Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) won the brutal uphill prologue of the Criterium du Dauphine on Sunday, beating Richie Porte (BMC) and Chris Froome (Team Sky). Unlike Froome, the Spaniard had opted to start late and risked the predicted rain, but it didn’t fall, and he came home some 13 seconds quicker than Froome.
Porte, who was the penultimate rider to depart, split the pair with an effort just six second shy of Contador.
“It’s a bit of a surprise to beat Froome and Porte, but I knew that I could do well. I didn’t think that I could win,” a happy Contador said after the stage.
The prologue for the Criterium du Dauphine was anything but easy with a four-kilometre climb that averaged more than nine per cent and hit gradients of up to 19. This was most certainly not for the time trial specialists and was an opportunity for the climbers to deal a physiological blow to their rivals ahead of the big mountain stages later in the race.
So it was a climber, Louis Meintjes (Lampre-Merida), that set the first benchmark time as he stopped the clock at 12:30. He didn’t have long to wait until Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) kicked him off the hot seat. Yates was subsequently bettered by Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep). Alaphilippe, brimming with confidence from his recent Tour of California victory, put in a dominating performance to set a time of 12 minutes flat.
The big GC names were spread out over the second half of the stage, with some opting for earlier start times to avoid the rain that had been forecast for the latter part of the day. Froome was one of those that had selected an earlier starting slot, along with Thibaut Pinot (FDJ). The defending champion came out of the traps quickly and by the time he hit the line he was the first rider to break through the 12-minute barrier with his time of 11:49.
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