The Dauphine isn’t the Tour de France. Keep repeating that to yourself whenever you’re tempted to hand Sky’s Chris Froome the maillot jaune in Paris in just over six weeks.
Let’s give it a try right now: The Dauphine isn’t the Tour. However, for the second day in a row Froome did beat his top rival Alberto Contador. He killed him in the time trial and today he smacked him down on the summit finish at Montee de Valmorel.
In the test against the clock, the Spaniard complained of allergies but on Valmorel he has to blame his legs. Contador attacked in the final kilometers but Froome — in true Sky Tour de France style — used teammate Richie Porte to ramp up the pace, then attacked himself, catching and passing El Pistolero to take the leader’s jersey.
Pause, deep breath, the Dauphine is not the Tour de France.
Contador himself has repeated that message a number of times — still building the final form, plenty of time to hit 100%, no point in doubting his chances of winning, no reason to question whether he can take on the dominant, well-drilled Sky machine.
The scary thought is that Froome also claims he hasn’t peaked yet. “I’m actually hoping to improve my form before the Tour,” said Froome. “I don’t feel that I’m in 100 per cent condition yet but I’m where I need to be at this stage.”
For variation, let’s bring in Contador’s Saxo-Tinkoff team manager Bjarne Riis. In English with a pleasant Danish accent: the Dauphine is not the Tour.
Well, we better start praying it isn’t.
The prospect of another tactically dull Tour de France GC battle has everyone nervous except for Team Sky. Nobody likes a 100th birthday party without any excitement: balloons, cake, fireworks, incessant and nasty attacks from BMC, Garmin-Sharp, Katusha and Contador’s Saxo-Tinkoff.
Froome is of course wise to downplay his performance and caution anyone trying to say the Tour de France is already decided before the first stage in Corsica.
“Today was a good gauge for me to test myself against someone like Alberto who has multiple Grand Tours already,” said Froome. “To finish in front of someone like him, it gives me a lot confidence, especially three weeks out from the Tour de France.”
So Twisted Spoke is not going to do something silly and hand Froome the trophy. Too many crazy things can happen in Le Tour: crashes, illness, torrential downpours, crosswinds, un jour sans, tacks on the road, dropped chains, Froome punched at his rest day hotel room by Bradley Wiggins.
Nope, we’ve lined up Cadel Evans, Joaquin Rodriguez, Alberto Contador and Alejandro Valverde for the full chorus effect: the Dauphine is not the Tour.