciej Bodnar (Cannondale) and Matthias Brändle (IAM) both had good rides to make it into the top 5 while Richie Porte (Sky) will be disappointed with his performance that was only good enough for the provisional 10th. Martin Keizer continued the great Belkin showing by moving into 7th but all eyes were now on van Garderen who had been really fast on the climb.

 

At the finish, the American could only manage fourth and the attention quickly turned to Geraint Thomas (Sky) who was fastest at the top of the climb. Like many others, however, he faded in the second half and could only make it into 8th.

 

Alaphilippe goes close

The many strong riders among the early starters had now finished their rides, meaning that Jungels could enjoy a quiet time where no riders put his lead under threat. Riders like Ramunas Navardauskas, Gustav Larsson, Jerome Coppel and Tanel Kangert all failed to make it into the top 10.

 

The first threat came from Julian Alaphilippe (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) who did a surprisingly good ride to slot into seventh after having set the fastest time at the time check. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin) had a decent ride to finish just outside the top 20 but all eyes were now on Vasil Kiryienka (Sky) and Jan Barta (NetApp) who had both set fast times at the time check.

 

Great start for Talansky

In the end, both faded a bit, with the former crossing the line in 4th and the latter in 7th. As opposed to this, Talansky maintained his speed all the way to the finish and slotted into second, just two seconds behind Jungels.

 

Sylvain Chavanel (IAM) had a bad day and could only manage 14th while Van Den Broeck finished a strong ride by crossing the line in 13th. Moments later, Benat Intxausti (Movistar) powered across the line in the 10th best time.

 

The giants battle for the win

The focus was now on the three Tour stars that had set the three best times on the climb. Contador was the first to finish and he beat Jungels by just one second to move into the hot seat. Moments later, Nibali slotted into seventh, meaning that only Froome could challenge the Tinkoff-Saxo rider.

 

However, the Brit again proved that he is an excellent time triallist, crushing the opposition. He stopped the clock in a time of 13.13 to take the first leader’s jersey in the race.

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