Critérium du Dauphiné Stage 1 Preview

A sprint? Probably but the hilly course and the lack of sprinter’s teams mean it’s not certain and the final could be hard to control.

Michał Kwiatkowski

Poly-Valence: Michał Kwiatkowksi is one of the most versatile riders in the peloton and won the prologue in Valence. While one Sky rider cleaned up, another wiped out with Geraint Thomas taking a corner too fast, sliding out when otherwise could have won the stage; he will now hope to “do a Froome” this week and given the risks he was taking yesterday he hasn’t come here to work on his tan. All the GC riders finished where expected although Warren Barguil fared worst. He and his team are getting more and more questions from the French media about when things will turn around, much like Fabio Aru endured in the Giro.

The Route: 179km north-west from the Rhone valley towards Saint Etienne and a finishing circuit around the Loire river. It’s uphill from the start, climbing away from the Rhone valley to the first KoM point at a steady 5% for much of the way, a climb used before in the early season Boucles Drôme-Ardèche and with 5 points on offer for first place at the top in the mountains competition, not enough to secure the jersey but almost. The race crosses the Ardèche plateau via two successive climbs on long steady roads.

The riders enter the 12km finishing circuit and do two and half laps. It’s got one categorised climb but to get to it there’s another climb as they leave the town of Saint Rambert, more of a drag along the road with 2km at 3-4% followed by a dip and they climb to the Grangent dam which they ride across and then snake up to the KoM point, 1.5km at 4-5% before a reciprocal drop back down to Saint Just.

The Finish: after dropping into town the final 400m are uphill and more so than glancing at the roadbook suggests so expect a few “this is steeper than expected” comments later today although given it’s climbed twice before the finish is contested nobody will be too surprised. It’s a 5% rise to the line which tilts the finish away from the heavier hulk sprinters.

The Contenders: a sprint? Probably because several teams have brought sprinters and it’s either today or tomorrow for them or nothing all week so they’ll work hard to set up a sprint, especially since those looking to do a breakaway will probably fancy their chances on tomorrow’s route. But do the sprinters teams have the horsepower?

The uphill finish means it’s advantage Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) and Bryan Coquard (Vital Concept) but neither are riders that win regularly. Coquard has had a torrid start to the season but has found winning ways recently but of his 36 career wins, he’s yet to win in the World Tour but his comparative advantage today is his weight – 61kg.

Among the more traditional sprinters Bora-Hansgrohe’s Pascal Ackermann won the final stage in Romandie while fellow German Phil Bauhaus – why do all the German sprinters have non-Germanic names like Phil, Pascal, André, John, Marcel etc? – won a stage in this race last year. Dutch neo-pro Fabio Jakobsen (Quick Step) has had a great start to his season and might be the fastest if this was a dragstrip finish. Wanty-Groupe Gobert have two options in Xandro Meurisse and Odd Eiking. Julien Simon (Cofidis) could be close too. Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) might try too.

Also the course is ideal for a late attack from a finisseur, leftfield picks are Fabio Felline (Trek-Segafredo), Michael Valgren (Astana), Jens Keukeleire (Lotto-Soudal), Benjamin Thomas (Groupama-FDJ) and Jay McCarthy (Bora-Hansgrohe).

EBH, Bryan Coquard, Fabio Jakobsen
Bauhaus, Ackerman, Meurisse, Simon, Impey

Weather: sunshine, the chance of rain and a top temperature of 21°C at the finish, cooler along the way.

TV: the finish is forecast for 4.30pm CEST and the final hour will be live on TV.

44 thoughts on “Critérium du Dauphiné Stage 1 Preview”

  1. Apologies for going back in time, but having just watched Cosmo’s ‘How the race was won’ for Stage 20 of the Giro, he shows multiple instances of Astana seemingly helping out Sky – food being shared amongst the two teams, Astana pulling on Stage 20 for no apparent reason (I wondered about that at the time – once Pinot had been dropped they had no need to work). Does anyone have any thoughts on why Astana would be working with Sky? Can’t see what was in it for them.

    • Might simply be that the higher the pace and the more consistent, the harder it would be for Carapaz to get the gap he needed to take White.

      • Good point, but why the collusion – the sharing of food (Froome handing something to LL Sanchez, an Astana rider offering Henao – I think – something), plus the very clear signal from an Astana rider that it was Sky’s turn to take over leading the peloton?
        I’m not suggesting this was in any race-changing, it’s just odd.
        It’s worth watching Cosmo’s take on it – as always.

        • I’ll have a look. The Froome/Sanchez one I remember. Just seemed like the norm really. Luis Leon was coming back and the cars hadn’t passed so Froome was just being friendly. Happens a lot but of course the cameras don’t always pick it up. Astana gave a bottle to someone from another team at one point too near the top of an earlier climb.

          As for teams getting together and working the front of the peloton, I’m pretty sure if Froome has shown any weakness, all bets would have been off. Whatever the reasons, like the sprinters teams working together to bring back the break, each team can see the benefit to them. There’s also Bilbao and his minor GC spot that could have played a part. Even Dumoulin ended up driving for Oomen when he knew he couldn’t get rid of Froome.

