Critérium du Dauphiné Stage 1 Preview

The race leaves the Alps for the Rhone valley and a likely sprint finish with Alexander Kristoff and Nacer Bouhanni the top picks.

Prologue Wrap: Alberto Contador dethroned Chris Froome from the hotseat after the most trialling of time trials with a lean and mean looking Richie Porte also pipping Froome. Just 3.9km but the top-10 was spread across 40 seconds. Surprise of the day was Julian Alaphilippe, tipped in the preview but more for curiosity and he finished fifth. Disappointment of the day was Fabio Aru, over a minute down in 36th place but all the more reason to attack. Disappointed of the day was Tony Martin who labelled the course “a circus” on Twitter, wondering who really wanted to see a course like this only to discover a lot of replies telling him people liked it.

The Route: the race leaves the Alps but with a few climbs along the way, no mountain passes but enough to award the mountains jersey with only one point available to just the first rider over the top. The first climb is listed as 1.6km at 6.4%, a sprint for someone to take polka-dot points but as the profile shows the road keeps on climbing up and up. Two more short marked climbs and then the race formally exits the Alps via a scenic gorge as they emerge into the Rhone valley for the feedzone, head past Belley – the finish of Stage 4 – and onwards for a likely sprint finish. The last 40km see the race track the river Rhone.

The Finish: St Vulbas is a small place, population 1,068 but before you imagine a quaint village it’s really a place dominated by a giant nuclear power station and the finish line is in the middle of an industrial units and warehouses. More the better for the sprinters who get wide roads. It’s as flat as it sounds but there is a level crossing with 900m to go. Don’t worry, it serves the power station and is unlikely to operate when the race arrives.

The Contenders: what chance the winner wears a red jersey? Take your pick between Alexander Kristoff of Katusha or Nacer Bouhanni of Cofidis. Kristoff is the prime pick because he’s won a stage of the Tour of California against decent opposition, showing fine condition to come back into contention for the sprint on a hilly day.


Bouhanni by contrast has won three stages of the Tour de Picardie but against more modest opposition and he’s still in ascendant form. He’ll fancy his chances as he’s beaten Kristoff in a straight sprints this year in Paris-Nice and comes with his sprint train of Bozič, Soupe and Laporte.

Next come a range of sprinters who seem to have question marks hanging over them. Bora-Argon 18’s Sam Bennett was last yesterday, it didn’t matter but suggests he might not be in the top condition needed for today after a hard crash in the Tour of Belgium. Moreno Hofland (Lotto-Jumbo) looked off the pace in the Giro and hasn’t won for a year, a drought for a sprinter. Jens Debusschere (Lotto-Soudal) can sprint well but is an infrequent winner. Niccolo Bonifazio is handy on a hillier course. Edward Theuns has just won a stage of the Tour of Belgium so worth looking out for. IAM Cycling have two sprinters in Jonas Vangenecten and podium dancer Sondre Holst Enger.

John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) still seems to be working his way back, a win today would be great but not essential and he’s still wearing that finger splint and so Zico Waeytens gets the chance. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) might like tomorrow’s stage more but he’s heavier these days and could participate in the sprint and there’s always the chance teammate Steve Cummings takes a flyer.

Alexander Kristoff, Nacer Bouhanni
Debusschere, Theuns, Bennett

Weather: sunshine and some clouds and a top temperature of 22°C. No wind to worry about.

TV: the finish is forecast for 5.10pm Euro time. It should be available on the same channel you watch the Tour de France and/or Eurosport. If not then cyclingfans, cyclinghub and have schedules and streams.

52 thoughts on “Critérium du Dauphiné Stage 1 Preview”

  1. ‘wondering WHO really wanted to see a course like this’
    fell free to delete, only trying to help, thanks as always.

    • No surprise Tony Martin didn’t like the course, but why does he need to whine about it? It’s not like they put it in at the last minute. Perhaps that was the trick? To force a ride from those who would have gone home before a test like this if it was held AFTER they had the chance to gain their personal objective(s)?
      No matter what happens in this race (barring major crashes) it’s still a MONTH before Le Grande Boucle, so basing a guess who will be in yellow in Paris on these results is like declaring the Giro over with a week left to race.

