The Spin: Dauphiné Prologue

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Dauphiné Prologue

Today’s opening 5.7km prologue stage of the Dauphiné is straightforward. As the map shows the route has five corners but each turn is predictable, for example there’s no fast downhill section with a bend that tightens up. Instead the route is flat – the total vertical gain is just 11 metres – and should be a series of efforts of the corners to reach maximum speed before the next corner appears after a minute or so.

The course should suit the specialists given the mix of acceleration and top end speed. Is Bradley Wiggins a specialist? Perhaps Tony Martin will take this. Watch out also for Luke Durbridge, Matthieu Ladagnous, Jos Van Emden, Roger Kluge and Lieuwe Westra. Last year’s prologue was won by Lars Boom but it was hillier; still Edvald Boasson Hagen was close and he could do well again.

Cadel Evans won the Tour de France in Grenoble last summer. The penultimate stage was a time trial and he finished second on the stage and overhauled Andy Schleck to claim the yellow jersey. Since then he’s been unbeaten in France with victory in the Critérium International back in March, although this is partially a reflection of a slim racing schedule. His time today will be worth watching and the same for the others. Even Andy Schleck who is not aiming for the overall will give clues as to his form in this short test.

Weather: there’s a strong chance of rain in the afternoon and it could affect the later starters. The course is not extra technical but damp roads will still cost time when braking, cornering and accelerating.

TV: it’s on early. The last rider is off just after 2.30pm Euro time so tune in early. It’s live on French TV and Eurosport which means there should be a pirate feed available for fans around the world. As ever cyclingfans.com and steephill.tv are the places to go to. Australians are in luck as home broadcaster SBS is covering the race live for the first time.

Tourism: a gateway to the mountains, the city is surrounded by high cliffs and there’s even the urban cable car to take people from the centre of town up to the top. You can ride too, the the climb has been used before in the Dauphiné but it would be too selective for a prologue. Getting away from the town is a good thing because it has its ugly sections too, or at least the surrounding area is so nice it’s worth getting out. It’s a student town with a lot of engineering and technology.

Gastronomy: I don’t know what the local dish is but the local drink is Génépi, a liqueur made from Alpine herbs.

History: In 1977 Bernard Hinault led the Dauphiné solo and arrived on the climb. It was so steep he climbed off, telling his team manager he was stopping and unable to go on. But the crowds and manager told him to get back on his bike and he rode on to win the stage and the race.

Hinault

Earlier in the stage he’d crashed, falling off the road only to be saved from a long fall by trees clinging to the side of a mountain. The determined look on his face as he reaches to climb back up seems to say a lot about this most forceful of riders. You can watch archive footage of the crash here in the 75 second clip below, plus the moment where he wanted to give up. He is pedalling squares on the steep slopes, as if the broadcast is being directed by Pablo Picasso. He stops, loosens the toe straps and climbs off his bike wanting to abandon… despite leading the race.

Ankush June 3, 2012 at 12:52 pm
brian carless June 3, 2012 at 3:04 pm

well well well, i wonder what has happen to the short man from down under who rides the swiss red and black bike? i dont see him winning this yr TDF. well done to the winner and look @ the english man wiggins, need i say more, andy and devoler has their work cut out for them. vino is there too this his last yr in cycling, been really quiet so far,
watching this race keenly, i think this yr vuelta is really interesting,
dont like whats happening in liquigas,but are the merger rumors true with saxo?

Roadie61 June 3, 2012 at 6:30 pm

@brian carless: You speak of Evans with such judgment and disdain, yet his preparation and timing for peaking at 4 – 6 weeks from now might be right on the money. Like Chris asserted, only 5 secs down on Wiggo means nothing for Dauphine or July. Today was a very short prologue and can’t be compared with the two long TTs that really matter in the GC for the TdF.

I disagree with your thinking about Evans winning this year’s Tour, it’s too early to speculate.

Wiggins form is outstanding, yes. If Evans and several other GC contenders for the TdF all find good form at the right time, we’re gonna have a fantastic competition.

kenny79 June 3, 2012 at 4:56 pm

well done to the rising tt star luke durbridge .i am sure there is LOTS more to come from this young man

Chris June 3, 2012 at 5:16 pm

@Brian Carless: Not sure why you think Cadel has no hope based on today, he was only 5 seconds behind Wiggins, not a bad sign at all.

Both the Dauphine and Tour are going to be fascinating races between Evans and Wiggins – if either of them think they’re likely to lose any time at all in a TT then they’ll have to try and lose the other in the mountains, not something they would normally have to consider.

I thought Andy Schleck gave a pretty clear message today – he doesn’t have a hope in hell of winning the tour. Losing 28 seconds over such a short course is ridiculous for a GC contender. The stage 4 TT will be a clearer indication but based on today’s form he’ll lose about 4 and a half minutes. If he loses the same amount of time per km in the tour he’ll lose over 8 minutes in the TTs. Even if he improved immensely for the tour and lost half as much time that would still be 4 minutes and judging by recent performances by wiggins in the mountains he’s not going to get that much time in the mountains.

Anyone know what he said after the prologue today? I know he was interviewed but my dodgy eurosport stream was having some sound issues so I just saw him looking pretty miserable.

If Bruyneel was serious about the Schleck’s place at the tour be in question I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jakob Fuglsang leading the team instead.

