Chris Froome (Team Sky) believes he is on track for the Tour de France despite slipping from second to fourth on the final day of the Criterium du Dauphine.
Froome, who started the Dauphine finale one minute and two seconds behind Richie Porte in the general classification, put in an attacking performance on the 115km final stage, instigating a series of moves early in the day.
The three-time Tour de France champion, who was vying for a fourth Criterium du Dauphine title, formed an elite lead group with the likes of Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) and Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) but ultimately faded as the race hit the final climb of the day to Plateau de Solaison.
It was on the summit finish ascent that Fuglsang broke clear to win the stage and oust Porte, who had been forced to chase after being isolated early in the day, from the top step of the podium. Martin finished second on the day to round out the top three after eight days of racing.
And Froome, who crossed the line in eighth in Plateau de Solaison to drop to fourth overall, just one second behind Martin, insists the Dauphine has given his form a vital shot in the arm ahead of the Tour de France, which starts on Saturday July 1.
“Everyone knew it was going to be a really aggressive day of racing,” said Froome. “For us we weren’t here to try and protect second place – we wanted to race for the win today. So we put all our cards on the table and I think that’s exactly what we did as a team.
Even though it didn’t pay off in the end I think we’ve got to be happy with that. I came here looking for a hard week of racing and that’s exactly what I got. I only had 19 days of racing before the Dauphine so I’m really light on racing. Hopefully this will move me on now as well in terms of preparations for July.
“At one point I was close to being in the virtual yellow jersey. But I think I’d done so much work earlier on to try and set up that situation that when I got to the final climb I didn’t have much left unfortunately. But if I’d just been here to defend second place I would have been more conservative. I would have waited for the last climb and just followed Jakob and Aru. That wasn’t the plan today.
“If I look at where I was a few weeks ago at the Tour of Romandie I seemed to be a long way off the pace. Here I feel as if I’ve got better and better over the week and at least I’m heading in the right direction. I feel as if I’m on track for July.”