Chris Froome loses time to Egan Bernal in first Dauphine stage
Chris Froome lost ground on Team Ineos rival Egan Bernal on the first day of the Criterium de Dauphine.
Bernal sits five minutes 33 seconds ahead of Froome after the gruelling opening 218km stage from Clermont-Ferrand to Saint-Christo-en-Jarez.
Jumbo-Visma’s in-form rider Wout van Aert won the stage, six seconds ahead of Bernal – who was third.
The Dauphine is the final warm-up race for many riders before the Tour de France, which begins on 29 August.
Four-time Tour de France champion Froome appeared to sit up and let the peloton go within the last 10 kilometres, coming in 86th.
Bernal, 23, and Froome are competing to be selected to compete at this year’s Tour for Ineos.
Froome, 35, risks not being selected if his form is not deemed strong enough because Ineos would not want take three team leaders to the Tour.
The other is 2018 winner Geraint Thomas, who is believed to be a better fit in the team for the Tour alongside either Bernal or Froome.
Ineos have a policy that the strongest rider, by the time they get to around the final week of any Grand Tour, will be backed by the whole team.
Thomas rolled over the line within the peloton classified in 26th, just 10 seconds behind leader Van Aert.
The Dauphine is the third of three crucial warm-up races in which Ineos can define who has the best form for the Tour.
Last year’s Tour winner Bernal won the Route d’Occitanie, nearly 10 minutes ahead of Froome, on 4 August and ended 26 minutes ahead in last week’s Tour de l’Ain.
Welshman Thomas also took part in the Tour de l’Ain last week, finishing 34th, 21 minutes behind Bernal after working for the Colombian on the final day.
Thursday’s 135km stage begins in Vienne and ends on the climb up the Col de Porte.
Meanwhile, Froome’s new Israel Start Up Nation team – who he will join in 2021 – has signed Canadian Michael Woods from EF Education Pro Cycling for next year.
Woods will take on the role as ‘super domestique’ to Froome for next year’s Tour as well as contest the one-day ‘classics’.
And Jumbo-Visma continued their astonishing winning streak when George Bennett took the Italian classic Gran Piemonte on Wednesday.
Jumbo-Visma have won the Tour de l’Ain, Milan-San Remo ‘monument’ and Strade Bianche in recent days.
Team Ineos’ Ben Swift was 53rd – more than four minutes down.
General classification after first stage:
1. Wout van Aert (Ned/Team Jumbo-Visma) 5hrs 27mins 32secs
2. Daryl Impey (SA/Michelton-Scott) @4secs
3. Egan Bernal (Col/Team Ineos) @6secs
4. Alejandro Valverde (Esp/Team Moviestar) @10secs
5. Tadej Pogacar (Slo/UAE Team Emirates) @10secs
26. Geraint Thomas (GB/Team Ineos) @10secs
86. Chris Froome (GB/Team Ineos) @5mins 33secs