Chris Froome insists his preparations to defend his Tour de France title next month remain on target despite the Team Sky rider missing out on the podium at the Criterium du Dauphiné today following a spectacular final stage to the week-long French race.
The stage was won by Jakob Fuglsang of Astana, who pointed to the sky as he crossed the line in tribute to his team mate Michele Scarponi who was killed in April when he was hit by a truck while training for the Giro d’Italia.
Fuglsang overhauled overnight leader Richie Porte of BMC Racing to take victory on a short but tough 115-kilometre stage from Albertville to Plateau de Solaison in which the attacking was relentless from the start.
Froome, who was second overall ahead of the final stage, 1 minute 2 seconds behind Porte, his close friend, training partner and former lieutenant at Team Sky.
At one point, Froome was virtual leader on the road as the race leader was distanced, but on the final climb Fuglsang launched the attack that would lead to him becoming the first Dane to win the race.
He clinched it by just 10 seconds from Porte, who had limited his losses to finish runner-up. Dan Martin of Quick Step Floors finished third overall.
Froome said afterwards: "Everyone knew it was going to be a really aggressive day of racing. 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 Dauphiné 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 [his Astana team mate, Fabio] Aru. That wasn’t the plan today.”
Froome had been looking to win the race for what would have been a record fourth time, his previous victories coming in 2013, 2015 and 2016 – the three years in which he went on to win the Tour de France.
The result leaves him without a victory to date in 2017 but he insists his preparations for this year’s 104th edition of the three-week race are going according to plan.
"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,” he said.
“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."
Last week, both Froome and BMC Racing insisted that there was no truth in a report on L’Equipe that he had contacted the US-registered team with a view to joining it in 2018.
It has subsequently been reported that an extension of his contract with Team Sky may be announced before the Tour de France starts in Düsseldorf on 1 July.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.