The Spin: Dauphiné Stage 4

Thursday, 7 June 2012

A 53.5km time trial, a festival of big ring riding.

A prestigious stage in its own right, it will also shape the overall classification for the race. This is also vital test of form ahead of the Tour de France and similar in style to Stage 9 of the Tour, a 41.5km time trial. Plus the results will be scrutinised by national federations who need to pick a rider for the London Olympic Games.

This looks like a three way fight between reigning TT world champion Tony Martin, Cadel Evans and Bradley Wiggins. Tony Martin fell yesterday, scraping skin off his right knee and shoulder. All three are high on the overall classification and leave within minutes of each other, ensuring they face similar weather conditions.

But there are many others who could crack the top-10. Sky come with Chris Froome, Michael Rogers and Richie Porte. Tejay Van Garderen should do well. Jurgen Van Den Broeck should do well, he is a rider capable of the top-5 in the Tour de France but with almost no public profile outside of Belgium. Vincenzo Nibali will look to test himself, more at ease in the mountains we’ll learn something more about him today. Is David Millar able to deliver something special, I think the course might be too long for him, he’s often faster on shorter courses. Rein Taaramae needs to deliver a result, he’s motivated by the prospect of a new team for 2013 and a good performance will increase his market value.

I’m also interested to see how Dennis Menchov gets on. The Katusha rider is a stealthy sort and has been almost invisible so far this year but can’t hide today. What about previous winner Janez Brajkovič? The Slovenian surprised in 2010 when he won the time trial stage, putting time into Alberto Contador and perhaps he is aiming for the Tour de France but again he can’t afford to be too far off the pace. And what about team mate Andrey Kashechkin, the Kazakh was a surprise third place on Monday: is he back or did he just get lucky the other day? Lieuwe Westra, Bert Grabsch and Luke Durbridge are worth watching too, the latter won the prologue of course and has said he wants this stage too but he’s never ridden a TT as long as this.

French hopes rest with Jérôme Coppel who is at the point where he has to jump from being a hope to reality, if not today then in July. The same for Pierre Rolland who has shown he can climb but has he worked on his time trialling? He’s been in the wind tunnel but we’ll see if he’s able to pace himself. The same for Thomas Voeckler, is a serious GC contender these days? Ag2r come with veteran J-C Péraud who would prefer to be racing MTBs but he can pace himself well, we’ll see how his Olympic preparation is going if nothing else.

The course is flat. Look at the profile at the top of the page and it looks to be up and down. It is but on a rolling road, the kind where if you were in a car you’d never change gear but on a bike you need to decide whether you can power on or you need to shift gears to keep the cadence perfect. The route avoids the steep roads through the vineyards. Look closely at the map above and you’ll spot many lakes around the latter part of the course, a sign of flat terrain. And look at the long straight section of road, riders will be able to see their rivals.

Weather: this could be a factor. The day has started dry but rain showers could be present in the afternoon, some could ride dry, some could be soaked. Temperatures will peak at 25°C (77°F) but will dip once the rain falls. This matters because colder temperatures mean denser air, increased air resistance and therefore slower times. And the rain doesn’t just make for slippery roads, it weighs a rider down. Plus the increased humidity makes the air marginally less dense. Ideally you want it to get cold and wet on your competitors and then for the roads to dry out whilst you ride.

In addition riders will face a pesky crosswind from the south at 30km/h which will gust to 55km/h at times. The course itself is exposed in places so wheel choice matters, riders could do well to avoid the deepest section front wheels.

Olympics: if we think the Dauphiné is important for the Tour de France, today is also an unofficial qualification event for the Olympic Games. Selectors need to chose a rider for the time trial event in London and today will give them some good clues.

TV: the last rider is expected to finish around 4.20pm Euro time. This might not make for gripping TV but the diversity of riders I’ve listed above implies there is plenty to look out for so if you’re interested in the relative performances of Brajkovič, Grabsch and Van Garderen, tune in early.

Food: wine lovers should know the name of Villié-Morgon, the Morgon appellation is a label that applies to several famous French wines like Morgon, Juliénas and Brouilly from the Beaujolais area. The cooler climate can make for austere wines but the good ones make for fine wine.

