Dauphiné Stage 2 Preview

One day in and a summit finish already. The Col du Béal is a long slog on a rough road and if it’s not Alpine, it’s still a tough climb. It won’t select the winner it will thin down the list of contenders and pretenders all while offering some scenic roads.

Stage 1 Wrap

The top-10 had a tight grouping of top shots with a mix of prologue specialists, early starters and GC big names. There were 22 riders within 10 seconds of Alberto Contador. Then Chris Froome came in eight seconds clear.

Stylistically the contest was varied. Froome was in an aero tuck for much of the climb while Contador was out of the saddle. On the approach to the line Contador was shuffling in the saddle like a dog trying to scratch its anus, every few seconds saw him wipe forward. It had seemed he’d worked on his position to stop his but the shuffle was back. It’s not worth eight seconds. Meanwhile Vincenzo Nibali wears the mountains jersey after clocking the fastest time to the top of the climb.

As for the others Trek’s talent Bob Jungels was in the hot seat for much of the day. An early starter he benefited from lighter winds and also had a slow rider to catch, always an extra incentive. Michał Kwiatkowski didn’t live up to expectations but there were no big GC disasters. But the descent was awkward and both Yoann Offredo and Sebastian Langeveld fell.

  • Km 5.5 – Côte de Saint-Marcel-l’Éclairé, 5km, 6.1% – category 4
  • Km 16.5 – Côte d’Albigny, 2.3km, 5.5% – category 4
  • Km 90.5 – Côte de Bard, 6.3km, 5.3% – category 2
  • Km 100.5 – Col de la Croix de l’Homme Mort, 5.6km, 5.6% – category 2
  • Km 115.0 – Col des Pradeaux, 7.3km, 3.6% – category 3
  • Km 156.0 – Col du Béal, 13.6km, 6.6% – category H

The Route: the start is in Tarare, a stage finish in last year’s race and an industrial town that’s lost most of its industry. It’s also the starting point for one side of the Col du Pin Bouchain, the first ever mountain pass used in the Tour de France. The Dauphiné takes another route out but it’s still uphill. A series of climbs await but they’re on reasonable roads rather than sideroads and often tackled in the big ring.

The Finish: we can categorise everything from deep sea bacteria to exoplanets but it seems ASO still finds some climbs are hors catégorie or beyond categorisation. It’s always an inflationary label but today it seems excessive given the Col du Béal is listed as 13.6km long at 6.6%. Hardly a killer.

It’s still a tough climb, especially because the soft early slopes mean above average gradients later on and the road rears up to 9-10% before the village of St Pierre for a good while and then again after the village. To make it that bit harder this is no ski station highway, instead it’s a rural road and if it’s been resurfaced recently – for the race? – it’s still a rasping road surface that’s as rough as a cat’s tongue. It snakes up via woodland most of the way but the final section is exposed and bleak, awkward if it’s windy.

History Lesson: one rider who knows the finish is Andrew Talansky. In fact several riders in the bunch rode it in the 2010 Tour de l’Avenir when it was a first category climb. Talansky was third, behind Yannick Eijssen and Darwin Atapuma. They won’t remember every bend but the results that day do give us some clues. Another clue is that John Degenkolb was 14th, one place ahead of Romain Bardet and the lesson is that a bigger rider can just about hang with the climbers if they’re in top form. Today we won’t see a sprinter follow the climbers but we could see the finish contested by a few extra names.

The Scenario: the opening climb lends itself to a breakaway. Even if the final climb is HC-rated with 20 points on offer to the first rider, the early combo of climbs today means a move that stays clear for a while will poach plenty of polka-dot points. Expect quite a few riders especially the French to try their luck.

The stage ends with a “summit” finish but will we see a full showdown? There’s a good chance Team Sky does control this, after all it’s good practice for a team in formation for July. Still, as much as it’s an HC climb and 13km, I’m not 100% sold on a full on summit showdown between the big names.

The Contenders: The time bonuses (10-6-4 seconds) mean no GC contender wants to let another half-wheel them, yet alone get up the road. Still Alberto Contador did a great time trial yesterday but was still second to Chris Froome, he might want to get the upper hand today.

