Dauphiné route unveiled

EDIT: since publishing this in March I’ve put a full preview online. Go here: https://inrng.com/dauphine for full stage analysis, the jerseys, the history and much more.

ASO have unveiled the route of the 2012 Critérium du Dauphiné. The 8 day stage race is a great contest in its own right but also resembles the Tour de France in more ways than one.

Just like last year’s edition, the Dauphiné will feature some of the same roads as the Tour, making it an ideal test ahead of July. Here’s a summary of the route.

Sun 3 June Prologue Grenoble 5.7km TT
Mon 4 June 1 Seyssins > Saint-Vallier 187km
Tues 5 June 2 Lamastre > Saint-Félicien 160km
Wednesday 6 June 3 Givors > La Clayette 167km
Thursday 7 June 4 Villié-Morgon > Bourg-en-Bresse 53km TT
Friday 8 June 5 Saint-Trivier-sur-Moignans > Rumilly 186.5km
Saturday 9 June 6 Saint-Alban-Leysse > Morzine 166.5km
Sunday 10 June 7 Morzine > Châtel 126km

Stage 1 and Stage 3 should be for the sprinters. Stage 2 offers some climbing and uses the same route as the popular Ardéchoise cyclosportif ride, an ideal day for a breakaway.

The first crucial day is Stage 4, a 53km time trial from Villié-Morgon to Bourg-en-Bresse. This ties with the Tour de France which will offer a 52km time trial for the penultimate stage. For the Dauphiné this is a very long and big gaps will open up over the flat to rolling roads. It’s also a gastronomic delight, starting near the fine Burgundy wine vineyards to finish in a town famous for its special chicken; no chance for the riders.

The following day is features the Grand Colombier, a new climb for the Tour de France. A fixture for the Tour de l’Ain, a small stage race held every August, the road has not been used by the Tour de France before but the Dauphiné did visit in 1988. It’s back and this will allow riders to test themselves on the steep ramps. Once described as “the French Zoncolan” after the fearsome Italian climb, that label is probably excessive but this is not your typical Alpine pass. Rather the road climbs to the top of the mountain and instead of gradients of 6-8%, the slope is 10% and hits 14% in places. Note that the route of Stage 5 is very similar to that of Stage 10 in the Tour de France, with the Côte de Corlier, the Grand Colombier and the Col de Richemond featuring in both stages plus all the descents and roads in between. A dress rehearsal.

Stage 6 is a high mountain stage with the Col de la Colombière and the Joux Plane on the menu, a chance for the climbers to pull back any time lost in the time trial. The final day is short and uses two cols before an uphill finish in Châtel.

Most of the GC contenders will visit the Grand Colombier climb to see it for real but riding up is not the same as racing. Similarly a 50km time trial is rare, the effort in the Dauphiné will be a good test ahead of the Tour de France. The race will overlap with the Tour de Suisse but ASO is making the Dauphiné attractive because it allows riders to test themselves on the roads of the Tour de France.

There is also a business aspect in the route selection, many towns are keen to bid for a Tour de France stage start or finish but fewer want the Dauphiné. ASO can cross-sell, suggesting towns and regions bidding for the Tour should take a stage of the Dauphiné (or Paris-Nice) in order to make their bid more successful.

A hard race as usual with plenty of good racing to come. The 2012 edition is noticeable for the near-identical length of the time trial to that of the Tour de France’s Stage 20 and the copycat fifth stage which resembles Stage 10 of the Tour. Riders with ambitions for the Tour de France will think twice before missing this race.

12 thoughts on “Dauphiné route unveiled”

  1. A thought – We already have different rules for different standards of racing (radios being the obvious one). Could nt the pro ranks be allowed to use whatever equipment they like (within reason) and these rules applied to lower catagory/amateur races where differences in wage packets may be more of a factor.

    There are very few/no pro teams who could not provide their riders with the best of what is avaialable. This would still provide the marketing for the punters in the street and drive the innovation for cycling fans like us to get in 5 years time, however, the average amateur racer would still have a genuine shot against his the riders in his local race.

  2. ddraver
    pro tour teams regularly race againts conti teams etc etc.
    without unilatteral rules and regs there will always be cases of unfair advantages depending on where you choose to draw this technology line.

  3. I feel that this “dressed rehearsal” element of the Dauphiné, makes it harder for the Tour de Suisse to compete as a TDF warm up. If I was ASO I would do the same thing, but it does seem a little like the ASO has an unfair advantage over smaller race promoters in this regard… and with races falling off the calendar all over the place, it does make me worry a little. I guess it pays to remember that cycling is a business like any other!

  4. ddraver / TC: are your comments not meant for this piece http://inrng.com/2012/03/uci-rules-regulation-bikes-clothing/ ?

