Critérium du Dauphiné Stage 6 Preview

The mountains are here and no less than the Mont du Chat, once rated by Le Cycle magazine as “one of the hardest” climbs in France. There’s no escaping the double-digit gradients, nor the sluggish road surface and this makes a novel challenge, the kind of climb rarely seen in French stage races. It’s a selective climb followed by a perilous descent to the finish.

Phil Bauhaus wins in Mâcon

Stage 5 Wrap: a win for Phil Bauhaus of Team Sunweb. He tried in the Giro and regularly made the top-10, he tried this week and made the top-10 too but didn’t seem to be a threat for the win at any time. Now he is. The 22 year old German surfed the wheels before striking out for the finish with perfect timing. This marks the end of the chances of the sprinters. Katusha announced Alexander Kristoff is leaving because he is ill, altitude sickness perhaps?

The Route: just 147km which promises a fast stage, the mountains loom but most of the stage is across wide flat roads. They speed across Les Dombes, a flat area with France’s highest concentration of lakes in the direction of the the climb to Corlier, 6.4km at 5.4% as they ride up to the Retord plateau to pass through Hauteville-Lompnes, the birthplace of Roger Pingeon and then off the plateau via a gradual descent to ride around the Grand Colombier which will feature in the Tour de France but not today. With 56km to go they pick up the route of Stage 9 in the upcoming Tour de France route and then it’s a big open road alongside the mighty Rhone river before a quick climb away from the river and then a descent back to it. The Cote de Jongieux sees them climb through vineyards, a gentle 5% for 3.3km with the Mont du Chat looming high above, a humpbacked arch of rock with spiky protrusions resembling the spine of a Stegosaurus.

There are sustained 8% sections just to get to the official start of the Mont du Chat with 25km to go. Once the climb begins it feels gentle for a moment but this only lulls riders into a false sense of security because the 9% slopes appear, then 10% and soon 12% and more, eight kilometres of double-digit gradients. This is steep by any measure and to make it harder the road surface is what we could call vintage, not dilapidated but just that old gravelly feel that rolls slow. It’ll be everyone for themselves here, the slope is such that drafting doesn’t matter much. The profile doesn’t show it but there is a flat section two thirds of the way up, a welcome relief but it only means the slope is going to rise even more to compensate.

Then comes the descent. Glance at the map and it looks straightforward with only a few hairpin bends but of course nobody is racing on a map. The reality is a wooded descent where the shade reduces visibility and a road with plenty of blind bends. Most can be taken at full speed but the lack of visibility makes it harder and will reward a confident descender. The surface is sketchy for two thirds of the way down until a newer more even surface appears.

The Finish: once the descent ends there are just two flat kilometres to the finish. There’s a roundabout in the final kilometre and the road bends to the left on a wide road.

The Contenders: this is a stage for the climbers, the Mont du Chat is selective and anyone going over the top alone with 30 seconds has a good chance for the stage win. However there’s just one climb and if a breakaway can reach the foot with, say, four minutes they’re in luck. It’s hard to pick a winner from the breakaway, a lottery.

There’s a strong chance the GC contenders dispute the stage, especially if their teams rush towards the Mont du Chat on the flat roads before. But while we’re used to Team Sky doing this they’ve lost Ian Stannard and Chris Froome may not feel up to it. Alejandro Valverde is a good pick because he can cope with an abrupt climb and is good for a sprint finish from a small group. Richie Porte is in great shape but if he’s won plenty, it’s almost never from a sprint so can he solo away over the Mont du Chat? Yes but he might prefer to manage his efforts because the yellow jersey awaits. Chris Froome needs a result but first of all some reassurance from hanging with the front group would help.

Fabio Aru had a good time trial by his standards and if this means he’s back then his aggressive climbing style could have its rewards. Could as in conditional because we’re still waiting to see where he is at.

Romain Bardet looks like the prototype rider for this stage, he can climb well and the descent is made for him, plus Ag2r La Mondiale’s service course is very near the finish line but his disastrous time trial suggest the form is short, it’ll be reassuring if he can just hang with the front group. If he can he’s got a decent sprint while team mate Pierre Latour is an outsider, he’s a powerful rider who may struggle with gravity on the steepest gradients.

Among the others Simon Yates and Dan Martin can both sprint well among climbers if they reach the finish in a small group. Sam Oomen and David Gaudu are worth watching too for their promise more than a chance of results.

Alejandro Valverde
Fabio Aru, Dan Martin
Porte, Yates, Bardet, Latour

Weather: sunshine and some clouds, a top temperature of 27°C. A 10km/h breeze meaning a tailwind for the final part of the stage.

TV: the finish is forecast for 4.20pm CET and the final hour will be on TV, enough to get the race from around the Côte de Jongieux. It’ll be on the same channel you watch the Tour de France and/or Eurosport.

20 thoughts on “Critérium du Dauphiné Stage 6 Preview”

  1. And who’ll take the lead on GC? Porte seems the most obvious but I guess Valverde will be in sniper-mode all day and not sniff at the chance of taking a stage and yellow.

