The final day of the Dauphiné is still a big mountain stage but easier than the previous day. It’s shorter, there are fewer climbs and vertical metres, plus the final climb is a regular affair. But it’s still a race.
If Chris Froome looks comfortable, a prestigious mountain stage victory is up for grabs and Saxo-Tinkoff’s work to get Michael Rogers into third place remains provisional given several riders are only seconds away from the Australian.
Stage 7 Wrap: The start was fast and many riders abandoned including NetApp-Endura’s Leopold König, then sitting ninth overall. The Alpe was climbed and the Sarenne descended without any major incident, although mountain jersey wearer Thomas Damuseau got hit by the Movistar team car. Sylvain Chavanel said the descent was so rough “you need to have your legs properly connected to your body” and there are reported no hip replacements.
The only breakaway was riders slipping the bunch. But the move was too big and allowed several riders to sit on, for example Angel Madrazo of Movistar. A headwind proved fatal and all riders were eventually swept up. We saw several role reversals, first Alberto Contador played team mate, setting the pace on the Col du Noyer for an Aussie swap, ejecting Rohan Dennis and putting Michael Rogers. The Garmin-Sharp rider keeps his white jersey. Next was Samuel Sanchez who stole the acting crown from Thomas Voeckler with his grimacing and teeth-baring only to outsprint Jacob Fuglsang for the win. Theatrics aside it was a clear win and his first of the year.
Froome was out of the saddle a lot on the final climb which is unusual. Normally he climbs with his elbows bent as if pushing a supermarket trolley and head tilted to the side like he’s wedging a phone on his shoulder but he was even more asymmetric than usual. It’s too much to say he had a bad day, he never lost a metre but perhaps he got a “tell” that signals fatigue?
The Route: 155km and 3,700 vertical metres, with most of the climbing concentrated at the end. A scenic start in Sisteron with its fort sitting above the Durance river but it’s not strategic for the race. The race heads north-east into the Alps, slowly rising on roads that drag on at 2-3% for a long time, often reaching 5%. It’s tiring for those setting the pace but fine for those sheltered on the right wheel.
The Col de Vars starts with about 45km to go. As the profile shows it is very irregular, an easy start followed by a brief descent before a 15% section and then over 8% to the top. But a word of caution, the 15% label seems excessive if not fictional.
The Finish: regulière as they say in French. This is a steady climb where riders can get into a rhythm and hardly need to change gears once the slope starts to bite. But regular is not easy, 13.9km means a long climb and it’s steep enough to do plenty of damage. Again the profile shows a section of 9% but it’s not that bad, instead the slope eases to the finish line in the ski resort.
The Scenario: the last chance. A breakaway could go but the likes of Movistar and Katusha seem keen to set up a win for Alejandro Valverde and Joaquim Rodriguez. But their attacks on the Col du Noyer seemed the wrong idea, both can sprint fast at the top of a mountain and you wonder if they’d be better off letting Team Sky do the work and then taking on the likes of Richie Porte in the final 300 metres for the stage win? Samuel Sanchez had to work for his win but could repeat the feat, he’s got better during this race.
The long final climb is idea for the bunch to reel in any moves, whether the early break or a late move. The big wide roads allow a team to pace their effort.
Weather: often run in a heatwave, this year’s edition has had cool conditions and the final stage could see sunshine and showers with cooler temperatures of 12-16°C. A light tailwind from the south-east will help speed the bunch on its way.
Déjà vu: Risoul is not the most famous place in the Alps but it’s trying to make a name for itself with cycling. It’s hosted the finish of the Tour de l’Avenir (Nairo Quintana won the race thanks to the climb) as well as a stage of the Dauphiné in 2010 when Nicolas Vogondy (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) rode away, profiting from marking amongst the big names to land the win; he never quite followed up and was a late hire for Belgian squad Accentjobs-Wanty to provide climbing legs for the Ardennes classics. And if the climb is becoming familiar, the Risoul summit finish will be on the route of the Tour de France in 2014.
Top 20 Overall
1 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 25:00:13
2 Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling 0:00:51
3 Michael Rogers (Aus) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:01:37
4 Daniel Moreno (Spa) Katusha 0:01:47
5 Daniel Navarro (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:01:49
6 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team 0:02:04
7 Stef Clement (Ned) Blanco Pro Cycling Team 0:02:32
8 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:02:47
9 Rohan Dennis (Aus) Garmin-Sharp 0:02:48
10 Alberto Contador (Spa) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:02:56
11 Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:03:21
12 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:03:45
13 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Blanco Pro Cycling Team 0:03:49
14 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
15 Alexandre Geniez (Fra) FDJ 0:05:10
16 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) RadioShack Leopard 0:05:40
17 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar 0:06:55
18 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:07:31
19 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha 0:08:39
20 Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Argos-Shimano 0:08:40