Critérium du Dauphine preview

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Dauphiné 2011

Seven stages and a prologue, this is a week long stage with something for everyone. Sprinters, climbers, breakaway riders and time trial specialists all get their chance. But by the end of the week I’d expect to see a strong GC rider take the win, one who can perhaps climb better than he can time trial.

What’s the porpoise?
The race used to be run a regional newspaper, Le Dauphiné Libéré but is now run by ASO and renamed the Critérium du Dauphiné. Dauphin is French for “dolphin” and in the 12th century, the local ruler Count Guigues IV of Albon bore a dolphin on his coat of arms, no doubt to signify his well-travelled status. It was a separate region that saw its ruler forced to sell up because of big debts and in 1349 a union with France was created and the porpoise identity has remained ever since.

The contenders
For the overall, perhaps Robert Gesink, Cadel Evans and Jurgen Van Den Broeck stand out. For me Van Den Broeck could do with the win, he’s been consistent in the Tour de France, a podium contender but I’m pretty sure he’s never won a race as a pro. Not to knock someone capable of a top-10 finish in the Tour but I prefer to see a rider win a prestigious race like the Dauphiné rather than take 7th overall in July, even if the economic rewards suggest the latter can pay more. But there are several more names, including last year’s winner Janez Brajkovic, not to mention Tony Martin, Ivan Basso, Samuel Sanchez and maybe Bradley Wiggins, Rein Taaramae and Benats Intxausti too

Wednesday’s TT stage around Grenoble is key. It’s a tough course, lots of changing gradients and corners and a course that will favour the climbers who can hold their own against the clock over the powerful TT specialists. Bradley Wiggins and Tony Martin will appreciate the course, but the likes of Taylor Phinney and Lars Boom probably won’t.

Fun factor
The Dauphiné is always a good test for new talent but this year’s start list sees a lot of older riders and teams taking to the start,  a mix of riders being warmed up for July and experienced riders. Watch out for FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot, a promising climber and at the other end of the age spectrum, David Moncoutié could land a stage win.

Less fun factor
For me this is the first race of the year that often sees real heat. Of course the Giro gets hot but the sunshine in June melts French roads, we see dessicated roadside verges and more. Only right now the Alps have had a cold snap with fresh snow falling and some cols that had opened for summer have been temporarily shut. As such the weather could be a factor in the race, especially if the big GC names saving themselves for July prefer to avoid pushing themselves in wet or even icy conditions. The long range forecasts suggests cloud and rain, perhaps some snow at high altitude.

I won’t preview every stage in one go now but here’s the first weekend:

Prologue
Prologue Dauphine profile
At the foot of the Col de la Croix de Fer, the prologue sticks to a flatter route. It includes a listed climb but the town is broadly flat. A slight curiosity is the lunchtime start, with the first rider off at 11.40 and the last at 14.35 meaning an intense seven minute effort conducted in the aroma of roasted chicken from the numerous cafés. The course has a few corners and roundabouts, it is not about pure speed but acceleration too.

Stage 1
Stage 1 Dauphine profile
Skirting round some of the big climbs and high mountains, as well as Cofidis’s Samuel Dumoulin’s house, the stage is rolling to start with before a 10km ramp up to the Chartreuse massif. The final climb isn’t steep on average but contains a few steep corners and it’s certainly not the place for the sprinters. It’s the sort of terrain where Thomas Voeckler, Alexander Vinokourov, Cadel Evans and many others might want to have a try before the likes of Boasson-Hagen eye up the sprint amongst the final contenders.

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{ 7 comments }

Simma June 4, 2011 at 2:21 pm

With no real GC contender for leopard i’m curious to see how Brice Feillu will perform as the probable team leader? Looks like leo are sending 8/9 of their tdf team to the tour de Suisse… That last spot would of surely gone to Bennati for a sprinting chance, but I can’t see them taking vigano or nizzolo to duke it out in the sprints solo if someone like Feillu could add some more climbing support… Martin Mortensen was the only other rider I thought they might consider on his current form for the team time trial and maybe flat stage control but this year has been a bad year for climbing domestiques… Szymd at the Giro being the most surprising, but even Contadors were near non existent (not that he needed them), but the tour has been going to the guy with the best domestiques lately (poor cadel)

Anyway, interesting side story for June… the fight for leopard treks ninth rider, might make some interesting racing.

Starr June 4, 2011 at 6:47 pm

I always love the action in June, as Tour teams base a number of their spots for July on how a riders form looks now.

It’s like there are two races happening. The actual race and the race within each team to show Boss Daddy who has the legs.

Lucho H June 5, 2011 at 10:27 am

Stagw 1 is Albertville-St.Pierre Chartreuse on Monday – Stage 2 is Voiron-Lyon on Tuesday.

benDE June 5, 2011 at 11:41 am

IR, after the ATOC do we possibly have to consider Matti Busche for overall? On the stage to Mt. Baldy he nearly singlehandedly reduced the peleton to, what, 6 riders? Does his new stars and stripes jersey possibly put him in the running for team leadership? By the way, everyone, make sure to watch the stage to Allevard (Sat.) I have ridden it many times. It will be massive fireworks!! Great work as always.

Guadzilla June 5, 2011 at 7:39 pm

“But by the end of the week I’d expect to see a strong GC rider take the win, one who can perhaps climb better than he can time trial.”

Way to go out on a limb there :)

The Inner Ring June 5, 2011 at 7:49 pm

Simma: one to watch, he needs a result soon.

Starr: true, but a rider in form today can be stale come July.

Lucho: thanks, that’s fixed.

benDE: it’s certainly a test for him. He has no pressure to perform, up to him to see what’s possible, whether in results or imposing himself as a leader. I suspect he’s just ready to earn but one to watch.

Guadzilla: I know! But I said that with the big TT in mind, it is not a course for the likes of Bert Grabsch and similarly, the likes of Thibaut Pinor or Dan Martin have their work cut out for a top-10.

Qwerty June 6, 2011 at 6:10 pm

‘Thomas Voeckler, Alexander Vinokourov, Cadel Evans and many others might want to have a try before the likes of Boasson-Hagen eye up the sprint amongst the final contenders’
Nice one!

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