2016 Dauphine Route

The route for the 2016 Critérium du Dauphiné has been presented today, a ray of summer sunshine amid the clouds, mud and crosswinds that dominate the sport right now. The Dauphiné is a race that’s often seen in the shadow of the Tour de France because it borrow some of the same roads and also because it’s a dress rehearsal for July but this is always a good race in its own right, think Chris Froome’s final stage overhaul of Tejay van Garderen in last year or Andrew Talansky’s tactical masterpiece the year before. Here’s a closer look at this year’s route and more.

Dauphine Prologue Les Gets

Things start with a novelty, an uphill prologue above the ski resort of Les Gets with 3.9km at an average of 9.7% but as the profile shows it’s got some much steeper sections. It’s novel to use such steep roads but not unique, you might remember the 2013 Tour de Romandie where Chris Froome beat Andrew Talansky in the 7.5km prologue, uphill but not as steep.

Stage 1 is for the sprinters as the race rides away from the Alps to the plains of the Ain for a likely sprint finish in St. Vulbas.

Stage 2 sees a ski station finish in Chalmazel but this isn’t a high altitude Alpine variety but a gentler arrival on the slopes of the Massif Central below the Col du Béal, where Chris Froome and Alberto Contador traded attacks in 2014. The exact location of the finish line isn’t clear yet but the approach roads are in the order of 4-5%.

Stage 3 has the riders heading for the Rhone valley and if the race goes above 1,000m above sea level it’s via some gentle, gradual climbs. There’s a sting in the tail, the race drops down to the Rhone before taking the climb to Sécheras, 3km at 7% and enough to eject many sprinters especially as there’s a false flat that goes on after the climb. A sprinter or two could hold on but only if they’re in peak condition for the summer.

Stage 4 is flat and for the sprinters with a finishing circuit around Belley, birthplace of Etixx-QS’s Maxime Bouet.

Stage 5 will matter to the overall classification with the summit finish in the ski station of Vaujany. It’d also be a good ride on its own as it takes the balcony road below the Belledonne mountains before dropping to Vizille and then taking the sapping valley road to Allemont. Vaujany is a short spin away from Alpe d’Huez and small village and ski station with a steep climb that’s got sustained sections of 8-10% and the finish is in the village rather than further up the road.

Stage 6 is the Queen Stage. It opens with the Col de Champ Laurent, an unsung but rewarding climb that’s steep but mercifully shaded for most of the way up if the sun is shining before heading onto the Grand Cucheron, passing the spot where David Moncoutié crashed out of the Tour de France and ended his career. The Madeleine is worthy of its HC status and many a rider will try to get in the breakaway here in order to win the mountains competition points on offer in the first hal before the long descent into the Tarentaise valley. After the balcony climb to Les Frasses the climb to the swanky ski town of Méribel is almost the easiest part of the day as after a 7% start it relaxes to 5-6% for most of the way.

  • Queen stage? a term applied to the biggest and most important stage of a race. It’s from the French, étape reine which is literally “queen stage”. The noun étape is feminine so has the matching feminine adjective or adjectival ending, reine meaning queen rather than roi or king. Normally in English it would be “King Stage” but the more literal translation seems to have been copied across. There’s no obvious royal connection, just something to suggest importance, size and perhaps the power to shape the GC or even crown the winner.

Finally Stage 7 is similar to the penultimate stage of the 2013 Dauphiné sharing the same start and finish although that included the Alpe d’Huez and Col de Sarenne recon in a nod to that year’s Tour de France route. This time it’s a more obvious route via a series of climbs before the breathtaking, in both senses, Col du Noyer (11.3km at 7.2% but with 10-11% percent kilometres near the top) and then the shorter climb to Superdévoluy, 4km at 5.7%.

Dauphiné 2016 map

Route Summary
One for the climbers. There’s only one time trial and that’s the uphill prologue with its double-digit gradients. But the other mountainous days have some steady climbs, the race never crosses above the 2,000m altitude and this might open the door to a wider cast of characters and maybe some different tactics. Certainly the race has seen some entrepreneurial moves in recent years, think Andrew Talansky’s 2014 win or last year’s deluged stage across the Vercors plateau where the GC riders like Vincenzo Nibali, Tejay van Garderen and Rui Costa were attacking on the first climb, this was one of the highlights of the year. It’s possible again, especially given the mountain stages are short with distances of under 150 km. The route offers a couple of chances for the sprinters, especially if they can cope with a hill or two, think Nacer Bouhanni or John Degenkolb.