    AndrewAlpen: exactly, this is putting the squeeze on the Tour de Suisse. Race overlaps a frustration, the idea of having two Alpine races clash seems like a mistake on the calendar but it does allow different riders to do different things and neither race will want to be closer or further from the start date of the Tour de France.

  5. AndrewAlpen/inrng – isn’t it also true that a lot of riders actively avoid meeting their adversaries before the tour? Having two alpine races before the tour is important I feel, as a fan, so that the anticipation of everyone meeting for the tour is maintained.

  6. Hi Alex,

    A good point, and eloquently put. This “avoiding adversaries” for me is the only big marketing point that the Tour de Suisse has left (for the riders). The importance of Cadels TT performance at the TDF last year, (having done the practice run in the Dauphiné) somehow in my mind diluted this point. Having two alpine races as the last preparation is perfect, it just seems that one has an unfair advantage when attracting the top riders.
    I do have a personal bias however, having enjoyed a few stages of the Tour de Suisse in the past.
    Thanks for the forum INRNG.

  7. The Tour de Suisse is a very different kind of race than the Dauphine. The climbs generally seem to be “big ring” climbs, which opens up possibilities for someone like Cancellara to win, as he did a couple of years ago. I can’t see Cancellara ever being particularly interested in riding the Dauphine (even if he weren’t Swiss). It’s been my impression that it’s likely to always be this way because the Swiss roads are more “engineered” in the way the US highway system is, so you just won’t find the steep climbs of France and Italy.

  8. One could certainly make a case that ASO is being greedy with a mini/warm-up TdF competing with another event on the calendar. With the current (in my opinion) over-importance of LeTour I don’t really want to see ASO’s other races dominate the racing calendar. I’m happy they spend some of their enormous (based on the conventional wisdom anyway) profits supporting lesser events in danger of extinction, but I fear them becoming an unofficial sanctioning body and exerting too much control over the racing calendar.

  9. @Q yes and no – i think that year’s TdS was curated to specifically engineer a Fabu win – much like the Moser Giri d’Italia of the ’80s. Some big climbs but plenty of time for it to come back together. Perhaps AndrewAlpen can correct me though.

    Switzerland’s terrain could manage any type of race they wanted to……often parallel to the newer, modern “engineered” roads there is a tough old narrow and steep goat track (Gothard Pass for example). What they can never do is replicate key tour stages identically.

    Perhaps if ASO does go down that route of making the Dauphinee a must for tour GC contenders then an attacking, undulating race for the leftovers (think Fabian, Gilbert, Husovd, Sagan, Boonan, Sanchez, Oscar, Gerrens etc) could actually become a better spectacle than a bunch of skinny boys keeping their powder dry with one eye on their power meter. Shorter, more intense stages, with short sharp climbs and a small bunch contesting the finish wouldn’t be a bad way to spend a week a fortnight before the tour. Perhaps even a Trofeo Majorca style week of one day races you can dip into with an overall based on your best 5 results could work in the future (say…). Swiss Tourism might disagree though….

  10. Tour de Suisse and Dauphiné are big races in their own right! And the Tour de Suisse a little more, because it’s longer, and there are more tremendous cols to be used. Some people can ride it full gas before the TdF without suffering consequences later, some can’t. Good for the first. Some people can come right from the Giro and pass on the TdF. Thank God not everybody does the same calendar.

    As for this year’s Dauphiné, it is (deliberately) massively unbalanced in favour of the TTists. If it’s supposed to excite the climbers to attack all out on the Grand Colombier, leading to a hectic 70km chase between climbers and TTists… I don’t think it will happen. I’m not even sure it will happen in July. That’s undoubtedly what ASO wants and it’s a good idea, just like bringing the Joux-Plane again to the forefront (that’s actually the best stage of the race, if you can shatter everything from la Colombière, and no team can help your rivals on the way to Morzine).
    This style of mountain-stages, with huge climbs but no mountain-top finishes, and with the climbers having lost plenty of time in long TTs, is certainly the way forward. But it will probably take time for people like Schleck or Valverde to understand what it takes for a climber to win a race like that.

  11. @Bundle- Well put. I wonder if your (and others’) observation that the TT specialists have a significant advantage this summer will encourage more of the climbing specialists to opt for the TdS, knowing their chances at winning a French stage race are arguably diminished. The key seems to be the mountain top finish “wildcard”. Even on “big-ring” climbs, the location of the finish might be the rub. Can’t wait to see how the strategies and efforts will pan out!

    I’m not as well versed as many who visit the INRNG on the history of previous race routes, but I’m wondering can someone point to an example of a well balanced (call it “ideal”) course from a past Tour de X that offered a worthy battle royale between the grimpeur and the rouleur?

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