Who Will Win The Critérium du Dauphiné?

The Critérium du Dauphiné starts on Sunday 4 June and lasts for a week. A concentrated version of the Tour de France including some roads ahead of July as well as an A-list of Tour de France contenders in action. Here’s a look at the contenders for the yellow jersey.

Route summary
To examine the contenders let’s consider the roads. Stage 1 features a hilly circuit race around Saint-Etienne with a big loop then a second finishing circuit that is harder than it looks, not enough to blow the race apart but enough to expose any pretenders. Stages 2 and 3 are for the sprinters, or at least the few who will start this mountain stage race. Stage 4 is a 23.5km time trial, held on rural roads with some climbing: a long haul up from the start and then the snaking hairpins of the Montée de Demptézieu towards the finish. The TT will prise the overall classification apart and penalise plenty of pure climbers, some will lose over a minute here. Stage 5 could be a sprint stage but by now some teams will fancy their chances in a breakaway across famous wine country.

Stage 6 features 50km of the Tour de France’s ninth stage, a beast of a day in July, but this time it has only the Mont du Chat with its 10-15% slopes, all before a fast descent to the finish. Stage 7 goes to Alpe d’Huez via the Chartreuse mountains and then takes the Col de Sarenne to the Alpe rather than the famous ski-station access road which makes the day wilder. Stage 8 is just 115km and packs in the Saisies-Aravis-Colombière trilogy, an Alpine classic before the novelty with the climb to the Plateau de Solaison, over 11km of climbing and most of it at 10% or more: a very selective finish. Time bonuses apply with 10-6-4 seconds for the first three on a stage, except for the TT.

The Contenders

Every year Chris Froome has won the Tour de France he’s won the Dauphiné so that’s three wins for this race. He hasn’t had a win in 2017 which is unusual but doesn’t matter much as he’s got little to prove nor does he need to win over his team with a demonstration of force. Still the lack of success this year has been notable, normally when he comes down from Mont Teide it’s to contend only he wasn’t just a runner-up in Romandie and Catalonia, he was out of the picture finishing 18th and 30th overall respectively. We’ll see if the work done in May pays off and the course suits him well given the time trial and the mountain stages plus he comes with a strong team. As ever Team Sky bring a strong team with the likes of Paris-Nice winner Sergio HenaoMikel Nieve and Michał Kwiatkowski.

Richie Porte (BMC Racing) lost out on the podium a year ago after getting boxed in during the final moments of the final stage. This year things are going much better, even a setback at Paris-Nice where he lost time in the cold and crosswinds saw him rebound to the take the mountain stage on the Col de la Couillole and this matters because in the past he seemed to fade mentally upon a setback, now he’s more resilient. He’s won the Tour de Romandie this year and wants to win the Dauphiné and there’s every chance he pushes Chris Froome, helped by a strong team even if it’s not the equal of Team Sky. Porte’s form this year brings more assurances and one of the highlights of this race will be seeing the apprentice challenge his old master.

Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) was once labelled the “best stage racer of his generation”. Maybe he still? But these days he’s more the showman who wins plaudits for his efforts rather than trophies, think of Paris-Nice where his attack with 50km to go on the last stage was thrilling but didn’t deliver a win; or his duel with Chris Froome in the 2014 Dauphiné. We’ve seen this again and again and should celebrate the dynamism rather than rue the lack of success. Apart from the overall in the Vuelta a Burgos last year his last win came in the Dauphiné’s “Donkey Kong” prologue last year. He climbs fast and can be good in a time trial but perhaps a podium place is more likely than the win?

What about Alejandro Valverde? Earlier this year it would have been news if he’d lost a race but he tends to fare less well in the summer stage races. We’ll see him back racing again and staking a claim (implicit or explicit?) to lead Movistar come July. The win seems unlikely but he’s good for stage wins and a time bonus or two should keep him close. Team mate Rubén Fernández is one to watch for the future too.

