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Critérium Dauphiné Stage 5 Preview

The last chance for the sprinters as the race heads to the foot of the Alps. Sam Bennett made it look easy last time, can he play it again?

Stage 4 Review: Wout van Aert was the surprise winner but left nobody in doubt, he was over thirty seconds ahead of the next placed rider, Tejay van Garderen, and only six riders were within a minute of him. Jumbo-Visma announced van Aert was picked for the Tour de France earlier this week and you wondered why, was it to go for those punchy stages in the opening week that Dylan Groenewegen couldn’t win? No, it’s because he’s going like a train and if he might be able to get a stage win in the first week, he’ll be a valuable locomotive for the team time trial on the opening weekend. Adam Yates is the new race leader.

But the news of the day was Chris Froome’s crash. He was riding the course as recon and on the fast descent through Saint-André-d’Apchon – a completely straight road – reports say he went to clear his nose with one hand just as a gust of wind caught his bike. He clipped kerb and then collided with a wall. First treated on the scene for some time to stabilise the apparent heavy injuries, then taken to hospital in nearby Roanne, then later airlifted to Saint-Etienne: the diagnosis is a fractured femur, a fractured elbow and cracked ribs too. Fractures can come in all shapes and sizes but often recovery from a femur fracture takes many months. The team were quick to report he’s out of the Tour de France and frankly it’d be miraculous if he starts the Vuelta, he’d have to be back on the bike within 4-5 weeks just to get ready for that, most unlikely. It puts an end to Froome’s steely record of finishing races, his last DNF the 2015 Vuelta when he broke his foot on the stage in Andorra.

It can feel a touch unseemly to speculate on events as soon as a rider crashes out with heavy injuries but the Dauphiné’s leitmotif is as a pre-Tour test, each moment is parsed for what it says about July. What this means for the Tour is a hard question to answer because we never got to see Froome in the time trial, let alone in the Alps. Ineos still have ace cards to play in Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal.

The Route: 201km east to Voiron and the foot of the Chartreuse Alps, a pleasant summer’s day ride past lazy countryside of woodland and cereal farms. There’s not too much to decrypt about the course, it’s got hilly and lumpy roads at first with more climbs than the marked ones and the second half mainly sticks to flat roads which help a chasing peloton. There is one sharp climb out of Rives with about 13km to go but it’s on a wide road.

The Finish: some urban street furniture to negotiate, it pays to have a strong team to guide a sprinter here. The final kilometre has three sharp turns before a 300m final straight.

The Contenders: Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) is the obvious pick given the way he made it look easy the other day in Riom. But no two sprints are the same, opportunity and misfortune intervene all the time. Alvaro Hodeg (Deceuninck-Quickstep) can try again but he’s not got the usual wagons of his team’s sprint train. Clément Venturini (Ag2r La Mondiale) could be close. André Greipel (Arkéa-Samsic) could be close and his move to a smaller team has dented his win rate but remember it’s got them an invite to the Tour de France. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) could try too but will his team risk it?

Sam Bennett
Colbrelli, EBH, Venturini
Hodeg, Greipel, Debusschere, Theuns

Weather: warm and sunny, 27°C with a 5-10km/h tailwind.

TV: the finish is forecast for 4.30pm CEST / Euro time.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Steppings Thursday, 13 June 2019, 7:54 am

    Thank you for the excellent daily input. Rotten luck for Chris Froome, wishing him a full recovery and hoping his time in ICU is precautionary.

    • Ecky Thump Thursday, 13 June 2019, 8:57 am

      Likewise. Terrible news that.
      Ineos’ luck before their first two GTs is bad too, first Bernal and now Froome.

  • RQS Thursday, 13 June 2019, 8:14 am

    Now Wout Van Aert IS the new Merckx…..

  • Rob van Brakel Thursday, 13 June 2019, 8:21 am

    I would give two rings to van Aert today. He proved to have a good sprint finish the other day. Colbrelli was way off that day though. Unless i missed something there i wouldnt think he stands a chance today. The slope at the end does not seem to be too high which is not in his favor.

    • Watts Thursday, 13 June 2019, 5:58 pm

      Nice prediction

  • KevinK Thursday, 13 June 2019, 8:51 am

    Fun fact: Bogart never actually said the famous line “Play it again, Sam” in Casablanca.

    Not so fun facts: the femur is the biggest, strongest bone in the human body, takes a huge traumatic force to break in a young man, and usually takes months, not weeks, to heal. That’s if it’s a fairly uncomplicated fracture. There are types of femur fractures that can be problematic for full recovery and functionality. Froome’s a tough guy, and I would expect in 2020 he’ll be a serious competitor again, but I think the remainder of 2019 is going to be rest and recovery and then a long, slow rehab and reconditioning.

