CHRIS Froome got his Tour de France preparations off to a flying start with an emphatic victory in the opening stage of the Criterium du Dauphine yesterday.
The defending champion won the 10.4km opening time trial by eight seconds, ahead of Alberto Contador and with Trek rider Bob Jungels in third.
Froome expressed surprise at the manner of his victory, saying: “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.
“I’m here to win the race and we’re going to do everything we can. Obviously it’s most important to try to have the yellow jersey at the end of the race, not necessarily right now.”
Jungels held his lead for much of the day before Tinkoff-Saxo’s Contador, the penultimate rider, eclipsed the Dutchman’s time by one second.
Riding last, Froome produced a strong second half of the stage to demolish Contador’s time and claim victory in 13 minutes and 13 seconds.
Froome’s Team Sky team-mate Geraint Thomas was the next best-placed Briton in 16th place, 14 seconds off the lead, with 21-year-old Adam Yates down in 64th place.
Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford says he has yet to decide who will be selected for this year’s Tour de France despite Bradley Wiggins’s claims that defending champion Froome will be chosen ahead of him.
Wiggins, the 34-year-old quadruple Olympic gold medallist who became the first Briton to win the Tour in 2012, said on Friday the team would concentrate on delivering Kenyan-born Froome a second consecutive title.
But with the Tour due to start in Yorkshire on 5 July, Brailsford said he would pick his nine-man team after the Criterium du Dauphine.
“Despite the impression that might have been created, the team for the Tour is not yet finalised,” Brailsford said.
“I will be the one making the decision on who is in the team. I speak with our performance team, the riders can offer an opinion, but they don’t select the team and they never will.”
Brailsford tried to dispel suggestions that Froome would have the final say on the selection of the team – especially given the fractious relationship between the two riders after Froome helped Wiggins to his 2012 Tour triumph.
“Trust and harmony are important considerations and it is a difficult decision,” added Brailsford. “I’m not just talking about the harmony between Chris and Brad but harmony amongst the riders and staff.
“People should be careful before thinking Chris is making decisions here. Chris is a great bike rider, he deserves to lead our team, but ultimately he doesn’t pick the team. I do.”