Romain Bardet made the podium last year thanks to some very strong climbing performances. Ag2r La Mondiale bring a promising team with Pierre Latour and Alexis Vuillermoz outsiders for a stage win while leader Bardet will the stage over the Mont du Chat suits thanks to its steep slopes, fast descent and the finish is almost outside Ag2r La Mondiale’s service course which isn’t just an anecdote it means many of the team’s riders know the roads. If he can climb as fast things will be going well but the time trial stage is the concern, he lost minutes in the Ardèche time trial stage of the Tour last July so look to see if he’s improved. Ditto Dan Martin (Quick Step) he made the podium last year, he’s going to lose time in the time trial but should be a contender for a mountain stage win.

Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Drapac) returns to the race that made him famous but has been through the wilderness in recent years. On his day he’s a strong climber and good against the watch. His win in the Tour of California was solid but he’ll need to improve to contend for the win next week.

Fabio Aru is back and in need of a result. Astana’s leader had to miss the Giro. Technically he was over the knee injury by the start in Sardinia, instead it was the rest period that left him unconditioned. So we can expect him to be injury free and having banked a month’s training we’ll see how he’s doing. The time trial will be a penalty stage for him but he’s aggressive in the mountains. Jakob Fuglsang is a reliable deputy but as ever is good for a top-10 but yet to win a World Tour race during his career.

Orica-Scott bring the tandem of Esteban Chaves and Simon Yates. Chaves has been struggling with injury for some time so it’s good to see him back racing in Europe. A win would be too much to ask given his absence from racing, more so given the time trial along the way. Yates finished second in the Tour de Romandie after winning a mountain stage and again like many contenders he’s got what it takes for the mountains but the time trial won’t help his chances for winning the GC. Like Adam in the Giro the best young rider jersey is a target.

Warren Barguil needs a result, long a promising rider and we can see why, a podium at the Tour de Suisse last year but few wins to speak of. Injuries and misfortune have been plaguing him including a crash at the Tour de Romandie this year where he broke his pelvis. He’s no longer eligible for the best young rider competition so a solid placing overall or a stage win would do him wonders but it could be too soon after his injuries. Sunweb team mate Sam Oomen could be the surprise package. Things are looking up for Dutch cycling and 21 year old Oomen is the next in the talent pipeline, he’s a strong climber and if not yet great in time trials – 12th in Paris-Nice’s Mont Brouilly chrono – the signs are he will be able to hold his own in the years to come. He might enjoy the finish on the Plateau de Solaison, he won a stage of the Tour de l’Avenir there (although only after Kazakhstan’s Ilya Davidenok tested positive).

Finally FDJ bring 20 year old David Gaudu, one to watch rather than count on a win, his performance in the Tour of Catalonia was impressive enough.

Richie Porte
Chris Froome
Alberto Contador
Alejandro Valverde, Romain Bardet
Yates, Martin

Weather: the long range forecast says it’ll be hot at times but with a strong chance of thunderstorms.

TV: the daily finish times vary, typically 3.00pm CET on the weekends and 4.20pm CET weekdays with the last 60-90 minutes live on air. It should be on the same channel you watch the Tour de France on and/or Eurosport too but the latter is full of tennis from Paris and some stages will not be live on Eurosport.

Previews: there will be daily previews on here each morning.

51 thoughts on “Who Will Win The Critérium du Dauphiné?”

  1. There was a time that if the name “Alberto Contador” was on the start list in a stage race then you had found your winner. But this is not so anymore and we get stylish podiums or guerrilla raids that shred the race as in last year’s Vuelta instead. At least he keeps the race interesting for the sort of people who complain about mountain trains.

    Incidentally, am I right in thinking that this race boasts a better set of GC contenders than the recently finished Giro? What a strange situation.

