(Reuters) - Britain’s Chris Froome looks in good shape to defend his Tour de France title next month after winning the Criterium du Dauphine for the third time in four years on Sunday.
The Team Sky rider, who went on to win the Tour after both of his previous Dauphine wins in 2013 and 2015, ended the final stage in the French Alps with a 12 second overall lead over Frenchman Romain Bardet.
Froome had started the final, 151km seventh stage from Le-Pont-de-Claix to Superdevoluy with a 21-second advantage over his great friend and former Sky team mate, Australian Richie Porte.
The Briton, who finished the stage with the same time as Porte on Sunday, still had some anxious moments and had to react as Spaniard Alberto Contador and Bardet both attacked in the closing 15km.
The stage was won by another Briton Steve Cummings (Dimension Data), who broke with 60km to go and held on to finish clear of the pack, with Ireland’s Dan Martin second and Bardet third. Froome was 10th.
”Coming into this week I hoped I’d be fighting for the podium,“ Froome said. ”To be sitting here last day in yellow, that’s a really amazing feeling.
“It is great timing now to have a win under the belt, it does help build the morale a bit and build the team around me,” he added.
Cummings, 35, said his mind had been more on the Tour than taking his first stage win on the Dauphine but he was more than five minutes ahead of the peleton at the start of the climb to the Col du Noyer.
“It’s getting harder and harder to win races so I tried to force something going from far out. I wasn’t really thinking about winning, I was just thinking about good training for the Tour de France,” he said.
”I also knew that maybe after the climb (on Saturday) there wouldn’t be so many riders left and hopefully the favorites would look at each other so maybe there was a chance to go away.
“This was the day for me in the race that I had picked out before.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ian Chadband