    • Not a complaint as such from me, but the downside to that start is that we’ve likely already got our podium established. The prologue really has set out who is in form and who is lacking.
      No one is going to knock Porte, Froome and Contador off the top three places now?

      As for Aru, what does he do – ride for condition, I guess, or ride to his power numbers.

      So the prologue has made for an immediate race-within-a-race.
      I understand Ferdi’s criticism from the other day now – less of a race, more of a work-out-by-numbers perhaps?

      • I’ll admit up front to not looking at the race route in any detail, but are we ready to call this race over? The idea that Aru “rides for condition” or worse, “rides to his power numbers” which sounds like SKY-speak to me is all that’s left for him? I would think that he has to RACE now that the simplistic watts/kg test is out-of-the-way.

        • Not to buy into Aru’s options….but Astana speak in watts too. Recall Nibalis request to Tangert as they rendezvous’ed (?) in the mountains late in stage 20 of the Giro….375 watts.

          • I’m afraid the tech is here to stay, it has become ubiquitous. And it’s obviously a big help in managing one’s effort.

            I wonder who the last rider who went by feel alone was? They’re surely retired.

          • Not wanting to lower the tone but after watching the post stage interviews, Aru said he was hopeful of riding himself into the race (contention) as it progresses. I’m struggling to put this any other way so I’ll just say bluntly.. Aru and Astana are too fishy (they stink) for me.

            I understand that certain riders don’t loose there conditioning quicker than others, therefore they gain places as the race accumulates, but to say that in a 1 week stage race, with 3 guys known for GT stamina. (Podium of stage 1)

            Maybe I’m picking for a fight but Astana seem to get stronger as races progress if they contain the number 1 pick. Also, Aru in last years Giro started my genuine dislike for this team, based on my armchair viewing and no other evidence.

            Can anyone convince or at least say something positive to me about this team? If Sagan goes to Astana I will loose the thrill of watching one of my favourite riders.

          • @Larry T.
            Maybe Astana rides less on powermeter (curiously enough, that 375W impressed many, but few quote the rest of that interview, when Tangert said that they instantly and personally decided to push harder than planned considering race context) – but, Larry, the stem watching joke could be applied to Nibali, too, since it’s probably a breathing technique they more or less copied from Sky (and Sky… who knows? Perhaps they copied it from Ferrari, just as one could suspect they did with the beetroot thing).
            You could see Nibali looking down thousands of time, this Giro and in 2014 Tour, too. It doesn’t look like it works that great with him, anyway, but this is just a superficial impression.
            That said, it’s true that, breathing apart, Sky GT guys appear to be drawing more heavily than the rest from wattage data, but, that’s what they do, isn’it? I’d like to see powermeter banned from racing, and not because of Sky, but while they aren’t, we must limit ourselves to dislike them and their growing diffusion well further than Sky’s boundaries.

            Pinot, too, said that he’s hoping in next weekend. I’m expecting you to smell him, as well.

            Anyway, these are things people say for journos. What do you want them to do? Tell the world that, despite being top GT contenders, they’re there training and that they’ll go for top-tens or at best for a stage win? The world already knows – or should.

            A lot of factors affect the third-week performances and what you say about last Giro makes little sense (what was wrong with Aru? He was far from being on the top of his game during the third week!): however, that’s not something which will ever let you know if an athlete or a team are on doping.
            Froome grew stronger and stronger in 2014 Vuelta, what about that? And in this year’s Romandie, too: hey, it’s less than a week! Quintana grew stronger in 2015 Tour and in 2014 Giro. This year, Contador appeared to become stronger and stronger in all the *short* stage races he was competing in, except Catalunya. What are you going to do with that?

          • Merino- I’ve posted this before but Astana is a team I dislike (right up there with SKY) but one that has a lot of guys (Italians) I like, unlike SKY, who has just a few. I feel sort of sorry for every Italian racer who has to ride on a foreign team due to the economic disaster that is Italy at present, whether it’s Astana, SKY or the others. For many fans it’s the team they like and they’re fans of everyone on the team and the riders are sort of interchangeable, for me it’s the reverse – I can’t think of a single TEAM that I would be happy to see win unless it was a rider I liked. Sounds like you’re a fan of Sagan – but will that really be tested if he ends up at Astana? He’s not going to change if he’s wearing the light blue kit as I don’t think the toxicity of Astana has changed Nibali, Aru, Tiralongo, etc. to any great degree.

