Froome fends off Contador to keep Dauphine lead

TOUR de France champion Chris Froome has refuted the notion he has a hold over Spain’s Alberto Contador after finishing ahead of his main rival for a second successive stage at the Criterium du Dauphine.

In a neck-and-neck mountain-top finish at Col du Beal, Froome was first over the line to retain the yellow jersey and extend his general classification advantage over Contador to 12 seconds.

But with less than a month until the Team Sky rider begins the defence of his Tour de France crown, Froome, 29, believes it would be ill-judged to underestimate two-time winner Contador’s ability to challenge.

“I tried a couple of times to test the other guys out, in particular Alberto Contador, I tried to distance myself from him, but he stuck to my wheel like glue and showed he’s in really good form,” said Froome, only the second British rider ever to win the Tour de France after Sir Bradley Wiggins.

“Psychologically I don’t think there’s much in it. It wasn’t as if there were big time gaps in the final. I think we’re all hitting around the same ball park. I’m just happy to keep the yellow jersey. That’s hugely important, but the bigger objective is looking at the race overall. But stages are good for boosting everyone’s confidence and a great way to say thank you to my team-mates.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve done a hill-top finish up against each other like that, but I’m really happy with the end result to win the stage. My team-mates were great, so a big thank you to them. It’s going to be an interesting next few days of racing.”

Last year’s Giro D’Italia winner Vincenzo Nibali, likely to be another of the leading Tour de France contenders, remains slightly off the pace, 50 seconds behind Froome in sixth, with Britain’s Adam Yates ninth.

The Dauphine continues today over 194km from Ambert to Le Teil in the third of eight stages.