ASO have announced the route for the Critérium du Dauphiné in June. The race is a concentrated version of the Tour de France and this year’s edition is no exception. If the upcoming Paris-Nice has an experimental route, this is a more traditional course that will offer selective racing ahead of the Tour de France.
Sunday 8 June – Sunday 15 June
Stage 1 is a 10km time trial around the city of Lyon including a climb up the Montée de l’Observance and fascinatingly the new 1.8km cycle path that’s tunnelled into the hillside and know as Le Tube. The tunnel is illuminated by projectors and a range of images can be displayed to give a disco vibe – the image above for an example that could go Tron or the wild boat ride from Charlie and Chocolate Factory. It’ll be a technical challenge to film.
After an urban start with a modern tunnel, Stage 2 heads west to the massif central for a rural finish in a land that, if it’s not forgotten, is often ignored by time. The finish is on the Col du Béal, a novelty for the race and worth showcasing. Part of the Haut Forez park (“high forest” in old dialect), it’s fine cycling. Starting from Vertolaye it’s 12km long at 7%, a worthy rival of many an Alpine climb although it’s no Galibier or Stelvio, think Aravis or Sestriere. But it’s better, scenic in an intimate and private with soaring peaks but the road picks its way up through peaceful woodland. It won’t determine the race but it will provide an early selection.
Flashback: the Col du Béal was used as a summit finish for Stage 3 of the 2010 Tour de l’Avenir. The stage was won by Yannick Eijssen, a brilliant climber in the amateur ranks who, now with BMC Racing, has yet to impose himself in the pro ranks. Second place when to Colombian ace Darwin Atapuma with Andrew Talansky in third place. Nairo Quintana was tenth on the day and went on to win the race outright but had yet to make a name for himself, cyclingnews.com was calling him “Alexander Quintanarojas“.
The press release says Stages 3 and 4 are for the sprinters with flat finishes in Le Teil and Gap but there’s also mention of the dreaded Col de Manse before Gap, the sharp climb usually followed by a tricky descent of La Rochette where Andy Schleck lost out to Cadel Evans in 2011 and Chris Froome almost lost it last summer – that’s not yet confirmed though.
Stage 5 looks like a great day’s racing with a series of climbs before the infamous Rampe de Laffrey, much harder than the statistic suggest. Stage 6 seems the closest to a transition stage as the race heads north to finish in Poisy below the Semnoz and next to the opal hued Lake Annecy.
The race has a final Alpine showdown over the last weekend with Stage 7 going to Switzerland and Tour de Romandie territory for a finish above Finhaut by the giant Emosson dam. It’s 10km at 8% which is hard but not as steep as the 87% funicular railway used by visiting tourists. Finally Stage 8 is the now traditional “sprint”, just 130km over mountainous but fast terrain.
Route Summary: if Paris-Nice is experimenting without a summit finish or a time trial the Dauphiné is serving up some classic recipes from the Alpine stage race cookbook although with only one only 10km time trial, a change from previous editions where a long time trial has been featured as a practice run for the upcoming Tour de France. Still 10km is enough to open up some gaps and the opening stage brings an urban start and hopefully in front of a large crowd and could be visually stunning with the Tube tunnel. But crowds and modernity are quickly escaped with a visit to the Massif Central and the first summit finish. These two stages could decide the race but that’s for the riders and if things aren’t settled on the opening the weekend the final weekend should be decisive with the tough Swiss finish.
Teams: the 18 UCI ProTeams + Cofidis, IAM Cycling and NetApp-Endura. Only three with ASO citing safety reasons for a the reduced bunch but it’s cheaper too. Chris Froome, Vincenzo Nibali and Alberto Contador are planning to ride.