Briton Chris Froome’s chances of going one better than his second-placed finish in last year’s Tour de France could not look stronger as the Sky Pro Cycling rider triumphed in the Criterium du Dauphine on Sunday.
Second on the final stage in Risoul, France, behind Italy’s Alessandro de Marchi, Froome completed the arduous eight-day race 58 seconds ahead of teammate Richie Porte.
Spain’s Dani Moreno was third, 2 minutes, 12 seconds back.
Regarded a key dress rehearsal for the Tour de France which starts on June 29, Froome finished third in the midweek time trial, then claimed the lead and clinched a stage win in last Thursday’s first mountain-top finish in Valmorel, France.
He comfortably defended his lead in the weekend’s final two Alpine stages and now succeeds Sky Pro Cycling teammate and last year’s Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins as the champion of France’s third-biggest stage race.
His next target is to follow Wiggins’ wheel tracks in the Tour itself.
“I couldn’t have expected anything better now that with Richie we’ve finished in the two top spots overall and this is a great test regarding what we’ll face up to in July in the Tour de France,” Froome told reporters.
The final day’s racing, held in wet, foggy conditions, was won by De Marchi after he took part in an early breakaway of 24 riders, although a late attack by Froome came close to denying the Italian.
The race leader charged away 2km from the finish with Porte on his wheel to try and bridge the gap on De Marchi, at that point nearly two minutes ahead, but despite ripping into his advantage, Froome fell 24 seconds short and settled for second.
“I wasn’t at all sure I was going to be able to make it until the final kilometer, I knew Sky were driving hard behind,” De Marchi said.
“It was touch and go right up until the finish,” he added.
Earlier in the stage, Froome’s Tour rival Alberto Contador of Spain crashed and fell on a damp descent from the Col de Vars.
He was uninjured, but still lost time when he dropped back in an unsuccessful bid to assist Saxo-Tinkoff teammate Mick Rogers maintain third place overall and while Contador finished a below-expectations 10th overall, Froome said he is in top form for the Tour.
“I know I’m going to do everything possible to win there and there are good reasons to trust a team like this one, but in cycling nothing is ever guaranteed,” the 28-year-old said.
“It’ll be a huge advantage having two riders [himself and Porte] aiming for the top spots in the overall classification,” Froome said. “Now I can have a glass of wine with my teammates to celebrate the victory and then go back to work, checking out the route of several of the stages.”