Although Alberto Contador was pushed into the runner-up slot for the second day running by Chris Froome at the Critérium du Dauphiné, the Spaniard has given a thumbs up to his own performance and said that it gives him encouragement for the Tour de France.

Prior to the start of the race Contador said that he didn’t expect to win overall, noting that he was still building form for the Tour de France and that he would be concerned if he was already in top shape. He said that he wanted to ride well without putting pressure on himself to go for the overall victory.

He was the only rider able to respond to Froome when the British Sky rider attacked multiple times on Monday’s second stage, remaining glued to his wheel and finishing just behind him at the finish.

“Very positive, I have gone much better than I expected,” he told AS, when asked for his impression about how things went. “The tactic was to focus on Froome. I come with the peace of mind of not having to think about the win.

“On the other hand, I was not aware that we were fighting for the stage win. During the climb I did not realize that all the breakaway riders had been already been neutralized.

“In any case, it was impossible to pass him. He was very strong at the moment, better than me. And in the time trial, one can only congratulate him. But I’m very happy with how I performed on the climb and my fitness.”

Froome’s Sky team did a lot of work during the stage, riding hard to whittle down the lead of those in the early break and then paving the way for their leader’s acceleration on the final climb. The Briton put the hammer down hard with approximately five kilometres to go and quickly distanced all bar Contador; he tried again several more times, but on each occasion the Spaniard was able to match the jumps.

“It’s always important,” he said, when asked if being able to stay with his rival was a big boost for his confidence. “The first [attack] was very strong and very long. But my legs worked well and that made it more simple.”

Contador’s main aim in the race is to build form for the Tour de France, although if he manages to beat Froome for a stage win, that will be a big confidence boost for him. He said that he would see how things go, and would be satisfied to see some sign of improvement this week.

“I want to take it day by day,” he insisted. “I guess for the weekend [I’d like to] at least have my heart rate down. Today I reached 203 beats during the climb.”

The race continues Tuesday with a flatter stage to La Teil. A bunch sprint is the most likely outcome, but the general classification riders will likely challenge each other again on Wednesday’s stage to Gap.

It includes the second category Col de Manse towards the end. The climb tops out 12.5 kilometres from the finish and could see riders trying to get a gap near the top or on the descent.