• Chris Froome leads Vincenzo Nibali earlier this month at the Criterium du Dauphine. While Froome went on to win the race, it may well be Nibali in yellow come the Tour's Paris finish. (Getty Images/AFP)Source: Getty Images/AFP
Only two riders in the last decade have won a major race in June and gone on to win the Tour de France, but that doesn't mean that a strong performance precludes Tour success.
27 Jun 2015 - 4:14 PM  UPDATED 27 Jun 2015 - 7:06 PM

Bradley Wiggins (2012) and Chris Froome (2013) remain the only two riders in the last ten years to have won either the Criterium du Dauphine or Tour de Suisse and gone on to hold yellow at the end of July in Paris, Cadel Evans was runner-up at the Dauphine in 2011, the year he won the Tour, and Alberto Contador ran third, also at the Dauphine, before his second Tour win in 2009.

If there is a common thread that ties the last nine Tour winners together, it's that no rider has been totally bereft of form in June, even if they've not been firing on all cylinders. The worst performance from a rider who went on to win was Carlos Sastre, who was 20th overall at the 2008 Dauphine, while the average across the last nine is 7.5th - an unremarkable, but respectable top-10 appears the pre-requisite for a good Tour.

Another common thread is 'don't do the Tour de Suisse'. No rider in the last decade has won the Tour de Suisse and gone on to win the Tour, and if you take the exception of Andy Schleck's 2010 Tour, which was awarded after the fact, no rider has won the Tour after taking part in Suisse.

Year TDF winner Race (Result) in June Dauphine/Suisse winner
2006 Oscar Pereiro Dauphine (14th) Leipheimer/Gil
2007 Alberto Contador Dauphine (6th) Moreau/Karpets
2008 Carlos Sastre Dauphine (20th) Valverde/Kreuziger
2009 Alberto Contador Dauphine (3rd) Valverde/Cancellara
2010 Andy Schleck Suisse (14th) Brajkovic/F. Schleck
2011 Cadel Evans Dauphine (2nd) Wiggins/Leipheimer
2012 Bradley Wiggins Dauphine (1st) Wiggins/Rui Costa
2013 Chris Froome Dauphine (1st) Froome/Rui Costa
2014 Vincenzo Nibali Dauphine (7th) Talansky/Rui Costa
2015 ? ? Froome/Spilak

So then, is it worth throwing out Simon Spilak from your Tour contender's list (ha!) and casting doubts over Chris Froome - well, probably not, but there are a few things worth noting as to why this 'non-winner's circle in June' formula has, and continues to play out.

1. Tour riders shouldn't be in top form in June if they're going to peak in the third week of July

Even those of the most freakish physiologies can't maintain top form for longer than a week, maybe two, without beginning to plateau, then fatigue. The key is timing that peak for the Tour. Eg. Carlos Sastre in 2008.

Sastre's 2008 win came through a conservative ride through the Tour's first two weeks and a roaring couple of rides in the final few stages to snatch the glory from Cadel Evans. That run can be traced back to his lacklustre showing in June, and Evans' relative strength. Sastre's 20th at the Dauphine might have concerned his then team manager Bjarne Riis, but it became apparent come Tour time that he'd timed the tapering of his form perfectly. While a fatiguing Evans delivered a poorer final time trial than many predicted, a fresher Sastre stormed to the final Tour dais looking ready to ride another week. Indeed, with the exception of 2011 and 2012 where Evans and Wiggins retained their form deep into third week of the Tour after good performances at the Dauphine, by far the majority of Tours have seen June's winners fade in the second and third weeks.

2. Holding your cards close to your chest

Do you need to win in June? Those confident in where they are with their form are best not to overplay their hands.

A phenomenon true of Vincenzo Nibali's 2014 Tour victory was how he tested himself alongside rivals Chris Froome and Alberto Contador sparingly at the Dauphine, keeping his condition largely under-wraps heading into the Tour. Not getting carried away with the accelerations of either rider, particularly on the opening mountain test to the Col du Beal may have appeared to reveal weakness in the Italian's pre-Tour form, but any doubts over his Tour candidacy were firmly quashed when the real racing began in July. Going too deep can be a hindrance too, and keeping the focus on the bigger picture, not over-extending in June, best sets a rider for the Tour.

3. Allowing team-mates to play a bigger role

A combination of both factors above, allowing important team-mates to distinguish themselves in lieu of your own success can be a constructive way to develop team cohesion and shield a leader from stress and responsibility.

Lieuwe Westra was given free-reign at last year's Dauphine, winning a stage, and coming coming close on a second as Nibali snuck under the radar. Similarly ahead of Andy Schleck's Tour win, Frank Schleck rode for GC at the Tour de Suisse - and won, while Andy kept his powder dry for July. Come the Tour, Frank was happy to return the favour for his younger brother, and in the Armstrong-era it was common-place to see super-domestiques given carte blanche in June, with the expectation to return the favour in spades come July. If you're going to be asking the above and beyond kind of efforts you need to win the Tour, a little love in June isn't going to go astray.

So, what does this all mean for this year's Tour? Well, going on history, any of these guys can (and likely will) win the Tour: Chris Froome, Tejay van Garderen, Rui Costa, Simon Yates, Romain Bardet, Dan Martin, Joaquim Rodriguez, Alejandro Valverde, Andrew Talansky, and Vincenzo Nibali.

Then there's Thibaut Pinot (technically a no, because, you know, Suisse), (plus these two jokers who rode the Route du Sud) Alberto Contador, Nairo Quintana who are obvious candidates for yellow. However, if any of those three win, it'd be bucking the trend of the last nine Tours.