Dauphiné Stage 3 Preview

A fast and flat finish, today’s stage says bunch sprint in every language. But the race has a shortage of sprinters and sprint trains. Could Chris Froome go for a third stage win in a row? Just joking.

Stage 2 Wrap

Not bad for a Monday in the Auvergne. As predicted the day’s breakaway allowed Kevin Réza to collect enough mountain points but when the group hit the final climb their lead melted like ice dropped onto the melting tarmac.

Team Sky set the pace and it all looked so familiar as the group thinned. However like all good stories the script had a few surprise twists. The first element was Chris Froome taking a puff on an inhaler to prompt a lot of exhalation on Twitter. Then Richie Porte cracked. Sky seemed to be setting such a pace that they were burning through their own riders too fast and with 5km to go Chris Froome was isolated. His response? Splendid isolation. He attacked with a seated effort and a cadence so high that probably only those used to dealing with big numbers, like astronomers and economists, could understand. Contador followed immediately. Then came another acceleration, this time out of the saddle and it looked as if Froome had misjudged the finish and was sprinting for the 5km to go banner. Only the moves kept coming.

Froome’s style is such that every move is exaggerated. Of course he was giving it everything but it showed to the point where Contador, usually so light on the pedals, appeared slow and heavy in comparison as he tried to stay on the wheel. Even the Spaniard’s biceps appeared chunky in relation, and wearing the green jersey it almost gave the impression of a sprinter temporarily trying to track Froome. But Contador could not sprint, he was unable to get past Chris Froome and his sharp elbows. It was spectacular duel to watch with Froome making all the moves but Contador able to respond.

Behind Richie Porte had blown but so had Tejay van Garderen, Romain Bardet, Michał Kwiatkowski, Ryder Hesjedal and Jean Christophe Péraud. All have questions to answer but don’t write anyone off yet, it could be a jour sans, a feeding problem or even the shock of the heat. We’ll know more by the end of the week. Did Vincenzo Nibali lose too? Undoubtedly he lost time but he wasn’t so far off that Alexandr Vinokourov would start letter writing again.

Andrew Talansky impressed, dropped by Froome’s acceleration he ground his way back up even tried two attacks, perhaps a touch too much pride but he had the energy to do it on a day when others were lucky to follow. Wilco Kelderman and Jurgen Van Den Broeck also had a great day. There were several young riders who did well like Adam Yates and Sébastian Reichenbach.

The Route

  • Km 28.5 – Côte de Lavet, 8.7 kilometre-long climb at 4.4% – category 2
  • Km 148.0 – Col de la Mûre, 3.8 kilometre-long climb at 6.3% – category 2

The longest stage of the week at 194km. Some altitude with the race nudging over 1,000 metres as it crosses the Ardèche region via wide roads and with little gradient, this isn’t the fertile terrain needed for a breakaway to stick.

The Col de la Mûre (also known as the Serre Mûre) marks the transition from plateau to valley and the race plunges at speed down to the Rhône valley where it’s just under 40km of flat road to the finish as the race runs parallel to the river, look out for the nuclear power station to signal the finish is fast approaching and one little extra is three level crossings which could cause trouble.

The Finish: flat with several urban street furniture obstacles and then an awkward dog-leg right hand turn at 500m to go. The race speeds towards the large suspension bridge over the Rhone but turns right just before into a pinch point.

The Scenario: this is the day for the sprinters with the most favourable route. As ever though it is not the roads that make the race but the riders and the bunch is light on sprint teams willing to chase. FDJ are the logical pick but they lost workhorse David Boucher yesterday. Other sprint teams include OPQS for Gianni Meersman, Trek Factory Racing for Giacomo Nizzolo and Orica-Greenedge for Leigh Howard. When the morning breakaway goes watch to see who is in it because should a couple of sprinters teams have riders up the road they won’t work.

The Contenders: while everyone was watching the Giro FDJ’s Arnaud Démare was winning the Four Days of Dunkirk thanks to a variety of sprint efforts. He won uphill one day and on another was so far ahead that spectators standing by the finish line probably thought he’d attacked. With this in mind he and his team need to get the sprint right, it’ll be a lot harder to win so easily and a lot easier to lose it by bungling the leadout or launching too soon.

Giacomo Nizzolo was close in the Giro and that alone is reason to watch him today. Orica-Greenedge’s Leigh Howard came in late yesterday, if this was deliberate then he’ll have extra fresh legs today and he is a fast finisher. Gianni Meersman might find the finish too flat for him but OPQS will take what they can get and he should be there. The same for Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg, another one of Giant-Shimano’s sprinters but also versatile on tough terrain and Nikias Arndt is as fast too. Europcar’s Yannick Martinez has rogue DNA, the son of climber Manuel and brother of MTB grasshopper Miguel, he’s a sprinter instead and had a great Paris-Roubaix. There’s Thor Hushovd, he can sprint but will he?