        • Karsten Kroon said on Eurosport that by the end of a big Tour a lot of riders are sick of the offerings of the food sponsor and therefore a lot of swapping is done.

          • The riders will ‘trade’ their goodies; your energy bar is worth two of my gels. A good bit of banter helps develop camaraderie in the peloton, and friends look out for friend. After all if you’ve been in the peloton for a while then you’ll probably have been team mates with riders from just about every team as, over the years, people move with contracts. Think of the wheel swap between Porte and Clarke (was it?).

    • Sky and Astana were possibly the two strongest climbing teams in the Giro?
      Mitchelton-Scott were awfully strong too, but there seems to be a bit of rivalry with Astana and the Aussie team?
      There was certainly a common interest for Froome / MA Lopez to dispatch their Movistar, FDJ, MS and Sunweb rivals in the mountains though.
      A tangled web they weave.

      • Hi TurboSmug – like the name, I didn’t suggest any conspiracy and whilst food-sharing might be common, it was at the very least very visible at the front of the race. More telling was that Astana and Sky seemed to have some sort of arrangement going as to who would drive the peloton and there seemed to be much less in it for Astana than Sky. As I said, not race-changing, but curious behaviour – reminded me of Valverde’s overt friendliness with Froome a year or two back.

  2. My tip for the overall GC win: Soler – he probably wants it more than most and might well focus on getting a very good result here, knowing that at the Tour, a top ten is probably the best he’s going to manage. Mind you, same could probably be said for Thomas, who must be more disappointed than anyone that Froome’s case seemingly won’t be solved until after the Tour.

  3. Looking at the last 5k profile, the climb listed as 1.3k at 4.5% certainly looks like it’s backended. If that’s the case it will be tough for the likes of Bauhaus and might be a perfect place for an Alaphilippe/Terpstra/Benoot attack. Shame there’s no Mohoric about what with the downhill afterwards.

    Having said all of that, I’ll take Keukeleire over Impey in a sprint with us all wondering what happened to Coquard.

    • Coquard could be a lack of motivation having not got a Tour berth. What he should be doing is using this race to change ASO’s mind for next year. So, I’ll tip him for today.

  4. Interesting point about the forenames of German sprinters.
    An online search has the most popular boys names in Germany in 2016 as Ben, Paul, Jonas, Elias, Leon, Finn, Noah and Louis.
    Compare this to, say, 1920 – Hans, Gunter, Karl, Heinz, Werner, Gerhard, Walter, Curt, Horst and Helmut.

    Probably Germany’s 20th Century history is relevant but perhaps across Europe its peoples have a wider and less nationalistic outlook? Less pressure to conform maybe?
    Having said that, looking at British boys names in 1920, there are still popular names in there – John, James, Thomas.
    In comparison, the modern German counterparts definitely look more international. and some of them could have lead to major life changes in the past (Leon / Noah in 1930s Germany?).
    Bauhaus has to be the coolest surname ever though.

    • Don’t a lot of European countries have rules on what can and cannot be given as a name, though, and Germany doesn’t?
      Britain is apparently:
      (Results are slightly skewed in that multiple spellings of Muhammad are counted all together, whereas that’s not the case with other names.)
      Names like Noah and Oscar presumably weren’t popular a few years ago: I think what it shows most is that people are trying to give their children a ‘middle class-sounding’ name (and that a very large number of Muslims call their first son Muhammad). Same reason that Sharon and Tracy became so popular at one point, which only goes to show that this tactic doesn’t work.

        • No longer have my source – it was something along the lines of babynames dot etc. so possibly not as reliable as the ONS. Also, mine was for 2017 and it differs quite widely year on year, I noticed.

      • Let’s not forget the passing popularity of ‘Kevin’, across Northern Europe while Kevin Keegan was the most popular footballer around. According to Patrick McGuinness (the academic, not the alleged comedian) in his excellent memoir ‘Other People’s Countries’, ‘Kevin, qui gagne’ was instantly noticed in Francophone Belgium, where he grew up.

      • Germany definitely have restrictions on what you can name children. It seems to not be strongly enforced anymore but can vary from town to turn depending on the bureaucracy.

      • Of course Germany has rules what can be given as name, too.
        The thing why so many current riders have such forenames is, that most are from East-German heritage.
        And they had a huge crush for international sounding names back then in the GDR. There are thousands of Ronnys, Johns, Devid (happens when people who never learned English tried to spell David, same goes for Maik and Petrick, very much like when Kirby tries to read a name of a none-Brit ;-)), Mandy, Justin, Kevin, Enrico, Jaqueline. Tony, Danny, Danilo, Silvio, Sandy, Peggy etc.
        We didn’t have such names in West-Germany back then, even though we were the ones who actually had direct access to Johns and Mikes and the language. We had a bunch of Stefan, when the GDR boys of same age were Steve. After the 90s there was a name reunification and now everyone tried to sound cosmopolitan.
        German parents often like to follow naming trends, for good and bad, the hundred thousands of Adolfs are dying out, now they see a movie like “Home Alone” and all of a sudden, we were flooded with Kevins. Boris Becker named his first son Noah, and thousands of moms thought it sounded so cute. Elyas M’Barek is a good looking Austrian actor, so now the playgrounds are filled with Elias.

