Defending champion Chris Froome (Sky) won stage 1 of the Critérium du Dauphiné on Sunday, donning the first yellow jersey of the 2014 race and putting eight seconds into arch-rival Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo).
“I’m a bit surprised to be honest, I didn’t expect to win. It’s a result that confirms the work done in training and the fact that I’m in form,” Froome said. “It’s a bit of an unexpected situation because I didn’t expect to find myself in this position but it’s great to not have any time to make up.”
Bob Jungels (Trek Factory Racing) set the early best time of 13:22 on the 10.4km course in Lyon, which featured a 800-meter category-4 climb and a twisting, technical descent.
Of the contenders for the overall, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) proved fastest at the first time check, with defending Froome second and Contador third.
Contador finally ousted Jungels from the hot seat, turning a time of 13:21. Nibali was next to cross, but he wouldn’t dethrone the Spaniard, hitting the line 13 seconds slower.
And last came Froome, who took the stage win and put Contador in an eight-second hole. Early leader Jungels held on for third at nine seconds, while Nibali slotted into eighth.
“I don’t think it was necessarily the objective to take the yellow jersey today on such a short, flat time trial but I couldn’t be happier with the result,” said Froome. “I’m here to win the race and we’re going to do everything we can.”
Monday’s second stage is a 156km leg between Tarare and the Col du Beal, with a final climb of 13.6km at 6.6 percent.
“The Dauphiné this year is really hard right from the opening stages,” said Froome, who is anticipating “a really big race in the mountains.”
• Two Americans cracked the top 10 on Sunday. Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) finished just off the podium in fourth, 11 seconds down on Contador. BMC Racing’s Tejay van Garderen crossed ninth at 13 seconds. “After I had that crash at Romandie, I was overly cautious in the corners,” said van Garderen, adding: “Time gaps today were small. The big differences are going to be made in the mountains. This was a good test and I am ready to look forward.”
Editor’s note: Stay tuned for more from Lyon.