Arnaud Démare
Gianni Meersman
Nikias Arndt, Giacomo Nizzolo, Leigh Howard
Yannick Martinez, RJVR

Weather: a copy and paste of yesterday, hot and sunny with temperatures reaching 34°C (93°F) which means the tarmac will be melting in places.

TV: the finish is even earlier today with a forecast arrival for 2.40pm Euro time.

It’s 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.

62 thoughts on “Dauphiné Stage 3 Preview”

  1. One can’t but feel more optimistic after yesterday’s stage. Froome is certainly making something of himself into cycling history, and Contador seems to be oh so close that it looks well for July. On the minus side… that attacking and stopping… it reminded me too much of Andy Schleck (why can’t they be a little less explosive and try to drop their rival by sustaining the effort for a few kilometers?), and, sadly, of something Brailsford said back in 2012 about the credibility of attack-based cycling.
    Looking forward to the next mountain stage, and probably like Riis, thinking what and where can Contador do to beat Froome, if he can at all.

    • Isn’t that what people take umbridge with Sky for – not attacking and going for sustained pressure?

      As Froome says. It was time to see who was carrying what cards. Those attacks certainly uncovered the bluffers and made for some exciting racing. I was worn out just watching that out of the saddle stuff.

      • There is a difference between, say, Porte and Kiriyenka and Kennaugh riding at 95% for half of a climb, which is more an attack-deterrent than anything else, and Froome riding at 95% for half of a climb, where he could possibly shed everyone, one by one. I mean, what he did on the Ventoux was great and it worked, I just think that, against 2014 Contador (or Quintana the next time around) he could employ longer, less violent, attacks (and probably on a bigger gear). But again, so could Bertie…

    • Except that Schleck’s steady-as-you-go pace didn’t drop Contador, did it? In fact it reinforced the Spaniard’s psychological edge because he neutralised it so easily. You’re not going to ride Contador off your wheel that easily.

      Froome still looks to me like he has a per percent more in the aggression tank than Contador. The question is whether he can do it alone or not because his team still looks good but not outstanding.

  2. “There were several young riders who did well like Adam Yates and Sébastian Reichenbach.”

    I have the strong feeling you forgot to mention Wilco Kelderman.
    Great write-up though, as always.

  3. It was good to see Froome appearing to lay it all out on the road yesterday and fight for the stage win as opposed to watching the numbers on the power meter. Or is that staring at his stem 🙂 ?

    I was surprised that Contador didn’t have anything in the tank to take the stage after effectively following wheels all the way up the climb.

      • He was also quoted as saying he had a mechanical issue when he road out of the saddle. Any details emerge re. that?

        I think Contador will attempt an attack or two when the roads get steeper next weekend.

    • Surprised? The fact he didn’t fall off his bike in the face of such ferocious attacks shows what a fantastic rider Contador is. Not being able to pass Froome was the least of it.

      Chapeau to both of them, superb to watch.

  4. Froome was more or less forced to attack on the 5km mark when all riders of his team were dropped. I’m sure he would have liked to attack one or two kms later and still have Porte with him until the last km. I don’t get worried about Froome’s abilities but his team’s performance is somewhat alarming IMO.

    Wilco Kelderman must get a sizeable raise after his great performance in the Giro and yesterday. A future winner in the making.

    • Not sure about being forced – it looked like Froome had decided to see what his rivals were made of and dispatch any that aren’t up to it. He legged it like a man possessed, something he could easily have waited to do.

    • Problem is that Wiggins has now been pointed in the direction of the Commonwealth Games, and not just the TT but the track and the IP. So he’s already starting to put on a couple of kgs since California.

      Dont expect him to be challenging for GC – it’ll be flat out for the TT.

      • Someone needs to explain to me how losing weight (extreme and never seen before for cycling) and have power for months on end (another extreme never seen) is now somehow replaced by gaining weight to beat people he previously had no problem beating.

        Like so much of Sky’s actions and PR, it makes no sense at all. Suddenly ~100 years of cycling performances are thrown out the window.

        • What do you mean? That Wiggo lost weight for one discipline and is now putting on weight (in the form of muscle) for another discipline.

          As for never seen before in cycling…… Do you not watch much cycling? I would hardly say that Wiggo was any more extreme in his weight loss/fat % then any other GC cyclist. As for power, I’m not sure he is churning out more power than Martin or Sparticus.

          And what makes no sense about their actions? They are a successful team, the sense is surely demonstrated in that success.

  5. How can Meersan be the second favourite for this stage?? It’s not very fair to Nizzolo…

    For a top5 other good names are Cimolai, Sanz, Rèza

  6. Any chance Porte will be dropped for the Tour team? He’s a long way off coming into the sort of form that would mean he’d be any use.

  7. Since you love ‘stealth’ riders, Zubeldia has to be right up there w/ the best. I don’t even remember seeing a Trek rider on the screen yesterday, but yet there he is at 7th in the GC!

  8. So who really won that battle of minds?

    It looked like a score draw as Contador shadowed everything Froome threw at him but in the last 500m the Spaniard suddenly looked to be in the red. So Froome knows he has a serious rival next month but his rival knows it’s going to hurt.

