Mikel Nieve, Mikel Astarloza, Romain Sicard et al. showed they've got a long way to go if they're to make this year's Tour de France a success.
Neither of them, nor team captain Samuel Sánchez, were on their best day during Thursday's fifth stage of the Dauphiné, a 139-kilometre stage laden with climbs and ending atop the H.C.-ranked climb of Valmorel.
Chris Froome showed he's very much heading in the right direction by besting Alberto Contador en route to the stage win, while Sánchez - who's set for a well-deserved rest once the race concludes - was the team's top finisher in 18th - more than a minute and a half down.
Nieve, plagued by allergies in the first months of the year, posted the 33rd best time, indicating he's some way off top form just yet. His leadership role at the Tour de France is not thought to be in question, though, what with his previous track record at Grand Tours and penchant for getting into form when he needs to.
Romain Sicard, a crasher on stage two, continues to struggle and had to make do with a place in the gruppetto today. Though Igor González de Galdeano's faith in the talented Frenchman seems to be unwavering, Sicard needs to pull a top performance out of the hat in the very near future to make sure he's on the flight to Corsica.
On a more positive note was Peio Bilbao's ride. The 23-year-old from Gernika found his way into the day's long break, hanging on reasonably well on the finishing climb to net 24th on the stage.
- (1, Chris Froome (Sky), 3:28:3)
- 18, Samuel Sánchez, 1:31
- 24, Peio Bilbao, 2:05
- 33, Mikel Nieve, 3:05
- 52, Gorka Izagirre, 5:29
- 90, Mikel Astarloza, 14:25
- 94, Egoi Martínez, s.t.
- 144, Romain Sicard, 19:22
- 156, Ricardo García, 20:41
Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi