The Moment The Race Was Won: The Dauphiné

Wiggins time trial

Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) is on his way to Stage 4 of the Critérium du Dauphiné, a 53.5km time trial. The route featured a fast downhill start through vineyards and then a rolling road all the way to the finish in Macon. The wind was blowing strong, some riders were blasted off the road by gusts whilst fallen branches forced others to swerve. But Wiggins won the day, 34 seconds ahead of Tony Martin but more importantly, 1.43 on Cadel Evans. During the latter part the route used a long straight road and Wiggins could see Evans ahead. This was the moment the race was won.

As ever reducing a stage race down to a single moment is a hard task and probably too reductive. Wiggins started the race well with second place in the prologue, just one second behind Luke Durbridge (Orica-Greenedge). I thought this was the idea result for him and Team Sky because it meant Durbridge’s Orica-Greenedge would have to defend the overall lead on the first stage. But the final hill on Stage 1 was too much and “Durbo” went out the back whilst fellow Australian Cadel Evans went on the rampage, breaking away with Jérôme Coppel (Saur-Sojasun) and Andrey Kasheckin (Astana) to win the stage. Wiggins finished behind and took over the overall lead which he never lost.

Stage 2 saw an uphill finish in the Ardèche area and Katusha’s Dani Moreno won. Stage 3 was the bunch sprint but as readers of The Spin previews might remember, it had almost as much climbing as the previous day so it was no surprise to see Edvald Boasson Hagen get the better of the pure sprinters.

Stage 4‘s time trial saw Wiggins put a lot of time into his rivals for the overall. Crucially it gave him so much of a lead that later on there was no scrapping for the overall result, this was why I picked this as the race’s key moment. There were other notable results, especially Wilco Kelderman of Rabobank. The 21 year old neo-pro took fourth place, impressive given his stick-thin legs and light build on a windy day. Sylvain Chavanel was fifth, a strong result for him after a long training block in the Pyrenees at Font Romeu. Luke Durbridge was seventh, he’d never ridden a TT this long so the experience was plenty. And Team Sky had Michael Rogers in third place and Chris Froome in sixth place.

Stage 5 saw Wiggins well ahead on the overall classification but after such a strong ride the previous day, we got to see how he climbed. And he passed this test too. Over the top of the Grand Colombier he and his team were caught out by an attack from Cadel Evans who was supported by several team mates. But this was shut down by big work from Richie Porte and as the gap shrunk to 20 seconds Wiggins jumped across the gap solo. It was an odd move, he later said it was to save his team from doing the work but it almost looked like a message to Evans, as if to say “look, I can shut down your move single handed“. The day was won by Arthur Vichot (FDJ-BigMat) who won solo.

Wiggins Sky Joux Plane Dauphine

Stage 6 was the Queen Stage across the Alps. The first event of the day was Andy Schleck abandoning, injuries from a crash in the time trial were too much. He started the stage after telling French TV he was looking forward to the final climb but the pace was fierce from the start and he was dropped, along with many others including Philippe Gilbert. A large break formed and led for much of the day. By the time the final climb of the Col de Joux Plane started only Brice Feillu was left, his lanky legs in rotary frenzy as he whirred his way up the early slopes but he later cracked. Behind Team Sky controlled everything, the photo above says everything. Nairo Quintana of Movistar won the stage, impressively outclimbing Team Sky but as he was no threat on overall he went away. Similarly Cadel Evans tried a late move but Wiggins had such a cushion that there was no problem.

Stage 7 was a sprint, a break went but never got much lead and a select “bunch” of 45 riders hit the final climb and Dani Moreno struck again. Here Wiggins finally lost time, was he tired… or did he just ease up because the result was obvious? I think it was the latter.

  • Overall: Wiggins
  • Points: Evans
  • Mountains: José Sarmiento (Liquigas-Cannondale)
  • Young Rider: Kelderman

Dauphine Lessons
Team Sky dominated the race. Cadel Evans is looking stronger and importantly confident too but when he tried to go clear on the Grand Colombier his team were reeled in with ease by Sky.

Ahead of the Tour de France, let’s revisit the list of riders I picked as contenders. Lieuwe Westra couldn’t explain his lack of form, he wanted more in this race and finished 71st overall. Tony Martin rode well but was twice beaten in time trials and has left his climbing legs behind. Jurgen Van Den Broeck was a stealthy fifth place, he’ll be pleased with this. Dennis Menchov was 42nd, 19 minutes down and it’ll take a miracle or worse to turn his form around. Vincenzo Nibali will be worried now, he cracked in the mountains and didn’t time trial so well, in his favour he can hope for more consistent riding over three weeks but if the Dauphiné was a test, he didn’t pass.

Vasil Kiriyenka was sixth, the 30 year old Belarus rider is consistent, the same for Janez Brajkovic in seventh place.

Amongst the French teams FDJ-BigMat won a stage but none looked too convincing. Cofidis tried several times in the breakaways but came up empty. Europcar will hope Thomas Voeckler and Pierre Rolland can improve for July whilst Christophe Kern was eliminated after finishing outside the time cut today; interestingly Voeckler was “allowed” into breakaways, as if the teams don’t (yet?) see him as a GC threat. Saur-Sojasun continue as the best team but Jérôme Coppel is now 25 and needs “to confirm” as they say in French, he had a solid race and was first Frenchman overall. Ag2r La Mondiale‘s Rinaldo Nocentini was visible but J-C Péraud’s ambitions went off road.

Tomorrow The Tour
Actually the Tour de France starts in 20 days and the final time trial of the race is 41 days away. There’s plenty of talk about Wiggins peaking too early and his team say he’s still got room to improve. We can only speculate. Riders can lose form, it can happen suddenly and be unexplained. But having something and losing it surely better than not having it in the first place. Ask Andy Schleck.

Now riders and coaching staff will review things. There’s not much time to improve, riders can probably only hope to add a handful of watts to their power but they can work on weight and technique. Many will stay on in the Alps to revisit the climbs ahead of the Tour de France as there are few races behind now and the Tour prologue in Liège, only the Ster ZLM Tour in the Netherlands, the Route du Sud in France, the Tour of Slovenia and then the national championships.

I enjoyed the racing and like this race. If Wiggins falls of his bike tomorrow, well you can’t imagine the feeling but at least he’s won this big race. The reason why everyone focuses on the Tour de France is obvious but it is good to see a rider say they want to win this race and to achieve it. At one point Wiggins was making a fuss about having to wear the race leader’s skinsuit but every other rider in the peloton would love to wear it.

35 thoughts on “The Moment The Race Was Won: The Dauphiné”

  1. I’m getting a bit fed up that everything revolves around July. This is a good race with a good route though one I’d have suggested the addition of a pure summit finish to even up the very long time trial. It would have been nice if a few more riders and teams came to it to ‘win’.

    That said Wiggins was a deserved winner – I’ll also add that think Wiggins is riding smartly this year. Three big wins and if his season ended tomorrow it would be judged a success against practically any other rider.

    If Wiggins can pull off the Dauphine – Tour double (forgetting for a moment his other wins) let us hope that next year a few more riders try to tackle both races full on.

    • I would second your hilltop finish idea.. as long as it came with mountain stages being much longer. If the TT is long (plus the prologue), your “queen” stage should have 270km or so, with 3-4 H.C. climbs, to maintain a certain balance. The overall classification was basically the TT classification.

    • Totally agree – the Dauphine is big race in its own right. The real deal. The perception these days is that the majority of races are just used as training (or markers of form), up until Le Tour – maybe I’m just getting old(er), but I like to hark back to the 1980’s when the top guys were winning races from Feb, through to October. A race was there to be raced, not a surrogate for training…

  2. re Menchov “it’ll take a miracle or worse to turn his form around” lol 😉

    I’d still bet my left nut on him making the podium at the Tour. The sputniks will be expecting a return on their huge investment. BTW, just take a look at Ryder Hesjedal’s pre Giro form at Romandie – seems like he had a little miracle of his own 😉

    • I don’t know if anyone else listens to the real peloton podcast but in the last episode (which was in April – the next one is overdue!) Ned and Matt were speculating that Menchov might be ‘busy’ in July. *nudge nudge wink wink* Nothing seems to have come of it though so maybe they were just misinformed (or they were well informed but someone got cold feet).

    • Will be interesting to hear what others think, but I can’t see them going for the green this year, Cav just going for stage wins.

