The Moment The Race Was Won: The Dauphiné

Andrew Talansky leads the breakaway on Stage 8 of the Dauphiné. He’d gone clear in a maxi-breakaway early in the stage and became the virtual race leader on the road. By now Alberto Contador was chasing and eating into the lead but Talansky was driving the pace almost as if in a solo breakaway. This was the moment the race was won.

One moment is too reductive, especially in a week packed with action, reversals and surprises. Talansky was only in the position of virtual leader because he’d been able to respond to the attacks and accelerations of Chris Froome and Alberto Contador alike earlier during the week. When Froome went on the Col du Béal for Stage 2 Talansky was fifth and 12 seconds behind. When Contador danced away from Froome above the Emosson dam, Talansky was also fifth and put a couple of seconds into Froome. For all the talk of a duel between Froome and Contador, Talansky was lurking all the time and waiting to pounce.

The week began with an alternative duel, the proxy war of Froome vs Wiggins. The former’s book was stirring up the headlines while the latter responded by giving the scoop to L’Equipe and then touring the BBC – both non Sky/NewsCorp sources – that he was unlikely to ride the Tour de France. It was big news but seems to have blown away by now.

Back to the racing and Stage 1 in Lyon saw a 1-2 for Froome and Contador… with Talansky in fourth place. Once again he was there. The race swapped the urban start for a remote and rural finish on the Col du Béal for Stage 2. It might not be famous but it was a tough climb and provided a selective showdown with Froome attacking in rotary frenzy. Try as he might Contador could not pass.

Further down the mountain we saw Vincenzo Nibali struggling. An off day? It was possible at the time but we got confirmation during the week that he was off the pace. The same for Tejay van Garderen only he later told the media that he’d just told his team about a fractured hip. The crack was small but all the same it’s astonishing that a rider didn’t tell his team. Another loser was Michał Kwiatkowski, the Pole was so far off the pace we forgot about him for the rest of the week.

Stage 3 saw a lively sprint finish won by Giant-Shimano’s Nikias Arndt who sprinted seated in the saddle, he might have more wins but this is the making of a premium sprint lead out. It was the only bunch sprint of the stage but never a dull procession. “Sprinters stages” might be obvious processions but this one had stunning scenery across the Ardèche area before a high speed dash south along the Rhone valley where a late attack added suspense.

Stages 4 and 5 saw a Katusha double, first Yuri Trofimov then Simon Špilak in La Mure on a day when Contador also tried a late attack. The Spaniard said he hadn’t come to the Dauphiné to win but it became he clear he didn’t want to lose. Stage 6 saw Lieuwe Westra get beaten by Jan Bakelants after a surprisingly hilly finish. Behind Froome crashed on a narrow descent and the bunch waited for him, there wasn’t much of a race on and the yellow jersey crossed the line shredded.

Stage 7 saw the Queen Stage with the finish on the Col de la Guelaz above the Emosson dam in Switzerland. A hard stage but with little action until the end, many casual viewers might have channel-hopped away. They missed the action with surprise appearance of Westra in the finishing straight. The main story was Contador attacking and Froome unable to respond. At first it seemed normal, the Sky method of letting a rival redline and then reeling them in. But Froome could not close the gap and he was passed before the line by Andrew Talansky. This looked like race winning move, Contador claiming the yellow jersey ahead of an wounded Froome.

The Courchevel Coup
Then came the final stage from Megève to Courchevel. Just 131km it started with a bang. A break of 23 riders went clear and let’s name them all because there were so many strong riders: David Lopez, Mikel Nieve, Richie Porte (Sky), Tanel Kangert, Lieuwe Westra (Astana), Dani Navarro, Yoann Bagot (Cofidis), Adam Yates (Orica-Greenedge), Igor Anton, John Gadret (Movistar), Romain Bardet, Alexis Gougeard, Jean-Christophe Péraud (AG2R La Mondiale), Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Jurgen Van den Broeck, Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol), Kristjan Koren (Cannondale), Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing), Yuriy Trofimov (Katusha), Ryder Hesjedal, Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp), Elia Favilli (Lampre-Merida) and Bartosz Huzarski (NetApp-Endura). A breakaway? It was more like a pirate ship.

