Critérium du Dauphiné Preview

If the Critérium du Dauphiné is a condensed version of the Tour de France, this year’s edition is even more concentrated, five stages and all with uphill finishes. After the lively Tour de l’Ain last weekend, we’ll see another round of Jumbo-Visma vs Team Ineos, only this time practically every other contender for the Tour de France and their full-strength squads are coming too.

The Route: five uphill finishes in a row, but often the hardest climb is mid-stage rather than the finish.

  • Stage 1 is for the puncheurs
  • Stage 2 finishes atop the Col de Porte, listed as 17km at 6.2% but the profile doesn’t show there’s a descent two thirds of the way up meaning most of the climbing is 7-8% and often more and by itself it’s the hardest of the week’s uphill finishes.
  • Stage 3 goes over the tough Col de la Madeleine before taking the same side road to Val Thorens used as the final climb of last year’s Tour de France, it’s steep at the start but the slope eases well before the finish in Saint Martin.
  • Stage 4 is the hardest on paper with plenty of sharp climbs before the big ascent of the day, the Montée de Bisanne which is a backroad version of the Col des Saisies and then a gentler climb to the finish above Megève on the mini airport runway, a drag of 4-5%.
  • Stage 5 is another loop in the mountains Megève before the same climb to the airport again as the finish.
  • There are time bonuses of 10-6-4 seconds at the finish and 3-2-1 for the intermediate sprints
  • The weather forecast is a heatwave, expect melting tarmac but an increasing chance of thunderstorms during the week

The Contenders

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Primož Roglič is the easy pick, he has just the Tour de l’Ain and has a string of week-long stage races wins on his palmarès already. His Jumbo-Visma can put the squeeze on all their rivals and if you thought they looked powerful in the Ain, in come Sep Kuss and Wout van Aert as reinforcements. Above all, as we saw in three days in a row in the Tour de l’Ain Roglič can outsprint the other GC contenders to harvest time bonuses. But does Roglič want to win, does he need to win? With the Tour de France looking within his grasp remember his goal was the Giro last year, he turned up on Bologna having won plenty in the approach only to fade in the race, a crash contributed but he seemed to be turning stale.  So he might prefer race economically with eyes on a bigger prize.

Team Sky/Ineos have won six of the last nine editions of this race and usually resemble a fortress every summer, no more so than in the Dauphiné and the Tour de France. Only they were on the receiving end in the Tour de l’Ain. Egan Bernal was still second overall so an obvious contender here but where to make the difference vs Roglic, there’s no giant high altitude climb this week. He’s got a very aero climbing position so can try to go solo on a summit finish but easier said than done. For all the earlier talk about “three leaders” chez Ineos we’re quickly down to one in Bernal but Ineos will be worth watching for their other riders, Chris Froome’s form generates a lot of selection talk for the Tour but what of Geraint Thomas, dropped on the first big climb of the Tour de l’Ain and working for the team the next day? Pavel Sivakov is one to watch out for, especially if everyone is busy looking at Bernal.

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Emirates) returns to the mountains and stage racing after two solid rides in the Strade Bianche and Milan-Sanremo which makes form hard to guess, but he was rivalling Roglič in the Slovenian national championships too. He’s likely to be a contender and he’s got a good finish for the time bonuses too. Davide Formolo is in good shape but despite the cherubic looks he’s in his seventh season as a pro and wins are rare.

Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) is improving. Dropped on Mont Ventoux last week, front group on the Grand Colombier on Sunday… at this rate he’ll be attacking soon. If there’s a sprint for the stage win and time bonuses he rarely wins, he’ll have to go solo to win overall. It’ll be interesting to watch the interaction with Warren Barguil who looks to be getting his mountain legs just in time.

Adam Yates won the UAE Tour in February. There are two ways of looking at this, either he took an unloved early season race, or he put a minute into Pogačar and more into the rest. The latter is more instructive, he’s got to be a candidate, his brother Simon has grabbed the grand tour limelight but Adam has been excellent at tricky one week stage races.

Julian Alaphilippe‘s limits are in the high mountains and on the long climbs. This year’s Dauphiné is Alpine but not high altitude and he can take the time bonuses. His fortunes might depend on how the first stage goes, if he wins and takes the race lead he’ll want to fight on. If not then we might see him copy last year’s ride where he goes stage hunting instead.

All these uphill finishes make Mikel Landa a contender but let’s settle for a stage win, he can climb with the best but has only two victories in the last two years to show for it. Bahrain team mate Dylan Teuns meanwhile finds a course to his liking, a similar story to Alaphilippe.

Sergio Higuita‘s one to watch, he can climb with the best and he’s got a great sprint at the top of a climb so on paper he’s contender this week but the form is unknown. He’s got Rigo Uran as EF Pro Cycling team leader and Dani Martinez as well, the sort who can get a gap on the road to Megève and be hard to reel in… and Tejay van Garderen was second overall last year after second place in the TT stage.

Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) wasn’t far off Bernal in the Route d’Occitanie but how to get ahead? He should be a banker for the top-10 but how to win? Note David Gaudu isn’t riding, he’s out with stomach problems.

