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Critérium du Dauphiné: A fourth for Froome or a first for Contador?

Joseph Delves
2 Jun 2017

Could this be Contador’s last chance to win the Critérium du Dauphiné?

If Chris Froome (Team Sky) triumphs at the Critérium du Dauphiné, which starts this Saturday in Saint-Étienne, he’ll leapfrog Nello Lauredi, Luis Ocaña, Charly Mottet and Bernard Hinault, to go down in the record books as the rider with the most victories at the French stage race.

Not only that, but a fourth win would complete a hat-trick of consecutive victories. The eight day race, which forms the traditional prelude to the later Tour de France is a prestigious race in its own right and one that all stage racers would like to add to their palmarès.

It’s also one that has so far eluded perhaps the greatest rider of the last decade. Despite finishing on the podium three times, Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) has never taken the top spot at the Dauphiné.

It’s a gap that’s all the more obvious in a stats list that includes wins at almost every other major stage race.

Coming three weeks before the Tour de France, riders traditionally use the Critérium du Dauphiné as a final tune up and opportunity to drill their team ahead of the biggest race of the year.

As such it gives a great indication of what to expect in the later race. Despite Contador’s advancing years, in a recent interview Froome included him as one of his three main rivals at the Tour, ahead of the more widely tipped Nairo Quintana (Movistar).

While his best years might be behind him Contador still firmly believes he’s got another Grand Tour win in him, a belief that Froome doesn’t appear to completely discount.

With two wins at the Tour, three if you count the one that was scratched as the result of a ban for an adverse showing for clenbuterol, the older rider would dearly love to get one over on the Team Sky captain, whose stellar career is on the border of eclipsing his own.

The match-up between the two attacking riders should ensure the Dauphiné is essential viewing.

Speaking from recent training camp in Tenerife Contador explained his aims for the race, ‘At the Dauphine I want to make the first important efforts before the Tour.

'I’m sure I’m going to go a bit at the limit. That’s why I want to consider the race calmly.

'If I see I’m going too hard, I’ll slow down. Although that’s always been difficult for me.’

Including Philip Deignan, Peter Kennaugh, Michal Kwiatkowski, Luke Rowe and Ian Stannard, considering the strong squad that his Team Sky rival is taking to the race, Contador may find that the pace is forced from the off.

Either way, with a host of mountain stages, including climbs of the Mont du Chat, Col du Cucheron, Col de Porte, Alpe d'Huez, Col de Sarenne and Col de la Colombière, the Dauphiné is likely to provide a spectacular arena for the two to go head to head for the first time in the season.

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