    I see that our host has tipped Richie Porte for the top step and I don’t necessarily disagree but the problem with that is that if anyone knows him, its his friend Chris Froome. Froome has not troubled the scorers yet this year but that might not be as bad as it sounds since in Catalunya it was missing a split (AGAIN!) that cost him after finishing second to Valverde on the Queen stage (ahead of Alberto) and in Romandie he was injured. He does need to lay a good set of cards on the table at this race though (to “badge himself up” in the words of Carlton Kirby) otherwise the knives will be out. I see it as between Porte and Froome for the overall. Providing Froome demonstrates he’s in the game for July it might not even matter if Porte pips him here. It will make the build up that much more exciting. If Froome wins he will also become the rider with the most wins in the history of this race.

    • “Incidentally, am I right in thinking that this race boasts a better set of GC contenders than the recently finished Giro? What a strange situation.”

      It’s close but ultimately Porte’s never came higher than fifth at a GT, Contador seems to be on a downward trajectory, and Froome, well, he’s the best GT rider now but his form is questionable. I’d take Dumoulin, Quintana and Nibali ahead of that. Then you have Bardet/Pinot who are on a level and Adam Yates was at the Giro too (top four TdF rider). Valverde is Valverde so I’m not sure who you can compare him too admittedly! I think the likes of Mollema, Zakarin and Kruiswijck also have more GC potential than the second tier 2017 Tour riders. Chavez is very good, obviously, but again had had a bad year. Ditto previous GT winner Aru who, if I had to guess, I’d suggest will never win another GT (harsh prediction I know).

      • You took the words right off of my keyboard. Giro experience of the contenders: Porte-DNF, his best showing was due to a large breakaway not his personal form; Contador #1; Froome-too cold, rainy, bumpy too many twisty descents, narrow roads, etc; Valverde #3; Yates and Martin, really? GT contenders? No, I don’t think this is a better line up, just different for a different race and a different setting. The Giro and the Tour contrast like a guerilla war and a fixed piece battle, fought by different means and types of armies.

        • Simon Yates won a stage and finished 6th in the Vuelta last year while riding in support of Chaves, and he’s only 24, so he’s absolutely a grand tour contender.

      • Contador, Froome, Valverde and Aru all have grand tour wins. Porte is as good as any of the Zakarins and Pozzovivos (and has stage race wins that they don’t) as is Chaves, Simon Yates and Bardet. I’d say the Dauphine start list was marginally better quality in GC terms.

        • Not disrespecting anyone, but allow me to use the logic and arguments of many folks posting here in the past. Nibali has never beaten anybody good, Giro competition is weak and he won the TDF after Froome and Contador crashed out. Therefore anybody he has actually beaten is weak. Thus Chaves, Porte, Valverde, Zakarian, Pinot, etc are not GT contenders. Aru was not the strongest rider on Astana in the Giro or Vuelta, Landa was. He only beat TD at the Vuelta because of his superior team, not his cycling. Therefore he doesn’t count either. Yates finished high up in a GT, therefore he is a contender. However, TJvG finished fifth in the TDF twice, but we know how things have turned out for him. Talansky has never really measured up. He won the CdD by infiltrating the break, not by personal glory. Contador, although great in the past is way past his prime and couldn’t even beat Sergio Henao at Paris Nice. He has only managed second places so far this year. Everyone will be wise to his ambush tactics. Thus, only Froome is a contender, but in reality he has never beaten Nibali, Quintana and Contador racing at the same time and with no crashes or mechanicals. Just a bit of pedantry, but comparing GT line ups is like comparing apples and oranges. Teams send riders based on the parcours and their goals.

  2. Porte would be the form pick, but as 2014 showed this race can surprise. I’ll be watched to see how Aru and Chaves go coming back from injury.

    • Since 2007, there’s only been 2 years (2013 & 2016) when Contador has not stood on top of a GT podium.

      His record after losing in 2013?
      Crash out of 2014 Tour.
      Win the 2014 Vuelta
      Win the 2015 Giro
      5th at the Tour after 3 GT’s in a row.

      So yes, he crashed out of 2016 Tour and struggled to come back from the hamstring tear in time for the 2016 Vuelta.. He’s still won as many GT’s as Froome since 2014.