The finish is in Bourg-en Bresse, the home of the Bresse chicken. Many of these are of the Bény breed which have a red crest, white plumage and blue feet, as if dressed in the national colours of France. However they are quickly undressed by hungry French citizens and placed in the oven for despite their premium price, the Bresse chickens sell very well. Various appellation rules govern how the birds are raised and fed as a way to help ensure the quality.

  • The yellow jersey, Bradley Wiggins, the white jersey Tony Gallopin and yesterday’s stage winner Edvald Boasson Hagen will all be presented with a bottle of wine when they sign on at the podium before the stage.
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{ 31 comments }

Roadie61 June 7, 2012 at 9:47 am

Tony Martin versus Wiggins say the odds makers, and for good reason. Both are riding in top form with TM given a chance to take over yellow. As INRNG says, the weather could make things tricky for the later starters. Wunderground forecasts 30% chance of rain with a possible T-storm for the afternoon, beginning around 3:00pm. So this could affect ~ the last 40 riders if the skies do open up.

Should be a fantastic TT with many riders needing to lay down a great time for Olympic possibilities.

If it’s wet for our GC favs, he who makes the smartest technical decisions, he who’s long on experience will excel. The GC’s gonna look a lot different after today’s rolling ride!

Ankush June 7, 2012 at 10:07 am

Needless to say the quality of the Spin is exceptional. I think Cadel would like to lay down a marker today although Der Panzerwagen will be hungry for a TT win.

The Inner Ring June 7, 2012 at 10:16 am

Yes, we’ll see how Martin’s injuries are. I think he’ll like the course and the windier the better as he can punch through. Watch for Grabsch too who has won the Dauphiné TT before too.

RCDC June 7, 2012 at 10:09 am

Great preview, these are a must-read for me before each stage. Where do y0u get all the detail?

The Inner Ring June 7, 2012 at 10:17 am

Thanks. Most of the info is available, whether on letour.fr for the course details or Wikipedia for the chicken and wine. But I suppose I know France reasonably well and past editions of this race so it all comes to mind easily.

leif June 7, 2012 at 10:13 am

EBH has been 3rd in this TT two years in a row, might deserve a mention too…

The Inner Ring June 7, 2012 at 10:15 am

Yes, good point. It’s that he’s been ill before the race and might be off his best form a bit and today is flatter too… even if he was obviously very good yesterday.

Chris June 7, 2012 at 11:15 am

David Millar had something amusing to say about EBH on twitter after the stage yesterday if anyone missed it “At one point he asked me pleadingly, “Is this hard? Because it feels MUCH harder than it should be.” I pitied him. He then won. WTF?”

He did look incredibly strong in the sprint yesterday but if he hasn’t been well and he was finding it hard work in the bunch yesterday then he might struggle a bit with a sustained effort.

Chris June 7, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Clearly I was off the mark with EBH – he put in a very good time!

Simma June 7, 2012 at 10:22 am

i don’t see wiggo challenging tony martin for this, martin looks huge… like the olympic TT is his only goal this year.

menchov to best cadel and wiggo today also for an out there prediction, he may have been quiet but he’s been pulling some faces this dauphine like he’s fighting for his ride.

C Grade Cyclist June 7, 2012 at 10:37 am

Do you think Porte & Rogers will look to post a time as well, or will they ride relatively easy so they can support Wiggins over the last couple of stages in the mountains…??

If they go for it, they definitely have the ability to end the day in the leader’s jersey, which could complicate things for the rest of the event for Team Sky…

The Inner Ring June 7, 2012 at 11:34 am

I think Porte and Rogers might look for a fast time, it’s a good test for them but also to get that spot for the Olympics TT too.

Bundle June 7, 2012 at 10:41 am

Good preview (and yummy chicken). A long TT is always fascinating. Aero issues and other technicalities leave room for mental battles. I think it’s about suffering to the limit and finding the reserves of power that you didn’t were available inside of you. A traditionalist would prefer 80 kms, because it guarantees that all riders will have ups and downs and mini-crises throughout the stage, but I think 53 can be enough to generate surprises, after the hour or so effort.
What’s even better is that this TT will leave everybody so empty that it will be easier to create differences in the mountain. I think Wiggins will win today, but not that it’s the best omen for the Tour.

