The Dauphiné heads for the mountains and the unheralded but stunning Vercors plateau and the first of four summit finishes.
Clear Sky: Team Sky finished well clear of all the others, only four teams were within a minute of them including a surprise from Lotto-Soudal. Another surprise was Ag2r La Mondiale in seventh place which they’d have signed for in the morning with glee but they still lost a minute and a half which they’d have rejected. Bahrain-Merida lost over two minutes and UAE-Emirates almost two and a half minutes meaning the likes of Vincenzo Nibali and Dan Martin can look for stage wins. This was a dress rehearsal for the Tour de France and many if not most teams will have stronger formations come July but that includes Team Sky too.
The Route: a flat 50km and then rolling roads leading to the the Col de Toutes Aures at 102km. This is an asymmetric ascension, this side rises up gently past messy farms but once over the pass the scenery changes dramatically, a view of the mountains and a more twisty descent down to the Isère valley floor and the walnut groves of the Dauphiné. Once over the river the road rises and the ascent of the Col du Mont Noir starts.
There are several routes up with some breathtaking moments via cliff roads and balconies but this is not one of them, instead it is the widest and most accessible route and more Alpine that the typical Vercors approach climb. Known locally as the Montée du Faz – because this particular approach climbs via the village of Faz – it’s a long climb, almost as long as Sunday’s Cormet de Roseland and steeper with some good sections at 8-10% but there are no nasty surprises. It’s a steady climb to the village of Le Faz, the kind locals can test their form on, and mostly on smooth roads where. There’s a brief rest through the village and then the rises up into the forest where the road is rougher in places, freshly surfaced in others and the slope is often easier. Then comes a fast descent with a sketchy road surface in places before picking up the main road to Rencurel and then the Gorges de la Bourne, a scenic road up a canyon and climbed when the race visited in 2015.
The Finish: a ski station summit finish but don’t get visions of big hotels and clusters of ski lifts, this is a small station, barely a few chalets and without the race or snow it’s a quiet place but the winter sports venue means a wide, engineered road. It’s less than 5km uphill. There are long straight ramps between hairpin bends including the tough section at 10% and it rises uphill right to the line.
The Contenders: this is a good day for a breakaway, a move can try to pull away early and hope to build up an advantage while the main GC contenders sit tight and wait to get the measure of each other on the final climb. Easier said than done, especially as Team Sky are likely to set a tough pace for the latter part of the race. Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) is cleverly already 19 minutes down already and Dylan Theuns (BMC Racing) is no longer a threat being over eight minutes down and they’re the kind of riders able to profit from difficult second half of the course.
Otherwise Julian Alaphilippe (Quick Step) is a safe pick for today, he won’t like the Mont Noir climb but the shorter effort on the final climb is good for him. Dan Martin (UAE Emirates) has the space to jump away and may have the legs to succeed too. Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) could feature in a sprint and we’ll see what Geraint Thomas and Michał Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) can do and how they’ll work together too. Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) ought to be tipped but he should find the upcoming stages more to his liking.
|Julian Alaphilippe, Geraint Thomas|
|De Gendt, Theuns, Bardet, Kwiatkowski, Yates|
Weather: sunshine and clouds with a top temperature of 21°C early on and an increasing chance of thunderstorms on the Vercors plateau for the finish.
TV: coverage should start when the riders are on the Col du Mont Noir and the finish is forecast for 4.30pm CEST.