Critérium du Dauphiné Stage 4 Preview

The Dauphiné heads for the mountains and the unheralded but stunning Vercors plateau and the first of four summit finishes.

Team Sky

Clear Sky: Team Sky finished well clear of all the others, only four teams were within a minute of them including a surprise from Lotto-Soudal. Another surprise was Ag2r La Mondiale in seventh place which they’d have signed for in the morning with glee but they still lost a minute and a half which they’d have rejected. Bahrain-Merida lost over two minutes and UAE-Emirates almost two and a half minutes meaning the likes of Vincenzo Nibali and Dan Martin can look for stage wins. This was a dress rehearsal for the Tour de France and many if not most teams will have stronger formations come July but that includes Team Sky too.

The Route: a flat 50km and then rolling roads leading to the the Col de Toutes Aures at 102km. This is an asymmetric ascension, this side rises up gently past messy farms but once over the pass the scenery changes dramatically, a view of the mountains and a more twisty descent down to the Isère valley floor and the walnut groves of the Dauphiné. Once over the river the road rises and the ascent of the Col du Mont Noir starts.

There are several routes up with some breathtaking moments via cliff roads and balconies but this is not one of them, instead it is the widest and most accessible route and more Alpine that the typical Vercors approach climb. Known locally as the Montée du Faz – because this particular approach climbs via the village of Faz – it’s a long climb, almost as long as Sunday’s Cormet de Roseland and steeper with some good sections at 8-10% but there are no nasty surprises. It’s a steady climb to the village of Le Faz, the kind locals can test their form on, and mostly on smooth roads where. There’s a brief rest through the village and then the rises up into the forest where the road is rougher in places, freshly surfaced in others and the slope is often easier. Then comes a fast descent with a sketchy road surface in places before picking up the main road to Rencurel and then the Gorges de la Bourne, a scenic road up a canyon and climbed when the race visited in 2015.

The Finish: a ski station summit finish but don’t get visions of big hotels and clusters of ski lifts, this is a small station, barely a few chalets and without the race or snow it’s a quiet place but the winter sports venue means a wide, engineered road. It’s less than 5km uphill. There are long straight ramps between hairpin bends including the tough section at 10% and it rises uphill right to the line.

The Contenders: this is a good day for a breakaway, a move can try to pull away early and hope to build up an advantage while the main GC contenders sit tight and wait to get the measure of each other on the final climb. Easier said than done, especially as Team Sky are likely to set a tough pace for the latter part of the race. Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) is cleverly already 19 minutes down already and Dylan Theuns (BMC Racing) is no longer a threat being over eight minutes down and they’re the kind of riders able to profit from difficult second half of the course.

Otherwise Julian Alaphilippe (Quick Step) is a safe pick for today, he won’t like the Mont Noir climb but the shorter effort on the final climb is good for him. Dan Martin (UAE Emirates) has the space to jump away and may have the legs to succeed too. Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) could feature in a sprint and we’ll see what Geraint Thomas and Michał Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) can do and how they’ll work together too. Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) ought to be tipped but he should find the upcoming stages more to his liking.

Julian Alaphilippe, Geraint Thomas
De Gendt, Theuns, Bardet, Kwiatkowski, Yates

Weather: sunshine and clouds with a top temperature of 21°C early on and an increasing chance of thunderstorms on the Vercors plateau for the finish.

TV: coverage should start when the riders are on the Col du Mont Noir and the finish is forecast for 4.30pm CEST.

51 thoughts on “Critérium du Dauphiné Stage 4 Preview”

  1. It maybe just my browser but the 2 and 1 chain ring predictions above merge seamlessly to give the splendidly monikered Geriant Thomas de Gendt. My money is on him !

  2. I am kind of surprised Kwiatkowski makes the list over so many real climbers looking to get back on terms. But I guess the Alaphilippe pick indicates what kind of finish our host think it will be. Which doesn’t seem to suit G unless Sky plays their team tactics well. The TTT results should force other teams like AG2R to try to rip things up.