David June 7, 2012 at 10:45 am

According to the internet [1], wet roads have slightly lower rolling resistance, so riding in the rain may not be such a bad thing. Add to this that there aren’t many corners to slow down for (relative to the length of the ride), and weight doesn’t make much difference when you’re not accelerating or climbing (this stage isn’t completely flat, but it’s hard to tell from the image without a vertical scale just how hilly it is), maybe the rain won’t be much of a determining factor?

1: http://velonews.competitor.com/2007/06/bikes-and-tech/technical-faq/technical-qa-with-lennard-zinn-rolling-resistance_12493

Rooie June 7, 2012 at 10:56 am

Maybe better to look at who is doing reasonably well than to look at who wins

Chris June 7, 2012 at 11:17 am

For those of you following the Wiggins/skin suit conversation from a few days ago:
http://www.cyclingweekly.co.uk/news/latest/533138/wiggins-dauphine-time-trial-clothing-dilemma.html

Seems strange that they wouldn’t give him both sizes – what else are they going to do with it? Not like there’s another time trial a smaller leader might need a yellow and blue skin suit for in this race!

Alex June 7, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Thanks for that. It’s not difficult to see Team Sky and Brad getting angry about that.

Chuffy June 7, 2012 at 11:30 am

Maybe I’m being naive, but why is there a feed station marked on the course plan? Surely the riders won’t need more than a gel or two and a bottle for an effort of around 1.25hrs? If they do use the feedzone, how does it work? I’m guessing we’re not talking musettes with sandwiches here…

The Inner Ring June 7, 2012 at 11:36 am

Yes, it’s time for a bottle to be passed up. You can’t take food from the team car of course but many riders will just take a bottle on the bike to start with, the effort is 60-70 minutes and it’s not hot today. But if it had been 30 degrees Celsius the feedzone would be useful.

Ronan June 7, 2012 at 11:49 am

Grabsch should be pushing for this one as his poor TT in the Giro was a surprise.

Chris June 7, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Without meaning to sound harsh, I thought he was looking a little ‘un-lean’ on the front of the bunch yesterday, so he might not be in top form in general.

Adam June 7, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Do you have an image of him looking lean ever? That’s just how he rolls. God Bless his throwback 75 cadence.

ChrisC June 7, 2012 at 4:54 pm

I stood next to Grabsch while he was warming up before one of the Tour of California stages. The guy is built like a TANK! At least as compared to most professional riders. He’s absolutely not “fat” but I’d also never use the word “lean” to describe him either. Just massively thick through his whole torso as well as his legs.

cd June 7, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Way to go Wiggo. Way to peak too soon once again.

Mark June 7, 2012 at 6:03 pm

You can get odds on Wiggo anywhere from 2.1 up to 3.5, at almost all books he is the favourite. What has he done to deserve that? He rode a poor Tour in 2010 and he lost the Veulta last year to his own teammate. I agree with cd that he probably peaked too soon. Can anyone speculate on J.C. Peraud’s goals for the tour? He has stated that AG2R wants him to ride for GC, and when the route came out he was pegged as a possible contender because of the steep ramps and the TT miles. I know he raced mountain bikes all spring but now he is doing the same prep races as all the others.

Roadie61 June 7, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Last year Wiggo had the form of his life for the Tour, but the Stage 7 crash that took him out of the race ended what might have been a year for the maillot jaune, don’t know? At the time of his crash, he was 6th on GC and only 10 seconds down on Hushovd, with the mountains still to come. His racing had been flawless to that point.

Robbo June 7, 2012 at 9:08 pm

Did Chavanel put in a serious ride today or what? Only 1:33 down to Wiggins and 0:59 to Martin.

The Inner Ring June 7, 2012 at 9:12 pm

Yes. Last year he spent a month living at altitude in the Pyrenees to train for the Tour de France with the aim of winning a stage and the mountains jersey… but crashed and then quit. He’s been doing the same and presumably wants a result; we’ll see how he climbs tomorrow.

Adam June 7, 2012 at 10:29 pm

Impressive ride by Wiggins today. Should be an exciting Tour this year, but it would be that much better if AC was in the mix. Next year!

ave June 8, 2012 at 1:19 am

>[...]so wheel choice matters
Schleck should follow you on twitter. ;)

Jim June 8, 2012 at 7:09 am

Is that Bresse chicken French … or Hungarian?

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