          • Larry – please don’t misjudge the following comment, but some people’s (potentially Merino’s, but I don’t want to speak for him) opinions or feelings of toxicity on Astana may continue to some of the Italians you mentioned.

          • Of course it is impossible to know for sure, but when an athlete comes out and says his team is completely clean (as Nibali did in 2015 via a letter to the UCI) in the middle of very obvious doping violations, it is really suspect and adds to the public’s mistrust.

            I’m not accusing Nibali of doping, but I’m very curious about the entire Astana team and program.

          • No offense to anyone directly or intentionally, but the whole suspecting someone in pro cycling of doping while not suspecting others is a little old. It is much bet and a much more enjoyable way to follow the sport if you resign yourself to the fact that it is probable that a large majority of the pros dope in some way or another. Maybe someone is clean, but that’s unlikely.

            Let’s look at who we know from history that, with certainty, hasn’t doped:

            Graeme Obree
            David Moncoutié
            Christophe Bassons
            Some guy from Norway
            Probably some riders at Canondale, which is Part of the reason Canondale sucks.
            Some say Marco Pinotti. I don’t know.

            Lets assume everyone on this list is clean (My for sure list is three people). In common, these guys are all freaks and or oddballs. Way Outliers. How many riders in today’s peloton are outliers? I think there’s your safest guess; not many, if anyone, are/is clean.

            So, to hate Vino, but love Brailsford, or Lefevere, or three piece suit Johnny is only taking away from your enjoyment of following a sport that you probably love to do, Clean.

          • @Anon
            Spot-on comment.

            The argument “he told the team was clean, but there were guys who weren’t (and they also had troubles in the juvenile team), hence you must suspect him, too” is simply laughable.

            Let’s go back and read again Pinotti’s opinions on Armstrong, for instance.
            Did any Sky guy point out in 2012 that the structure was plagued with people that a few months later they deemed as deserving to be kicked out right away?
            And would you trust that “any-doping-positive-will-have-shut-in-a-blink” TM who then had a doping positive (or whatever it was) and didn’t close – and luckily so, IMHO?

          • @anon – agreed – it’s much better to just enjoy the races for what they are. I should definitely do it more often.

            @ gabriele – If you don’t see what I mean, then we should leave it at that and not say anymore on the matter.

          • ad CA: Let’s not forget the big picture and the situation in which Nibali or more to the point his lawyer Fausto Malucchi wrote – but OK Nibali signed it and gave his consent – that infamous letter. Nibali was facing the possibility – real but how real I cannot say – that his team would be expelled from the WT and that he would not be able to pursue his sporting goals.

            I didn’t like the tone of the letter or some of the arguments made in it, but I can understand that Nibali wasn’t content to just cry all the way to the bank. Besides, I can imagine that some people at the top of Astana made some phone calls to Nibali’s manager and said “Please make Vincenzzo do something for ss in this unfortunate situation. Don’t forget we pay him millions!”

          • EskorrikAsko: Definitely, there was that creeping feeling that the letter from Nibali’s camp was “requested” from Astana management. With that being said, the letter I think served its purpose. It was never going to completely absolve Astana from any suspicion or wrong-doing, but it let authorities know that the star rider believes in the team and definitely would not contribute to a process that brought the team down. Consequently, it reiterated to the UCI that it would have serious trouble shutting the team down.

  2. That prologue looked painful. Gearing was so light for some it looked like they were pedaling in place. Fun to watch but not fun to do for sure. To put such an intense effort at the beginning of the race was a bit freaky. Surely the decision was made by race organizers without consulting the riders association.

    • It’s not a union matter to put a hill in a bike race. Most of the peloton were just working slowly up it in tiny gears, but that’s no different to a regular prologue TT where apart from the GC guys and discipline specialists the rest just roll through. If Tony Martin and others don’t fancy this then they should have asked to ride Romandie instead, or maybe their teams told them to ride to get some hard mountain kilometres in before the TDF in which case their objections are moot.

