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
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.
|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.