      Why write-off a guy with the longest winning streak in GT history 2007-2015..

    • That is a great puzzle, Bora needs to solwe. If Leo is back, he could go to TdF as co-leader or plan B besides Majka. If it is not the case, he should concentrate on Vuelta.

      • We’ll see how König’s form will be at Dauphine, after the long pause. Their current No1 in this race will rather be Emmanuel Buchmann, who finished his 3 last 1 week races in 2017 at 13./7./10. For the moment Buchmann and Patrick Konrad are way ahead of König. IMHO

        • Well, over 8 minutes behind on stage 1, that should answer the question about König’s form. While Buchmann sits in top 10

    • I can’t see him winning but it’ll be interesting to see what he can do, there was a time when he was with NetApp when he could climb with Majka and ride a good time trial too before vanishing in Team Sky.

  3. It does seem to be a pretty strong line up (where does this leave the agreement between Velon and Tour de Suisse to send their strongest riders there?) certainly a TdF preview. Everything being equal it should be between Chris Froome & Richie Porte. Not sure Alberto Contador can win over multiple stages anymore and the other contenders seem to have a weakness in the TT.

    I guess Chris Froome will want to get another win and has a strong team around him. Perhaps Richie Porte winning a mountain stage but missing out on the GC to Chris Froome on the basis of the TT?

    • The Velon pacts sees teams sending a top rider to the Tour de Suisse but it doesn’t have to be the star rider on the team. As much as the side revenue from this appearance money is nice, it seems sporting considerations win over with the Dauphiné’s earlier slot on the calendar and its Tour de France route bringing more riders. But Suisse will still be a good race as usual, the way Lopez attacked in yellow on the final stage while Jarlinson Pantano won the stage made for a lively finish.

  4. Looking at the respective length of TT’s to total race length as a % ratio, the CdD has 2.03% of TT.

    As a comparison, the recent Giro (which was considered ‘TT-friendly’) TT ratio was 1.87%.
    Of course the off-set of climbs and their severity is of counter relevance, but since we’re talking of TT’ers who can climb these figures would suggest that Froome (all being well) should win.

    Interestingly the Vuelta this year is also quite long on TT ratio at 1.69% of its total length, and Dumoulin and / or Froome, could go well there if they enter. Though again, of course, the Vuelta is somewhat notorious for its tough climbing.
    (TdF 2017 on the other hand only has 1.02% of its length as TT – should Quintana have entered the Giro?)

    • Not sure that percentages of the *total* length are that useful…maybe it would be better to subtract off the long, flat stages that have ~no GC impact first?

      …so I did that, and came up with:
      – CtD: 3.91%
      – Giro: 3.16%
      – Vuelta 2.53% (1.91% without TTT)
      – TdF: 2.28%
      so the ordering doesn’t change, but the numbers bunch up a little.

      Shame there’s no easy way of calculating the number of uphill metres that are likely to be raced hard by the GC contenders in each race..

  5. I was fascinated by the subject of the “power climbs” that was discussed the other day (Giro) and the seeming rise and rise of the TT’er.
    A 7% average gradient was seen as possibly the threshold for a power climb but just looking at 2015’s Vuelta, Dumoulin won on stage 9 on a 9% average climb that kicked up into double digits of gradient, albeit it was a shorter 4km ascent. And beat Froome into second place to boot.

    • If we’re saying Dumoulin is a power athlete as opposed to power to weight then the short distance of the climb you mention is relevant. As we saw in the Giro, what Dumoulin has trouble with is changes of pace or gradient. But I do think that a Dumoulin/Froome type rider is slowly making it harder and harder for the power to weight type riders when they can diesel their way up at an increasingly difficult pace which only the most explosive (and lightest) of riders can combat and only then when on a good day. Instructive for me there was Blockhaus, a climb we were told might be the single most difficult of the Giro and on which Quintana got his only gap of the race, a measly 24 seconds which, by itself, was never going to be good for much. Grand tour route planners, for my money, need to start giving us a selection of climbs that must be ridden in different ways. So, bringing it back to the Dauphine, I’m interested to see the three mountain stages here which seem more interesting than anything the Giro mountains served up.

