Froome Climbs to Victory in Stage 2 of Dauphine Libere
Chris Froome (Sky) has won Stage 2 of the Dauphine Libere 2014. On the climb to the finish, the Sky man dropped all of the GC contenders except for Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo Bank) and then held off the Spaniard in a two-up sprint to take the rugged, 156-km ride from Tarare to Pays d’Olliergues-Col du Beal in 4:24:41. Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) finished third at 0:04. Froome, who also won the Stage 1 time trial in Lyon, remains the maillot jaune.
The break du jour formed on the day’s first climb, the Category 2 Cote de Saint-Marcel-l’Eclaire. Thomas Damuseau (Giant-Shimano), Kevin Reza (Europcar), Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale), and Matthias Brandle (IAM Cycling) sallied off of the front. Sky kept the quintet on a short leash, and the escapees’ lead maxed out at 4:20.
Sky led the field up the climb to the finish. The British squad’s pacemaking shelled rider after rider, including Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) who finished ninth at the Giro d’Italia. With five km left, Froome attacked. Contador followed immediately, while Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp), Kelderman, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), and Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) rejoined later. Froome attacked again, and Contador and the others responded.
Kelderman countered, and Froome led the others to the Dutchman. Froome led the group into the last km. With 800 m left, the Briton attacked, and only Contador could stay with him. With 500 m to go, Froome made his last move. Contador was not dropped, but the Tinkoff-Saxo Bank man could not challenge the Sky man. He stayed on Froome’s wheel as the two crossed the finish line.
Froome said that the riders battled the heat and that Contador’s form and that of other riders was good. “It was a really, really tough day today but the team did a really big job," he said. "It was hot out there, you could see a lot of the guys salting up. I think this is the first real hot day we’ve had this year in these kind of conditions, but the team did a really good job, so I’m really happy to be able to get the stage victory to be able to say thank you to them.
“It’s shaping up to be a really exciting race. When [Mikel] Nieve pulled off, I thought ‘Okay, this is the first time I’ve done a mountaintop finish against my biggest rivals in a really long time now so let’s open things up and let’s see where everyone’s at,’ and it seemed that Alberto came after me. He was able to hold my wheel, I wouldn’t say easily, but I couldn’t shake him and it’s interesting to see a few other guys jumping around. Talansky, Kelderman, they put in a few good attacks there.
“I think in the final Alberto and I coming up to the line I think both of us were going as hard as we could. I like to think if he’d had any more he would have come around me but he’s definitely in really good condition.”
In the overall, Froome leads Contador by 0:12 and Kelderman by 0:21. Stage 3 will probably not change this state of affairs. The 194-km ride from Ambert to Le Teil will feature two Category 2 climbs, but the second of these will summit 46 km from the finish. The field should come together for a bunch sprint. Who will win it? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!