As the stage progressed Sky did manage to gang up on Contador and Froome started attacking. But the bid to isolate the Spaniard backfired when Contador jumped away from Team Sky using the classic ruse of a traffic island. Once he saw Sky’s trio going to the right of an island in the road he dived to the other side and accelerated. Behind Chris Froome looked cooked, a gap often visible between his front wheel and Richie Porte. Sky wanted to isolate Contador but not this way.

Ahead the breakaway was being driven by Ryder Hesjedal. If Talansky won by 27 seconds, a large share can be attributed the lanky Canadian. Work like this often isn’t visible on TV but it should be noted. It’s also the Garmin-Sharp way, the Captains of Chaos, the underdogs with as much bite as their bark. The team has turned several races with aggressive and bold tactics, think of Dan Martin’s stage win in the Tour last year after the team blew the race apart from the start.

The Moment The Race Was Lost?
Andrew Talansky won thanks to the most direct and bold of tactics, he went up to the road and rode his socks off. But it’s true that Contador and Froome both lost the race too. Tinkoff-Saxo simply didn’t have the firepower in the race. Perhaps they could have chased more yesterday early on when they had riders to spare and they did lead the peloton at one point. But later on Contador was isolated. He won’t have to worry about this come the Tour with support from riders like Roman Kreuziger, Nicolas Roche, Michael Rogers and more. Froome lost too but with hindsight he was in a bad way and struggling to hold the wheels of his team mates. Contador lost the battle but not the war and leaves the week on a high note. Having lost the psychological war early in the week he came back level but there was no knockout blow or even a win on points because the Sky camp will point to Froome’s injury. It’s not exactly Cane and Abel nor Anquetil and Poulidor, the two tweet polite messages to each other. Instead rivalry is on the road, they have been on a similar level.

Dauphiné to the Tour
The last two winners have gone on to win the Tour de France. Can Talansky? Never say never but probably not. Bradley Wiggins in 2012 and Chris Froome in 2013 both showed controlled performances built on long time trial stages and consolidated in the mountains, a dress rehearsal of their Tour de France a win among others throughout the year. Talansky need a tactical ploy to take this Tour just as he took the Dauphiné. Still if he rides like a robot the podium is within reach given his consistent climbing and if Garmin-Sharp take some chances then again he could steal time and make the race more watchable. But don’t extrapolate the Dauphiné results too far, the fact that the two last winners have won the Tour is not a trend over history, it’s an oddity. After all Richie Porte and Dani Moreno stood on the Dauphiné podium and bombed in the Tour, albeit in service of others.

As for Contador and Froome, I’d still give Froome the edge because the Tour de France course with its final time trial suits him more. But “Crash Froome” could be a problem in July too, as we saw on Stage 6 it can happen at any time and need not be on the pavé. Plus the Sky tactic of winning several stage races before July isn’t working, Froome won in Oman but was beaten in Catalonia. He took Romandie but lost out again this week.

Another extrapolation to July is the doping polemics. We got a taste of this twice with Chris Froome’s inhaler and then his TUE – apparently the first time he’s asked for one during his career – and a rest day polémique might be lurking.

Tour 2015
Wilco Kelderman won the white jersey competition with Romain Bardet and Adam Yates close behind. Sébastien Reichenbach is another promising rider. I put the top-5 in the graphic above to show the gap between the top-4 and then the rest with Kenny Elissonde in fifth. We won’t see the Kelderman in the Tour and probably not Yates either. Bardet is certain to ride and pretty much saved French faces last week. Reichenbach is likely for the Tour too.

Prototype course
The Tour de France has the onerous duty of touring France. However charming the villages might be most of the north and west of the country offers terrain that makes for a dull bike race being largely flat and often featureless, often exterior features like a crosswind is needed to enliven the entertainment, otherwise ASO has to work hard to find something special like a coastal road or the Mur de Bretagne. The Dauphiné is spoilt for choice, even the sprint stages take place against a backdrop of snowy peaks or imposing cliffs. The race still exploited this terrain carefully, no long time trial to cement the GC for example.

