Dauphiné Stage 8 Preview

All to play for. In recent years the final stage has been a bit of a let down, a fight for the stage win but a procession for the overall classification. This year it’s different with just eight seconds separating Alberto Contador and Chris Froome and time bonuses on the finish line.

Stage 7 Wrap
Better late than never. It took a while for the action to start but the final moments of the stage incisive. Katusha’s Egor Silin and Yuri Trofimov started the final climb together, but only just. Both were in the day’s long range breakaway. Trofimov had gone clear on on the penultimate climb of the Col de la Forclaz and then Silin went clear in pursuit. But Trofimov wasn’t waiting despite the advantages of being able to ride together and Silin was struggling to get across. 10km later they came to the finish and found Lieuwe Westra passing them both in the final 100 metres. A deserved win for Westra given he’d been on the attack a lot this week but also showing us that Astana are willing to play more cards than Nibali.

Igor Anton was the first to attack the GC group. Before it had been selection by the rear with the Team Sky train ejecting passengers. When they were down to Richie Porte Alberto Contador attacked within the last two kilometres. Froome didn’t react, it’s in the Sky race manual to let a rider jump away and then reel them in like bailiffs collecting on oxygen debt. But the Spaniard quickly took time and, if the effort was visible, he managed to defend his advantage to the line. Behind Froome took up the chase in person and left Vincenzo Nibali but cracked in the finishing straight to surrender the yellow jersey. We should note Andrew Talansky’s ride too, passing Froome at the end.

The Route

  • Km 16.5 – Côte de Domancy, 2.5 kilometre-long climb at 9.6% – category 2
  • Km 47.0 – Col des Saisies, 13.4 kilometre-long climb at 5.2% – category 1
  • Km 115.5 – Côte de Montagny, 8 kilometre-long climb at 6.5% – category 1
  • Km 131.5 – Montée de Courchevel Le Praz, 5.9 kilometre-long climb at 6.2% – category 1

131km packed with 3,130 vertical metres. The stage starts with the Côte de Domancy, used in the 1964 amateur (Merckx) and 1980 professional world championships (Hinault) and then followed by a lumpy road to the start of the Col des Saisies, a typical Alpine pass with pastures and ski lifts; plus a downhill section which explains the 5.2% average, it’s 7% most of the way up. Then the race rides along flatter valley roads passing Albertville for the Isère valley.

In order to spice up the finish they’ve added the climb to Montagny. Think of the valley like a snowboarder’s half-pipe, the race goes up one side of the valley to Montagny comes down it before going up the other side to the finish. The first climb of Montagny is a tricky one on a narrow and irregular road.

The final climb is listed as 5.9km at 6.2%. But look at the chart, it’s steeper all the time except for the penultimate kilometre. I think it’s more like 7.2% average and this matters, it’s just that bit more selective. It’s a sustained climb all the way to the line.

The Scenario: Contador vs. Froome, the duel is so close that the stage winner seems almost incidental. If a break goes up the road all eyes will be on Contador and Froome. In recent days every breakaway that’s gone up the road has stayed away, a sign Team Sky have been content to influence but not control things. If a break goes expect familiar names, those who have thrived over the mountains in recent days are the strong ones who will be there again.

Can Chris Froome overturn his second deficit on Alberto Contador? Yes but it won’t be easy. Nor will it be easy for Contador to defend his lead as his team’s lite plus he’s got to watch Andrew Talansky out of the corner of his eye too. This time Sky might not want a move to stay away because if Froome is wants to take time, grabbing the time bonuses will help him.

Maths interlude: There’s eight seconds between Contador and Froome and 10-6-4 seconds on the finish line in time bonuses. So if Froome wants to win needs the stage win plus five seconds or if others are up the road, a nine second advantage. Race rules say in the event of the same time on seconds we refer to the times taken in the Stage 1 time trial and the 100ths of a second: Froome clocked 13’13″56, Contador 13’21″48 so Contador is fractionally ahead.

Normally Alberto Contador has the easier task as he just needs to stick to Froome’s wheel, exactly as he did on the Col du Béal last Monday. If Sky make the going hard early or at least on the road before Montagny they can try to isolate him. Then what? Obviously Froome has to attack but Contador need only follow and as we’ve seen on Stage 2 he can do that. Add the yellow jersey and Froome’s injury and the odds suit Contador.

But what if this was a battle worth losing? The Machiavellian tactic for Froome and Sky would be to lick their wounds, lament the crash and track Contador all day. Better to camp on two stage wins than and hint the race leadership was surrendered by a wounded Froome than being seen to try and fail in the bid to take the jersey back. Less cynical, the Hollywood script would be the two arriving with another stage win for Froome but Contador in yellow and setting up a duel in July.

The Contenders: Froome or Contador? Both are clearly better than the rest but there’s no certainty of a showdown.

The short and punchy final climb might suit Andrew Talansky because he’s not got much to worry about but knows he can hang with the best. Adam Yates has a fast finish and has been close to the best, he might find the final climb is short enough to stay with the leader. Vincenzo Nibali wasn’t far off yesterday, he was only dropped in the final kilometre and maybe he too can benefit from the marking to slip away? Maybe if the weather turns sour he’ll try something.

Chris Froome, Alberto Contador, Andrew Talansky
Vincenzo Nibali, J_____ V__ D__ B_____

Weather: warm and sunny but cloudier and cooling further with temperatures of 23°C (72°F). The clouds will billow up in the afternoon with showers and even thunderstorm likely.

TV: another “late finish” with the stage forecast to end around 4.45pm Euro time.

Be sure to tune in for the final hour which includes the last two climbs. 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.

33 thoughts on “Dauphiné Stage 8 Preview”

  1. I am no Contador fan given his past history, and a belief that people like him are unlikely to change the habits of a lifetime. BUT he did exploit one of the obvious weaknesses in the sky GT modus operandi. You may well be able to allow an initial acceleration, and then control it lower down a climb. Not so easy with a below par team mate in the final two kilometres. One must assume either Froome did not have the legs to immediately respond, or sky need to rethink their rather tired and predictable riding model.

    Look forward to todays stage.

    • People like Bertie cause he has cojones, animates races, show classy moves, show weakness and style.
      All that stem starring, riding on chalkborad tactics dudes don’t have.
      And yes, I like my habits.

  2. Is that correct that in a tied situation the use only the 100th’s of a second of the ITT to distinguish the winner? Is that because it’s the only stage that takes the riders time to 100th’s?

        • ITTs are timed to the 100th of a second, but the starting procedure—a commissaire, presumably, counting down on his fingers—seems so imprecise. Is there another, more precise, method of determining the starting time for riders also being used—possibly a sensor at the bottom of the starting ramp?

          • Well there are also the beeps; I always thought how good a rider was at reacting to the cues and taking off as soon as possible to keep their times low was part of the skill of time trialing.

  3. I don’t see how isolating Contador would do anything for Sky. He will always have Froome to keep him out of the wind. The best for them would be to stay away from the front and let Tinkoff do the work. And hope Talansky takes off and gets far forcing Alberto to spend energy in getting him back.
    What this race also shows is that the mathematical tactics of the Sky train only work if you have enough riders strong enough to keep up the tempo needed to reel in an in-form Contador. In that sense they really should reconsider taking Wiggins along for the Tour. The tactics also require either a leader that can follow all the competition in their final acceleration or a bigger lead from the time trials.

    • The tactics work fine. Tactics can’t cater for a team not having enough team mates capable of matching one of the great climbers (not matter how he’s achieved this greatness).

    • For my own knowledge about road rashes the 8-48h after a crash is the worse moment to deal with them. Pain through the whole body. I believe the late reaction from Froome is due to crash on Friday.

      I see today Froome/Wiggins are on the same boat. Froome is better climber and Wiggins is better TTer. However following your way to think and the same conditions, IF Wiggins were on Dauphine on saturday I don’t know to say that he would be lost less time than Froome did.

      I’m not Brit and nor Sky fan, however it seems to me Froome is the best bid for GT and Sky doesn’t like/know to deal with 2 leaders on the same ride.

  4. What Sky desperately needs at the moment is Kiryienka in good form. I don’t know what has happened to him but he’s not running on all cylinders. He must be ill or something.

  5. What a great stage that was, one of the best finals we’ve had for good while! As you say in your stage 7 preveiw:

    …”it’d be good to see two races for the price of one, one for the stage and another for the race lead.”