Richie Porte is looking strong at the moment and heads a Trek-Segafredo team sans Bauke Mollema. He’s punchy and come close to winning this race before and having originally stuck him down for one chainring he gets two, low still but there’s no time trial for him to take time on the pure climbers.

That’s just the prime contenders. Romain Bardet, nursing an elbow injury, and Pierre Latour share Ag2r team leadership. There’s Dan Martin (Israel). Don’t call it a trident but Movistar come with Enric Mas, Alejandro Valverde and Marc Soler and the need to win something, the squad has only one win this year and Covid apart, Valverde would have normally racked up the wins in February and March (only CCC fare worse, they’ve yet to win). Guillaume Martin is looking better than ever, Astana will be counting on improvement from Miguel Angel Lopez, Bora bring “Emu” Buchmann who was second here last year and fourth in the Tour and helped by the lack of time trials could place again but it’s hard to see him winning, plus in-form Felix Großschartner. Finally Pierre Rolland (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept) has just won the Tour de Savoie-Mont Blanc so he’s bound to attack.

Primož Roglič
Egan Bernal
Tadej Pogačar, Adam Yates
Nairo Quintana, Pavel Sivakov, Richie Porte
Pinot, Landa, Buchmann, Teuns, Higuita, Latour, Martinez



TV: summer, the Alps and there’s almost two hours of live coverage each day to soak up, all on the same channel you normally watch the Tour de France and/or Eurosport. The weekday stages finish around 4.30pm CEST, the weekend two at 5.00pm CEST.

37 thoughts on “Critérium du Dauphiné Preview”

    • Unless they were bluffing in the Tour de l’Ain, it’s hard to see a win here. When Froome did his pull on the Grand Colombier it was on the flatter middle section and at the same time Guillaume Martin and George Bennett went back to their cars to get some drinks which suggests the pace wasn’t so urgent. The previous day Thomas was dropped after 10-15 minutes on the Col de Menthières which is a very steady climb, the kind where sitting on the wheels helps. There’s also no time trial or team time trial stage which would advantage them. But it’ll be interesting this week to see where they are, both will want to show and improvement and I suspect we’ll see it, but how much is the question.

      • i wonder if thomas and/or froome might have been using l’ain as the cap on a big block of training and having had some rest in between will be flying for dauphine. whereas bernal might be training through. in this compressed season expect to see some compromises like that

        • That’s my suspicion, too.
          Froome is understandably not at his usual level, but especially with G if he wasn’t ill or something during the past weeks he should be much better in a race than what he showed in the Tour de l’Ain. So yeah, it absolutely makes sense that he was just training.

  1. Lots of big riders. Sparks gonna fly. Of the 73 edition of this race 18% of the winners went on to win the TDF the same year they won the Dauphine. Is it fair to say whom ever wins this race should win the TDF? It’s Jumbo Vs Ineos.

    • The Dauphiné’s been a good step to the Tour and in recent years Froome and Thomas have won on the way to their Tour wins. But so have Jacob Fuglsang (twice), and Andrew Talansky in the last decade. In the case of these two riders they raced really well with some bold attacks and the risks paid off. When Froome or Thomas won it they were very steady, eg in 2018 Sky won the TTT and Thomas was always top-5 in the mountain stages, it’s this kind of consistency that translates to doing well in the Tour.

  2. Inring- moving on to the next preview, without “how the race was won” post after a monument? I’m missing the usual flow of your commentary.

    • I noticed that too, but my guess is he had drafts of previews already done with final edits once racing commenced to see who is in form or not. So the previews are tee’d up, but the “how the race was won” has to be written from scratch after the fact. Conjecture on my part. But boy, is it nice to have Inrng back!

      • It’s simpler than that, was just busy on Sunday and Monday. Typing up how the race was won is usually quick as I take notes during the race (not studiously but just things of interest, timings etc)… still got the notes but no time for a write-up. If Sanremo had finished an hour earlier there’d be a piece here.

  3. As so much else this is a very different race this year. Normally it is about fine tuning the weeks (months) of preparation for the three weeks of the Tour. Yes the momentum thing can be important but there are many examples of riders who only show so so form at the Dauphine but who go on to challenge in the third week . This time it is shorter race (shame not so many opportunities for the sprinters) and many of those racing will have very little racing in the run up. It clearly will be interesting to see how Team Ineos do but there are a good number of others whose racing up to now has been limited and will be using the race primarily as a training exercise. Given the unique circumstances no one really knows what the best training programme is.

    Jumbo look strong but have they peaked too soon and will they have the stamina to keep it going until the later part of September? Geraint Thomas does not look to be anywhere near his peak but last Friday was his first day’s racing for many months, not surprising he seemed to be treating the race as a training outing, even Egan Bernal did not look in peak form.

    I think this is the first race to feature both Tom Dumoulin and Chris Froome since the TdF in 2018 both coming back from long term injuries. At the time the thought was they would be battling it out for GT wins for the next couple of years but now a new generation is taking over, can either win a GT again?

  4. MTS suggest on thier website that they will be looking for stage wins (and for the TdF too). That seems a pity both for Yates and for the team. Surely a better strategy would be to ride the Dauphiné for GC and, only if that fails – which should become evident on stage two, to target stages. Writing Yates off as a GC rider at just 28 is not justified by his past record despite a poor TdF performance in 2019.

    • I agree, and I want to see as many GC contenders for the TdF as possible (apologies for focusing on the TdF, but the Dauphine has always been a training race, and this one looks like being decided by time bonuses given out on uphill sprints). I really don’t relish a two-horse TdF between the leaders of Ineos and Jumbo.

      • It would seem a little foolish for JV & Ineos to go into the TdF with a single “leader”, no one has any real idea of form over three weeks and what are the chances of both Primoz Roglic and Egan Bernal avoiding the usual “incidents and accidents”? Additionally this year’s route does not have many high mountain sections (unlike last year) which will bring many more riders into play. Far too early to be calling the TdF as an Ineos v JV face off

        • I have been looking forward to the Jumbo-Visma v Ineos face off since Dumoulin was signed.
          At the moment the advantage looks to be most certainly with the Dutch team and it looks like that will continue this week into the Dauphine.
          Dumoulin was signed specifically for the Tour, and Roglic has earned his tilt.
          I hope both teams go with as strong as lineups as possible, even if that looks to include multiple potential team leaders.
          These kinds of things don’t happen too often and should be cherished when they do.
          Hopefully we get a real Tour head-to-head and Jumbo-Visma can boldly go where Movistar failed so badly before.

  5. Both Jumbo and Ineos only have one leader for the TdF – Roglic and Bernal. I’m surprised that both Dumoulin and Froome don’t accept the reality of their form and go for the Giro as they’d have more time to build better form. That is assuming their teams would allow it: I imagine Dumoulin could insist, and I’m not sure that Ineos would mind Froome going for the Giro; it could prove less of a headache.

    • Could Dumoulin have some sort of team understanding where he works for Roglic in the TdF (and Dauphiné) and the team agree to support him (or Kruijswijk) in the Vuelta. The same logic could apply to other team leader/support combinations.

      EF have Carthy too who might provide Dauphiné and TdF top ten potential if Uran shows his age and Higuita can’t last for three hard weeks.

    • Dumoulin really wants to go to the tour, to win it. He’s stated in interviews that he’s won the Giro and came second in the Tour, and is no longer interested in repeats of that scenario. I think he may hold off of pushing too hard for the win this season if Roglic has a better chance for the victory but he’ll rather take the start of the TdF as an outsider and still have a slight chance to win than be relegated to the Giro.

    • Say it ain’t so J Evans?! Way to early to be writing off TD or G (he he), and probably Froome for that matter (for the TDF). First race in 14 months for TD at L’Ain and he looked more than respectable. I suspect he’ll look even better this week. Roglic does look very good, obviously, but I would put my money on TD over Roglic for the Tour, mainly based on past Grand Tour(s) track record. As for G, I suspect he has the best sprint of all the TDF contenders, so may pick up more bonus seconds (which is probably the only way that he can win the Tour). That TT at the Tour could prove very interesting for a change. Assuming Landa can stay out of trouble, I think he may surprise this week and at the Tour (but I always think that).

    • I like everyone else’s optimism to my two comments above, and I probably was too hasty to write the others off. Let’s hope you’re all correct, and in the meantime I’ll try to buck up a bit.

  6. L’Ain had a bizzaro world feel to it:
    Ineos throwing down everything they had, desperately trying to take some kind of control, failing, Froome’s face all twisted in effort. Then, after they were done, JV to the front, processional and expressionless, not spending one watt more than necessary to win.
    After all these years of wishing it, it was actually a little unsettling. Surely it’ll snap back at the Dauphine.

  7. Roglic clearly has the best form. But can he carry it. As Inrng comments, it’s sort of the consistency which is key in the normal lead up. The interesting thing about INEOS is how both G and Froome suffered at the Ain. I sort of expect Froome to get dropped from the squad if he can’t prove his worth in the Dauphine. G is likely to be chief domestique. Bernal is clearly their main contender.
    Is this too far out to have good form?
    It’s should be an interesting TdF AND Dauphine, as long as COVID doesn’t clam everything up. The poker faces will be in full effect in the next week.
    My money is on Roglic for both.

  8. Minor edits on the Roglic paragraph:

    “Primož Roglič is the easy pick, he has just WON the Tour de l’Ain and has a string of week-long stage races wins on his palmarès already.”

    “With the Tour de France looking within his grasp remember his goal was the Giro last year, he turned up IN Bologna having won plenty in the approach only to fade in the race, a crash contributed but he seemed to be turning stale. So he might prefer TO race economically with eyes on a bigger prize.”

  9. In the local paper here in Mayenne. What caught my eye more than the headline of Brest getting the Grand Départ was that Rennes doesn’t want it . Until or if they ever confront the issue of carbon emissions etc. Times they are changing. Back to the days of 400km stages and unsupported racing at the pro level if you please

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