Chris Froome won the final day’s individual time trial to take the overall and successfully defend his title ahead of overnight leader Simon Spilak and Rui Costa, thereby replicating last year’s podium.
Anything you can do, I can do better!
Ominously for Chris Froome’s (Sky) competition, the winner of the last three editions of this race has gone on to win the Tour de France. Possibly mindful of this statistic, and Alberto Contador’s (Tinkoff-Saxo) emphatic victory last month in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, Froome signalled an impressive and calculating return to form in a race where he easily saw off some of the pretenders to his Tour crown.
On the queen stage three, he easily outpaced Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and left riders of the calibre of Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) trailing in his wake, though he did concede the stage win in a sprint to Simon Spilak (Katusha), confident of beating him in today’s time trial.
More surprising was his victory today, albeit only by one second in a hilly time trial, over world champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), who triumphed over Contador in the Basque’s country’s final day time trial.
It’s still some weeks to go before the Tour starts and the Criterium du Dauphine will better signal everyone’s relative strengths, but I think it’s fair to say that #VaVaFroome isn’t going to easily relinquish his title to anyone. Post-race, he confirmed:
This year was a different race; there were no hilltop finishes, so it made the race different. The time trial was extremely hard on a very tough circuit but I think the climb was good for me. But with one second to gain on Simon Spilak it was really difficult. He was strong in the mountains the other day and I wasn’t sure how it would go. I’m just so happy to be back in the yellow jersey. It’s a great feeling.
The Giro’s almost here
A number of riders such as Ivan Basso (Cannondale), Nico Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo), Maxime Monfort (Lotto-Belisol) and Rigoberto Uran (OPQS) were using this race to fine tune their engines for the forthcoming Giro d’Italia. Monfort had been the best placed on GC before losing time with a mechanical. It’s hard to draw conclusions from their overall placings other than to say that they’ve probably kept their powder dry for next week.
Big Swiss Cheese
A more than honourable mention should go to triple stage winner Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE), who continued the team’s fine early season form by taking the three so-called sprint stages and wearing the leader’s jersey for a day. They were his first wins of the season and the former Tour de Suisse winner frequently rides well on home soil.
This meant that apart from Marcel Kittel’s (Giant-Shimano) third place in the opening prologue, the sprinters were largely out of sight and out of mind. Perhaps they too were keeping their form under wraps, but I would expect Kittel and fellow sprinter Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) to figure more prominently in the Giro.
The King of the Mountains jersey was won by Swiss Johann Tschopp from the local Pro-Continental IAM team, who had three riders in the overall top twenty: Mathias Frank was fourth, Sebastien Reichenbach 15th and Marcel Wyss 16th.
Michal Kwiatkowski (OPQS), who’s been impressive in so many races this season, took the prologue and retained the leader’s jersey for another day, ahead of his retirement on Friday to recoup his strength before riding for teammate Rigoberto Uran in the Giro. Tejay van Garderen‘s (BMC) overall hopes ended with a fall in the prologue, while Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) slipped out of tenth into eleventh place overall in the hilly time trial. They’ll both bounce back in time for the Tour. Talansky’s downfall was Thibaut Pinot’s (FDJ) gain. He’s obviously conquered his fear of riding in the wet, as he slid neatly into tenth place overall – the best placed French rider.
Race at a glance
3 – Number of stages won by Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE).
3 – Consecutive victories by British riders from Sky in this race (Wiggins, Froome, Froome).
3 – Number of Movistarlets in the overall top ten (Benat Inxtausti, Jon Izagirre and Jose Herrada).
Prologue: Winner – Michal Kwiatkowski (OPQS). Leader – Kwiatkowski.
Stage 1: Winner – Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE). Leader – Kwiatkowski.
Stage 2: Winner – Albasini. Leader – Albasini.
Stage 3: Winner – Simon Spilak (Katusha). Leader – Spilak.
Stage 4: Winner – Albasini. Leader – Spilak.
Stage 5: Winner – Chris Froome (Sky). Overall winner – Froome.
1. Chris Froome (Sky) 16:18:46
2. Simon Spilak (Katusha) +0:28
3. Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) +1:32
4. Mathias Frank (IAM) +1:44
5. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) +1:45
6. Benat Intxausti (Movistar) +1:52
7. Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) +1:56
8. Jon Izagirre (Movistar) +2:07
9. Jose Herrada (Movistar) +2:15
10. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) +2:31
Race links & reports: Official website, cyclingnews.com