Given how the slope eases for the second half of the climb we could see some alternative names in the mix. Think Dani Moreno (Katusha) and Leopold König (NetApp-Endura) who might get some room from others. Orica-Greenedge’s Adam Yates might be two years too early but he can climb and he can finish fast. The same for Damiano Cunego except it might be two years too late?

Romain Bardet is the regional de l’étape, the local, although the finish is in his home region but still some distance from home.

Chris Froome, Vincenzo Nibali, Alberto Contador
Dani Moreno, Leopold König, Andrew Talansky
Romain Bardet, Wilco Kelderman
Špilak, Fuglsang, Yates, De Clerq, Taaramäe, Voeckler, Gerrans

Weather:  hot and sunny with temperatures reaching 34°C (93°F) which means the tarmac will be melting in places, especially as the road hits the remote rural roads in the centre of France.

TV: live on French TV and Eurosport which means there should be a stream to watch, see cyclingfans.com and steephill.tv for a feed. The racebook says it’s  around the world including NBC in the US and SBS in Australia. Subscribe properly rather than use a pirate feed and you’ll be treated to HD images.

The finish is expected around 2.50pm Euro time and tune in from 2.00pm to catch the approach the final climb and the summit showdown.

Col de la Croix de l’Homme Mort: this is the “the pass of the dead man’s cross” today. A grim name to commemorate the murder of Thomas Richard, a paper manufacturer in 1795. Legend has it that he was due to marry his boss’s daughter but she had other plans and he was dispatched in this isolated place.

It’s not the only pass with this name, there are several others in France. In addition many rural road junctions and several passes in France are marked by crosses. For some the significance is religious faith but many are small shrines to murders, suicides and other tragedies. Their deaths meant the bodies could not be buried in the local cemetery so their inhumation took place far outside of town.

31 thoughts on “Dauphiné Stage 2 Preview”

    • Nibali was doing it too. For all the hype the big-S makes about wind tunnel and other chrono work they do with these horribly named bikes, one would think they could find a comfortable position for the rider. In a world where they say every watt counts, how many are wasted when a guy has to lift off the saddle tip and move aft every 10 pedal strokes? In the pre geek-bar days the aesthetics of the individual time trial used to be beautiful. Think Anquetil or Merckx – flat backs, fluid pedaling style, just gorgeous. Now? UGHH.

      • “A dog scratching his anus..”, a good one. I don’t know how much that jerking costs Contador. Not much in prologue, but I guess in a longer TT, it must be a real drag, at least pychologically. How can you focus properly if you’re aitting back twice a minute? And yes, Larry T. is right. I’d love to see a time trial on drop bars again… Those flexed elbows..

      • It’s not so much the manufacturer, more the position on the bike and the UCI rules which state the saddle has to be level and set back. Riders have tried to get around this with sandpaper on the saddle or even silicon impregnanted shorts to provide grip but both ruses fall foul of the UCI rules on modifications and additions.

        • Could be, but I seem to remember Il Pistolero squirming around like this starting around the time the big-S bike sponsorship began. Now Nibali’s on one too and he seems to be doing the same. I don’t remember Vincenzo acting like a dog scraping his, uh, what-you-wrote…..back when he rode the bikes used by Liquigas, but perhaps it’s just a selective memory? Or might the big-S be pushing the rules to the limit vs some of the other bike suppliers? Whatever it is – UGLY is the word for it.

        • Nice read first thing in the morning….
          Not having had chance to view footage, I’ll have to be content with dog wiping imagery. 🙂

          The saddle placement rules did change from 1 Jan this year, removing morphological exemptions and permitting tip of saddle to be level with vertical plane through centre of the bottom bracket. Riders can now choose to bring saddle 5cm further forward than used to be permitted under the fairly restrictive ME requirement (provided bar extensions remain within a max of 75cm forward of BB). Saddle shape / design can also help.

          In testing aero by riders under pressure, I’ve found effective back height and body shape changes if you move forward on the saddle and this is usually to the detriment of aerodynamics, and things that affect your head and shoulder “shrug” ability also negatively impact aero. These can easily cost half a second per kilometre, let alone what the constant shuffling about is doing to cause micro pauses in getting the power down. I have also seen the saddle shuffle forward due to fatigue as a means to get more power out pretty much cancel out the aero losses, but that’s a more gradual process during pursuit type efforts.