The Verdict
A great race, it’s like the Tour de France with none of the boring bits, an action film rather than a documentary series. A three week grand tour is still a much richer and more involving race with more stories but for one week this was as good as you get. This race was started in 1947 as a preparation event for the Tour de France and today it’s the perfect contest for riders and viewers alike.

The worry is that the concentrated week has offered more action and reversals than will be possible in the Tour, this could be the stage race highlight of 2014. Always scenic, at times nervous and with action to the end this was a great race. Talansky gets the perfect win and if he needed a bold move on the last day he would never have won had he not tracked Contador and Froome in the time trial and high mountains. It shows that the Contador-Froome duel is just one story for the summer and come July there will be a much bigger cast of characters.

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

  1. Excellent analysis as always!

    “Froome won in Oman but was beaten in Catalonia. He took Catalonia but lost out again here”. Should probably have been; “Froome won in Oman but was beaten in Catalonia. He took Romandie but lost out again here.”

    TdF is going to be very exciting indeed!

  2. Thoroughly enjoyable race throughout, perfectly summarised. Sky will no doubt put Froome losing so much time down to his crash on Stage 6 however to me there seems more to it than that. If Froome had gained time on the likes of Contador and Nibali in Stages 7 and 8 I would imagine most people would be thinking there is no stopping him come July, however that unknown potentially makes for far more interesting TdF. I certainly don’t want to watch 3weeks of the Sky train controlling the race throughout.

    On another note great to see Adam Yates building on his momentum from his win in the Tour of Turkey, I think the TdF may come too soon for him however excited to see him in future Grand Tours.

  3. Well done to Talansky – it was due and his team certainly had to work for it. I’m especially glad someone other than Sky/Contador won. Who better than Garmin to do it with panache and reassure as to the cleanliness of the win?

    Just wish the dauphine got the same TV coverage in the UK as le tour!

  4. A lot has been made of Sky/Froome at the Dauphine, but for me the story of yesterday was the major tactical blunder by Tinkoff-Saxo and Contador. Instead of playing cat and mouse with Froome, there eyes should have been up the road.

    With so many Sky men in the breakaway, it was obvious that Froome was on a bad day and was bluffing no? Contador should have concentrated on the GC danger men like Talansky.

    • Easy with the benefit of hindsight I’d say. You could argue that Contador was looking at the bigger picture and the important thing for him was not showing any weakness in comparison to Froome as opposed to winning overall.

    • Sssh.

      I did think earlier today Lotto-Belisol need to fluo orange kit to make sure people spot Van Den Broeck. But again a good ride but often by stealth. He was visible with Talansky and at one point smiling as the American drove on, knowing a podium spot was coming.

      • I think he should translate his name into French. Dupont would be (even) less conspicuous. 🙂 But he rode without ambition yesterday, he should’ve sat on the Garmins’ wheels and try to ride them off to take the Dauphiné. Seemed happy to be 3rd.

  5. Great race, great win for Talansky and all decided in the last few minutes of the race, what better way to finish. Adam Yates impresses very much and he looks great on the bike. Possibly a future Grand Tour winner? Hope he and his bro don’t end up in the Sky camp but sadly money talks.

    • Not necessarily. Often Sky are not the team offering the highest salary amongst competing offers when it comest to offering contracts. I’m thinking Froome for his new contract back in 2011 (AG2R reportedly offered more), Dombrowski (BMC offered more), even Porte in 2011.

      The Yates lads seem to have their heads screwed on. Let’s see what happens.

    • Apparently Sky wanted one of the twins with the other close to signing with FDJ. Should the brothers keep up the start to their season they can the terms they like with a future team.

      Neo-pro salaries are a mystery to me, several Americans are well into six figures but can always leave to another team if they prove any good, it doesn’t buy much loyalty.

  6. I know that Inrng has consistently stated that Adam Yates won’t be going to the tour, but I’d be astonished if OGE don’t change plans. I know he doesn’t fit in with the type of teams they’ve generally sent to GTs, but given the start in Yorkshire then he has to go for the publicity, and has shown that he has an outside chance of a stage win further down the line, although unproven in the big mountains.

    Comparing to the last time the tour started in the UK and Geraint Thomas was the youngest rider in the field, undoubtedly because the race started in the UK.