Dauphiné vs. Switzerland
This race overlaps with the Tour de Suisse, the final weekend of the Dauphiné is the opening weekend of Suisse. Even if they didn’t clash most riders would opt for one or the other rather than combine both as one week’s racing is enough for those aiming for for the Tour de France. What’s new is that the Velon group of teams has its deal with the Infront sports agency, co-owners of the Tour de Suisse and they’ve announced a revenue sharing deal this week between the Swiss race and the cartel of teams, the idea being that the teams commit to send big name riders to Switzerland in order to try and make the race more valuable and therefore create more revenue to share. It’s a long term project given broadcast deals are multi-year and TV channels will watch and wait to see if it’s worth paying a premium for the Swiss race before renewing. But the immediate effect could see Velon member teams sending their better riders to Switzerland instead. We’ll see though as cyclingnews.com says “Froome and Contador set to clash” adding van Garderen is expected to start too, all ride for Velon members. Certainly the Dauphiné has been a pre-Tour ritual for these three in recent years they’ll need to balance earning income for their team managers with their sporting preparation before July. On sporting terms Suisse might be preferable for some because it contains an 18km time trial, a vital exercise given the Tour de France has two time trials for a change. Fortunately cycling fans don’t have to chose, they’re spoilt by two weeks of the finest Alpine racing possible.

68 thoughts on “2016 Dauphine Route”

  1. That prologue is epic, will catch out many, first KM at over 6% will be a really difficult cold start. Might a climber win this or is it short enough for a puncheur?

  2. Yeah, the prologue looks really interesting. Ditto Stage 7 if it’s tight in GC – two first cat climbs which are almost hidden in the profile and a 4km drag to the finish. Could be one of those great days where a breakaway fights for the stage while the GC boys trade blows five minutes down the road.

  3. Interesting parcours and the battle between Dauphiné and Suisse will be fascinating. You can see the ASO pulling in the wildcard hopefuls to commit to their race, but the World Tour Velon teams would surely chase the extra money.

    Given the lack of decent wildcard options, you’d have to think that TdS has an edge.

    While I like both races, Dauphine is the traditional dress rehearsal for the Tour and it would be a shame to see it slide in importance.

    • Dauphine’s not going anywhere. If you look up “flash-in-the-pan” in the dictionary, there’s the VELON logo. ASO holds all the cards, no matter what they do to the T of S it’s boring. I’ve seen it twice in-person – the Swiss don’t even get excited. They check their watch for the exact time the race is to come past, go out into the street five minutes before, call out “Hop Swiss!” and then go back inside. ZZZZZzzzzzzz.

      • The TdS was a very good race last year, definitely one of the better editions, I’d say it was a more gripping contest than the Dauphine.

      • Depends if it’s just the start for Velon… Now they’re linked with a billionaire who could actually buy races, things could change.
        And the only people standing in the way of whatever changes they would want to make are ASO – the UCI will only have eyes for the cash.

    • the catch is that next year, it might well be that everyone is looking for a wild-card invite to TdF. if teams believe that is going to happen then they will have to appease ASO as the money at stake there vastly outweighs whatever revenue sharing they may get from TdS.

      Most teams have enough star riders to keep both organisers happy but much depends what the suisse course is like – dauphine is quite GC oriented and naturally appeals to riders building for TdF. if suisse is more sprinter friendly then the solution is simple. if suisse goes mountainous too then will be more interesting to see the balance of stars

  4. Beware the very steep Col de Moissiere in stage 7 before Col du Noyer, narrow with 12-15% sections, last time Dauphine went there was 1985, stage 6, Steven Rooks won…

  5. Could you remind me whether the Dauphine is a world tour race? I thought it was, however the sentence “But the immediate effect could see Velon member teams sending their riders to Switzerland instead” indicates that perhaps it isn’t, or did you mean “best riders to Switzerland”?

    I know the biggest teams have sent to both races, but could the Dauphine lose teams completely if it’s not WT?

  6. Really impressive parcours. The prologue looks really exciting and it’s nice to see some shorter mountains stages. Will hopefully lead to some punchy racing.

