Dauphiné Stage 7 Preview

Saturday, 14 June 2014

The Queen Stage of the 2014 Critérium du Dauphiné promises to settle this month’s duel between Chris Froome and Alberto Contador although it’s so close we might still need Sunday’s final stage. This is a tough day with the two hardest climbs saved for last. If that’s not hard enough the hot weather could break into thunderstorms for the finish.

Note today’s stage is forecast to finish later than usual.

Stage 6 Wrap:
A breakaway of 16 riders went clear. FDJ missed it and tried a chase but it was too little and too late. With 20km to go the race started climbing and on Lieuwe Westra attacked on Côte de Marcellaz-Albanais and was joined by Pim Ligthart and later Jan Bakelants bridged across. Behind the rest of the group was reduced to individual efforts rather than a cohesive chase and game over for them. On the Côte de Ronzy Ligthart’s time was up as Westra put in another attack. The Astana rider was visibly stronger but Bakelants had him marked and it came down to a tight sprint. Bakelants won but even if he didn’t he would have been awarded the win because Westra was all over the road. It was a high pressure sprint, a win in a World Tour win is big but there’s more with Bakelants fighting for a place on the OPQS team while Westra will fear the postman.

Behind Chris Froome crashed. The race had switched to narrow roads and his front wheel hit something. He said he wants to lose a kilo before July and he probably lost 100 grams of skin in the incident. The bunch waited for him, a sporting gesture although there wasn’t much to race for.

The Route:

  • Km 34.0 – Côte des Gets, 10.3 kilometre-long climb at 4.9% – category 2
  • Km 64.0 – Col du Corbier, 7.5 kilometre-long climb at 7.5% – category 1
  • Km 88.5 – Pas de Morgins, 6 kilometre-long climb at 5.7% – category 2
  • Km 142.0 – Col de la Forclaz, 12.6 kilometre-long climb at 8.2% – category H
  • Km 160.0 – Montée de Finhaut-Émosson, 10.2 kilometre-long climb at 8% – category H

160km and 4,070 vertical metres. The start is flat as the road gradually gains in height to the Côte des Gets, a main access road that’s scenic but steady to pass the ski resort of Les Gets. After skirting the ski resort of Morzine the Col du Corbier is next. It’s not famous but should be familiar as it’s climbed for the third time in three years so riders should remember where the 10% sections are. A regular descent leads through the Abondance valley to the Pas de Morgins, climbed on the easy side. You might remember David Veilleux’s solo glory from here last year, the Europcar rider took a solo win and retired a couple of months later. The race crosses into Switzerland. A long descent on smooth Swiss roads awaits and then a steady 25km section in the valley, time for teams to get organised and riders to refuel.

Then comes the Col de la Forclaz which is as regular as the profile above shows. There are few bends or changes in gradient, it’s a well-engineered grade all the way as it passes from vineyards to pine forests. The descent is similar, with long fast sections but shorter, the race doesn’t surrender as much height.

The Finish: labelled “Finhaut-Emosson” this is the road that links the village of Finhaut with the hydroelectric dam of Emosson. It’s more an access road than a mountain pass. Either way it’s steep. As the profile above shows there’s a steep start followed by a lighter moment before the race begins the long ramps that lead up to the finish. These are steep sections at 10% with the gradient only easing in the hairpin bends. It’s uphill at a steep rate all the way to the line but not the 26% listed in the roadbook.

The Scenario: hoping for a high altitude repeat of Monday’s ferocious finish? You’d better cross your fingers because several factors point to a more cautious finish.

  • Monday’s finish on the Col du Béal was astonishing for the aggressive riding of Chris Froome. His style is to attack from further than we might expect but perhaps the move was also prompted by the absence of Richie Porte, he was isolated so the best move was offence
  • The riders rode Stage 2 with fresh legs with only a short time trial the previous day. Now we’ve had a week of racing in hot weather meaning accumulated fatigue and possibly fewer fireworks
  • There’s also altitude today, the higher you go the more repeated accelerations put a rider into the red

Sorry to play party-pooper. We should still see a classic mountain stage with a tough finish. Expect an early break to try and then for Team Sky and Tinkoff-Saxo to set the tempo to soften up the race from afar. I see a slim chance of an early break surviving today but it’d be good to see two races for the price of one, one for the stage and another for the race lead.

The Contenders: a duel between Chris Froome and Alberto Contador? Froome had the edge on the Col du Béal and the opening time trial and will want to prove things happen in threes. But has the crash and almost a week in yellow taken the edge off? Contador is the obvious challenger and only has to sit tight as Sky go through their riders like a space rocket using its boosters and then respond when it suits.