    • There are dangers because the visibility is not good and it’s so steep too, over 10% for much of the way down. In the words of Ag2r’s Axel Domont in L’Equipe this morning “the first to brake loses”. It’ll be a good test for Richie Porte, he’s going so well this year but descending has been a problem for him at times. We’ll see with Romain Bardet too, his team mate and good friend Mikaël Cherel crashed hard on a descent training the other day and this might play on Bardet’s mind.

      • Porte had serous problems on the decent – and didnt make room for Fuglsang to overtake, once he finaly did Fuglsang easyly caught up with Froome. Same thing happend when Arau was caught, Arau dint want Fuglsang to overtake as his main concern was not to be distanced by Fuglsang.

        Astana has an interteam war going on right now. Was even more clear on the accent when Areu brigded to Fuglsang and taking a few riders with him – when they where in front alone they they rode in different side of the road instaed of staying together. In the beginning of the flat a few k’s before the finnish when Porte tried to distance Frome Arau and Fuglsang was in an argument about who should close the beginning gap to Frome and Porte.

        Both seem to very strong and Fuglsang has certainly prepared well and improved on the climbs for beeing sole leader in This years TDF – he is not happy with Martinelli’s addition of Areu to the Dauphine and TDF team.

  2. Bauhaus (cool name) looked impressive and Uber-strong surging on the line yesterday. He seemed overshadowed by heavy-hitters though, like Greipel, Gaviria et al at the Giro last month. Let’s hope he is a contender for the continued success of German sprinting–Zabel, Greipel, Kittel–even if his name doesn’t end in “-el.”

    • it must be the first time in years that Kontador is not mentionned in the preview of a mountain stage. I must say I was a bit surprised too.
      This said, it would be even more surprising at this moment to see him dropping everybody in the climb and/or taking big risks in the descent…

      • Has Alberto even still got it anymore? he seems to rack up near misses these days more than wins. He was left pretty easily today by Aru/Froome/Porte, looking laboured up the climb and taking no risks down it. Given his reputation for hard charging, he often seems to get a little gun shy in the Dauphine.

        • We’ll see in the days to come. He’s never ridden up the Mont du Chat – he said he looked at it on Google Earth – and so was probably caught out by the gradient and the difficult descent but overall this course didn’t suit. Tomorrow and Sunday will, a bit more.

  3. “Katusha announced Alexander Kristoff is leaving”
    Hmmm, following recent rumours I wonder do you mean leaving the race, the team, or both?

    • Certainly the race, we will see for the team, his contract’s up and it looks like Katusha have offered him a deal to stay but maybe not on the most generous of terms and talk of Marcel Kittel joining.

  4. Is there any chance Froome is sandbagging his form to relieve the pressure and give himself the freedom to test himself out a bit? He looked smooth in the TT and perhaps even riding within himself. Sky tried some new tactics last year, so I’m wondering whether this form dip is deliberate, or whether (as we learn from the UK elections) face value is really all there is and I give too much credit to people and their ability to be strategic.

    I was also delighted to see the breakaway riders suffering like crazy at the end of their efforts yesterday. I’ve always wondered how some of them manage to hang on to the peloton when they’re caught because whenever I’ve gone all out then died, the death has always been spectacular (but maybe that’s just lack of talent).

    • I’m always fascinated by people wondering whether everything Sky do is secretly strategic, eg losing time in the time trial is deliberate, pre-meditated move. Surely it can’t be? Froome doesn’t have much to prove in this race but he’d surely want to be more competitive? But that said one plausible plan is that because he wants to do the Tour-Vuelta double is that he can still treat June as a training month.

      • the way Froome/Sky were perceived to have scared off a bunch of names into the Giro this year, I’d think there would be more mileage in crushing everyone here – assuming he could – and maintaining that intimidation factor, rather than trying some sort of deliberate soft-pedalling game…

        • I think that Quintana’s decision to do the Giro has played a part in Froome’s preparation.
          He’s said that Quintana will not be as strong across the three weeks, so perhaps he can delay his peak.

  5. Any suggestions for a first timer that wants to watch Saturday’s Alpe D’Huez stage? So they do rolling road closures or are roads closed all day? I’ve seen the route times but realistically if I wanted to watch the finish how early do I need to be at the summit? Is there a caravan for the Dauphine?

  6. Porte looks the strongest rider in this race. Froome seems still to be alive though, both for this race and the Tour. That was excellent descending today. Its good of Richie to alert Froome to his stellar form while there is still time for Froome to peak further too. Froome’s ITT the other day was surely a case of a bad performance rather than anything more deep seated.

  7. Lots of action up and down hill today. Fair play to all the racers.
    I was wondering about Froome’s form and was a bit suprised to see him hold Porte’s wheel uphill today.
    Of the four theories* I was forming to exam his apparent lack of form so far this season, I think in light of today’s stage, he’s timing his peak later to be stronget at the finale of thetour and to maybe give him a bit more in the tank at the Vuelta.

    * 1.Parenthood affected his mental focus 2.He’s physically not 100% 3.He’s timing his peak for mid/end tour not start 4.Sky have locked down the prescription medicine cabinet after TUE scandals and he’s suffering as a result. 4a.Any combination of the above.

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