    • Digahole Thursday, 13 June 2019, 9:54 am

      I remember a comment from Wiggins a few weeks back on his show saying that he had the bone density of a 65 yr old woman when he retired due to the unhealthy body mass maintained by GC guys – Finely tuned, powerful yet fragile bodies

      • KevinK Thursday, 13 June 2019, 10:27 am

        Yes, and add to that the fact that some top female riders find that they have clinically significant osteoporosis while quite young. Weight bearing exercise is a crucial factor in maintaining bone density, and given that pro riders use as much energy as possible riding, and I’ve heard stories of the lengths they’ll go to avoid running/walking/hiking, then Froome (and probably most pro cyclists) have issues with bone density. And any rider who uses corticosteroids (not suggesting Froome has) is going to dramatically accelerate their bone loss.

        A French friend at work just told me he read that Froome’s fracture was “open” (broken bone sticking through muscle and skin) and that he was unconscious for a time. If true, this is a life threatening injury, and he’s fortunate there was a race ambulance nearby. I should note, this work friend is sometimes full of BS, so take this with a grain of salt. I don’t see anything in the British press that shows up on google to confirm this.

        • jc Thursday, 13 June 2019, 11:13 am

          The comment from your French colleague is perfectly possible, it clearly was a very serious crash. Dave Brailsford was obviously very badly shaken by what happened, he knows the detail of how bad it was, maybe Chris Froome was fortunate it was not more serious. There will inevitably be lots of speculation though I havent seen anything too stupid.

          Personally I am somewhat relieved it didnt happen on live TV, I have always thought there is an unhealthy level of intrusion in cycling after accidents. I remember the endless replays after Richie Porte’s crash at the TDF, thankfully he was not more seriously hurt, but thinking that it unnecessarily ghoulish.

        • sam Thursday, 13 June 2019, 4:40 pm

          CN is corroborating the open femur fracture and adding a pelvic fracture as well as internal injuries. that’s some major trauma to the biggest bones of the body.

          no hyperbole intended here, this could be a career ender based on recovery time alone, assuming they heal to their former condition.

          • KevinK Thursday, 13 June 2019, 7:01 pm

            I agree, from what I’m hearing/reading this is almost certainly career ending, at least in terms of a career as a GT leader. I don’t doubt that Froome could come back to a level where he is capable of riding in the peloton, but not as a star. His time off the bike is going to be very long, and even as the bones heal, he will have a lot of muscle damage, especially to his leg, both from the trauma of the open fracture, and from the multiple surgeries he’ll require. If he were 24 years old it’d be one thing, but he’s not.

      • Davesta Thursday, 13 June 2019, 10:51 am

        Cyclists are certainly at risk of having weaker bones (ie developing osteopenia, osteoperosis), due to two main factors – 1) the lack of ‘impact’ training in the sport means the bones aren’t strengthened much (compared to say running, where impact is high and the bones become stronger), and 2) the danger of under-fuelling for training & racing (particularly where low bodyweight is important, and may be achieved via less than optimal means such as starved-rides, compromising re-fueling etc).

        However, the extent to which these factors are experienced by and impact an individual cyclist are highly variable, and some athletes will also attempt to mitigate both by supplementing with strength/impact training & fueling appropriately (note that appropriate fueling can still occur alongside extremely low bodyfat) . It could well be that Froome has exceptionally healthy bones and is anything but fragile – it is conjecture to infer otherwise, despite the risk factors mentioned above.

        What is probably more impactful than potentially weak bones, sadly, is crashing into a wall at 60kph!
        Here’s hoping his injuries aren’t *too* serious and he makes a swift and full recovery.

        • Digahole Thursday, 13 June 2019, 1:13 pm

          Good point. Important not to generalise.

          I wonder also whether there aren’t other benefits from impact training that aren’t acknowledged by cyclists. Recall that Pinot did more than his usual amount of Nordic skiing in the off season before having a great year last year. Cross country skiing isn’t exactly impact, but is load bearing of course.

          Maybe there’s also a cross-trading angle for INRNG’s proposed (and interesting sounding) post about overtraining amongst cyclists.

          • Digahole Thursday, 13 June 2019, 5:14 pm

            *cross-training

        • KevinK Thursday, 13 June 2019, 7:50 pm

          There are good studies that elite road cyclists have significantly lower bone density, and that this is in direct proportion to their years of training and competition, and the type of rider they are. Sprinters and mountain bikers have good bone density. TT specialists and GC-type riders do not. It’s especially a problem for male masters riders, as well as female elite riders of any age. Looking at Froome’s age, his build, and what I know of his training style, I think it’s safe to say that it’s unlikely that his bones are “extremely healthy.” Riders like Peter Sagan or Van Der Poel, yes, absolutely.