But what of the others? The final climb is selective so there’s little chance for a move to float away, any acceleration will have to be early or incisive. Vincenzo Nibali could take a risk with an early attack. It’ll be interesting to see what Wilco Kelderman can do. By now he should be shattered with the Giro and Dauphiné in his legs but he jumped away for a few extra seconds on Thursday’s stage to La Mure.

So far this week people have discussed Talansky’s tactics, van Garderen’s hidden hip fracture, Yates’s promise, Nibali’s struggles, Kelderman’s contractual future but nobody ever mentions Jurgen Van Den Broeck, fourth place on the Col du Béal but hiding in plain sight ever since.

Andrew Talansky could be the surprise. He seems to do well racing in this part of the world and if Froome’s acceleration took him off guard on the Col du Béal he had the power to come back.

Now for some outsiders who will have to make their move early. All are pure climbers. Leopold König is NetApp-Endura’s key man. Séb Reichenbach is on home roads and rides for Swiss team IAM, motivation can’t be higher. FDJ need Kenny Elissonde to save them from an invisible race. Igor Anton who came good on the Zoncolan stage of the Giro. Cofidis’ Dani Navarro, the subject of an informed whisper or two,  is another.

Alberto Contador, Chris Froome
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Vincenzo Nibali, Andrew Talansky, J_____ V__ D__ B_____
Wilco Kelderman
König, Elissonde, Reichenbach, Navarro, Anton

Weather: warm and sunny but cloudier and cooling with temperatures of 24°C (75°F). The clouds will billow up in the afternoon with the chance of a localised thunderstorm.

TV: a change with the finish forecast for 4.45pm Euro time. If you’ve been able to watch it during the week you need to adjust your body clock by two hours.

Be sure to tune in for the final hour which includes the last two climbs. The finish is particularly scenic.

It’s live on French TV and Eurosport which means there should be a stream to watch, see cyclingfans.com and steephill.tv for a feed. The racebook says it’s around the world including NBC in the US and SBS in Australia. Subscribe properly rather than use a pirate feed and you’ll be treated to HD images.

Switzerland? cheeky to race into Switzerland on the day the Tour de Suisse starts. You might remember the Dauphiné crossed into the same area last year. The Portes du Soleil is world’s second largest ski area comprising 13 resorts spread between the two countries. A big winter-sports destination but also one trying to attract tourists in the summer and ASO has signed a long-term deal with the area to take the Dauphiné and Tour to the region.

Canadian French Fries: talking of deals, ASO have just signed agreement with Canadian firm McCain which becomes the “official supplier of French fries to the Tour de France”. Thousands of oven gloves will be given out by the publicity caravan. There’s already Cochonou as “official supplier of saucisson” (cured sausage). Surely it’s a matter of time until a deal is done with a lard manufacturer?

Talk of fatty foods might make you think chocolate but ASO has a huge deal with Nestlé in place already, only its for the promotion of other brands like Vittel mineral water and Nesquik milkshakes. In recent years Powerbar has been the official energy provider. But the Swiss company has sold Powerbar so it remains to be seen if this more sporting brand remains at the Tour.

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael June 14, 2014 at 7:39 am

Nice write-up as usual. I’m excited about today’s climbs, all of which I’ve ridden. Where was the picture from yesterday’s stage of the group strung out on the gorge road taken?

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The Inner Ring June 14, 2014 at 10:06 am

As FDJ hit the front it’s from the second half of the stage. The Gorges du Fier just near where the Fier joins the Rhone.

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Larry T. June 14, 2014 at 8:11 am

Froome losing another kilo before LeTour? From where? I guess they could start lobotomizing these guys since the DS calls all the shots through the earpiece anyway? :-) Makes me wonder if the sport’s getting to the point where only anorexics can be competitive? 20 years ago when I saw the guys shirtless at the end of LeTour in person, they looked scarily thin. I see them looking like this now via photo and video coverage in which everyone says people appear to be heavier than they really are. Is the sport slowly but surely turning into little more than a watts vs kilograms equation? Dangerous roads requiring skill and bravery see neutralizations while tactics are increasingly dictated by the DS. At this rate they’ll soon be able to dispense with all the logistical details of the race and simply weigh the guy, then put him on a trainer and see how many watts he can produce. Best watts per kilogram ratio wins. It’s way-too-close to this now for my liking. Does anyone else share this view? If so, what can be done about it? Oh, and great review/preview too!

