Conclusions after the Criterium du Dauphiné
Things are looking good for Chris Froome ahead of the Tour de France. The 30-year-old hasn’t had an easy season so far, with just two early wins to his name (a stage and the overall standings in the Ruta del Sol), followed by some health problems which hampered his Spring races. But things turned around in June, once Froome took an impressive victory in the Criterium du Dauphiné – the last event he rode before the Grande Boucle – where he was clearly the best rider. After his 9th career triumph in a stage race, the Brit will start the Tour de France as the main favorite for the yellow jersey, but more important, he’ll not have the same question marks that have shred his confidence before last year’s edition, following his crash and poor GC results in the Dauphiné.
BMC’s Tejay van Garderen was upset after Sunday’s finale because he missed the victory for just ten seconds, but the US cyclist has reason to stay confident he can reach his goal in the Tour de France, where he hopes to get on the podium. Although he did not enter the Dauphiné as a big favorite, Van Garderen slowly began to show he’s in great shape, so that mid-way through the race everyone could see he was one one of the strongest cyclists out there. A smart rider, who knows when to go to the attack and when to play it safe, the 26-year-old made some significant progress in the past months and he is now headint towards the right direction, which can land him his best ever result in a Grand Tour.
For many, Simon Yates was the revelation of the race, but he isn’t a surprise anymore and people shouldn’t forget that the young Brit underlined his huge potential since he rode as a U23 in 2013 and won two stages in the Tour de l’Avenir. Last year, because of an injury, he stayed in the shadow of his twin brother Adam, but this didn’t stop him get a couple of strong results, which continued this season in 2015 with top 10 placings in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, the Tour de Romandie and the Criterium du Dauphiné, where he also secured the white jersey after a gutsy ride in the last two mountain stages. Just 22-year-old, Simon Yates will race his second Tour de France next month and he’ll surely be one to watch out for in the mountains, where he’ll fight for a victory.
Nacer Bouhanni came home safe and wrapped up the points classification at the end of a perfect week. The French sprinter arrived here with the precise goal of notching just a stage win, but he was the fastest in the flat days and that helped him produce two great sprints, which led to as many victories, his first in the World Tour this year. After taking the green jersey, Cofidis’ star cyclist will hope to carry these success and form in the Tour de France, There, hiss fearless attitude and high speed will certainly add some extra incentive to the sprints, where he’ll fight with the likes of Mark Cavendish, Peter Sagan, Marcel Kittel, André Greipel and his former teammate Arnaud Démare, the man he still considers to be at fault for missing many opportunities during his spell with FDJ.
Alejandro Valverde and Vincenzo Nibali came 9th, respectively 12th at the end of the week-long stage race, minutes behind Chris Froome, but these results aren’t by all means worrisome, as it was obvious for everyone that neither hit top form for the Dauphiné, where they came just to tune up their shape before July. Actually, judging by the look of things, Valverde and Nibali took it easy in the mountains and played it smart, as they have just one goal in mind: the Tour de France, where they will start as two of the strongest riders in the pack, while also being somewhat of an unknown quantity for their rivals.