        • From the BBC:
          The UK’s rules on baby names are among the most liberal in the world. A spokesman for the General Register Office says there are no restrictions on parents – except for exceptional cases, such as a name which could be deemed offensive, when an official could refuse to register it. He refused to divulge if there had been any such cases.
          But there have been two children named Superman in the UK since 1984, along with six boys named Gandalf and 29 Gazzas, according to figures released last year by the genealogy website There are even 36 Arsenals of both sexes.

      • A lot of EU countries have a rule to the effect that a name should consist of a sequence of letters, it should not be offensive, and it should not be contrary to the best interests of the child. There’s only a few countries where the name has to come from a pre-approved list (Denmark and Hungary I think still have this?)

        German rules are they have to be gender-specific, shouldn’t be a name that is currently used only as a surname, product name, or object; and can’t lead the child to be ridiculed.

        So no Traktor, F’tang-F’tang-Olé-Biscuitbarrel, Coca-Cola, or “A” (pronounced Albin)

    • One point is that in the DDR (GDR) there was some kind of “fashion” to give kids foreign, non germanic names. I was told that the idea was “since we can’t travel, at least let’s pretend that our kids names are all over the place”. So since a certain percentage of the successful sprinters from this generation are still coming from that background, it raises the percentage of such names. Dunno how long that will still be the case.

      • There are a lot of English sounding first names in The Netherlands too. I guess the international nature of popular culture has a lot to do with that. There’s also a trend of taking English or other foreign names and slightly altering the spelling or adding a syllable to sound more unique and exotic.

  5. Romain Bardet did not do as badly as some suggested he might. Warren Barguil did not look in good shape, he will need to improve over the next few days to stave off pressure from the French media.
    I am sure there will be those pointing out Geraint Thomas’ seeming inability to keep upright, on this time it did seem to be a mistake on his part rather than bad luck. Given his tumble only finishing 20 odd seconds back was actually pretty impressive. Perhaps he has his form back from last year?

    It does look as if Sky could put in a storming performance in the TTT, some teams could loose a lot of time.

    As for today, I have seen it suggested that Sky will want to keep the jersey and that Michał Kwiatkowksi could even get the win given the lack of top sprinting competition. Not sure about that the stage seems more breakaway territory even if the sprinters will be keen to grab a chance of a win.

    • Yeah Barguil had a bit of a shocker. I wonder if part of his problem is he’s let the acclaim from his relatively successful Tour last year go to his head. I just get that impression a little bit from him.

      • I think it’s more the opposite, he’s under expectation/pressure to repeat last year’s Tour ride only this time an entire team is built around him, this time last year he was on a team that had won the Giro, and during the Tour had Michael Matthews winning stages etc. Mind you this time last year he was out of the results too (he fractured his hip in the Tour de Romandie). We’ll see how he is climbing from Thursday, some top-10s and all will be ok.

    • Certainly Kwiatkowski could win this. Remember that he came fourth in a bunch sprint at Tirenno. Form, the climbing, the climb to the line and a strong sky team make him a big contender.

    • Could it be that Bardet has (whisper it) actually worked on his TTing? That image of him absolutely broken at the end of the tour last year will stay with me for some time. For some reason it made me like him more, though I could only think to myself “you’ve only yourself to blame here”.

  6. Really hope we get something from Peter Kennaugh this race, Bora have invested in him, whatever his ailments earlier in the year, hopefully out of the way now and it would be really nice to see him back to his level of a few years ago. Overall win in this race is definitely within his normal capabilities, maybe not this year but going forward it should be.

    Classy rider, held back by Sky, here’s hoping he can remember how to win.

    • In all honesty, I don‘t think they invested in him because of his talent. It is more to do with his nationality. Just as american riders have it easier to get a job than others with the same or even a little better ability.

    • Have they though? Is he not a domestique de luxe at Bora as well? Very much looks like he’s on team duties for (I assume) Buchmann (on the grounds that Ackermann must be nailed).

    • I’ve lost count of the riders “held back by Sky” who go on to do the square root of not a lot.

      Maybe they just weren’t all that to begin with?

    • This idea of Team Sky ruining riders is now getting so ridiculous that some fans are being more and more extreme in their assessment of how good these allegedly ruined riders would be if it wasn’t for Sky.

      Peter Kennaugh winning the Criterium du Dauphine is not “within his normal capabilities”. Not even close.

  7. Benjamin Thomas, dethroner of all my KoM’s around Sallaches 😢 (trained there quite a bit last summer). Handy ex-trackie with a purple patch at the end of last season on Confidis got him his FDJ gig, would be great to see him pull something off.

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