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Critérium du Dauphiné Stage 1 Preview

A scenic tour out of the city of Saint Etienne with a tough finishing circuit that could allow the overall contenders to show their form already, if not then some of the more versatile sprinters on the startlist will seize their chance.

The Route: 170.5km, first via a large loop over the Col du Pilon to the Loire valley and then the flanks of the Forez, a hilly wooded area of the Massif Central with two fourth category climbs. There’s every incentive for an early breakaway with the variety of ascents including the second category climb at St. Romain-les-Atheux where the first four riders get 5-3-2-1 points respectively, slim pickings but just enough to reward someone with the polka dot jersey.

Then comes a finishing circuit with three times up the climb to Rochetaillée on the slopes of Mont Pilat, it’s listed in the race website as 3.4km at 5.4% but it’s a touch steeper as it tracks up a gorge, there’s 6-7% here. Crucially it’s on a narrow and winding road, it’s vital to be at the front here which sets up a vicious spiral of riders trying to get to the front so the pace goes up so it becomes even more important to be at the front. They cross the top of the climb by the castle and begin the descent which is on a wider and less steep road than the climb.

The Finish: down into town again and then a gradual right hand bend within the final kilometre before 500m long final straight that’s slightly uphill.

The Contenders: remember 2015? The race began that year with a circuit race and Peter Kennaugh won the stage (pictured). This circuit aspect is familiar and the same kind of punchy rider can hope to win, if anything the finishing circuit here is harder because it’s either up or down.

Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) is an obvious pick, he sprints well and can do a climb or two, plus he has been racking up wins recently in Norway. The likes of Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrein-Merida), Ben Swift (UAE-Emirates) and Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie) can do the same too but they might find the climbing too much if the peloton gets frenetic.

Some teams have a real interest to drive the pace and this stage allows the likes of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Michał Kwiatkowski (Team Sky), Diego Ulissi (UAE-Emirates) or Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal) are good picks if the race goes into overdrive and who else but Valverde in the city of the Les Verts? Outside picks are Davide Cimolai (FDJ) and Daryl Impey (Orica-Scott).

Michał Kwiatkowski, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Alejandro Valverde
Gallopin, Swift, Cimolai, Colbrelli, Coquard, Ulissi, Impey

Weather: overnight rain clearing to leave a cool day with a top temperature of 20°C. A 20-30km/h wind will blow from the north. A lot of the finishing circuit is sheltered but it means a headwind on the descent into town, the most exposed part of the final loop.

TV: the final hour should be on TV and the finish is forecast for 3.00pm CET. It should be on the same channel you watch the Tour de France and/or Eurosport.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Anand Sunday, 4 June 2017, 9:42 am

    Contador to do an ambush before being put on the back foot!

    Would love EBH or Coquard win, the headwind will probably extinguish the late Gallopin-type of attack from some Ks out. Without headwind, a solo win from Olivier Naesen.

    Headwinds should be banned.

    • Larz Sunday, 4 June 2017, 10:00 am

      Sounds more like Contador will try to test himself at times, but not push himself too hard in this race. Everything is focused on three weeks in July.

      • Anand Sunday, 4 June 2017, 10:07 am

        Yeah, I know. But we can hope! If that guy smells an opportunity, he grabs it regardless of what he says before. Even it seems, just out of spite. We can only wonder how much more he had won, had he raced more conservatively. But for us racing fans, I’m glad he didn’t!

      • The Inner Ring Sunday, 4 June 2017, 10:17 am

        Contador often says that but when he pins a number on his jersey….

    • David Monday, 5 June 2017, 7:48 am

      Time and time again the UCI has sat on its hands and done nothing about this headwinds issue which is killing the sport. Cookson must go!

  • Ecky Thump Sunday, 4 June 2017, 10:01 am

    Allez Les Verts!
    That’s a famous chant from back in the day.
    What’s the Valverde connection, that he’s evergreen?

    One of Les Verts best players was Dominique Bathenay, who Wikipedia tells us, though now retired, last worked as head coach for United Arab Emirates.
    So, on that equally tenuous connection, I’ll go Ben Swift!

    • Bob Turgoose Sunday, 4 June 2017, 10:06 am

      Valverde is the “Green Bullet” (Balaverde) In spanish often B sounds like V (and vice versa.)

    • The Inner Ring Sunday, 4 June 2017, 10:18 am

      Val verde = green valley. Same as Astana’s Michael Valgren for the superstitious too.

      • Ecky Thump Sunday, 4 June 2017, 10:24 am

        Many thanks both.
        Green valley eh?
        What about ‘dweller in the fair hollow’ then, work out that Les Verts connection? 😉

        • Kasper Sunday, 4 June 2017, 12:20 pm

          Sorry Inner Ring, but “Val” in Danish (old Nordic) means falling on the battlefield
          and “Gren” means a branch from a tree 😅

      • Morten Knudsen Sunday, 4 June 2017, 12:09 pm

        In scandianavian languages the use of ‘gren’ in a name would be a reference to a geographic landscape feature – a ‘gren’ = an ongoing sandspit.
        The use of ‘val’ would be a reference to a copse, death etc. ex Valhalla is the the hall of the dead. Odin would be described as Valfar = Farther of the dead.

        Thus the name ‘Valgren’ would be as far away as i can imagine from a Green Valley… which sounds like a nice and plesant place… ‘Valgren’ would be a place you’d like to avoid by all means.

        • The Inner Ring Sunday, 4 June 2017, 12:34 pm

          Thanks Morten and Kasper, point noted. So Valgren won’t win today then… or will he? He’s still a promising rider, maybe a pick for today.

  • RonDe Sunday, 4 June 2017, 10:25 am

    Looks like a perfect ambush site to me. Contador and Valverde will be ready I’m sure.

  • Anand Sunday, 4 June 2017, 3:09 pm

    Such a nice ride of De Gent. Also by “Roger”. De Gent might have enough to do a new giro-style podium?
    And Pierre-“Roger”, not a good idea to give a gap to him..Very talented rider, a favorite from me – one of the lucky french to not get overhyped in his own country. (Well, he might be soon..) Herklotz doing well as well.

    What was the other teams thinking?

    • Anand Sunday, 4 June 2017, 3:49 pm

      Sorry, apparently it was dumont, not latour

    • Vitus Sunday, 4 June 2017, 4:23 pm

      That Bora rider was Buchmann, not Herklotz. Don’t listen what Kirby says.

      • Anand Sunday, 4 June 2017, 4:59 pm

        Haha, I didn’t. My own mistake from a bad stream. I noticed from inrng tweet and letour.fr after the fact! Bit of a Kirby myself then..

      • The Inner Ring Sunday, 4 June 2017, 6:28 pm

        Herklotz was in the day’s breakaway, good to see him there. Not along ago he was tipped as the next big thing but his pro career has yet to take this promised course.

  • sam w Sunday, 4 June 2017, 4:38 pm

    oh the ASO race so early! I hardly woke in time to see the finale. weeks of late afternoon Italian racing was much more convenient

    • The Inner Ring Sunday, 4 June 2017, 6:29 pm

      See the TV section of the daily previews to know what time the finish is. Seems it’s the tennis in Paris that bumps the finish time to an earlier slot but it’s about 4.30pm CET tomorrow, a more normal time.

      • Champs Sunday, 4 June 2017, 8:05 pm

        Scheduling international sport is an eternal struggle. New York is barely awake for the action before a 3pm CET finish, and every minute counts in the western US, starting some nine hours in arrears.