          These are things however that more readily manifest at higher power outputs typical in pursuit/prologue or short TTs (even in kilo riders in the final lap or so).

  1. Looks like Froome, Contador and Nibali came with their A game faces on. Nibali actually led at mid point but faded fast at the end. With his new book out Froome should be extra motivated to do well here and at the Tour^^

    BTW never knew the history of the “Croix de la…” col names. Very dark indeed!

  2. There are a number of word-bases that commonly have one prefix and are rarely (if ever) seen with any other (and which usually makes it the antonym of the common form). ‘Inhumation’ is a new one for me – thanks for adding that to my vocabulary. I’m whelmed.

  3. The climb is not HC by any means, a soft 1. or a hard 2. …The profile is remarkably like the Morcuera, near Madrid, where Contador likes to train when he’s home. But “sticky tarmacs” can perhaps be the clue, perhaps we can have mountain action that’s not solely based on rider weight.

  4. Given the end of the prologue was into a stiff headwind for the GC boys, it’s not surprising that Froome was quite a bit faster than Bertie and Nibbles. His position on the TT bike isn’t going to win any style awards, but he’s rock solid, and his head stays down in front of his shoulders all the time.

    Regarding the classification of the Col du Béal, as I hypothesised in the Dauphine section, I wonder if this is to make the incentive for mountains points greater, so the breakaway, and racing in general, is much more aggressive today?

  5. Moving forward on the saddle ‘could’ result in pretty significant difference, in the order of 5-7% drag increase. Maybe not 10 seconds but potentially closer than you imagine.

    Jungels looks awfully like there’s something under his suit on his right shoulder just where you might want something to trip the airflow. Strategically placed radio?

  6. I rode col de Bael from Vertolaye two years ago, it’s not an Alpe d’Huez climb – the length is similar but the gradient is exactly 1% less (equals only 100m less in altitude gain)

    The road is narrow and the tarmac is very rough with potholes here and there.

    For a non-grandtour climb it’s ok to categorize it as a cat1 or hc climb.

    Just before st Pierre there is a 8-900m section where the gradient does not drop bellow 11% – and thats on an piece of straight road (no helping hairpins). The last 2,5km is in the open with a lot of wind from the rohne/sarone valley. The only easy part where the gradient drops below 7% is with the first km, the 500m through st. Pierre & and a section with 4,5-2,5km to go.

    The climb is tougher than it looks on paper, though a very nice unspoiled climb, i did it as part of a creditcard touring trip i 2012: Marseille – Arles – Ales – Mende – St.Flour – Clermont-Ferrand – Mont Dores – Vertolaye – St. Etienne – Lyon.

    I didn’t even know it existed until i checked out of my hotel in Vertolaye the same morning

  7. It looks like Contador is struggling in that position due their not being any space when his femurs come up and through and is thereby forced to pedal slightly bow legged. He’d be better of going a touch higher and leaving some room for his legs.

  8. I wonder how many riders in the field would have just preferred riding their normal bike around that twisty course. But to do so in these days, would be deemed non professional.

  9. What are people opinion on Team SKY?

    From my point of view, they do not seem as strong as we have seen them earlier. Granted, Geraint Thomas seems to be on form, and Danny Pate and Vasil Kiryienka did work quite a bit too. But Richie Portes form must be a source of concern for SKY, and I think Froome was isolated from his team mates too early.

    • Porte’s the big issue, I think. Froome’s proven on a number of occasions that he’s up for attacking solo a few kms out (CI last year, Ventoux etc). OTOH Talking about Porte afterwards, he was giving the ‘dont worry about Porte, he was just on a bad day, he’s doing great in training, he’ll be fine for the Tour’.


  10. Wow, much more aggressive racing than what I thought was going to happen. Froome and Sky’s tactics where messed up (He was isolated with over 5k to go, attacked multiple times, rode at the front, and closed down every attack himself instead of making Contador work), but, he still won, which is showing some strength. Porte blew early, is he still sick? That must be worrying for Brailsford. Nibali was riding almost like Cadel Evans, in that he just let Froome accelerate and then clawed his way back, but blew up in th last kilometer. Contador is looking alright, and he has time to improve before the Tour. At this rate, we’ll hopefully have an entertaining July.

