Critérium du Dauphiné Preview

A build-up race ahead of the Tour de France, the Dauphiné has often supplied some of the best racing of the year in recent seasons. This year’s race has a lighter start list than usual, here’s a look at the contenders and more.

Route Summary: a joy to ride, the route features some of the best roads in France whether the Col du Pré, the Beaujolais hills or the Vercors plateau. It starts with a prologue and seven stages including a 35km team time trial which will see several GC contenders lose beaucoup time and four summit finishes, including two short distance stages, for them to claw it back. The team time trial is a dress rehearsal for the Tour de France and will see several of the climbers hoping to win this race in trouble. There are time bonuses of 10-6-4 seconds for stage wins.

The Contenders: it’s a difficult pick, this is a great race to win but several riders don’t want to be on the boil right now as they prepare for the Tour de France. The approach taken by the likes of Richie Porte or Chris Froome in recent years of using this race as a stepping stone worked for them while others like Vincenzo Nibali have avoided peaking too soon.

Vincenzo Nibali won the Tour de France in 2014 but was discreet in the Dauphiné that year, being dropped on the climbs and generally out of sight of the TV cameras on his way to a top-10 overall. He may want to do do the same, a calm week in June ahead of storming around France in July. Even if he comes here in prime form it’d be a tall ask to win given the TTT where his Bahrain-Merida team will aim to limit losses and the summit finishes are not his speciality.

Adam Yates

They must get tired of comparisons but after the Giro now it’s inevitable that people look to Adam Yates to see what he can do. He won a stage of Tirreno-Adriatico just as Simon lost his grip on Paris-Nice. He had a good Tour of California coming back from injury and now founds a race to suit and comes with a strong team to support in the TTT. Robert Power is one to watch, surely not for the win but to see how he fares in the mountains.

Quick Step bring Bob Jungels as leader and Julian Alaphilippe as deputy with both looking to see what they can do in the high mountains, the answer so far is they’ve come up a little short but they’re closing the gap and this is a good test with each able to play off each other, Alaphilippe as the explosive finisseur and Jungels the rouleur.

Movistar leave El Tridente for the Tour de Suisse but still have some pointy weapons to spare with with Paris-Nice winner Marc Soler and also Jaime Roson, winner of two Spanish stage races this year and still just eligible for the white jersey.

Remember Ilnur Zakarin? On the podium in the Vuelta last year, Katusha’s Russian rider can win short stages as well and is one of those outsiders nobody thinks about now but were he to win it would have been obvious all along. Katusha look ok for the TTT and “Zaka” can climb with the best.

The most important stage for Romain Bardet is the TTT, lose minutes here and he’ll pay again in July which will put him on the back foot. Otherwise the rest of the course looks ideal for him with summit finishes including Le Bettex where he won in 2016, terrain where he could still take back time and word is that he’s in great shape and climbing faster than Mamoudou Gassama. Pierre Latour should be strong support too.

Geraint Thomas

Geraint Thomas has a good chance if he’s got his climbing legs. He’s been falling between two stools sometimes, aiming for the classics and stage races but has a palmarès including Paris-Nice and the Tour of the Alps. He’ll be helped by the prologue and the TTT as Sky could win the stage or at least beat those with GC rivals which puts Thomas in prime position and then a jersey to defend. This is an important test, will he seize the moment? Michał Kwiatkowski should find the high mountains too much. Tao Geoghegan Hart was a late call-up when Egan Bernal was withdrawn (presumably to ride the Tour) but a useful help in the mountains.

Dan Martin finished on the podium for the last two years and repeating this would be an achievement and reassurance as after moving to UAE Emirates he’s had a quiet start, just twice in the top-10 this season.

Warren Barguil (Fortuneo-Samsic) returns to the Alps in search of last year’s form. David Gaudu leads Groupama-FDJ, he’s promising but this is his biggest challenge yet. BMC don’t bring Richie Porte but Dylan Teuns will be interesting in the mountains, known for his ability on shorter climbs he’s won on these Alpine roads in the Tour de l’Avenir. Wanty-Groupe Gobert have leader Guillaume Martin, still 24 and improving in between writing plays and finishing his masters degree. Pierre Rolland rhymes with attaque and if he’s inconsistent the EF Education First-Drapac rider has room to attack and a stage win is within reach. Finally spare a thought for Astana’s Pello Bilbao who’s just finished sixth overall in the Giro and must be cooked, baked even. If he rode high in the Giro it was by following moves and riding steady, this won’t be easy in a shorter race with explosive finishes.