    • Sky are in the great position of having TGH right with the main contenders. They can send him up the road early and everyone will have to chase. He’s already shown that is where he is very adept.

      • watching him hang in with the big guns on the TTT right to the line – he’s got to have a big GC future in front of him as a climber too…

        • The problem is – he’s got Bernal, Pidcock, even the Yates all in a vaguely similar age bracket… I think you’re right but he’s going to face very stiff competition to even get into the realms of a contender with the talent out there currently…. maybe it’s always like that (even Moscon might transfer…)

          • There is always going to be tough competition and it is not always easy to spot who will succeed and who wont. Not everyone reacts well to the pressures of being at the top of their chosen sport, many sports people who excel at a younger age never quite make it. Chris Froome struggled at first at Sky, he might have even been dropped from the roster. Egan Bernal does seem to have great talent but turning that talent into great success is not always straight forward. You can do too much too soon (hence the doubts over EB being at the Tour). Mentality is in many ways the most important asset, TGH seems he might have that. I am sure we shall all watch with interest over the next few years

  3. I think the TTT has set up the race nicely in that none of the Sky riders at the front are great climbers. It depends on the difficulty of the stages I suppose but Bardet and Yates have 4 stages to pick 1 and a half and 1 minute respectively. Sounds doable to me.

    • Looking at the highlights, Team Sky finished with 5 riders yesterday – one more than was needed.
      Added insurance maybe, but also perhaps showing that the riders are effectively auditioning for one of the coveted Tour spots?
      With that in mind, it’d be a surprise to see their main men here (Kwiatkowski, Thomas and Moscon) get blitzed in the mountains.
      Is Poels doing the TdF, if not then his wingman position for Froome is also up for grabs too?

      • Poels appears to have been named among the “pre-selections”. My guess is all those here except TGH will be at the Tour in a few weeks plus Froome + Bernal.

        • I’d be surprised if Sky pick Bernal over Poels. Firstly because Froome and Poels seem to get on very well and I think Froome would want him as the man next to him in the trenches if he needs him. That’s just an impression I have though that could be wrong. Secondly Sky have become successful in grand tours by being conservative. Would they risk an unproven youngster in his first grand tour to do a potentially very important job. Especially as Froome will be 4 consecutive Grand Tours deep by this stage and may need a fair bit of shepherding. Better I think to leave Bernal to have a go at the Vuelta with no pressure on him.

      • Hardly what you’d call pure climbers though are they. Thomas can hang on a la Wiggins but he’d be vulnerable to repeated attacks. And though Kwiatkowski is a great rider, and Moscon a potentially great one, they are both classics specialists, albeit ones that can climb well, and you’d think droppable by the likes of Bardet or Yates on very hard climbing days. That said this could be where TGH announces himself as the next big thing. Time will tell as ever.

  4. Whilst AG2R did better than might be expected, as INRNG has pointed out, they still lost around 90 seconds. I suspect this was pretty much their strongest team whereas other teams (Sky to an extent, BMC and Sunweb) will be stronger. Given the TT too (which I know is hilly) Romain Bardet is effectively starting with a 3 to 4 minute handicap to Chris Froome, Richie Porte & Tom Dumoulin. That can not be helpful psychologically knowing you have such a disadvantage from the start. Not good for Movistar either.

    The interest for the next few days is whether Sky can hold off Romain Bardet, Adam Yates or Marc Soler (I think the others are maybe too far back). Do Sky really have the team to set a high pace up the climbs, I guess Michal Kwiatkowski will not be on domestique duties which leaves the train a bit short of drivers. Not sure today is the day for a big GC attack maybe save energy for tomorrow or Sunday? Tom de Gendt does seem a good pick for the day.