  7. I think that Sky did not want Contador to win and thus was happy to see any other winner. Tactically Contador just made sure Froome did not get away. It was an important physocological victory for Saxo, after all they have never won this race. They also did not have a strong team. For most part it was Contador against Sky and he won.

  8. Richie Porte team didn’t look as strong as expected. Wonder if this would be a reason for Sky to bring in super-domestique Wiggo to the TdF team? And given the risk of Froome crashing…

      • If Wiggin’s heart isn’t in it then you don’t get his best. Ask Cav at Olympics where Wiggo has his golds and under his own admission didn’t give his all with Cav, leaving Cav the only GB team member without a medal.

        Wiggo already looks like these past few weeks of ‘drama’ around the tour has switched off his desire. 32 secs down in a 6 miles TT is

          • Its all about the Commonwealth Games for him now, at TdF has been ruled out. Before deciding his desire has gone, maybe worth seeing how he goes in the longer TT on Friday which on paper is much more suited to him that Sunday’s.

            The word is that he’s been burning up times on the track in training sessions over the last couple of weeks. Once Brailsford announces the TdF squad after the TdS has finished, then its fully expected that it’ll be announced that Wiggins is riding track as well as the TT at the Games.

      • Froome and Wiggins will never get along, and this alone rules out dual participation. I would suggest that Wiggins has effectively ruled himself out of the Tour by his lacklustre performance in Switzerland. This is yet another side of the unpredictable and difficult Wiggins nature and comes at a time when Froomes Dauphine performance has raised a few questions.

        • BC, Wiggins could have won yday’s stage riding backwards and signing ‘Eton Rifles’, it wouldnt have made the slightest bit of difference to his chances of making the Tour team. He didnt rule himself out yday. He was ruled out a long time ago, and Brailsford confirmed it to him 2 weeks ago.

          Now you can question why it should have come to this. But the ‘unpredictable and difficult Wiggins nature’ is the very one Brailsford himself worked with and cultivated to get all those track medals. Plus the promised first Tour win. And now that nature doesnt suit Brailsford.

          I dont have a lot of time for any of the protaganists’ behaviour in this whole affair, to be honest – but Brailsford himself has to take a fair amount of responsibility for poor – no, scratch that, non-existent – conflict management between his two biggest riders.

          • Sam. Of course it wouldn’t have made the slightest difference. That was exactly the point I was making. Wiggins behaviour in Switzerland has just made the decision easier for management to justify . Froome and Wiggins are incompatible, and nothing Brailsford or anyone else could have done would change that. Don’t forget that Wiggins long time mentor is still lurking in the background and is close to Brailsford. I never said it should not have come to this – the outcome was always inevitable. Both men have ‘difficult’ characters, but Wiggins lets his inner self express itself in his relationships and performances, whereas Froome remains the commensurate professional. Lets hope Wiggins can either find another team in a difficult market or return to the track. In my humble view Brailsford has made the only choice open to him given the personalities, and has chosen by far the better tour rider,

  9. Contador pushed Froome to the limits on stage 2 and continue to put a hard pressure on him all week. Froome ‘s crash is not a surprise. For me, it’s related to this pressure. He look’s tired at one point. When your tired, you make mistakes. Contador won the mind game this week.

    Yesterday’s stage was fabulous. Thoses young guns are amazing. Talansky is impressive. Contador couldn’t take a second on him in the last climb. Wow !

    • Contador had pushed everything in the previous kms prior to the climb to try and catch up – state of talansky at the foot of the climb and contador were probably different so no surprise that Contador couldn’t push all the way.

    • Concussion protection vs. style and aerodynamics. Life is full of choices.

      Some of those helmets riders are using are getting to look no more substantial than hairnets these days. I’m sure they meet standard, but may not exceed them.

      • Weird association Tom. Being ugly and retro doesn’t mean better protection. POC is a newcomer in helmet, not a reference like Bell R & D, for example. POC is more a fashion- stylish big price products enterprise than anything.

