Team Sky racked up their third major triumph of 2013 as Britain’s Chris Froome and Australian Richie Porte secured the top two spots of the Critérium International race in France as well as two out of a possible three stage wins.
With its sprint stage, time trial and a full mountain stage packed into an intense weekend of racing, the Critérium is often compared to a mini-Tour de France.
For Sky, the omens for July could hardly have been better as Paris-Nice winner Porte clinched the leader’s jersey in Saturday’s time trial in Porto Vecchio before Froome blasted away on ascent of the Col d’Ospedale to take both a solo summit victory by 30 seconds and the final overall victory.
Froome had already out-powered many of his key rivals in the Tour of Oman, his first race of the season. Although he narrowly missed out on his next big target, the Tirreno-Adriatico, victory in the Critérium confirms the Briton is following a similar pre-Tour de France pattern of success to that of team-mate Bradley Wiggins last year.
Froome said: “All these races I’ve been doing now, it is not the objective to win. I’m going there to test myself, keeping in mind that the Tour is the ultimate goal for me.”
While the talented Slovakian all-rounder Peter Sagan won the prestigious Ghent-Wevelgem Classic, in the Tour of Catalonia yesterday, Garmin-Sharp rider Dan Martin of Ireland held on to a slender 17 second lead to take the biggest stage victory of his career. In the same race, Wiggins continued to build towards his first big target of the season, the Giro d’Italia, starting with a blistering attack on stage one that split the field apart and finishing with a solid final fifth place overall.