    I hope Sky remember to take a road captain to the Tour because the decisive stages could turn out to be the windy flat and cobbled ones.

    • Yeah, remember the Vuleta surprise attack – last year, I think?
      That’s the sort of thing Saxo-Tinkoff and AC can do leaving SKY and CF to the chasing game. If Saxo-Tinkoff could pull something like that off again, we could be in for a very interesting TdF.

      • Vuelta 2012. Katusha compounded things by really letting Purito down on that stage too.

        And as INRNG has pointed out, in Froome’s book he was generous enough to point out that he hates being attacked on the flat.

        That’s one book that’s getting read by his rivals!

  9. Great ride by Adam Yates. He was at the back of the 2nd group for a lot of that climb watching what was going on, and went at 1km. Great result for a first year pro. I wonder if OGE will send him to the Tour? The Yates twins had said they were targeting 2015 for their first grand tour start, but after their performances this year I wonder if that will be fast tracked. The Vuelta would suit them.

    • Its a great discussion point. OGE have said they dont want to risk the twins development by rushing it – and the team next month will be built around Gerro – but OTOH Adam on the start line in Leeds would be fantastic publicity for the team…

  10. Yeah, was surprised to see Zubeldia there.

    Also, I would like to believe that Vino used parchment, quill, and ink, and in lieu of wax, his centrifugally thickened blood to seal the letter.

  11. Froome’s one UGLY rider. If any reason were needed why I’m rooting for Contador this summer, that
    single fact alone is it. No grace, panache or style – the numbers alone are not enough.

  12. If those attacks didn’t show panache, I don’t know what would. Sure, contador held his wheel, but that was all he did.

  13. Watching this thing, I’m having trouble telling the guy in the yellow leader’s jersey with a blue square on it for his SKY team from 8 or 9 other guys in yellow jerseys with blue squares a bit lower. Back-in-the-day, LeTour made Mercatone Uno change from a jersey looking very much like the current Tinkov-Saxo one to a non-yellow color scheme. They chose pink. When it comes time for Le Beeg Shew, they ought to force Tinkov to at least swap the color scheme and have the kit more blue than yellow. I have no hope the UCI will do anything, they’re the ones who don’t seem to care if the riders all wear black rain jackets so it’s impossible to tell who’s who.

    • For those watching in black and white, Chris Froome is the one looking like he is pushing a shopping trolley whilst talking on a mobile phone

          • So Lee is either one very careful reader of your blog or has made the same experience like you when shopping. Since I can’t know my credits for this fun comparison goes to both of you, guys. Thanks again. Very entertaining.

            On a (slightly) more serious note I really enjoyed seeing Team Sky use a (simple) strategy which was successful and fitting for the 2012 TdF when they had by far the strongest team with Wiggo, Froome, Rogers, Thomas and a in form Ritchey Porte. But now this tactic seems to be a waste of energy. When your last team mate swings off and the group is still some 20 men strong why did they even have to ride their hearts out before?
            This strategy will make them more vulnerable in the TdF even more than last year when no one was able to really benefit from their lack of tactical nous (and strength). Which is great news for those who are afraid of another boring TdF. It might become way more interesting than we thought on July 21st 2013.

          • STS,

            Sky’s “strategy” isn’t really a race strategy.

            It’s showing up with more power than every other team and using it to ride almost everyone off their leader’s wheel. The race was over before it started. Kind of like the TdF this year.

          • So did the Italian TV commentators borrow that phrase from YOU? I think that’s the first place I heard the description of Froome on a bike. It IS odd, back-in-the-day the coaches yelled at us “elbows IN!” “flatten that back” “bend those elbows” but this guy, arguably the best stage racer out there, looks like his limbs are weak coil springs the way they flail around, while his head traces circles as he looks down, then kind of to the side, then head fully upright for a second, then repeats. Amazing. Amazingly ugly to watch.

          • I’m not after credit for the phrase, more amused to see how it’s spread around the internet.

            For what it’s worth Froome writes in his book that people laughed at his position since he was a teenager. It’s not going to change. I can get the elbows being awkward, it happens, but not the gyrating neck where he keeps looking down at his stem every 4-5 seconds. But it’s a tell, when he stops doing it there’s an attack about to come.

    • +1 as usual. Kas was another yellow-kitted team, who were forced to wear blue in the TdF. ONCE went for green for their first year in France, and pink thereafter. By the way, wasn’t it great to see Nibali in polka-dots and Contador in green?

      • STS – I also wonder how long Sky can get away with it, and whether they have a plan B. Last year they got messed about by Garmin on one stage, but Movistar/Saxo failed to apply the coup de gras. It amazes me how other teams still seemingly all sit back and allow the sky-train to get to work unhindered – unless, like you, they figure that letting them do all the work is a good thing. So far, having Wiggo and then Froome as pretty untouchable, it’s worked for them, but it’s going to be interesting this summer if Bertie (and Valverde and Nibali) can close the gap… Saxo/Movistar have arguably as strong teams as Sky…

Comments are closed.