Two out of two for Chris Froome who fights off rival Alberto Contador in Criterium du Dauphine
Defending champion seals second straight victory ahead of Spanish competitor after battle in gruelling climb
Britain’s defending champion Chris Froome of Team Sky made it two wins in two days when he won Monday’s second stage of the Criterium du Dauphine ahead of Spanish arch-rival Alberto Contador.
After victory in Sunday’s opening time-trial stage, Froome ensured himself of the race leader’s yellow jersey on the 156km second stage that ended with a gruelling 13.6km climb of the Col du Beal.
“It’s the first time this year that we’ve both battled,” said Froome of his “duel” with Contador.
“I gave it everything. It was block to block. I tried several times to attack, but he [Contador] is very strong. It was really tough between us.”
A breakaway by Alessandro de Marchi was eventually reeled in with 7.5km to go despite a 2 minute 40 second lead the Italian had going into the final ascent.
Froome was followed home by Contador, with Dutch rider Wilco Kelderman in third, 4 seconds adrift.
The Kenyan-born Briton, the reigning Tour de France champion, now stands 12 seconds clear of Contador, himself twice a winner of the Grand Tour, in the overall classification.
Kelderman and American Andrew Talansky, who finished fifth, two emerging riders, as well as Belgian Jurgen Van den Broeck, fourth, vainly tried to make the most of the rare moments of respite offered by Froome in the final kilometres.
But it was a group of six riders, still lead by the Briton, which emerged going into the final kilometre.
Among this group, Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali finally conceded 27 seconds to Froome and Contador to cross in sixth place.
Kelderman, well oiled by the recent Giro d’Italia, resisted better without being able to rival the yellow jersey winner for the second time in two days.
Poland’s Michal Kwiatkowski and American Tejay Van Garderen, both Tour de France hopes, lost two minutes to Froome.
If he could count on Wales’ Geraint Thomas and Spaniard Mikel Nieve in the first part of the climb, Froome’s usual trusty lieutenant, Australian Richie Porte, struggled throughout the day to finish more than 10 minutes off the pace.
Tuesday’s third stage covers 194km from Ambert to Teil and gives the sprinters a race opportunity in the mostly mountainous race.