      • It’s not really a new thing if we consider that Indurain was doing this 25 years ago, and Antequil 50. I’m sure there was probably somebody similar before him too.

      • I seem to remember on that climb though a lot of the GC men were looking at each other (we didn’t think of TD like that then) and he took it pretty steadily and when they were looking at each other rode off the front and accelerated to the line

        • Dumoulin was initially dropped by Quintana and Pinot. His steady, constant pace broke him free of Mollema, took him past Nibali and caught back up to Pinot. I think the point in Dauphine context is that its getting harder and harder to win on modern courses as just a “pure climber”.

  6. So long as he’s carried his tremendous form over from the spring classics, Valverde should have three rings. Didn’t he finish second overall in last year’s Tour de France? The man’s on a mission, I tell ‘ya. Saying he’ll be there to support Quintana is merely smoke in our eyes.

    • Um, no. He finished 6th. The guy who finished 8th didn’t get a mention here. Louis Meintjes, he’s on the rise. And if Aru blinks, there’s Superman right behind him.

      • I left out Meintjes because I can’t list everyone… he’s another climber who will lose time in the TTs but unlike Bardet or Martin, he’s hardly won anything so his chances of winning look slimmer. Hopefully he’ll feature in the race though, a possible stage winner and his first World Tour win.

    • Valverde has a good record in one week stage races but the TT should put paid to his chances of a win. He will lose time there to all three of the contenders ranked ahead of him so he would need none of them to be in form in the mountains to have a real shot at winning.

  7. Froome will win the Dauphine and from the look of the parcours for this years tour we will all spend July watching Kyrienka drag the Sky train and the rest of the peloton at 50 kph all the way to Paris. Hopefully it won’t be as boring as 2012 but it could be.
    I love the “when he comes down from Mt. Tiede” comment.

  8. In light of the recent news aboutt the divorce of Fortuneo – Vital Concept I was struck (i.e. I hadn’t even paid any attention or noticed) by the fact that ASO has given the last of the four available wild cards to Delko – Marseille Provence KTM in this “mini-TdF/pre-TdF”-race and to Fortuneo – Oscaro (as it will be re-named by July) in the TdF proper. A matter of making the largest possible number of people and parties reasonably happy or of balancing rewards?
    Anyway, the news is made more interesting by the apparent suddenness and the somewhat strange timing. It is not all that unusual that two strong entreprenial personalities clash but usually when there is a certain amount of mutual benefit at stake, they can manage to keep things behind closed doors for as long as both deem it necessary,
    But what makes the news really hot is the latest piece of cycling gossip: former pro Jérôme Pineau is reportedly well into the process of creating an entirely new French team to which Bryan Coquard (who has declared his intention of leaving Direct Energie at the end of the year) has already been linked with. The connection with Vital Concept is that the man behind that enterprise Patrice Étienne (also the president of what was the reserve or feeder club of FVC) has according to the rumour decided to go with that project.

    • We will see with Coquard, his problem so far has been a sprint train that’s been valiant but not able to beat the bigger squads, and uncertainty over invitations to bigger races where he could contend eg Milan-Sanremo. So riding for a Pro Conti outfit with a lean budget may not be his first choice. Coquard and Pineau get along well though, their nicknames for each other are father/son.

    • I sense the wildcards is a bit of making people happy and promoting opportunities for local teams, but also allowing those teams exposure to higher-levels of racing and allowing them (on and off the bike) to gain experience of how to take part in these events. It also allows the ASO to assess the teams that they might look at for future TdF Wild Cards. Bretagne-Seche rode the 2013 CdD and were lined up for the Grand Depart a year later. Wanty-GG were invited last year and are now up to ride the 2014 TdF. I see good progression with Delko-MPKTM in rider development and recruitment but they are still too fallow in terms of the overall strength to have warranted an invite this year but would suspect they will be there next year (I understand they have long-term sponsorship in place).