  • Michael B Thursday, 13 June 2019, 8:53 am

    All that speculation about whether WVA was going to be the next Merckx or Sagan and it turns out the answer might be that he’s closer to Cancellara! Huge TT engine with a very fast finish for the classics, if not quite a bunch sprinter. Now let’s see if he can ride the bunch off his wheel in the final KM of a TdF stage…

    • Watts Thursday, 13 June 2019, 10:12 am

      My thoughts exactly!

      Those Jumbo Visma guys are really doing great in TTs, I am intrigued by what their method is. When you see someone like Tony Martin go to that team because of the emphasis on TTs it must be a well known advantage in the peloton.

      • Richard S Thursday, 13 June 2019, 10:24 am

        Matt Stephens was saying on Eurosport UK commentary yesterday that the Bianchi TT bike is apparently one of the best in the peloton. Not that it will make all the difference!

      • Matt Carey Thursday, 13 June 2019, 10:34 am

        Jumbo have recently employed Dan Bigham from the HUUB Wattbkike track team to help them with TT gains. He is an aerodynamicist and has been helping them with lots of small changes to make them faster.

    • John Irvine Thursday, 13 June 2019, 2:29 pm

      Not having been a cycling fan in the Merckx era, I would love to know more about exactly how Merckx did what he did, and what it really meant to be the 1st Merckx. I’d love a deep-dive read on the dynamics of his dominance. Was Molteni the Sky-train of the 70’s, packed with highly paid domestiques? I don’t believe so. Would Merckx have been as dominant in an era with different training, specialization, tech? There’s the Fotheringham and Friebe bios, and many more. Any recommendations on a good read that gets into the tactical racing stuff of that era, and Merckx in particular?

      • Richard S Thursday, 13 June 2019, 3:29 pm

        I think Merckx’s, Molteni team wasn’t far from being the Sky of its day. But more in the classics than in the Tours I think. He wasn’t the first to have a strong team either, before him there was van Looy’s Faema red guard. Everything you read about Merckx just emphasises how strong he was, and his brutally hard training. He was quite a big guy, about 75kg. He was clearly a freak. He’ll have had huge lungs, a cows heart, probably a naturally high haematocrit (probably before anyone knew what that meant), a freakish ability to convert oxygen to energy and probably didn’t know what lactic acid was!

      • The Inner Ring Thursday, 13 June 2019, 4:04 pm

        I wonder about this too, obviously his huge thorax implies big lungs and I’ve read some time ago his femurs are longer than usual, implying more leverage. Merckx did altitude training or rather hypoxia, he’d train indoors on rollers breathing a mix of air with less oxygen.

        • Andrew Friday, 14 June 2019, 2:44 am

          I believe there is also some evidence that he had a form of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. There are people with HCM who gain a cardiovascular advantage from this, as long as they don’t run into trouble with arrhythmia and sudden death. There was apparently an episode about him having an abnormal ECG at some point. Interestingly, Secretariat (the horse) also had an unusual form of HCM.

      • Watts Thursday, 13 June 2019, 4:42 pm

        The 525 coffee table book is actually great because the anecdotes come from Merckx and those close to him. The other books you mention are fine as well. I highly recommend “Hunger” by Sean Kelly. It becomes more technical than most of these bios. The first chapter about his last San Remo win is fantastic.

        I like to think that Merckx was physically highly gifted, but also he was driven by a desire to essentially prove himself to his highly critical father perhaps. Something like that. There are many athletes who possess some of his qualities, but never all of them. And that hunger for victory has never been matched.

        Think about Boardman’s Merckx style record: He had many advantages over Merckx in clothing, wheels etc but still only beat him by a few hundred metres. And Merckx’ attempt is known for starting out WAY too fast. As in 5K record pace. It says a lot about his qualities.

        Merckx in our era would not have won so much, because so many riders are specializing as you say. In a time where everyone raced ALL the races, he was the one who did not fatigue. He was the one whose appetite for victory was always intact. In GTs his margins often came from keeping the pressure on the climbers and perhaps ambushing them on the flats. Something a good strong team around you today, would never allow.

        • John Irvine Thursday, 13 June 2019, 5:33 pm

          Thanks a lot for the book recommendations. I will check out Kelly’s book for sure.