    • “Surely the decision was made by race organizers without consulting the riders association.”

      Race organisers should set their parcours by arrangement with riders now? *shakes head*

    • Race organisers don’t need to consult for a course design… and besides the severity of a hill is no grounds to complain. Danger or potential weather issues are valid concerns, but the only danger in this stage is falling off your bike if you’re stuck at a stand-still on the steepest sections!

  3. Too bad the telly failed to show Ian Stannard or Stijn Vandenbergh steaming up the mountain. Aru probably failed because he forgot to warm up while trying to find the most unattractive pair of shades to wear. To me the most delightful performance came from the dynamic Etixx duo Alaphilippe and D. Martin. Both guys seem to be in super condition.

    • You surely meant the Second Tinkoff rider 🙂 Well the likes of Kreuziger, Kiserlovski or Valgren are there in domestic roles and it would not make a worthy result, if they spent all energy to end some 15 placings better than they did. This is not a GT and they evidently do not calculate with plan B. Mountain stages will show.

  4. Sorriest sight of the day had to be the unfortunate Arthur Vichot – fancy having Alberto Contador and Richie Porte as your minute men on a mountain TT!?!?

  5. I agree with Tony Martin how awful making riders start a race this way. Surely they have human rights!! (sarcasm intended).

  6. “no mountain passes but enough to award the mountains jersey with only one point available to just the first rider over the top”

    Didn’t yesterday’s stage count as a Cat 1 climb towards the mountain classification, results show Contador on 10 points , Porte 8, Froome 6, Martin 4, Alaphilippe 2, Poels 1

    Froome is shown as wearing the jersey today , with Porte in the points jersey but Contador obviously leads both classifications.

    With only 4 points on offer today Contador with still be leading the the mountains classification after the stage.

  7. Anyone else (negatively) surpriset at Pinot? 52 seconds down a bit much, considering his generally decent climbing abilities. Hmm…

    • As predicted yesterday: he’s a diesel and doesn’t like steep climbs, it was too explosive an effort. If it had been 39km instead of 3.9km then a top position would have been more likely. He’ll find the later stages of the race more suitable.

  8. The relevant routine radioactive releases of a power plant are a thorny problem, even if the measured effects on human health are controversial (knowing how research works, I’m rather impressed by the sheer fact that some effects have actually been proven and that follow up is systematically recommended by all studies – when you consider the economic and political pressure to deem that all as safe!).
    I’m always amazed by the proximity of Saint-Vulbas to Lyon, about 30 kms! And it’s one of the older NPP in France, over 35 years old.
    And the industrial area 5 kms away from the NPP? Concentrating people and goods that near to a radioactive source of regular emission doesn’t look a great idea to me, be it only for the precautionary principle’s sake. Barilla’s producing there, too. Take care with you carbo-load, tonight.

    • Gabriele,
      what do you mean by “the relevant routine radioactive releases of a (nuclear) power plant”? Do they (have to) routinely release radioactivity? Or do you mean any increased measurements of radioactivity in the vicinity of some (all?) NPPs? Would you please elaborate?

      • Can’t elaborate too much, but, what I can sketch on memory is more or less the following.
        And I must add that I gathered information on the subject, but I’m no specialist at all.

        The more recurrent release is that of contaminated water, only part of which is reused in the cooling system: a significant part is filtered (because it’s polluted also by other chemicals, the filtering doesn’t eliminate radiation) and released into the environment. Then there’s the vapor. Then there are the gases collected from the liquid elements of the cooling system, which are released into atmosphere after a period (days, not years nor months) in decay tanks. Besides there are the more general airborne radioactive elements (not only gases) which contaminate the inner atmosphere of the plant and which are “pushed out” through periodic ventings to keep the context more safe for NPP’s workers: their concentration becomes obviously lesser in the external environment than it was in a closed structure, but they’re still able to contaminate air as well as both water and soil. Finally, the leaks – *very* far from irrelevant.

