The last but not the least of the stages of the 2015 Critérium du Dauphiné. The scenic Lacets de Montvernier feature before the final climb to Valfréjus. The stage ends with a ski station summit finish but it’s a short climb, maybe still enough for Chris Froome to challenge Tejay van Garderen’s overall lead.
Stage 7 Wrap: another fine day’s racing. A big breakaway of 14 went clear from the start and the group swelled to 26 during the stage when Europcar missed the move and tried to place Pierre Rolland up the road. From this Cofidis’ Dani Navarro and Trek Factory Racing’s Riccardo Zoidl attacked and started the final climb together with almost three minutes’ lead. The Côte des Amerands was labelled as a first category climb, status inflation for 2.7km climb. A pig of a climb none the less and it blew the chasing peloton to pieces. Sky’s Peter Kennaugh set the pace and Vincenzo Nibali was ejected, off the pace but seemingly unprepared with his gearing for the steep slopes.
Onto the final climb to Le Bettex and Sky kept the pace up until Chris Froome and Tejay van Garderen rode away. The two took turns to share the work until Froome attacked and this time van Garderen could not pace himself back but managed to ride into the yellow jersey with Beñat Intxausti coming third. Among the others Louis Meintjes was the best resistant from the breakaway while Ag2r’s Alexis Vuillermoz helped pace Romain Bardet to 6th place on the stage. Alejandro Valverde was 17th, Vincenzo Nibali 24th, almost four minutes down.
Tejay van Garderen is in control but can he keep is 18 second lead? BMC Racing will be grateful it’s not a big mountain stage as he’s been isolated at in the summit finishes with Samuel Sanchez two minutes behind in Pra Loup and over eight minutes yesterday. Now Sanchez should be able to ride with him for much longer. It all sets up a tight finish especially with the time bonuses of 10-6-4 seconds for the first three.
The Route: an air of déjà vu as the race rides back through Ugine and Albertville where things started last weekend. The climb to Héry-sur-Ugine is a sharp one with some steep hairpins and then the race makes its way to the Maurienne valley via the Côte de Saint-Georges-d’Hurtières, better known as the start of the Col de Cucheron.
The come the Lacets de Montvernier (for the full story, see Roads to Ride – Lacets to Montvernier) which translates as the Montvernier hairpins. As the name suggests it’s twisty and so the linear profile doesn’t do the climb justice. There are 18 hairpins in 3.5km. It’s fun but for the race just a climb to scale and as there’s still 50km to go it should be pretty on TV but probably not that tactical.
The Finish: a mini-summit finish. There are no surprises here, it’s a large wide road with some early hairpins before arriving into the ski resort of Valfréjus.
The Contenders: Chris Froome is 18 seconds behind Tejay van Garderen overall so if he can put 12 or more seconds into the race leader on the final climb then thanks to the time bonus he can win the race overall. Sky’s leader skipped the post-race press conference yesterday, forfeiting his prize money but perhaps because he wants to get as much recovery as possible while van Garderen was being interrogated by the media. It’s easy to imagine Team Sky drilling the pace up the Maurienne valley with the hope of making the race as hard as possible so that the final climb, however short it may be, is decisive.
Only it’s all to obvious. Van Garderen just needs to track Froome and if the Sky rider takes a flyer, follow him as there’s even a chance of pipping him for the stage win. Many others will be sat on Sky’s coattails hoping for a free ride to the finish. On a relatively short climb – this is still an Alpine ascent – the likes of Simon Yates, Joaquim Rodriguez and Dan Martin come to mind. Martin was unlucky to puncture yesterday and has looked better as the race goes on.
As for a breakaway, it’ll need some heavy hitters to stay away given the open terrain, the small climbs followed by large valley roads which suit the peloton over a breakaway. Last year’s race saw things go wild from the start but this was helped by the hilly terrain of the final stage, today is not so obvious. Maybe the likes of Tony Martin, Wilco Kelderman, Rein Taaramäe or Stephen Cummings try something.
|Simon Yates, Dan Martin, Joaquim Rodriguez|
|van Garderen, Bardet, Intxausti|
Weather: sunshine, clouds and the outside chance of a shower. 21°C in the valley.
TV: another late slot finish with the race scheduled to end around 4.50pm Euro time.
It’s an ASO race so you should find it on the same channel as you watch the Tour de France. It’s on Eurosport too and if all else fails you can rely on Cyclingfans and steephill.tv for links to feeds and streams.