Geraint Thomas, Romain Bardet
Adam Yates, Ilnur Zakarin
Dan Martin, Julian Alaphilippe, Bob Jungels
Nibali, Soler, Roson

Dauphiné? once a royal kingdom in the Alps where the ruler had a dolphin (“dauphin”) on their heraldic crest, a regional newspaper called the Dauphiné Libéré took its name from the area and has a wider distribution and it used to run the race, the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré from 1947 until 2009 when it sold the race to ASO, owners of the Tour de France who abbreviated the race name.

TV: the stage times vary because French TV is scheduling around the tennis at Rolland Garros with weekend stages planned to finish around 3.00pm CEST and weekdays at 4.30pm CEST.

Col du Mont Noir

Daily previews: the roads have been reconned and each morning at 6.00am there will be a preview for the day’s racing.

45 thoughts on “Critérium du Dauphiné Preview”

  1. In a way I am pleased that SKY have withdrawn Bernal. It makes sense to look after a youngster with so much promise. I suppose that wish will evaporate if they throw him into the Tour.

    Why so many ‘Black or Dead Man Mountains’ dotted all over the South of France. Historical perspective would be interesting.

    • If Bernal’s out because of the Tour he’ll miss the practice TTT which ought to be good for him, starting the Tour seems a lot of stress for him.

      As for the mountains, lots are black because of the rocks, dense woodland or cloudy. Some of the “dead man” climbs and crossroads can be down to an accident but the story goes that in medieval times a suicide could not be buried in the village church graveyard so people would take the body to a remote place beyond the village’s boundaries, in this case over a hill, and sometimes plant a cross on the grave there.

      • INRNG, thanks. I do hope the SKY machine will look after Bernal. Their policy , if there is one, doesn’t appear to have looked after the long term interests of many of their riders.

        Much appreciated answers to the question of mountain names. I should really take the time to read up about these topics.

        • Not sure about your judgments on Sky’s treatment of their riders. Wout Poels has a monument, Thomas has won stage races and a classic, Kwiato a monument and one day classics and stage races too. Froome has multiple stage races and 6 grand tours. You can probably name several others you say suffered at their hands and I would retort “name the things they won once out of Sky’s clutches” otherwise known as “were those riders actually top notch in the first place?”

          I, a Bernal fan, am not worried about how they will shepherd him. He is the next Froome and they know it.

          • You have misunderstood RonDe. I am not criticizing the teams senor riders or their performance record, although the classic haul is low for such a team.

            The comment was directed at the youngsters, like the ultra talented Bernal. I have always been surprised that SKY don’t bring on younger riders in a more sympathetic manner, by letting them ride smaller pro events in their first year. The early BC Italian camp method with Cavendish et al seemed to work pretty well in its earlier incarnation. Races like today’s Heiste Pijl in Belgium, won by a GB based team rider come to mind. You can take any number of examples, two talented Americans or even the GB rider Swifty, who could probably have performed very well in the classics. He could climb and had a decent sprint from a small group. I understand that the emphasis is on the GTs. But, even some of the classic riders they have used as work horses in the GTs are showning signs of ‘work fatigue’, Stannard comes to mind. Riders like Bernal, Basso, Doull, Dibben, Geoghen-Hart, Halvorsen and Lawless might develop in a more linear manner, with a longer shelf life if they were winning small races before being throw in with the big boys. It is interesting how some excellent GB riders prefer teams that are more sympathetic to their development – the Yates twins and Pidcock are examples.

            Maybe others are giving these riders similar advice.

          • As I understand it the Yates brothers didn’t go to Sky because Sky only wanted one of them and they wanted to stay together. Pidcock is still very young and may, or may not, end up at Sky anyway. As it is, I don’t see how Orica, now Mitchelton, Scott have followed a progressive path with the Yatesies anymore than you suggest Sky should have with similar riders. Personally, I think you have to look at the strengths and limitations of each rider. Would Stannard, Rowe, Kennaugh (now at Bora) or Swift (now at UAE) have done better elsewhere or be on a better career trajectory now? Its hard to say but I find it hard to believe so. When all is said and done, teams have their focus and only so many riders can win.

  2. ‘Mamadou Gassama’ – bravo. To him and you.

    Question of the day then – what is the link between the race and a wrestling move?

    Otherwise, I’m looking forward to this tremendously and the daily write-ups. Thanks for the research IR.

    • No takers?
      The dolphin in the crest of arms depicts the title Dauphin de Viennois, a mantle which was sold to repay debts to the King of France on the condition that the heir to the French throne assumed the title of le Dauphin.
      Le Dauphin Louis-Auguste, later Kind Louis XVI, met a grisly end at the touch of madame la guillotine.
      The Guillotine is also the name of a wrestling leg hold.