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lee kaliski June 14, 2014 at 9:08 am

Larry …. Just one of the reasons why the one day races are so much more interesting – in general – for me at least.

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Ankush June 14, 2014 at 11:01 am

I too agree with Lee. The Classics is my favorite part of the season or when a breakaway wins in a stage race. The BS of neutralizing wet descents and not riding in snowy conditions is the new trend which as you said, will soon, reduce cycling to only watts per kilo game. Give me the Classics any day over stage races.

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Vanilla_Thrilla June 14, 2014 at 1:16 pm

Whilst I agree that the classics are more exciting to watch, I disagree that a contest has to have tactics to be watchable.

Take athletics, swimming, weightlifting, etc. These contests revolve solely around who can run/swim the fastest, throw the farthest, lift the most, etc. Perhaps the most watched athletics event of all, the 100m sprint, involves no tactics whatsoever, yet draws millions and millions of viewers.

I think stage racing is great in that it does combine elements of both athletic and tactical endeavour, albeit more one than the other. Does the rider who can produce the most watts/kg usually win? Sure. And that’s exactly what I want to see – a contest where athletes are pushed to their limits and the strongest/fastest/toughest rider wins.

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Larry T. June 14, 2014 at 3:26 pm

Good points Vanilla – pretty much explains why I rarely watch any of the sports you listed. Good points also from Lee about one-day races, though if they get very hilly the watts vs kilograms come back into play more than I’d like to see. I’d like to see aero bars eliminated (actually chrono bikes altogether) as I feel it too much rewards the model of taking a big, strapping guy with huge lungs and heart, then stripping away all the excess (Indurain, Zulle come to mind as well as Froome and Wiggo) so you have a serious motor, made equally aerodynamic to the little guys with small frames and engines to match because via the aero bars. Turns it into too much of a power vs frontal area/drag contest. Now I’ve just discovered RAI TV will not show today’s Dauphine stage until 10 PM tonight! AGHHHH! :-(

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jaded June 14, 2014 at 9:02 pm

Have to agree Vanilla plus you only have to give up 10 seconds of your time….

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Spokey Dokey Blog June 14, 2014 at 11:34 am

When riders like Contador can hang on to the full Sky mountain train right to the summit finish, it probably means we’ve reached the point that they have to start developing more tactics. Up until now they’ve relied on creating the best w/kg rider they can, hopefully that’ll not be enough in July & we can see some better racing. As other teams get their acts together I expect we’ll find that their tactics are better too, Sky may be creating these athletes, but at the detriment of having great tactical strategies for winning races, which is where they’re behind.

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Anonymous June 14, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Spot on. If Sky are so into numbers, why can’t they see their tactics, strategies, and tactical strategies for winning races have led to an obvious downward trend. The Maths is simple:

2012

1 1 SKY PROCYCLING (SKY) GBR 1,767
2 2 KATUSHA TEAM (KAT) RUS 1,273
3 3 LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE (LIQ) ITA 1,197
4 4 OMEGA PHARMA-QUICKSTEP (OPQ) BEL 1,162
5 5 MOVISTAR TEAM (MOV) ESP 952
6 6 ORICA GREENEDGE (OGE) AUS 920
7 7 BMC RACING TEAM (BMC) USA 917
8 8 RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM (RAB) NED 799
9 9 GARMIN – SHARP (GRS) USA 762
10 11 ASTANA PRO TEAM (AST) KAZ 645

2013:

1 2 MOVISTAR TEAM (MOV) ESP 1610
2 1 SKY PROCYCLING (SKY) GBR 1561
3 3 KATUSHA (KAT) RUS 1340
4 6 RADIOSHACK LEOPARD (RLT) LUX 1056
5 4 ASTANA PRO TEAM (AST) KAZ 1045
6 5 TEAM SAXO-TINKOFF (TST) DEN 1030
7 7 OMEGA PHARMA – QUICK-STEP CYCLING TEAM (OPQ) BEL 1013
8 8 GARMIN SHARP (GRS) USA 855
9 9 CANNONDALE PRO CYCLING (CAN) ITA 750
10 10 BMC RACING TEAM (BMC) USA 731

Murdoch should be writing out Brailsford’s P45 before he leads Sky into yet another disastrous Tour.

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Anonymous June 14, 2014 at 1:33 pm

What a load on nonsense you type. Sorry.

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RocksRootsRoad June 14, 2014 at 4:29 pm

Sorry, but two samples don’t add up to any kind of statistical trend.