Roadie61 June 3, 2012 at 7:25 pm

@Chris: Here’s what Andy had to say after today’s prologue, “Personally, if I was a manager I wouldn’t try to solve problems with my riders through the press,” Schleck is quoted in the newspaper as saying. “I would discuss them internally. Maybe Bruyneel was being rushed by the team sponsors, who might be getting impatient.” – CN, 03 June, 2012

Yes, Andy has no chance in the Tour this year, but I do believe that the way Bruyneel uses the press against the Schlecks is passive-aggressive, immature and unprofessional. Consider the source. Thug.

This year I do believe that Andy’s “plate” is overflowing with a lot of rubbish (and Frank, too) served up by Johan. The faster some former Leopard-Trek riders can exit this nightmare-of-a-team, the better.

Bruyneel is vain and arrogant and his airing of the team’s “dirty laundry” out in public is just perpetuating his bad image and embarrassing the team. I think his bad karma has finally caught up with him, and he’s stuck with a team having a poor season and without a “guaranteed” TdF winner.
Welcome to reality, Johan.

Agreed, Jakob Fuglsang would make a fine GC leader.

Pete June 4, 2012 at 12:55 am

The Schlecks have been pampered before by their teams wherever they have ridden. It hasn’t worked before, so Bruyneel went to the press and tried to get their back up as a motivational technique – it isn’t unprofessional, its basic sports psychology.

Whether the Schlecks use it as motivations or continue to sook remains to be seen, but I expect a rise in the Kleenex share index coinciding with the Tour and at this point there will be no one to blame but the Schlecks themselves.

The only way Andy Schleck will win on GC is if Frank is racing elsewhere. If there were two genuine GC contenders in the same team, tactics would be used so that at least one of those contenders would win the race (eg everyone marking Andy but Sastre takes the 2008 Tour). They almost pulled it off on the Galibier last year, but it was too late in the race and the only reason why Andy rode away was because GC was too close and his hand was forced.

They ride for each other, rather than for the team.

Chris June 3, 2012 at 8:14 pm

@Roadie61 Thanks for relaying Andy’s comments. The situation over at RSNT is increasingly farcical, and I feel sorry for all of the riders involved. Bruyneel is an arse, no doubt about it.

I do think some of the problem with the Schlecks does lie with the brothers themselves though. I don’t know if it’s that Andy came so close at the tour so young that they just assumed it would happen in the future without changing anything or they just haven’t had the right manager (clearly there were conflicts with Riis as well, so maybe they are difficult to manage, though maybe Riis is an arse as well). Clearly though about 3 years ago somebody needed to stick Andy in a wind tunnel and not let him leave until he’d adopted a reasonable TT position.

Does anyone know what the ownership structure of RSNT is? I vaguely remember hearing that the Schleck’s were part owners of the original leopard-trek team, but maybe I imagined that or maybe it changed in the merger. Perhaps INRNG could shed some light. Anyway, if I was the team owner I would seriously consider sacking Bruyneel now, and let Kim Andersen manage the team (at least in the interim). Neither Schleck is going to win the tour, but at the rate Bruyneel is going they’re unlikely to even finish. Also if there is any truth to the rumours that Bruyneel was subpoenaed in California it’s a PR disaster waiting to happen, particularly for Radioshack (the sponsor not the team), so I’m sure they’d understand the need for a little restructuring…

BA's_Mohawk June 3, 2012 at 9:58 pm

The schlecks are their own worst enemy. Bruyneel and Riis have both had incredible success as DS previously and if these two don’t respond well to either management style It’s more likely their attitude than the management styles involved. Until they separate their family ties from their racing they’ll never win the Tour.

Is it just me or is Vino’s appearance this week one of the highlights? A true great, true grit and after a broken femur!! Making it back into the Pro peloton speaks volumes of the man. Kazak cash or not. Chapeau!

Anonymous June 4, 2012 at 1:42 am

I too am surprised at the anti-Cadel postings. (And the anti-Schleck tirades, although that was a woeful TT.) Sure Wiggins looks the goods today, but a Tour victory takes a combination of many factors, including luck. Personally I hope that there are big mobs of real contenders, including the Schlecks.

The Inner Ring June 4, 2012 at 1:50 am

I thought Evans did a very good prologue. To make the top-10 was right on target. As for Andy Schleck, he was always going to lose time but he limited his losses. He won’t win the race but has set himself up to be judged by his performance on the Joux Plane later in the race; longer term this is not his year with the Tour de France route but all the more reason to try more long range attacks in the mountains, as long as his team can help dynamite the race.

Winton June 4, 2012 at 4:20 am

Absolutely agree with this comment, Inrng. Andy Schleck HAS to attack in the mountains, and he has to attack hard. This is the only way for him to make the final selection on GC this year – the question is, can they put behind them this mess that has been created by Bruyneel’s mis-management? Whether you agree with his politics and techniques, it is very hard to argue that he has scored a hit with his actions throughout the Giro.

One important thing to mention – no matter how the Schleck brothers perceive themselves, the rest of the world is tiring of their “we are one” piece. So far, it has actually won them very little and, should it continue, it is likely to throw up a host of close-but-no-cigar results.

Hurricane Shawn June 4, 2012 at 5:16 am

Sometimes I wonder if the Bruyneel/Schleck thing is all for show. Lance and Bruyneel did it in their day. Not against each other, but it seems that almost every team Bruyneel has managed, something like this has gone on around the Tour. Maybe its a distraction.

Rider Council June 4, 2012 at 8:58 am

ya gotta luv Hinault! Nice to see Haedo in line up; either he knows what he’s doing or Saxo are prepared to fry him just for results, they desperately need.

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