          • cp Thursday, 13 June 2019, 8:52 pm

            Not a book, but don’t forget Sunday in Hell, Jorgen Leth’s documentary. Won’t give you the “deep dive” you are seeking, but it’s a great film by a very interesting filmmaker.
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxBTVU9JDrA

            (Also check out Leth’s “The Perfect Human,” a classic of European experimental/avant-garde cinema, though it has nothing to do with cycling…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCRenBZFc7g)
            ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCRenBZFc7g )

          • Betto Friday, 14 June 2019, 12:00 am

            Kelly’s book is really enjoyable, if only for the absolute dryness of the tone when he’s describing some pivotal moments in his career. “Feck, I’ve just won a stage of the Tour de France. That’s really something.” is about as as animated as he gets.

        • Larry T Thursday, 13 June 2019, 9:18 pm

          “Merckx in our era would not have won so much, because so many riders are specializing as you say. ” I call BS – one can not simply insert Rider X into a different era assuming everything else would be the same. If Merckx raced all the races to win in a different era who are you to say nobody else would have done the same?
          What’s next, a claim that Froome would somehow have beaten The Cannibal at every GT they raced? I’m already smelling the rancid odor of “Froome woulda/coulda/shoulda won LeTour 2019” to denigrate whoever ends up in yellow in Paris in July…unless of course it’s another INEOS team member….and the f—king race has yet to even begin.

          • Watts Thursday, 13 June 2019, 11:34 pm

            You sure told me what’s right.

            This talkback is getting nasty, I think I’ll tune out

          • Betto Thursday, 13 June 2019, 11:51 pm

            Bit needless, no?

          • Anonymous Friday, 14 June 2019, 1:56 am

            And you wonder why you get flamed. Please, take your rudeness, your arrogance and your disrespect for other people elsewhere.

      • Larry T Thursday, 13 June 2019, 5:54 pm

        https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13580140-eddy-merckx has been the best book on Merckx and I’ve read most of ’em. This might be because the author never got an interview so wasn’t enamored with the man as a result. He wasn’t afraid to point out Merckx’ great insecurities as part of his drive to win. Highly recommended.

  • Pax Thursday, 13 June 2019, 8:55 am

    Very sad how bad the Froome crash was – let’s hope he can race well again. In my mind this is a negative for Ineos as even an out form Froome what have to respected deep in to the tdf. They lost a card.

  • Richard S Thursday, 13 June 2019, 9:24 am

    I wonder how much of van Aert’s recent hard training and current excellent form was fuelled by van der Poel’s success in the classics?! I think calling him the new Merckx might be a stretch seen as he’s unlikely to light any fires in the high mountains but his current skillset would make him a very good new Cancellara.
    Sad news about Froome. I wonder why he felt he needed to lift a hand of his bars to blow his nose though, especially on a fast descent? I’m constantly blowing my nose in time trials, I’m usually fairly well covered by the time I finish! But I literally just blow, theres no need to use your hands! Maybe he was a bit casual because it was the recon?! It blows the tour wide open now though (pun intended). Dumoulin’s potentially not 100%, Thomas has potentially over indulged, Bernal is an unknown, Quintana has declined, Nibali did the Giro… could the French finally..?!! Also, I’m going to stick a fiver on Jumbo-Visma for the Worlds TTT (does it still exist?). Martin, van Emden, Roglic, van Aert, Kruijswijk, Groenewegen. Not bad.

    • Michael B Thursday, 13 June 2019, 9:41 am

      That’s one hell of a TTT outfit!

      Re: Froome I suppose he spends so much time on his TT bike you can get a bit lax and do things that don’t make sense. Personally I don’t buy into all this “he’s a terrible bike handler” nonsense (I know you’re not saying that BTW).

      Sagan and Armstrong had supernatural powers of staying upright, everyone else falls off occasionally. But if you’re a GT star everyone notices, and if you’re a domestique no-one remembers.

      Here’s hoping he makes a full recovery.

      • Anonymous Thursday, 13 June 2019, 10:14 am

        I cannot recall Miguel Indurain EVER crashing during his professional career! maybe someone knows otherwise?

        • Michael B Thursday, 13 June 2019, 10:16 am

          Good call. I started watching the Tour during Indurain’s first win and I can’t remember him falling once.

          • Anonymous Thursday, 13 June 2019, 10:21 am

            Nearest I can get is that once I think it was a journalist trod on his foot during a post race scramble, I understand he was annoyed!

          • Steve Friday, 14 June 2019, 10:35 am

            He very nearly fell off Mont Ventoux one time, actually going beyond the line atthe edge of the road but not quite leaving the tarmac.

