The Moment The Dauphiné Was Won

Dani Martinez wins the Critérium du Dauphiné ahead of Thibaut Pinot and Guillaume Martin at the end of a thrilling final stage. Not a shock but a surprise. Primož Roglič looked the strongest rider all week but retired before the last stage, copying Egan Bernal who had also left. In this abbreviated, condensed season the Tour de France is more important than ever and the Dauphiné was both a lively and instructive five days of racing.

To finish first, first finish” and the final weekend of the Critérium du Dauphiné saw several precautionary withdrawals. First came Egan Bernal with talk of back pain but probably he and his team had enough of getting sand kicked in their face. Jumbo-Visma have made a thing of emulating Ineos in recent years and it was their turn to withdraw Primož Roglič the next day. The Slovenian was leading the race but crashed on an ordinary section of road on Saturday and got as far as climbing in the team car before remounting and racing. Even sore and shredded he showed he could deal with a collective attack from the Bahrain-Merida squad. Unlike Bernal, Roglič had been floating and as predicted, he and his Jumbo Visma team were the strongest in the neat little Tour de l’Ain last week and against a deeper field held their own again.

The opening stage to Saint-Christo saw Wout van Aert win the uphill sprint and the Belgian would prove the most versatile rider of the week. The next day’s stage to the Col de Porte saw Jumbo-Visma vs Team Ineos, a repeat of the Tour de l’Ain. Jumbo-Visma won the duel because Roglič won the stage and had Sep Kuss on hand in the final to mop up Bernal’s attack while Ineos ran out of helpers. The Dutch team extended this superiority all week, the next day Roglič took the time bonus for second place behind long range raider Davide Formolo, while Bernal lost few metres in the finish. Not that everything went to plan, Steven Kruijswijk crashed on a descent the next day with a reported dislocated shoulder and an hour later Roglič fell. While he got back and finished the stage he didn’t start the next day but this just let the remaining Jumbo riders play their own cards and Sep Kuss won the stage while Tom Dumoulin impressed, his form visibly improved from the Tour de l’Ain.

Ineos had a tough week. Bernal started well with third place on the first stage but in the first summit finish the next day he lost a few seconds to rivals. Crucially Ineos’s mountain train ran out of riders. A giant pull by Michał Kwiatkowski on the Col de Porte asphyxiated many riders including Chris Froome who couldn’t take over but it was probably the closest he got to the front all week, sitting up on the other climbs. Geraint Thomas looked off the pace too, he finished second last on the final stage. But replay the week without Froome and with, say, Andrey Amador and collectively they’d have looked stronger and Pavel Sivakov is riding very well. What’s striking is the team has made winning the Dauphiné the launchpad for their Tour success, and in seasons when the gap between the races is 4-5 weeks, now it’s 13 days and remember Stage 2 of the Tour de France tackles the Colmiane, the Turini and the Col d’Eze and Stage 4 of the Tour de France is the Orcière-Merlette summit finish, there’s no biding your time until the third week.

Amid the duel between the two teams, Dani Martinez ended up as a satisfying winner, and not just because the pre-race preview here wrote if he got a gap on the road to Megève he’d be hard to reel in. It’s a timely reminder that Ineos vs. Jumbo isn’t the only show in town, focus on them only and you’ll miss plenty. Martinez didn’t put a foot wrong all week and made a solid move on the final day to take the race, he’s similar to his captain Rigo Uran as both solid in the mountains but also excellent in time trials and this won’t be his last World Tour stage win. Thibaut Pinot inherited the race lead following Roglič’s withdrawal but the Frenchman’s yet to win a World Tour-level stage race and he and his team have little experience of defending a lead. Groupama-FDJ didn’t bring their Tour team to the Dauphiné and the presence of a race-fit Molard and Gaudu could have helped. For a moment Pinot got extra help from a front républicain of Julian Alaphilippe and Warren Barguil which narrowed the gap but couldn’t close it.

The Dauphiné’s a warm up for the Tour de France. So what does this week mean for the Tour? In the past it’s been easy to convert a strong, dominant ride in the Dauphiné to the Tour de France, see Wiggins in 2012, Froome in 2013 and Thomas in 2018. Crafty, deserved wins by the likes of Talansky, Fuglsang and now Martinez don’t translate as well. Extrapolate from June to July August to September and Primož Roglič is the rider to beat, Jumbo-Visma the team to beat. Roglič can climb with the best, his jump lets him harvest time bonuses and he’s handy in a time trial too. He’s backed by a very strong team with Tony Martin who can control for hours on end, a role often unseen on TV. Wout van Aert’s the athletic version of an impersonator, one minute he can do the role of a sprinter, the next he’s pace setting in the Alps. Steven Kruijswiijk was one of the team’s three leaders but even before his crash and shoulder injury looks to be a luxury domestique, a role to share alongside Sep Kuss, Robert Gesink and George Bennett. Tom Dumoulin was a helper in the Tour de l’Ain but increasingly looks like a contender.