  7. With the classics now in full swing and the Tour of Flanders just around the corner I find it hard to get excited about a load of emaciated waifs trailing up pass after pass, day after day. I’m sure I’ll watch, and I’ll probably enjoy it, but still.

  8. No mentions of the riders feeling like they’re drowning in lactic on the col du noyer? After all, it does mean ‘to drown’ in French.

    • The “du” indicates a masculin noun and translated is it a walnut tree. Pass of the walnut tree. Can’t you just picture it.

      Climbers will be dreaming about this already. Stage win and leaders jersey – maybe for a few days: Bardet, Pinot… and Yates too! Gopro or not it will be a better race than Switzerland.

  9. I prefer calling it Queen Stage rather than translating to King Stage, it has a nice parallel to chess, where the Queen is the most important piece. In that analogy a King Stage would be the Champs-Elysee stage of the Tour de France, something you need in order to win but at the same time it plays very little role in you getting the win.

    • I was going to suggest a slight correction to Inrng: “In English it would be King Stage…except that it’s not.” That lead me to the chess thing as well.

    • …and can do the most damage, so if you look at a stage race, the Queen stage is the stage that you expect to do the most damage GC wise, but as in Chess, it isn’t always the case.

      • Chess aside, don’t the English have a Queen at the moment? (as do us Danes). So it has to be the queen stage, right? But in Danish we actually call it Konge-etapen (which would translate to “the King’s Stage”)

    • There is no denying that cycling is still a masculine sport. Naturally all queen stages have a winner who is the “victor”. Finding parallels with chess might be intelllectually satisfying for enthusiasts but I think the use of this term in cycling has more to to with identifying the victor of this stage as the person who “conquers” a protected land, in other words, having a sexual intercourse with the virgin. This is not an issue of political correctness; this is about mentality. We keep talking about issues like chemical/mechanical doping or the use of motorbikes in races which are hardly unimportant, but there are wider topics which should be discussed in the cycling community.

      • I totally share your general worries, but I don’t think this is the case; or, better said, the semantic imaginary you refer to might be prompted, as a later and not-implied consequence, by the phrase, but I believe that the phrase as such doesn’t arise from that perspective.

        I don’t know if it first was used in French, nor if French works the same way as Italian, but in Italian we historically have the “tappa regina”: a very common extensive use of the term “regina”, included in dictionaries, which makes it work as an apposition meaning simply *primacy*, quite far from any sexual implication.
        A couple of examples: “la fanteria era la regina delle battaglie” (“infantry was the queen in battles”), “la carità, virtù regina” (“the charity, queen virtue”). I’d also say that this use precedes the diffusion of chess. An identical use can indeed be registered for the word “re”, “king” – quite obviously… with gramatically masculine words.
        What happens in Italian is that every word has a very clear gramatical gender, out of the two only available in the language, whose relation to gender as a social construction or to the idea of sexed subjects is often quite loose (or simply not-existing, given the fact that, without a third gramatical gender of neuter, the boundary and hence the distinction carried by the gramatical form inevitably becomes blurred or not-significant, even if it can be re-signified by poetry, advertising and so on). A lot of words associated to concepts which a culture as “machista” as the Italian one sees as related to the universe of men are, indeed, gramatically femenine (dunno… war, power, grit, boldness, tiger…); it’s simply unrelated, although, as I said, word or concept puns can be created “actualising”, so to say, the linguistic abstraction.
        “Tappa” is femenine, hence it must be “regina”, but “Stelvio” is masculine, thus you’ve got a cyclosportive named “Re Stelvio”, and you could say that you must conquer that, too, but now no relation to gender is apparent anymore. It’s just about the Stelvio being considered as the *greatest* mountain pass (not the harder), and a “tappa” as the most decisive one.

        • You’ve convinced me that Inrng had it right and the chess angle is really not implied since the gender distinction it is based on is arbitrary. Maybe “monarch stage” would be as good a translation to English as “king stage.”

    • Yes, he was done to do Paris-Nice but skipped it, the plan is to have him race in France before he makes his bid for the Tour de France. The route suits him well although I didn’t mention him above as he’s with Astana, a team that’s not with Velon.

  10. About Stage 2: It is very likely that the location of the finish line is on the slopes of Chalmazel ski resort, on the D63 road. Altitude (1114 m) corresponds exactly to that indicated on the map of the National Geographic Institute. The name “Chalmazel-Jeansagniere” is the new name of the town: Chalmazel and Jeansagniere merged on 1 January 2016.