      • Whoops! 2017 TdF for Wanty-GG. I struggle to know what day it is and now it seems I am struggling with years…

  9. Interesting that you say Aru’s knee was essentially ok to do the Giro, but he was undertrained and would therefore would have been off the pace. Would it not have been a good idea for him to start the Giro, struggle like a dog for a couple of weeks and then find some form in time for the mountain stages where he could have snuck off for a win or even fought Landa for the mountains jersey?

    Froome will win this, and then cake walk July.

    • it’s pretty complicated and relies on a lot of variables. the stress-rest ratio becomes more and more important the closer a rider gets to their peak fitness, so (making some assumptions here) if Aru was, say, two weeks away from peak and was suddenly thrown into a prolonged rest period, physiologically the bodies processes change direction.

      the old school method probably would have followed your advice, advances in sports science allow for more nuance and options.

      • He might have won something, and it’s a while since his won something. I’m always surprised by how willing top cyclists are to not race. Aru is obviously all in for the Tour now but what if he gets a cold or the shits in the last week?! It’ll all be wasted. It’s like if Cristiano Ronaldo had spent all season training just to play in the Champions League final knowing full well someone might stamp on his ankle in the first minute.

    • I’m intrigued by how this Hammer series will play out actually and did wonder if Inner ring would have an article about it.

      I think some of the press have been a bit harsh making out it is overly complicated and bit gimmicky but as a team event it could be quite good fun to watch.

      I imagine the format will change and be tweaked plus tactics could be quite interesting but will probably be a two way learning process. Either way at least it is an attempt to change up for format a bit.

    • I enjoyed Hammer Climb and the coverage. Live on-bike shots were good but always made me think it was a moto that was way too close.

  10. Is it just me or does Sky’s team look a long way off their tdf super squad? No Nieve, Henao, Poels or Thomas. I have a sneaky feeling the mountain stages won’t be locked down by Sky the way everybody expects.

  11. How’s it about non-GC?

    Sprinters seems like the french with their armauda are going to be good, the two vikings EBH/Kristoff are better when not on the same team. Kristoff apparently is sick with the flu right now. Richeze, Swift might have a say in this in the few semi-hard sprint stages with looong sprints.
    Ulissi, van Keirsbulk (PCS sic)/Offredo, Martin (T), Gallopin/Vanendert (is Gallopin going for some GC maybe?) for some could go for break of the day and make it?

    I didn’t see the whole start list. Any thoughts here?

    Looking forward to previews in the mornings from Ringu-san !

    Off-topic: Hammer series weren’t that bad, still TTpursuit to come, but I was entertained. Small teams make a better race in Pro-ranks, no doubt. Almost as entertaining as junior/u23/womens racing. (Which is what you should watch if WT bores you. Although this season has been f….. great!)

  12. For me the question no 1 is whether Froome gets TUE during Dauphine again (thanx Fancy Bears for spreading the truth). If he gets it, it’s game over again. It happened already at least twice and in both cases it was a really surprising effect: Froome who was out of shape, left Dauphine with superform and out of reach for all his opponents at TDF. Some “doping specialists” like Jaksche described this procedure of taking strong TUE-drugs during Dauphine as identical with proceedings popular in the era of Virenque, Ulrich, Lance asf. Only the question no 2 is whether Valverde can maintain his form and play hard against TUE-guys. Anyway if the answer for the question 1 is YES, then you can easily predict how TDF is gonna finish and no need to ask further questions like… if SKY will destroy the beauty of cycling again. I’m also interested if the topic of Froome’s TUEs will be raised by journalists during Dauphine and TDF or it will be covered/hidden again.

    • Froome never had anything new leaked in the Fancy Bears hack because he’d given details of his TUEs in public before, and neither was for Dauphiné either. So apart from being wrong and misleading you’re right to raise concerns about TUE abuse.

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