The slopes of the Col du Béal provided the stage for as knock-down-drag-out fighting as you see in bike races. Coming at the end of the second stage of the Dauphiné and with only a 10 kilometer time trial yesterday, the summit finish greeted fresh riders with plenty of reserves to spend without fear of repercussions in the next days. As race leader Chris Froome's last Sky teammate swung off with five kilometers remaining to the summit the hostilities began in ernest with Froome accelerating sharply in the saddle in a manner remiscient of his dominance of of the Mont Ventoux stage in last year's Tour de France. This time, however, his acceleration failed to shake off Alberto Contador and shortly afterwards most of the general classification contenders rejoined the leading duo. Wilco Kelderman, coming off a strong ride at the Giro d'Italia, and Andrew Talansky tried digs, perhaps in hopes Froome would be watching Contador and Vincenzo Nibali more closely than second tier favorites. Contador, on the other hand, let Froome respond to the flurry of attacks and conserved his energy for the most important task at hand - staying with Froome, and hopefully gapping him at the end of the climb. Contador did manage to stay with Froome through the final kilometer, withstanding several sharp accelerations that shed the remainder of the group in the process, but was unable to come around the Sky rider at the line. Four seconds behind, Kelderman led home a trickle of GC contenders. Vincenzo Nibali, expected to be one of the biggest challengers to Froome, ceded 27 seconds in the final kilometer and now sits a daunting 50 seconds adrift.
This year's Dauphine has not been short of GC action - in the first two stages we have witnessed a time trial and a hors categorie summit finish atop the Col du Béal. The route is a marked break from the past where GC action was spread more evenly throughout the route or back loaded in the last days of the week. Gone too is the Dauphine's traditional preview of key aspects of the Tour de France, including a long(ish) time trial and at least partial tracing of a key mountain stage in July. Now we're left wondering - is this experimentation a dud?
With Froome establishing a lead yesterday and proving the best on the climbs today, one might wonder if the rest of this week is a forgone conclusion to the dominance of the past two days. But to call Froome's two stage wins dominance would be premature, especially with two mountaintop finishes and one potentially tricky mountain stage yet to come. The GC action will subside tomorrow during what should be a stage for the sprinters, but Wednesday's stage summits the category 2 Col de Manse 14km from the line. The descent off the Manse makes up half of this distance and it is the type of stage Vincenzo Nibali, now sitting 50 seconds adrift, will try to turn to his advantage. Holding off a chase in the last flatter kilometers will be hard, but a coup here could take back 15-30 seconds. Thursday and Friday are more rolling and will set up the final showdown on two hard, but not obscenely difficult, summit finishes over the weekend. With only a 12 second lead over Contador, Froome will have to be on point to keep or extend his lead, though the absence of time bonuses for stage victories will play into his favor as the week goes on.
|1||Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky||4:24:41|
|2||Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo|
|3||Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team||0:00:04|
|4||Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol||0:00:10|
|5||Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin Sharp||0:00:12|
|6||Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team||0:00:27|
|7||Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Movistar Team||0:00:40|
|8||Adam Yates (GBr) Orica Greenedge||0:00:42|
|9||Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) IAM Cycling||0:00:44|
|10||Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||0:00:45|
|1||Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky||4:37:44|
|2||Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo||0:00:12|
|3||Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team||0:00:21|
|4||Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin Sharp||0:00:33|
|5||Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol||0:00:35|
|6||Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team||0:00:50|
|7||Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Trek Factory Racing||0:01:22|
|8||Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team|
|9||Adam Yates (GBr) Orica Greenedge||0:01:31|
|10||Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana Pro Team||0:01:35|