  3. Thanks for the preview INRNG.
    I was waiting to see if this year you might switch to the Tour de Suisse. Just for a change, and because it seems to have attracted more star riders than the Dauphine this year. Obviously your time is limited, and you might already know the Dauphine route better and there is overlap with the tour route.
    Thanks for the blog, always a great read.

  4. I wonder if after last year’s TDF Romain Bardet said to himself “I should really work on my time trialling ability, it seems to be a weakness of mine” and then did just that?

    • He was ill with a fever then too. He’s tried to work on it having calculated that he can put out the same number of watts as some rivals only to lose minutes because of aerodynamics, cornering lines etc. But he’s still got a way to go and doesn’t want gains in a TT at the expense of his climbing.

        • Well the ASO agrees with him and has been actively slashing the number of TT kilometres in recent years in a vain attempt to engineer a French winner (the problem is Froome is also a great climber). Can you even imagine them announcing a route like 2012 today? Inconceivable! Although for those of us who fancy a Tom Dumoulin vs Chris Froome showdown that would be interesting.

          • We had a Tom Dumoulin vs Chris Froome showdown. You know the rest. The TT kms are actually relatively high this year at 66kms even though 35 of those kms are TTT and not ITT. I suspect they could let Bardet design the course himself and he still wouldn’t win.

          • That’s still only 2/3 of the 2012 route. And that amount was not out of the ordinary at the time. In 2009 there were 95 time trial kilometres, and noted climber and poor time trialist Andy Schleck still finished second on GC.

            Of course this year’s Giro route suited Froome a lot more than Dumoulin, but I agree with you about Bardet, he just doesn’t seem to have the physique and attitude of a Grand Tour winner (and no, this isn’t a generalisation about all French cyclists, it’s just based on the last few years of watching Bardet ride).

          • A Tour Contador won, where Lance was third and Wiggins fourth. 39kms of that was a TTT which Astana (the team of Contador and Armstrong) won. (Contador also won the 40.5kms ITT.) But you forget that this race had the least ITT kms since 1967 so was more favourable to young jersey winner Andy Schleck than most.

            As for the retcon to make the Giro more Froome than Dumoulin friendly, well, four weeks ago this was Tom’s perfect course. Now, it seems, it wasn’t.

          • Yes, Contador won, in part by being great on the TT bike as well as in the mountains. By invoking history you’re indeed just making my point that the recent TDFs have been the aberration; “soft” I believe Eddy Merckx called one recent edition.

            And I’m not retconning anything, Dumoulin said as much. Last year’s Giro had more TT kilometres overall and more grindable climbs rather than the super steep stuff like Zoncolan, he wasn’t complaining, admitting that the stronger rider won on the parcours presented, but just stating that 2017 a better course for him in the same way the 2012 Tour one was for Wiggins. If Simon Yates had held on for the win one could just as easily say “Ah well it was obviously a route for the pure climbers this year”.

          • Perhaps I’m in tinfoil hat territory but if a great French GC contender in the Dumoulin/Wiggins mould emerged in the next few years I’d predict we would start seeing more TT kilometres in le Tour and this talk of TV ratings would mysteriously vanish….

          • @Augie March @RonDe
            Thats a harsh assessment on Bardet! Lets see what TT he brings this year. Froome’s TDF break through was just about at Bardets age, but Bardet already has a 2nd, 3rd, 6th etc in the bag riding for a much weaker team and has, more or less, improved his result each year… that’s pretty methodical and professional for mine. He’s still got time to improve his TT and I reckon he will

          • TTs are being reduced because they’re crushingly dull to watch. I don’t even bother with the highlights on TV and I like pro cycling. The way I see it going is for ASO to combine a morning ITT with a short afternoon mountain stage.

        • Barely professional? That’s a pretty catty thing to say, especially in view of the fact that he has managed to finish on the podium at the Tour twice. Bardet is an exciting rider who enjoys racing with emotion as well as intelligence. Sometimes it’s hard to get the balance right, sometimes you just don’t have the legs. And if he was tired or honest enough in an interview to admit that he doesn’t really enjoy training on his TT bike, he could hardly be blamed for stating an opinion, especially when all of us sofa analysts complain about the canned, PR-controlled interviews most riders give.

          • “Catty” or not, its an honest opinion which you have just praised in Bardet’s case. Its “barely professional” because Bardet is willfully neglecting a part of his craft and, ironically, its probably the part that has made him a podium rather than the yellow jersey, a thing he has as yet never even worn for one day. I find it contradictory that one claims to want to win the greatest prize in a sport but does not do EVERYTHING in one’s power to hone all areas necessary to do so. Getting the balance wrong is fair enough but neglect becomes unprofessional.