      • That’s what I feel too Sam. In the Eurosport special about Wiggo, he actually said that he hadn’t heard from Cav’s lips that he was going for the green and that he knew that the Olympics were his priority. To me, that points to him doing the first week, the team working for him to get as many stages as possible, and then leaving.
        Of course it’s all guesswork, but that would be my bet.

    • I think like others will predict Cav is going to give more of the team force to Wiggins to win the yellow and in return the GB team will help him with the Olympics

      • Likewise, it’s now or never for Wiggins to perform in the Tour whilst Cavendish has many years ahead of him… but only one Olympic games where the course is relatively flat, Rio is likely to be very hilly.

        • Despite Cavendish’ proven pedigree I don’t think the Sky management have any other choice than to back Wiggins to win the tour. The teams original objective was to win the tour with an english rider within five years. At the time that seemed a flight of fancy but with Wiggins they now have a rider who could achieve that. In winning Romandie, Paris-Nice & the Dauphine he has earned the right to lead the team.
          That’s not putting anything against Cavendish who had a fine Giro but arguably with Peter Sagan in irrepressible form the Yellow jersey looks like an easier accomplishment than Green this year.

    • Look at the likely Sky team. Wiggins gets at least four mountain lieutenants, probably Froome, Siutsov, Rogers and Porte. Cavendish gets Eisel. EBH is definitely in as a stage hunter, and can also help both Wiggins (lower slopes of mountain stages) and Cav (final lead out man). Then you get one big engine like Flecha, Knees or Stannard to chase on flat stages.

      The team is built around Wiggo, but there is a pretty solid leadout train for Cav in there too.

    • I hope they don’t look this magnificent in the TdF. Surely Wiggins can win without a “UK Postal” (as people are beginning to call it) controlling the race and encouraging summer napping.

      • Well, it will be “intriguing” if Wiggins, Froome, Rogers, Porte and EBH all perform as well as they did in the Dauphine. On the same hand, SKY’s camaraderie is awesome and they train/race very intelligently, e.g. they warmed up on rollers immediately prior to Stage 6. Smart, given that the Col de Plainpalais was only 11.5km from the start. I know this isn’t unique to SKY, nor rocket-science, but their attention to every detail is impressive.

        It saddens me to hear that some are calling Team SKY “UK Postal.” No way. This team is clean and without a ringmaster recruiting riders to be part of a “special club” to be given white lunch bags.

        And as “charismatic” as Cav is, he’s not a self-absorbed ego maniac/PED-using chap missing from a village somewhere in Texas!

        Now is Wiggins’ best chance (as was last year) for the maillot jaune, IF he carries this form into France. That’s a big question. We haven’t seen him fully tested in a recent TdF, as he finished 39 minutes down in 2010 and crashed out last year. And the 2011 Vuelta saw Froome pulling Wiggo quite a bit in the mountains. It’s now 2012 and he’s got a clean slate. I wish him and SKY the best.

        • What I certainly don’t want to see is any team managing to block the race, with its leader not even having to respond to attacks himself. It’s boring. It’s bad for cycling. I admit Merckx’s Molteni and Induráin’s Banesto tended to race like that, but still the Cannibal (and also Big Mig) showed us fine mountain (and downhill, and in the flat) attacks from time to time. Armstrong’s US Postal took it a bit a further, and yet the Texan did some impressive solo mountain numbers, like dropping Pantani on the Izoard.
          I am very afraid that Sky will take it even one step beyond, with five teammates around Wiggo atop the Glandon and the Tourmalet (Froome, re-born Rogers, re-born Porte, what’s-his-name-Sivtsov, why not Löfqvist or Nordhaugg or one of the Colombians) in a group of 12 riders, with no one daring to attack, let alone managing to create a gap, and us having to spend two hours watch peaceful pilgrimages to La Toussuire and Peyragudes.
          That’s what I guess is meant when (people in French and Spanish fora are) calling them “UK Postal”. As for “cleanliness” issues, of course, the more dominant a team looks, the more suspicions it raises, and I personally don’t hold my breath for anyone in this sport. But I disagree with casting doubt all over the place, without any solid proof.
          On the other hand, if Sky put on such a brilliant performance that they win the TdF, the Green and Polka-dot jerseys, they get another guy on the podium, they win the team classification, and take h0me 10 stages, including all the important ones, suspicions will be quite loud, but I will be applauding an epoch-making collective display.
          What can also add spice to the TdF in case of total Sky domination is a possible internal competition between Wiggins and Froome, à la Lemond vs Hinault. Because I see that Evans and Nibali, probably the two most determined rivals, have left the Dauphiné with their tails between the legs, and might be too afraid to attack come July. Rabobank and Movistar have the collective potential to try to be offensive and challenge Sky’s control. But I don’t think they will, it’s just not in their mentality.
          Sorry for the long rant, but this year’s could be the best Tour in decades, if the long TTs cause the climbers to attack massively, collectively, and 100km to go. If Wiggins gets 5 minutes advantage in the TTs and doesn’t lose much in the mountains because nothing much happens there, everybody will be saying “you see! we don’t need so many kms of TT, or big climbs in the middle of the stage! what we need is short TTs and little steep hilltop finishes to balance it”… thus making the GTs look like elongated Tours de Romandie or Paris-Nice.

