British rider Chris Froome wins Criterium du Dauphine race
MODANE VALFREJUS, France (AP) — British cyclist Chris Froome launched one of his blistering mountain attacks to win the Criterium du Dauphine race for the second time on Sunday, clinching the eighth stage to take the yellow jersey from American rider Tejay van Garderen.
Froome won the race in 2013 on his way to the Tour de France title, and with the showcase race starting in less than three weeks this victory sends a strong message out to his rivals.
Van Garderen led Froome by 18 seconds overnight, but could not keep up when Froome attacked with about 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) left on the final climb.
Froome moved into contention by winning Saturday’s seventh stage — the toughest of the race with five category-1 climbs — and again proved too strong.
“I can’t believe it. I couldn’t have expected to go any better today,” the 30-year-old Froome said. “The legs were really tired after yesterday and the whole team was suffering because of the work they did yesterday. I don’t know how they did it; the whole team just lifted themselves today.”
He won the stage by 18 seconds from countryman Simon Yates, and finished 10 seconds clear of Van Garderen in the overall standings. Portuguese rider Rui Costa was third overall, 1:16 behind.
Froome praised his Team Sky teammates — before turning his attentions to the Tour, which starts in Utrecht on July 4.
“Up until now I’ve only been thinking of the end of the Dauphine,” Froome said. “But of course the Tour de France is the big objective. Yeah, I think the team is ready, I think I’m almost ready.”
The final stage took riders over 156.5 kilometers (97 miles) and finished with a category-1 climb up to Modane Valfrejus, and Froome completed it in 3 hours, 56 minutes.
German rider Tony Martin took the lead 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the end as he tried to win with a solo breakaway.
The chasing pack started to reel in Martin, whose lead was trimmed to 1 minute, 30 seconds with 20 kilometers (12.5 miles to go).
He was caught soon after and British rider Stephen Cummings surged ahead, with Spanish veteran Alejandro Valverde charging after him.
With Tour champion Vincenzo Nibali stepping up the pace in the peloton, Valverde was caught with about 6.5 kilometers (4 miles to go), leaving just Cummings out ahead by one minute.
With just over 3 kilometers to go (2 miles) to go, Cummings’ lead was down to 22 seconds.
Moments later, Froome launched one of his trademark attacks and soon zoomed past a struggling Cummings.
Van Garderen, who by now had no teammates around to help him, tried to stay on Froome’s wheel, but the Briton’s acceleration was too strong — just like it was on Saturday.
Nibali, who cracked in Saturday’s tough climbs, finished the race out of the top 10 and has much work to do in order to defend his Tour title.