        Many batches of gases or water or other liquids are released into the environment after a period of storing in which some radioactive elements should decay, but some specific elements are too expensive to be tested for, hence you simply don’t know if they’re there and if they’re active when you release the batches.
        On top of all that, there’s a well-known and huge problem with detecting and monitoring these phenomena. Sometimes the NPPs don’t report such activities, or the data comes from computer modeling and isn’t checked against real data.

        The consequence is a however variable yet systematic and routinary increase of radioactive contamination level around any NPP, even if that varies according to the type of plant, its age and the usual practice adopted there.

        Some effects on human health have been reported within a 7 kms range, even if, depending on other conditions (aquifers, directions of wind and rivers), changes in radioactivity might be reported at distances of up to 30 kms.

        “Permissible levels” are set by regulatory institutions, but those levels are far from being non-significant (without even entering the debate about how much you can trust their detection).

        It’s true that the subject of effects on human health is controversial (evidence is often clear only in some specific cancers), what isn’t controversial is the rise in radioactivity near NPPs, because the factors I listed above simply cannot be eliminated – and the worst one are possibly the leaks, which we tend to consider “out of any equation” because that’s precisely the part we just “don’t / can’t control” (indeed), but whose impact tends to be notable… as ever is with the “out of the equation” factors.

        • If it weren’t for your reputation I would dismiss these writings as some eco warrior rants.

          Could you put those releases in context? I know that natural radiation varies between 1 and 13 millisieverts. What are the rises in the vicinity of the NPP as the result of the releases? As far as I can tell the rises are well under the naturally occurring variations. I think it could be easily verified with a simple geiger counter.

          On the other hand coal powered plants release 100x times the radiation of nuclear plant and nobody twitches an eyelash.

          I desperately need a long bike ride 🙂

          • I’m no coal advocate, either 🙂

            However, most of those who make the coal/nuclear comparison refer to a study realised for the USA Government by *Union Carbide*, which modelled the presence of radioactive particles in coal in a debatable (*very* theoretical) way and which, even more important, only took into account airborne affluents, whereas a lot of radioactive releases of a NPP are related to liquids.
            That said, I’d prefer living near a NPP than around a coal plant, no doubt 🙂

            Moreover, living in a big city with constant air pollution is probably “worse” in terms of your general health (radioactivity isn’t more dangerous than other factors) than in the country near a NPP (well, it also depend on what disease you prefer to suffer from).

            Nevertheless, the problem is the comparative effect of the presence of the plant. The existence of some other possibly stronger factors of health damage or even, more specifically, of radioactivity exposure (radon, frequent intercontinental flights, being in need of frequent CT scans etc.) doesn’t mean that it’s ok to get a little more! In fact, people usually apply (or should apply) a policy of minimum exposure to those factors… something which becomes complicated when it’s about the whole environment you live in.

            The exact measurement is not as easy as you suggest. After Fukushima (way stronger radioactive release) thorough tests were carried out up to tens of kms away from the plant and a huge accident-related variability was observed.

            All that said, I’m totally open to the theoretical possibility that radioactivity might not be as harmful as people tend to imagine; truth is that we don’t know much about its health effects on low dosis for a long span of time.
            What keeps me a little worried is that epidemiological studies (normally paid to show that everything is just fine, folks) couldn’t rule out the correlation between living near a NPP and health effects.
            In some specific cases (thyroid cancer, especially in woman), on the contrary, a clear correlation has been observed. Which means that we may not know *how* “a” is producing “b”, yet we see that all the other variables equal the presence of “a” is associated with an otherwise unexpected growth of “b” cases…

        • Hi Gabriele,
          thank you very much for your explanation. I didn’t know that a NPP regularly releases contaminated liquids and air. I thought and it’s communicated that way that releases like this only happen during “minor” accidents and each and every one of them has to be reported to the governmental supervisory body.
          What I know is that there is statistically proven evidence that some sorts of cancer are more likely in the environment of NPPs. We’re not talking about 100 times more but significantly more. The absolute numbers in cases per 100.000 people can still be considered to be low if you look at them with the cold eyes of a statistician but any rise in those numbers should ring the alarm belss.
          And given the kind of stochastically working mechanism that starts the formation of a tumor it’s absolutely no wonder that higher radioactive radiation values and the number of cancer cases per 100.000 people are related.

          Thanks again!

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