Ineos look like they have work to do but that’s the wrong phrase, you can’t work to improve form significantly between now the Tour, no long rides nor interval sessions can change much. Perhaps they’ve got rest to do, some suggested they came in tired from training? If so then that might explain the blunt legs in the Tour de l’Ain but not late into the Dauphiné when things even out, nor doesn’t explain why Bernal and Sivakov rode so well when others didn’t. It’s these question marks that make the Tour more open.

Dani Martinez doesn’t look like a Tour winner yet but he’s certainly a contender and precisely for the way he rode this week, he can climb with the best all week and when it matters drop them and given he shares the same agent as Bernal, Kwiatkowski, Sosa, Amador and more at Ineos you wonder when he’ll move to the British squad? Eight months ago French forums fizzed with mockery when Cedric Vasseur declared his new signing Guillaume Martin could make the top-5 in the Tour de France. Now it’s possible, he’s had a good week but this builds on his rides on Mont Ventoux and the Tour de l’Ain, he’s groupe de tête material at moment and he puts this down to the move to a bigger team and having spent three weeks at altitude and with his philosophy degree he’s occupying terrain once free for Romain Bardet. French hopes still rest with Pinot and his form is on the up, on the receiving end from Bernal in Occitanie, superior to him last week but as ever things look brittle. Nairo Quintana’s stock has fallen since a motorist cut him up on a training ride in Colombia while compatriot Miguel Angel Lopez is looking stronger. Mikel Landa looks more volatile than ever, as the pre-race preview suggested just a stage win would be impressive but for a big budget team Bahrain seem off the pace. Movistar, often a threat in the summer, look worse.

In the background is the Coronavirus. The chart above isn’t the profile of last Friday’s stage over the Madeleine to Saint Martin, it’s the average number of COVID-19 cases in France per day going back six months and as you can see the number is rising significantly this month. Now this pick-up is different to the March, there’s more testing and more local differentiations and you haven’t come here for the epidemiology, but the story is of one of restrictions coming back, not being lifted but for now we’re talking compulsory masks, not lockdowns. The Tour de France has its own measures, the plan is to ensure the travelling convoy stays in a bubble so that whatever is happening en route the Tour isn’t part of it. But this only gets things so far and a viral sword of Damocles hangs over the race. Under the sport’s rules if the race is stopped it’s down to officialdom to decide what to do, all the stage results stand but the GC can be awarded or cancelled. It’s a thought-exercise to make us think what a grand tour is – they don’t have to be three weeks, the rules say they can be 15 days – but any abbreviation is going to be very unsatisfying. Last year’s omission of the Tignes summit finish and the re-routing of the final stage sans the Cormet de Roselend and Col de Tra was bad enough. But imagine not to making the final time trial or halting before the Col le la Loze on Stage 17? Things that seemed unimaginable in February happened in March, what seems out of question today might feel suitable one day and that’s probably as true for epidemiology as it is for bike racing.

68 thoughts on “The Moment The Dauphiné Was Won”

  1. As ever the most insightful analysis in cycling.

    I thought Tom Dumoulin looked in top form yesterday, if he had chosen to he could have dragged Thibaut Pinot to victory, but he let the French riders do their own thing. He must be a good bet for the TdF, especially if the crash derails Primoz Roglic’s preparation to any extent. That assumes the race actually happens in a recognisable format. I agree about all the bubble stuff and from media reports everything was very strict at the Dauphine, However can the tour really be completely divorced from its surroundings? Not easy to see at all.

      • I agree with JC as Pinot lost the race only by half a minute. Had Dumoulin contributed to the chase as Ala, Barguil and even Bardet did – although they were all clearly struggling more than Dumoulin who just sat on until he attacked – they would have closed the gap.
        With Kuss in front going for the stage win he had a very good reason not to do this, of course.
        I found it somewhat amazing though that Dumoulin then attacked in the final. Did he want to show that he could have easily dropped everyone had Kuss not been in front? He must have felt really good and wanted to show it, otherwise that move didn’t really make sense. While it’s completely “o.K.” to ride like that you don’t make yourself any friends sitting in the wheels for an extended period while everyone else is working their asses off and then attacking them just for the show close to the line.