    • you’d have to back Froome, Dumoulin and Nibali to take time off Bardet on the cobbles also… he’s really going to need his climbing chops in July…

      • Not sure about that, RB did very well at Strade Bianchi and I seem to remember a number of other one day races this spring. He has been putting in a lot of effort and preparation, but he is never going to be a top TT rider.

        • jc – just checked back to the 2014 stage, and you’re right, Bardet came in with a group containing Valverde, Pinot, Dumoulin not too far back.

          interestingly the only GC men to make headway that day were obvs Nibali, who had Fuglsang ride a stellar stage supporting him, and Porte who was dragged to the line by Thomas. Unfortunately once again this points to Sky with potentially Rowe, Moscon, Thomas, Kwiat all with serious cobble credentials to help Froome

          altho having said that AG2R has Naesen and VDB, Katusha Tony Martin, Greenedge- Hayman, Education whatnot SVM and Phinney etc etc etc… maybe Valverde will be hoping to use this stage to establish a pecking order in his favour at Movistar though…

          • AG2R also have Gallopin.
            But with the TTT, the staggered stage 17 and this, there are a lot of things in Sky’s favour – if not exclusively. Also, Froome is very good at everything, if not knackered, unlike all of his rivals. Valverde and Nibali are probably the other riders who are all-rounders, but I think Nibali is some way below Froome and Valverde is never going to win another GT – he’d be lucky to podium a Vuelta with a weak field.
            If I was Sky’s DS I’d be looking to put significant time on the likes of Quintana, Landa, Porte on the cobbles.

  5. jc has already made one of my points but I’m glad others are thinking in the same vein as me anyway. Consider the following losses in this race from time trials:

    Thomas +21
    Bardet +1:52
    Zakarin +2:07
    Nibali +2:28
    D.Martin +2;57

    Monsieur Bardet, who I’ve already caused controversy by mentioning, now needs to gain 2 minutes to win the race in 4 stages which is 30 seconds a stage average. The good point for him is there are 4 mountain stages and its against Thomas and Kwiato rather than Emperor Froome. (I’m joking, have fun with it.) The bad point is that in most races that would be a very hard thing to do as most GC people are very closely matched and we often see groups of 5-10 guys coming in together. Bonus seconds won’t be enough here. Bardet, and much more Dan Martin, need definitive gaps.

    To my mind this race so far, a mini-TdF, has shown exactly why Bardet, Martin, even Nibs, won’t be winning in July. A 35kms TTT like yesterday’s and a 31kms ITT on stage 20 just give these riders minutes of handicap before they start. Its exactly what a tired Dumoulin and Froome would be hoping for. In expected AG2R to lost about 1.30 which they duly did but that would be 3 stages where Bardet needs 30 seconds in July. I can’t think of one stage where he got 30 seconds in last year’s Tour, a measure of the difficulty involved in clawing such time back.

    But back to here and now. Sky dislikers, rejoice! Sky may have blitzed the field and be 1-2-3-4 in GC but this is their high point in the race. Now they manage losses (you would think and no doubt many hope) to Sunday will they will still hope to have probably Thomas at the top of the pile. Every day he hang onto the GC group makes it harder for the remaining days and makes a do or die attack more likely. Looking at today’s profile I wondered if Bardet might not take on the Col de Mont Noir, gun the descent and try a long breakaway.

    But then I woke up and realised that Froome is not in this race and there are still 4 stages to go so no need for kamikaze attacks just yet!

    Should be an interesting four days. If Thomas can’t hold his lead his (slight, Tejay-like) GC ambitions will once more be laughed at across cycling forums everywhere. I hope he can hold on.

    • It will be interesting to see how G does over the next few days. he clearly has GC ambitions. He was in good form at the Giro last year before the intervention of the Italian Police’s motorcycle squad (he had won the Tour of the Alps which had a fair amount of climbing). If he has that sort of form he must have a real chance of a win here, dont think he can out climb RB but he doesnt have to, come in 15 seconds behind for the next 4 days and the race is probably his. If he fades then it is probably time to go back to the Classics.