    • I think that was the plan. No one had any help for the last 5K. Froome used his team to shed everyone except the top guys and then went toe to toe. Granted, if Porte was at his best it would have been a different picture, as quite a bit of that closing could have been farmed out to him. Impossible to ‘make’ Contador work. Contador was only interested in staying with Froome and Froome was interested in keeping the jersey and winning the stage.

      Agree with the question posed by Porte’s form. Could we see GT promoted to super dom instead of Porte and Wiggo actually coming in to do the GT role?

      Froome looks strong though. He really does beat his chest and say come and get me then.

      • Remember, Contador is without his 2-3 best domestiques in this race (Michael Rogers, Roman Kreuziger, Nicolas Roche etc.). Had MR and RK been there, Froome could easily have ended up being outnumbered, when his last domestique had been spent. This would leave him very vulnerable to multiple attacks, defects, or other problems.

        So over three weeks in Le Tour, this tactic would make no sense.

        Maybe it was in fact the plan to blow up everything and ride mano a mano towards the summit. Maybe it was really just chestbeating?

        In any case, even with Froomes own strength, the poor showing of most of the team should be quite a concern.

        • Yeah, he might just have been trying to prove he is the best after the whole Wiggo thing. He still put on an impressive performance, but was unable to drop Contador, which he might have done if he saved his energy and attacked later. And I guess poor tactics at the Dauphine don’t matter as long as sky gets it together by the tour.

  11. What a great stage. Very exciting. I think Froome just broke the field physically and mentally on that one. He is a beast. Contador was behind him the entire way but couldnt muster anything to pass him at the end…..That is very impressive by Froome. Nibali looked very human the last 5km. I hope for the sake of the Tour de France he gets into form.

    • Me too. Hopefully this is like 2012, he finished like 20th here and then podiumed, but he’ll have to be even better and use every trick he’s got to have a chance at beating Froome and Contador.

      • yep, he looked tired…..and thats not good on only the first mountain stage of the race. As for the Tour de France I only think Contador or Nibali have a chance if team Skys other riders dont help Froome like Porte and Uran Uran did in the past. Even still I cannot for see Froome not winning the Tour. He is just too stong. The fact that he is Top 3 in the world at the TT just makes him unbeatable in my opinion

  12. Sky certainly should have questions over a couple of their riders rather lack lustre performances. It is also important to remember that Froome and the team won the day, which was probably the days intention. Non of the other GC contenders had team mates who could make any meaningful contribution once Froome made his initial attack.

    Next weekend will probably confirm whether there are serious structural weaknesses in the team.

  13. Kiriyenka, the real power house of Team Sky, always the last and the strongest one one to support Froome on the climb dropped early. Porte, who had a task to look for the opportunities and stay with Froome until the end dropped early. After all, we are talking about just one climb which is actually a Cat. 1 ascent. It doesn’t look very good for Team Sky at the moment even though Froome is a bit above Contador right now. Froome is really strong but surely he can’t win the Tour just by himself.

  14. Didn’t see the whole stage but imagine Kiriyenka was working earlier on? Porte of last two years would have been up there, back end of this week will tell. If Wiggins does well in Suisse and Kennaugh struggles it’s going to be hard to keep him out with Porte on this form. Wiggins could do a Mick Rogers type role for Froome, which would be immense help, but maybe he just doesn’t want to anyway…

    Also, Dnf Alejandro for the GC tdf catfight, been in top form early season, might not will but he and Movistar will make life hard for Sky (again)

  15. Froome looks immense but Contador looks very strong though. He’ll still be concerned however that after sitting in Froome’s wheel for almost 6km, and watching Froome chase down every attack, Froome still looked stronger at the finish.

    Team Sky though – hmm. They were used up very early and Froome was all alone far too soon on such a climb. This will be the last thing Froome and Sir Dave need – will just keep the public and press looking over at Wiggins. Every time Sky look weak it will make Wiggins look stronger.

    Disappointed in Nibs tbh, but well done to Froome and Contador though. Can’t wait for Le Tour!

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