    Katusha will be pondering their team tactics, had these two cooperated better they may well have had it against Westra for the final.
    Westra is a beast, doesn’t speak a lot (in interviews at least), but stubborn and strong as an ox. Think he won the final rainy cold stage of Catalunya.

    What will Sky have to do? The madrileño is obvioulsy capable of staying on their wheel, AND he has the attack weapon, that acceleration that Froome doesn’t have (nor Wiggins).
    Great racing yesterday.

  6. Usually, the most realistic scenario is that people caught “doping” through the sport’s own protocols (i.e., not through police operations, news reports or so) have lost the political cover which allowed them to dope (if they ever had something like that), hence, normally, they have to start racing with a low-key doping style, because additionally they’re now “under the lens”.

    I’m not saying that this is Contador’s case now (moreover, he was in fact caught thanks to an hybrid situation, part inside deep throat, part news report, part institutional procedure), neither I’m sure that things still go on like that, it seems we’re under a kind of truce or agreement now: nevertheless, this is just to underline how “the habits” of “people” aren’t related to the problem.

    What is more, we should decide if we want to stick with “official / institutionally stated facts” or if we prefer to give more room to intuitions and suspects.

    Contador always has raced (choose to race) with teams suspected of organised doping, he was with Sainz and Bruyneel and Riis… He was maybe involved in OP (and got covered), he worked with Pepe Martí, the UCI tried to hide his clenbuterol positive (well… after the blood was sent, without specific motives, to Germany, to the only lab which could detect that amount of Clenbuterol).
    Though, all we officially have about him is a suspension whose final verdict states that both the “steak” and the “transfusion” hypothesis are not credible, that clebuterol direct assumption is not compatible with the results of the tests, and, therefore, that the court believes that it wasn’t a case of doping but of involuntary assumption through a contaminated supplement; nevertheless, the rider is punished because he chose a *wrong* line of defence, and since the burden of proof is on defence, in sporting justice, he must be sentenced.

    The sentence is quite ridiculous and totally political. But if we decide that Contador is a (former?) doper because of it, we should be enough coherent to stick to what the sentence officially asserts.

    If we prefer to build up our opinion through informed judgment, even without specific and factual proofs, we should be ready to extend our *intuition* to many other riders, eventually “uncaught” up to now.
    Let aside actual teams, to avoid polemics with supporters: for example, HTC was looked at by many as a “clean” team; but if we think in terms of *personal habits*, why should people like Aldag and Holm have changed “the habits of a lifetime”? And why shouldn’t we assume that people who worked under their guidance have developed the same *habits*?

    It’s a slippery if not dangerous terrain, my personal opinion is that cycling fans should try to focus on *cycling technique*, not less important than in other sports, and consider doping in more relative terms.
    More than anything, a positive test or a sentence should undergo a certain amount of reflection before becoming a personal stigma: I think no one needs to be remembered that famour rider who “never, never, never doped”, supposedly “never tested positive”, while being “the most tested athlete in history”.

    • ” Though, all we officially have about him is a suspension whose final verdict states that both the “steak” and the “transfusion” hypothesis are not credible, that clebuterol direct assumption is not compatible with the results of the tests, and, therefore, that the court believes that it wasn’t a case of doping but of involuntary assumption through a contaminated supplement; nevertheless, the rider is punished because he chose a *wrong* line of defence, and since the burden of proof is on defence, in sporting justice, he must be sentenced.”

      That’s not quite right. He was punished because he had clenbuterol in his system, and his explanation for how it got there didn’t stack up. The CAS panel didn’t buy the transfusion theory either, saying that the contaminated supplement theory was most likely, but on the other hand they refused to allow WADA to ask their experts questions about it.

      On sticking to the fact, you listed Contador’s former bosses. That also brings into the question the credibility of the statement he gave to the CAS panel, doesn’t it: “I have never taken doping substances in my life. And not only have I not taken doping substances, but I have always been surrounded by people (cyclists, doctors, trainers, etc.) who categorically reject the use of doping substances.”

      • Logically speaking, the sentence implies that choosing to defend himself blaming a supplement would have led to acquittal. Thus, you absolutely need both clenbuterol in his system (in a dosis admittedly NOT compatible with direct assumption) AND an inadequate defence to have him sentenced under these circumstances.