      • For Thomas to win, I think Froome will have to collapse, as will Quintana, Landa, Porte, Nibali, Bardet… to name but a few.
        Thomas has never done it over very high mountains in a GT and I can’t see that ever changing.

    • I’d agree with this. I don’t see Bardet winning the Tour this year, and Martin any year. There’s just a couple of potential differences come the Tour. One is I don’t think you can really take Nibali’s form here as much of a pointer. But either way he’s still going to lose time in the time trials. The other is that potentially Froome, and especially you’d think Dumoulin, are going to be tired from their exploits at the Giro. So they may be more open to attack, and may have one of those days where 1 and a half minutes disappears in no time on a finish climb. Though Froome did win the Giro impressively in the end he did show that he is human on Gran Sasso. If he has a day like that and AG2R or Bahrain notice early enough to do something about it who knows. Because Froome rides a bike like Paula Radcliffe runs a marathon its nearly impossible to tell when he genuinely is having a bad one. Also the mini Roubaix stage could cause carnage. I’d expect Nibali to put the pressure on there and if its a rough windy day a minute could come from nowhere there too. But Froome’s bike handling and general confidence seems much better than in 2014 and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was the one making the gaps that day. Also Zakarin is a handy time trialist and must be taking a reserved approach here. I wouldn’t expect him to lose 2 minutes across the time trials at the Tour.

    • Why is Vincenzo Nibali “Nibs” when Bardet and Martin (same number of letters) get their full names? The only thing worse to me is the Nibble-ee pronunciation of the Anglo Saxons or the “Vince Nibbles” moniker. Perhaps I should write “Wittle Cwissy Fwoome” instead of what the Italians call him, “Il Frullatore”? I really have a tough time understanding the veiled (and not so veiled) dislike for this man on this forum. Ed Hood’s piece about Froome on PEZ touched on this so I know it’s not just me.

      • “Froomedog, Doom and Nibbles”… who wouldn’t watch the crime caper with those guys leading it though? It seems pretty affectionate to me.

      • I take Nibs as being used as a term of affection. I don’t see how you take that as evidence as people disliking him? People call Philippe Gilbert ‘Phil Gil’ in a similar way and there are probably loads of other examples. Its just a surname that lends its self well to nicknames. ‘Bards’ or ‘Mart’ don’t sound as good.

          • Like no one in the world calls Emanuel Buchmann, “Manni Bookman”, except Kirby. His nickname is “Emu”, since ages.
            And I don’t know for a fact, that Buchmann never said to him “you can call me Manni”, but I know it’s true.
            And there a several dozens of other riders he just make up names for. Disrespectful AF.

      • It’s probably due to the British habit of adding a y (or i) to the end of the surname to make a nickname. Cricketers seem to do it all the time. Perhaps, as a result, they think that Nibali is just a nickname.

      • ‘his Nibs’ is an affectionate (but admittedly old) title for ‘the boss’ isn’t it?
        either way he’s a great bike rider…

      • I’m not sure there is dislike for Nibali on this forum? There are loads of posters and everyone has their own opinion but post-MSR the response was celebratory with a general consensus that he’s the best all-round rider of his generation and definitely the most celebrated, attacking GC rider.

      • Perhaps I should just go full Carlton Kirby and refer to Mr Bojangles (Bob Jungels), The Tickler (Daniel Teklehaimanot) and The Wolfman (Laurens Ten Dam).

        “Nibs” is a nickname for the all-time great, Vincenzo Nibali. Could equally say Froomey or Froomedog for Froome. Tom Doom for Dumoulin, etc. Its no disrespect.

        • The guy’s nickname is The Shark…(from Squalo delle Strette) this forum is the only place I’ve seen him referred to as Nibs, which sounds like some form of snack cracker rather than a term of respect.

