EDIT: since publishing this in March I’ve put a full preview online. Go here: http://inrng.com/dauphine for full stage analysis, the jerseys, the history and much more.
ASO have unveiled the route of the 2012 Critérium du Dauphiné. The 8 day stage race is a great contest in its own right but also resembles the Tour de France in more ways than one.
Just like last year’s edition, the Dauphiné will feature some of the same roads as the Tour, making it an ideal test ahead of July. Here’s a summary of the route.
|Sun 3 June||Prologue||Grenoble||5.7km TT|
|Mon 4 June||1||Seyssins > Saint-Vallier||187km|
|Tues 5 June||2||Lamastre > Saint-Félicien||160km|
|Wednesday 6 June||3||Givors > La Clayette||167km|
|Thursday 7 June||4||Villié-Morgon > Bourg-en-Bresse||53km TT|
|Friday 8 June||5||Saint-Trivier-sur-Moignans > Rumilly||186.5km|
|Saturday 9 June||6||Saint-Alban-Leysse > Morzine||166.5km|
|Sunday 10 June||7||Morzine > Châtel||126km|
Stage 1 and Stage 3 should be for the sprinters. Stage 2 offers some climbing and uses the same route as the popular Ardéchoise cyclosportif ride, an ideal day for a breakaway.
The first crucial day is Stage 4, a 53km time trial from Villié-Morgon to Bourg-en-Bresse. This ties with the Tour de France which will offer a 52km time trial for the penultimate stage. For the Dauphiné this is a very long and big gaps will open up over the flat to rolling roads. It’s also a gastronomic delight, starting near the fine Burgundy wine vineyards to finish in a town famous for its special chicken; no chance for the riders.
The following day is features the Grand Colombier, a new climb for the Tour de France. A fixture for the Tour de l’Ain, a small stage race held every August, the road has not been used by the Tour de France before but the Dauphiné did visit in 1988. It’s back and this will allow riders to test themselves on the steep ramps. Once described as “the French Zoncolan” after the fearsome Italian climb, that label is probably excessive but this is not your typical Alpine pass. Rather the road climbs to the top of the mountain and instead of gradients of 6-8%, the slope is 10% and hits 14% in places. Note that the route of Stage 5 is very similar to that of Stage 10 in the Tour de France, with the Côte de Corlier, the Grand Colombier and the Col de Richemond featuring in both stages plus all the descents and roads in between. A dress rehearsal.
Stage 6 is a high mountain stage with the Col de la Colombière and the Joux Plane on the menu, a chance for the climbers to pull back any time lost in the time trial. The final day is short and uses two cols before an uphill finish in Châtel.
Most of the GC contenders will visit the Grand Colombier climb to see it for real but riding up is not the same as racing. Similarly a 50km time trial is rare, the effort in the Dauphiné will be a good test ahead of the Tour de France. The race will overlap with the Tour de Suisse but ASO is making the Dauphiné attractive because it allows riders to test themselves on the roads of the Tour de France.
There is also a business aspect in the route selection, many towns are keen to bid for a Tour de France stage start or finish but fewer want the Dauphiné. ASO can cross-sell, suggesting towns and regions bidding for the Tour should take a stage of the Dauphiné (or Paris-Nice) in order to make their bid more successful.
A hard race as usual with plenty of good racing to come. The 2012 edition is noticeable for the near-identical length of the time trial to that of the Tour de France’s Stage 20 and the copycat fifth stage which resembles Stage 10 of the Tour. Riders with ambitions for the Tour de France will think twice before missing this race.