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Andrew W. June 14, 2014 at 5:08 pm

Satire. Has to be.

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Steppings June 14, 2014 at 10:52 am

If Froome loses any more weight he will look freakish as he does in certain camera shots already. Not a good look and not a good trend to follow. As for how to combat this trend I don’t think you can unless you start bringing in rules re height/weight ratios etc. so that would mean more benchmarks and targets for riders and DS’s to, lets say manipulate. Comparing pictures of a 2012 Wiggins or Froome with the Tour winners of the 80′s and 90′s it is alarming how the “skeletal chic” has become the fashion.

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FroomeJuice June 14, 2014 at 11:18 am

The difference is that unlike the winners of the 90s, wiggins and froome (*probably) aren’t juicing. Can’t have a high power to weight ratio if you’re too heavy.

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hoh June 14, 2014 at 11:52 am

Then there is always the question of whether weights are shed legitimately. Clenbuterol does help one lose body fat and was widely used in celebrity circles for that purpose. Though I suspect the banning of the drug is more a result of its ability in improving aerobic capacity, with BMR improvement more or less a side effect.

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hoh June 14, 2014 at 11:55 am

Sorry, should be BMI rather than BMR.

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Andrew W. June 14, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Quite the stage finish, and a hell of a ride by Westra. As for Contador vs Sky: cat, meet the pigeons.

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Dodge2000 June 14, 2014 at 6:32 pm

Anyone think that Porte cost Froome the lead there? Porte should have shut Contador down, but Froome waited too long for him to do it as he gradually faded. If we had a Col Du Beal situation with Froome on his own, he would have countered that move and hung on to his wheel, in the same way Contador did to him.

He looked pretty tuckered out, so not saying he definitely would have stayed on Contador’s wheel, but I’m going on on a limb and thinking he would have ground that one out and by staying close not give Contador the belief that he obviously had when he looked back and there was no Froome

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The Inner Ring June 14, 2014 at 6:46 pm

I think it’s the Sky way to let a rider jump away and then attempt to reel them in over time. Didn’t work today and makes for an interesting tactical battle tomorrow.

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Dodge2000 June 14, 2014 at 7:11 pm

I can see when that works, a few days ago is one example. But at the end of the stage, it looked to me that Froome was expecting more and gave Porte too long to try and do it. When it was clear they were making no headway with Porte Froome drifted round him to give chase. It wasn’t the usual changing of the guard where they kill themselves and then pull over.

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Mats June 14, 2014 at 7:36 pm

Froome was following Porte’s wheel for much too long not just because he made a tactical error but also because he was clearly cooked. He was in and out of the saddle from 5km sign onwards. A clear sign of fatigue or being nervous. Clearly the crash yesterday was a bit too much for Froome. I think everyone here knows how difficult it can be to get a proper sleep when a good part of your skin is in the waste bin. You feel swollen and slightly feverish.

A great day for Westra. Chapeau! Also a big, big day for Talansky guided in the finale so da**ed beautifully by Ryder Hesjedal.

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george June 14, 2014 at 8:21 pm

Westra’s come-from-behind win in the last kilometer was awesome. As for Froome, he definitely should not have assumed Porte could drag back Alberto Contador of all people. If Contador had attacked from the bottom of the climb it would make sense to just slowly reel him in, but in the last two kilometers? Of course, if he really just couldn’t respond, that’s not a good sign, but he does have plenty of time to recover from his tumble yesterday before the Tour.

Vitus June 14, 2014 at 10:30 pm

I’m not aware where a Porte should be able to “shut down” an Alberto in his current shape. Won’t happening. Not even in a parallel universe.

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Anonymous June 14, 2014 at 11:50 pm

Very true, Porte not in the same league.

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KB June 14, 2014 at 9:56 pm

That was some terrific action this afternoon! Or at least what we could see of it – did the Katusha duo of Trofimov and Silin have as little idea about where Westra was until he was in sight for them and a tv camera? Race information and tv direction was not up to conveying the action to the audience. Nibali must be worried about more letters from Vino now, at least Westra doesn’t have that problem any longer.

Kwiatkowski was a DNS today after optimistically proclaiming ‘everything going according to plan’. I can’t help but wonder that, buoyed by his TdF performance and seemingly limitless talent, he bit off a bit more than he could chew with his programme this year? He had a fantastic Spring, so there’s nothing to complain about for a rider of his age/experience, but repeating a top 10 at the Tour looks rather uncertain now.

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