          • I enjoyed the read. I had been thinking that the short sharp climbs of some stages could be more of a trap that others had imagined, giving the climbers a chance to attack despite the lack of giant stages in the Alps and Pyrenees. But Sky do look so strong that they can control things here.

          • @ChrisC: Sorry, didn’t mean to offend anyone except [LA] and George W. Bush, whom the quote was altered for…not intended to offend Plano, TX or any other locations in Texas.

            “Somewhere in Texas there’s a village missing an idiot.”

      • Sky rode absolutely magnificent in the Dauphine, but a shorter stage race like this is very different for a team than a grand tour. Remember how the Liquigas team faded near the end of the Giro? And they didn’t even had a sprinter, nor did Basso (or another team member) wore the pink jersey.
        I’m not saying this will happen with Sky (Wiggins might very well take the jersey in the last ITT meaning the team won’t have to work too much), but it’s a risk they are taking.

  3. Denis Menchov ended the last day as 43th, 2:43 down on Moreno. Also, Menchov is known for riding along until the Tour (or Giro/Vuelta) begins.

    • In 2008 he was fifth in the Giro before finishing fourth (after Kohl’s disqualification). In 2010 he was fourth in the Tour and during the Dauphiné beat Contador in the long TT stage won by Brajkovic, finishing 5th. So he’s usually had some signs before, just not so much in this race.

  4. Wiggins was very impressive, but his team even more.
    Wiggins is the new Indurain in some sense.
    I can only hope he has a bad day otherwise it might be a boring Tour.
    But then, you never know, 3 weeks is a lot.
    I had a feeling that Evans was testing his chances going away downhill. With no bonuses, that’s basically the only way he can gain time on Wiggins.

    • That’s why I asked the question about Sky supporting Cav and Wiggins. I agree most of the support should go towards winning the yellow jersey. But, is Sky so much better they can afford to dedicate one or two guys to the sprints? That leaves a couple fewer teammates for Wiggins in the mountains.

      • He had three guys with him on every climb in this race. I say that’s plenty, they will be fine even if they loose one.
        That’s four riders. +cav that’s five. So four more for the flatter parts of the race – riding tempo and helping Cav.

  5. Wow, Wiggins is all but awarded the TdF judging by the posts here.
    Third in the Vuelta last year, and the Vuelta is about 70% of the TdF. He’s got a ways to go.

    Nobody that’s dominated the Dauphine like that has won the TdF, in how long? Remember Iban Mayo?

  6. That Dauphine display by Sky was really something. I can’t help but think that Evan’s was keeping his powder dry in the mountains after Wiggins took so much time out of him in the TT, and saving it up for more of a surprise during the Tour. No doubt Wiggins is like a big diesel powering up those climbs not too different to the way Evans rode the climbs in last years Tour, we’ve yet to see Wiggins try and respond to a serious attack but I don’t think he’ll be too bad. He was a world record holder in the 4km IP on the track don’t forget so he must be able to call on some seriously big 4 min power numbers.

  7. Speaking of UK Postal, the comments on l’Equipe forums where really suspicious at seeing how the entire Sky flew over the last mountain stage even the pure climbers AICAR anyone?

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