Criterium du Dauphine 2014: Chris Froome cements status as Sky’s top man with stunning time-trial victory

Froome looks certain to head into the Tour de France as Team Sky's lead rider

Cycling Correspondent

While large question marks hover over Sir Bradley Wiggins’ participation in this year’s Tour de France, Sky team-mate Chris Froome’s stunning victory in the Critérium du Dauphiné’s opening time trial yesterday showed the Kenyan-born Briton is more than ready to defend his yellow jersey.

Yesterday’s opening 10.3 kilometre (6.4 mile) time trial in Lyon was a short, technical stage with a strong headwind in the final stages. But Froome nonetheless managed to open up a considerable gap – eight seconds, as much time as there was between all the next 19 riders on the results sheet – over second-placed Alberto Contador.

Froome’s superb victory in a time of 13min 13sec left Spaniard Contador – one of his top rivals for the Tour title – trailing in his wake. It put Froome, the defending Critérium champion, in the lead from the word go in the eight-day race.

“I’m very, very happy with my performance. I didn’t think I’d do so well in such a short and flat time trial,” Froome said after pulling on the leader’s yellow jersey. “I’m definitely here to try and win the race overall. We’ll do everything we can but the most important thing is to wear the yellow jersey at the end of the race, not at the beginning.

“[But] I’m pretty much where I was last year, if not a little bit better,” Froome added.

Read more: Sky accused of 'low' act by leaving out Wiggins
'Gutted' Wiggins says he will miss Tour de France
Comment: Sky have taken a risk by discarding Tour expert Wiggins

His next big mission will be to defend his lead – and demonstrate he has lost none of his Tour climbing strength – in the mountains. Today’s 156km stage culminates in a 13.6km ascent of the Col du Béal and a second straight victory would confirm Froome’s status as the favourite to win the Tour.

Following Wiggins’ controversial assertion on Friday that he would only be racing the Tour if his Sky team-mate Froome was injured, Froome’s victory has enabled Team Sky to round off a tumultuous week on an upbeat note.

Meanwhile, the Sky team principal Sir Dave Brailsford insisted yesterday no final decision had yet been taken on who would be racing the Tour alongside Froome.

“We have two world-class races this month, the Dauphiné and Tour de Suisse, Chris is in one, Brad’s in the other,” Brailsford said.

“Let’s see how they come out of those races because they will show us where we are.”

Brailsford also emphasised that the final decision on Sky’s line-up for the Tour next month would be made by him, not Froome.

However, assuming today’s stage in the mountains goes as well for Froome as his time trial yesterday, questions about who Team Sky’s leader should be seem extremely unlikely to arise.

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