  11. Stage 2: More on the (likely) finish: 6.8k at 3.7%, but non linear
    4k at 5% from Chalmazel (town) to the intersection with the road to the Col du Béal (D6xD63)
    1.7k flat
    0.6k at 8%
    last 0.5k flat
    Can’t wait for a recon ride!

  12. Looks like you could base yourself (or at least fly/train in to) Grenoble, Lyon or Geneva this year. The Criterium is an EXCELLENT spectator event, it’s much easier to get accommodation etc, plus you don’t have to lose days travelling to catch the action.

    Had a great time touring with just my race bike, handlebar bag and a stuff sack of clothes back in 2012…

  13. Great article.

    I love both races, as it happens, but I hope there’s a good turnout for the Dauphiné as the parcours this year deserves it.

  14. It’s good t see the Col de la Madeleine in the race. I am curious about this climb. Looking at the numbers it seems to be one of the hardest French climbs, and a couple of riders have said it is THE hardest. Why is this climb never used as a summit finish? Or has it? I remember it being used in the 2010 TDF and it was an exciting stage.

    • Why no summit finish? Because there’s nothing at the top, no ski resort willing to pay a premium in order to market itself to the world. But it’s not that hard either, difficult yes but not savage. I can’t remember the year now – 2008 or 2009? – but Fabian Cancellara led the bunch most of the way up.

      • As someone who has skiied there, I can say that no, the Col de la Madeleine has no ski resort at the summit itself, but it has a few at both ends at about 1600 meters elevation. So why not stop there?

  15. A very strange concept of cycling indeed. XXXXS-sized stages, all finishing uphill, and no flat TT to compensate. If that’s the concept, a one-stage Dauphiné would suffice.

    • I agree. Everyone seems to go crazy for the uphill finishes these days as if that is the only way a bike race can be interesting. Everyone raved about the Vuelta last year but I found it very samey. Sure Dumuoilin hung on well in the climbs, but by the time you’ve watched him do it for the 5th or 6th day in a row… well. My highlight of any grand tour now is the first week where you get a variety of stages and everyone can come out to play.

      • Yes, grand tours lack variety in their stages now. People rave about how exciting short stages are, but long stages with many climbs can be the most exciting – it all depends on how the riders race it. This also means that having an endless series of summit finishes just results in the riders waiting for the last km each time. Add in the top teams riding in ‘trains’ and the grand tours are generally lacking in excitement – unless you get a rider like Contador who mixes things up.

  16. I always read and hear Queen Stage in English, a direct translation from French, or maybe not just that. Britain has a tradition for strong queens, so calling it Queen Stage comes quite natural.

    It’s kongeetappe (King Stage) in Norwegian, though (and we didn’t allow for a female head of state until recently), and Königetappe in German if I’m not mistaken.

  17. Keep ASO happy = Ride Dauphiné. Make some Velon money = Ride TdS.

    An interesting sub-plot to the races and indication of where the power is likely to shift in the coming years. My bet is ASO may shift towards a Velon style of rev share format in the TdF, but only if you place your star riders in their other less prestigious races.

    • I guess this tells us why the ASO suddenly want to pull the plug on the WT… they want leverage on all teams to send their ‘A teams’ to ASO races… not just the pro-conti wildcard hunters… otherwise Velon starts to get some actual real leverage.

      • Money talks and despite the TdF being the best place for team sponsors to be seen, a revenue share model provides the best long term solution to team funding. ASO are in an extremely strong position to provide both. Providing log term security and exposure to the sport and teams – if they switched to a rev share model. The UCI could impose this model on them if they wanted. This would negate Velon and bring the teams together. All that is needed is productive discussion between the UCI and ASO.

        • ASO also want to protect their races – because that’s their source of income – from the UCI/Velon’s ideas; e.g. the ongoing idea of Cookson to reduce the Vuelta to two weeks.
          It might also be that ASO genuinely do believe in the importance of the possibility of promotion/relegation, but – although I think that’s correct – I’m not convinced that this is their primary objective.
          The UCI want to rid the ASO of their power – and are willing to side with Velon in an attempt to do so.
          Velon only represent some teams who are only looking out for their own interests, using ‘long term security’ as their excuse.

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