  10. I’m rather surprised Froome doesn’t crash more often since it doesn’t seem like he looks where he’s going very much, with the head constantly rolling and mostly looking down. Contador did a lot for a guy with not much of a team. Not sure what kind of practical value there is sending the rest of the likely TdF squad to a different race while Contador soldiers on basically alone, but you must figure he had a say in all of that? Great win for Talansky…it’s great to finally see some US contenders come to the front with no rumors of dodgy behavior in their past, especially as we see the “We’re oh-so-transparent!” Sky team start to seem a bit opaque with corticosteroids, inhalers, etc. Is David Walsh hot on the case?

  11. Talansky’s win was almost an identikit copy of Dan Martin’s mountain finish win to take the Volta Catalunya last year. He made the large break group with Hesjedal, who drove it all day. Martin took on the final climb with a big margin as the GC favourite (Purito, in this case) tried to whittle down his advantage below a minute but fell just short.

    • didn’t Ryder do a lot of the donkey work for Martin’s LBL win also…. and on that Tour stage also. Watch out when the domestique deluxe gets in a move….

  12. Kudos to everyone. Talansky, Contador, Kelderman, Nieve, Van den Broeck, Nibali, the Sky and Garmin tactics, even Froome, attacking before cracking. Everyone was superb yesterday (except perhaps Van den Broeck, who forgot to try to win). Will we have the first totally uncontrolled Tour de France since teamless Greg LeMond’s victories in 89 and 90?

  13. Very exciting buildup to the Tour.

    Larry good take on Contador and Froome. I always think that late in the stages Froome is looking down at his power output in disbelief “Sorry Capt. Kirk I have no more power”
    Contador is the strong man and will be difficult to push off balance in the TdF. He has street smarts.
    It is refreshing to see some “alternative tactics” that Garmin was able to use to pull off
    a bit of a spoiler. Lets hope other teams use similar “chaos” tactics to make for a more exciting TdF .

    • I believe the correct quote from TOS is:

      “I’ve giv’n her all she’s got captain, an’ I canna give her no more”

      Don’t you wish power meters could talk in thick brogue ?

  14. Best Dauphine in years. Remember the LA days when none of the TdF contenders were ”in form” just because they’d extracted the whole blood (to be re-transfused 4 weeks later during the Tour) and were low on Hb. For the first time in years we’ve seen fighting for GC with all heart.

  15. To clarify: Tejay van Garderen said he told the BMC Racing Team managers, but not his fellow riders. He said he hoped it would be a non-factor as the fracture was so small, it could not be detected by X-ray, only MRI. He was only off the bike one week due to the injury.

  16. I would like to hope that TdF 2014 is the last year we see riders with a doping past near the top.
    I for one cannot wait to see the young non-doping tarnished generation taking hold of our sport.

  17. I wouldn’t hold your breath! Sport is full of cheats, too much at stake in the modern era. I’m not just talking cycling either.

    • Nobody’s holding their breath, but damn, wouldn’t it be nice to dream again? Dream that what you’re seeing is real, passionate, SPORT? “Too much at stake..” is a flimsy excuse in a world where guys will dope to win a salami in a gran fondo. Cheating will never go away entirely, but what I’m looking for is a pro cycling where it’s rare, rather than the norm of the past few decades. I’m optimistic that it could happen, but not betting any farms on it.

  18. Did Wiggo deliberately tank the stage of the TdS where he finished 2.3 down just so that he definitely wouldnt have to race the TdF?

  19. Orica protest to much me thinks (hopes), what better way to bushwack the British Team of Sky than with a Brit on a Aussie Team! There are opportunities in Yorkshire for Yatesy, i mean whats the worst that can happen? Put him in Yeller for a few days, then allow him to pull out later on if it was looking like he wouldn’t benefit from staying in the race. I would. It’s not like they finished the Giro with an inordiate amount of riders, and that worked out pretty well for them.How cool would that be to see the bemused look on peoples faces in Yorkshire, of all places,your greatest sporting rivals on the top step of the podium.

    • I’m pretty convinced he’ll ride the first week. I think he resides in Girona at present but stage 2 literally passes through his ‘home’ regular training rides. I cannot seeing missing the first 5-9 days of this tour.

  20. Paddy – I’m not sure cycling teams are that tribal are they? I love watching Cav, Yates, Martin, Cummings etc win and I really don’t care who their trade teams are. Sky only have 9 brits out of 29 riders on the roster after all.

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