        The credibility of Contador’s statement is quite low, but I can’t see any relation between court rhetoric and “facts”.
        Maybe with “reject” he meant “to decide not to publish (something) or make (something) available to the public because it is not good enough” (Merriam-Webster)
        🙂 🙂 🙂
        …just joking…

        I think that most sensible people interested in cycling may be ready to acknwoledge both the *notable probability* of Contador doping during his career (especially in organised and highly effective contexts), AND the hypothesis that the ban he received was more the result of some political skirmish than any actual attestation of Contador’s doping.
        But this is just a very personal opinion.
        Likewise, speaking of personal perspectives, I’m more interested in the technical potential of a cyclist, in what he achieves and shows on the road, than in doping. Unless doping becomes an overwhelming factor in some athletes’ results, but this is less common than we got used to think… even if we had impressive examples of that in the last 25 years or so.

  7. Gabriele. You make some excellent points, unlike some other less well informed anonymous posters. I am prepared to give the benefit of the doubt to any rider caught doping, who acknowledges that they made the ‘wrong decision’. What I am not prepared to accept however, is that riders caught doping, and who then continue to refuse to accept any responsibility for their actions deserve my trust. I don’t make a big issue of this personal choice, but consider it would be most unwise to take any other view. The recent history of the sport illustrates the point very well. Refusal to accept personal responsibility indicates a mindset which remains unchanged, with all that implies.

    I think the head of USADA has had some similar views on the matter in the last few days.

    • I agree, in general terms, but we should consider that even “accepting responsibility” through a confession on the public scene (the only way through which we spectators, fans, readers, who are not personally close to pro cyclists, would know anything about it; thus, the only way it may affect our beliefs) is subject to many social conditions… and may have any sort of different consequences. Since *responsibility* has a lot to do with *consequences* we can’t judge the mindset of persons whose apparently identical actions can lead to very different effects.

      I can’t decide whether or not I give my trust to someone just because he *confesses* or shows any *remorse*, since that choice can be – depending on different circumstances – a part of a convenient path back to pro cycling (David Millar, Ivan Basso, the Garmin block of USPS’ riders), rewarded with praise and even some sort of honours, or a further damnation (Manzano), or just your ticket out of cycling’s world (Kohl, Jaksche) – the latter meaning that our personal “cycling trust” doesn’t really mean anything for these outcasts, nor for ourselves.
      Should I place my trust just in (some of the) riders who aren’t riding anymore because of their confessions? Maybe they’re the only ones you should really trust, if you look for a change in mindset.

      There are riders who (probably) started their careers getting along well with a team doping system, then (probably) decided to give up doping forever, and never made any public confession. They can be trusted more than some athletes recurring to ready-made confessions lately… showing *a lot* of remorse for their *juvenile* errors, when they were presumably doing the same in recent years. People who massively stopped doping “about EIGHT years ago”.

    • After watching Talansky and Hesjedal on stage 7 I had a feeling that they would be up to something more in stage 8. However I’m still surprised they were able to pull it off. It certainly made for a great finish to a fine week of racing. I hope the TDF is as exciting.

  8. Well, that was a super week of racing, and today was the cherry on top. Though again tv production and race information had me feeling a bit like a rider without a race radio 😉 – it goes to show that when a race is its best when it can’t be controlled by a dominant team, when the parcours encourages risk-taking rather than waiting (ASO seems to like these short stages), and when the field of legitimate contenders is broad.

    How to reproduce that is probably more alchemy than science, but action like today’s is what pro cycling, as a sports entertainment product, needs to attract bigger audiences and sponsors.

    • ASO are working hard on the alchemy, they want more short hily stages and fewer long TTs. Even the sprinters stages in this race had climbing.

      It’s all possible with the Dauphiné as it has the geography, a mini-Tour de France but without the frequently featureless landscapes of the north and west of France.

  9. Plus it helps that the top GC man gets physically busted up in a crash just before the mountains, and then gets mentally shaken up by the local media accusing him of sanctioned doping. Knowing how sensitive and paranoid Froome is about being accused of doping, that newspaper story must have really rattled him. Bad timing personally for him, but for us spectators, it really opened up the suspense and action on the final stage. Was that press release a deliberate calculated manuever? What else is lurking around the corner for Le Tour?

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