        • It’s not like he leaves his TT bike to gather cobwebs and hopes for the best. He’s been to the wind tunnel many times, he’s trained for hours on his TT bike etc. He’s probably one of the peloton’s more studious and dedicated riders. But TTs just aren’t his thing.

          • RonDe “…want to win the greatest prize in a sport but does not do EVERYTHING in one’s power to hone all areas necessary to do so..” You mean like SKY? The Jiffy Bags, the TUE’s, the asthma inhalers, etc? Rumors are that Pinot might go there so maybe a different guy from France will satisfy you?
            Meanwhile, with post-Giro withdrawal I’m happy to find cycling on TV, especially if it’s not the dull, dull, dull, Tour of Switzerland. At least the French will come out to the roadside and make a day of it. Vive Le France! Wait, what did I just type? 🙂

          • Agreed. Far from neglecting it, I understand that Bardet has actually put rather a lot of time and effort into improving his TT. Calculating that there’s a point at which gaining on TT will mean that he loses some of his climbing ability (where he can score over his rivals) seems very professional to me.

    • Also with Naesen, Gallopin, Laporte, Gougeard and Vandenbergh are AG2R really going to be that much of a laughing stock in the TTT? That’s a few big engines to tow Bardet along to a decent time.

  5. I wonder how much the probable stronger line up at the Tour de Suisse is down to the agreement with Velon and how much the additional week recovery. Maybe the teams are taking this opportunity to keep the Swiss happy and it will be back to “normal” next year.

    An interesting route in prospect though two proper sprint stages might have been better than the lumpy ones. Certainly likely to see lively stages in the mountains, with those who have lost time in the TTT attacking.

    Geraint Thomas has shown little evidence of any form, certainly nothing like last year. Maybe he is planning to peak in July. The TTT is an issue for Romain Bardet (as it will be in the Tour) but perhaps he can make up the losses in the mountains, he has looked good recently.

    A lot will depend on the TTT, if say Quick Step come out on top then Bob Jungels can ride defensively which I think he is better at that rater than trying to win on mountaintop finishes. Same with Katusha and Michelton Scott, a good TTT will put their man in a good position.

    I too doubt we shall see much of Vincenzo Nibali, maybe he will try for a stage win, though he often seems to prefer downhill finishes of which there are none here.

    • Stage 2 is sort of a dh finish. A shame that Mohorič is not present. Would make a hell of a spectacle if those two would attack at km 148.

  6. I’m with those who think Nibali won’t be overly concerned about winning this. When he’s been in it before he’s not shown much ambition to win it and you might well ask why a 4 time grand tour and 3 time monument winner should. So I expect him to float around with maybe a stage win but, if not, no harm done. Nibali aside, its quite an open race with a long TTT that means it not just about the best climber. Its the kind of race that potential and actual Tour top tenners like Dan Martin, Bob Jungels, Adam Yates and Geraint Thomas should be staking a claim in to bolster (largely hard to justify) notions that they have a higher ceiling than their current achievements show. In this field the race is really there for the taking but who will spring from the pack? All things being equal, it should be Tour podium winner Romain Bardet but this TT hating Frenchman will have to do it all on the climbs. I find Bardet hard to like so here’s hoping it someone else.

    To be honest I’m disappointed Bernal was withdrawn as I think he could have announced himself here. I guess I need more patience.

  7. I love long TTTs. Specially hilly / technical ones. Teamwork at its best + it adds another layer for the strategy and squad selection.
    I don’t get why they are so dreaded and we don’t get to see more of them in one week races, or in the first week of the GTs.

    • Because most fans (including me) see cycling as an individual sport with some team elements, not as a team sport. The weird hybrid does make cycling more interesting, because there can be intra team rivalries, but it the team aspect shouldn’t stay a minor component.

    • A ttt should as technical as possible.
      Saying that, in a gt, organizers need to see all of the teams finishing unharmed. Or at least most of them.

  8. I would dispute that the Dauphine provides the best racing of the year. I know it’s often close and the result is unknown until everyone has finished but I’d say for the racing to be great the result has to actually matter. And to all but a few B list climbers and super domestique quasi-GC men (Fuglsang, Porte et al) it doesn’t. In fact some actively don’t want to win it. It’s a tune up and something to have on TV.

  9. Thanks so much for the preview, really hoped you would do it. Very excited to see the race. The two roselend stages will be an absolute delight to see.
    I would love to see bardet winning it, it would be a great addition to his GC palmarès where although there’s 2 tdf podiums not much else, especially winning. But we’ll see who is already in top shape, last year I didn’t give fuglsang a thought at all before the race but he proved to be best. Maybe someone like him could do great this year too? Can’t think of anyone right now though

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