          • You need to get out more, Larry, and stop taking implied offence all the time when people don’t do as you want them to regarding your precious Italy and Italians.

            By the way the Italian website Spaziociclismo doesn’t call Froome Il Frullatore. It calls him the White Kenyan. Charming.

          • Many riders have nicknames in English-speaking internet fandom – definitely not just here – based on a variety of things – translation (Flower), what their name sounds like in English (Kruijswijk – Cruiseship), and yes frequently shortening names, i.e. Doom, Q, G (for Geraint Thomas), Nibs, etc. Pretty sure it’s not derogatory or infantilizing, as I’ve seen it used by hardcore Nibali fans. There’s also the podium cafe kinda rich cant of inscrutable forum in-jokes, which is the only place I think I’ve seen people use His Nibs, in a mostly endearing fashion.

            Seems like a silly thing to get upset about either way, I imagine Nibali himself could care less.

      • Same number of letters “but” more syllables, so more “readily” abbreviated. Whereas a “nickname” that (a) is “5” times the length of the real name, and “(b)” nobody else uses, doesn’t really “work”.

      • Tend to agree. From my point of veiw: lazy nicknames for people from other cultures/language groups is insulting and demeaning.

        Anglosaxons nick nameing other aglosaxon speaking may / may not be ok – I woudn’t know as im north germanic. But i would find it insulting if target was me.

        And yes i work in an international organazation and the daily co-workers with whom im interacting in any ordinary workday are located in sweden, norway, denmark, finland, netherlands, england, czech republic, poland, hungary and India. My coworkers are proberbly way more diverse between themselves than my european coworkers.

        n-i-b-a-l-i …it’s just 6 letters with easy to pronounce consonants and no wired vowels. It should be pretty easy for any natively germanic speaking individual to remember, pronounce and type on a keyboard. You can even sing it and i bet any 3 year old natively english child is able to do so.

        and hail to Ed Hood for his piece on PEZ, article is syndicated from his the scotish cycling website he is co-running. Interesting reads there too.

        • Granted it’s easy enough to say but we aren’t sat in a room chatting are we Mortsy? We are typing out on our phone and it’s often easier and quicker to write TGH, GVA, Phil Gil, Nibs, Canc, Sags et etc than type the lot out. It’s text speak or slang or whatever and isn’t offensive on any level whatsoever whether you are Anglo-Saxon (whatever that is), German, Scandinavian, or think your Italian.

          • I agree, I don’t think it’s meant in an insulting way – I use acronyms all the time for riders.
            The silly names irritate me – G, Phil Gil, (His) Nibs – and many aren’t even much shorter, but for British people at least, shortening a name isn’t an insult.

          • He has always been G, even amongst his team mates, mainly because it sounds a lot worse to hear Geraint pronounced incorrectly.

          • Yes, I don’t like commentators using nicknames – team mates is one thing – just call him Thomas: you’re not his friend (again, my ire is primarily aimed at Kirby).
            All of these nicknames are not a patch on those such as ‘The Stork of Tatarstan’ and their ilk. If British riders had these I’d willingly take them on – just for the comedy value. (Their used to be an Asian woman on CN who invented her own – superb and utterly random – nicknames for riders. Can’t remember her name, but she’s sadly missed.)

      • There is, unjustifiably in my opinion, a fair amount of anti-Nibali feeling amongst Anglos – people forever banging on about the Vuelta car-pull, the fact he rode for Astana, etc. – but I haven’t seen much of it on this forum.

  6. Greetings from the summit of the col Mont Noir. The clouds are lifting but the roads are wet and it is humid. The descent to Rencurel will favour a brave échappé who is prepared to takesome risks. A sinuous descent with a grippy surface but under trees so will stay wet.

  7. After all the fireworks at the giro this parcours seems a little tame. I guess french roads are not italian roads, but the difference in (apparent) difficulty is striking. one stage in the giro had a 10km climb, and countless vicious ramps that were uncategorised!

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