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.
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.
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.
|Alejandro Valverde, Romain Bardet|
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.