      • Richard S Thursday, 13 June 2019, 10:21 am

        Yeah one of the many remarkable things about Armstrong was that he never crashed, got injured or ill in July, or June, for 7 years on the bounce! Froome has been the dominant rider of the last decade but he DNF’d in 2014 and was beaten last year to break up the monotony.

        • hoh Thursday, 13 June 2019, 10:41 am

          Lance did crash that once tangling with a fan. Of the 4 Tours Froome won, you can also say that one can hardly remember him crash.

          • Mike A Thursday, 13 June 2019, 1:27 pm

            Froome did have a small slide 2 years ago(?) on a descent when he turned on the white line on a pretty wet day. Someone else went off in front of him too if I recall. This was more a slide and not a crash though…and certainly there was no brick wall.

        • stavn Thursday, 13 June 2019, 12:50 pm

          The Armstrong 1998-2005 was impressive. That only happens when you are completely on top of your game. It is not only luck, it is about how you sit in the bunch, and how much excess energy you have to spare.
          In Armstrong’s return 2009-2011 he crashed quite often. Probably lacking the traits described above. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lance_Armstrong.
          Indurain may have stopped in time. And Froome may now have hit his limit?

    • CA Thursday, 13 June 2019, 9:17 pm

      Great job to Van Aert – but calling him the next Eddy Merckx is a joke. We’ll never see a Merckx in our lifetime unless some radical changes are made. All Van Aert has done is contend in the classics, win 1 sprint and 1 TT….

      So sad to hear about Froome, really hope he is safe and can return to his family soon.

  • Gelato4bahamontes Thursday, 13 June 2019, 9:35 am

    I’ve had a fractured femur. It hurts. 12 weeks without being able to weight that leg, 6 months on crutches. And a long time to get fitness back. Still have the plate in my leg.

  • jc Thursday, 13 June 2019, 10:24 am

    I know Chris Froome is a very determined strong individual but he also has two young kids, is financially secure, has already achieved stuff unlikely to be repeated and his body must have various damage from 10 years of top level cycling. Is really going to to go through all the blood, sweat and tears of serious rehab to try to fight against riders 12 years younger and still have the possibility of ending up in a heap at the side of the road waiting to be choppered off to intensive care? The ride over the Finestre last year would not be a bad way to have effectively drawn the curtain down on a great career.

    At the other end of a career Wout van Aert has shown great promise and yesterday delivered in a slightly surprising way. He has already said he doesnt think he can compete in the mountains but maybe there is time for that. Others have shown it is possible with the right sort of training to follow the “mow em down in the chrono, hold em in the mountains” strategy to become a GT winner.

  • Iwan Thursday, 13 June 2019, 1:08 pm

    I think it was in the second stage I saw Froome pulling the pack in the ( small ) peloton to end .30something behind Dylan Teuns, he gave me a very strong impression, “the Tdf will be boring again” is what I thought. Now the race is wide open again, shitty for Froome but exciting for the cycling fan. On the second : Wout VA reminds me of Cadel Evans, just put 2 pictures of them side by side and think 10 years apart, it’s creepy

    • Anonymous Thursday, 13 June 2019, 1:47 pm

      Entertainment value is pretty subjective… I found the 2014 tour dull after Contador and Froome crashed out. It was just an embarrassing procession of a man (Nibali) versus a bunch of boys after that IMHO. Yet I heard pundits saying it was ‘the best tour in ages’… nowt as queer as folk, as they say.

      • Jovelo Thursday, 13 June 2019, 4:48 pm

        Who were the pundits? From a french perspective it was assuredly the best tour in years 🙂

    • Anonymous Thursday, 13 June 2019, 3:06 pm

      Evans and WVA may look alike, but Cadel is more like his mini-me if anything, size-wise and all.

  • jc Thursday, 13 June 2019, 4:35 pm

    Eddie Merckx really is back 🙂

  • Motormouth Thursday, 13 June 2019, 7:29 pm

    Van aert is so comically bigger than the rest of the riders in the finish today. very happy for his run of form!

  • Chuffy Thursday, 13 June 2019, 8:24 pm

    Has anyone read the story about Cobo being busted?
    CF “What happened”
    DB “Congratulations, you’ve just won the 2011 Vuelta!”
    Helluva way to wake up after surgery…

    Very pleased to hear his surgery went well. From Dan Martin’s account it sounded like a really sickening smash.

  • Megi Thursday, 13 June 2019, 10:59 pm

    The surgeon in charge of Froome’s case Remi Philippot is expecting a minimum of six months out of competition, adding “On a sporting level, he will need to make an exceptional recovery with the mental capacity required to recover and then get fit again.” That’s from AFP via the BBC.