A build-up race ahead of the Tour de France, the Dauphiné has often supplied some of the best racing of the year in recent seasons. This year’s race has a lighter start list than usual, here’s a look at the contenders and more.
Route Summary: a joy to ride, the route features some of the best roads in France whether the Col du Pré, the Beaujolais hills or the Vercors plateau. It starts with a prologue and seven stages including a 35km team time trial which will see several GC contenders lose beaucoup time and four summit finishes, including two short distance stages, for them to claw it back. The team time trial is a dress rehearsal for the Tour de France and will see several of the climbers hoping to win this race in trouble. There are time bonuses of 10-6-4 seconds for stage wins.
The Contenders: it’s a difficult pick, this is a great race to win but several riders don’t want to be on the boil right now as they prepare for the Tour de France. The approach taken by the likes of Richie Porte or Chris Froome in recent years of using this race as a stepping stone worked for them while others like Vincenzo Nibali have avoided peaking too soon.
Vincenzo Nibali won the Tour de France in 2014 but was discreet in the Dauphiné that year, being dropped on the climbs and generally out of sight of the TV cameras on his way to a top-10 overall. He may want to do do the same, a calm week in June ahead of storming around France in July. Even if he comes here in prime form it’d be a tall ask to win given the TTT where his Bahrain-Merida team will aim to limit losses and the summit finishes are not his speciality.
They must get tired of comparisons but after the Giro now it’s inevitable that people look to Adam Yates to see what he can do. He won a stage of Tirreno-Adriatico just as Simon lost his grip on Paris-Nice. He had a good Tour of California coming back from injury and now founds a race to suit and comes with a strong team to support in the TTT. Robert Power is one to watch, surely not for the win but to see how he fares in the mountains.
Quick Step bring Bob Jungels as leader and Julian Alaphilippe as deputy with both looking to see what they can do in the high mountains, the answer so far is they’ve come up a little short but they’re closing the gap and this is a good test with each able to play off each other, Alaphilippe as the explosive finisseur and Jungels the rouleur.
Movistar leave El Tridente for the Tour de Suisse but still have some pointy weapons to spare with with Paris-Nice winner Marc Soler and also Jaime Roson, winner of two Spanish stage races this year and still just eligible for the white jersey.
Remember Ilnur Zakarin? On the podium in the Vuelta last year, Katusha’s Russian rider can win short stages as well and is one of those outsiders nobody thinks about now but were he to win it would have been obvious all along. Katusha look ok for the TTT and “Zaka” can climb with the best.
The most important stage for Romain Bardet is the TTT, lose minutes here and he’ll pay again in July which will put him on the back foot. Otherwise the rest of the course looks ideal for him with summit finishes including Le Bettex where he won in 2016, terrain where he could still take back time and word is that he’s in great shape and climbing faster than Mamoudou Gassama. Pierre Latour should be strong support too.
Geraint Thomas has a good chance if he’s got his climbing legs. He’s been falling between two stools sometimes, aiming for the classics and stage races but has a palmarès including Paris-Nice and the Tour of the Alps. He’ll be helped by the prologue and the TTT as Sky could win the stage or at least beat those with GC rivals which puts Thomas in prime position and then a jersey to defend. This is an important test, will he seize the moment? Michał Kwiatkowski should find the high mountains too much. Tao Geoghegan Hart was a late call-up when Egan Bernal was withdrawn (presumably to ride the Tour) but a useful help in the mountains.
Dan Martin finished on the podium for the last two years and repeating this would be an achievement and reassurance as after moving to UAE Emirates he’s had a quiet start, just twice in the top-10 this season.
Warren Barguil (Fortuneo-Samsic) returns to the Alps in search of last year’s form. David Gaudu leads Groupama-FDJ, he’s promising but this is his biggest challenge yet. BMC don’t bring Richie Porte but Dylan Teuns will be interesting in the mountains, known for his ability on shorter climbs he’s won on these Alpine roads in the Tour de l’Avenir. Wanty-Groupe Gobert have leader Guillaume Martin, still 24 and improving in between writing plays and finishing his masters degree. Pierre Rolland rhymes with attaque and if he’s inconsistent the EF Education First-Drapac rider has room to attack and a stage win is within reach. Finally spare a thought for Astana’s Pello Bilbao who’s just finished sixth overall in the Giro and must be cooked, baked even. If he rode high in the Giro it was by following moves and riding steady, this won’t be easy in a shorter race with explosive finishes.
|Geraint Thomas, Romain Bardet|
|Adam Yates, Ilnur Zakarin|
|Dan Martin, Julian Alaphilippe, Bob Jungels|
|Nibali, Soler, Roson|
Dauphiné? once a royal kingdom in the Alps where the ruler had a dolphin (“dauphin”) on their heraldic crest, a regional newspaper called the Dauphiné Libéré took its name from the area and has a wider distribution and it used to run the race, the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré from 1947 until 2009 when it sold the race to ASO, owners of the Tour de France who abbreviated the race name.
TV: the stage times vary because French TV is scheduling around the tennis at Rolland Garros with weekend stages planned to finish around 3.00pm CEST and weekdays at 4.30pm CEST.
Daily previews: the roads have been reconned and each morning at 6.00am there will be a preview for the day’s racing.