        • Not sure if that was the reason, but Pinot finished only 1 point behind WVA and Pogacar in the green jersey competition. If it wasn’t for Dumoulin and Kämna breaking off, he could have taken the green jersey. Maybe they wanted to reward Van Aert for his brilliant job all week with a spot on the podium?

  2. A fascinating race for so many reasons. Intrigue via team dynamics, both inter team and between teams, rider form, how injuries will affect them etc.
    I am most interested in how the current situation affects how riders may take on the race differently. Surely you still need to pace for 3 weeks but you wouldn’t want to be 10 seconds down and the race called off just before the last time trial.
    How much influence to ASO have with government, and how likley are they really to be able to ride on if virus restrictions increase? I had joked on twitter it would depend on where Pinot was in the GC on whether the government allowed the race to continue.
    However I see today that even the opening of historical reenactment theme parks is causing political arguments.

    • Would it be more damaging for the Tour and cycling as a whole to cancel it before it happens or for it to start and then get called off under pressure from the media? Both would be bad but I reckon the 2nd would be worse.

        • I suppose I always thought that the Tour was so link to France’s outward image to the world and french culture that there would be big political will to keep the race going, even if the rest of France was back in lockdown.
          But I know politics isn’t that simple, and with something as serious as COVID where people are dying then sport, even a great sporting event like the Tour may have to take a back seat.
          I hope if it starts it gets to finish, for the riders if nothing else, it would be rubbish for say a winner of a Tour cancelled 3 or 4 days early. A sort of win but always with the asterisk.

      • Another possible scenario is that the virus gets into the bubble and starts taking down teams. At what peloton size or team count would Le Tour pull the plug?

  3. Not sure the Dauphine will be that instructive to be honest. Being in form now doesn’t mean you will be in 5 weeks time. Also it was entirely mountainous with no time trials (presumably there will be at least one short one in the Tour) and no flat windy stages (presumably there could be some of those too).

    • It seems to me that individual and team TTs would only accentuate JV’s dominance, especially vs. everyone else except Ineos (and I don’t think TTs would be an edge for Ineos). Flat windy stages? Isn’t Jumbo Visma a Dutch team, with riders like TvA? I think they’ve seen some wind. And regarding being in dramatically better shape in 5 weeks – we haven’t really seen that in recent times, have we? I know Roglic seemed to have over-raced last year but COVID has prevented this scenario. I’ve seen exercise physiologists claim that it’s a fallacy that one “rides into shape” during a 3-week race. It’s more about managing the inevitable fatigue and wear-and-tear.

    • Historically Ineos/Sky have been in form and tried to win the Dauphine/Suisse, though. Obviously these aren’t normal times, but it’s not like them to sit their guys up/withdraw them for these races.

  4. Roglič can climb with the best, his jump lets him harvest time bonuses and he’s handy in a time trial too.

    “his jump” – I see what you did there.

  5. That has to be one of the better editions of the Dauphine for quite a while. Alright, not really proper Dauphine, but the blow-for-blow racing yesterday with not a train in sight was vintage. And even if the anticipated showdown between JV and Ineos ended up one sided, it didn’t disappoint in terms of drama – Seeing Ineos deluded about their own strength at the start, then humbled through the middle, followed by virtual disintegrating by the end save for Sivakov… it was kind of sad. Especially next to the insane strength of Jumbo Visma – Even without the fact that Dumoulin seems to be ominously riding into form and Bennett is finishing at the pointy end of everything he races, they were so impressive. I also thought it was telling that JV celebrated their wins like Quickstep. There’s something good going on there.

    • I very much enjoyed the more wide open racing, but I wasn’t sad about Ineos. I try not to stoop to Schadenfreude, but I can’t deny a few such feelings. I think it’s good for them, too, to have a little taste of what it’s like for other teams.

      I hope everyone stays safe and well and that the TdF can finish because there should be some darn good racing.

  6. My first comment in the revived season, so: great write-ups and commentary, and much excellent and exciting racing to feast on. It’s been great to see more youngsters revealing themselves and some exciting break-away wins, while also watching JV take a page from the Sky/Ineos playbook. I too have a sinking feeling about the likelihood of the TdF coming off as planned, which is a shame because there are some great story lines that have developed.

    Aside from the horrible crashes and a variety of particularly gutty performances, I’m struck by the dogs that didn’t bark. Froome quickly became a non-story and his poor performances became less and less commented upon (mercifully, and in stark contrast to the endless race-commentator speculation about Cavendish in every damned race he’s been in for the last several years, despite showing himself to be a spent force). I’m not remotely surprised by Froome’s lack of performance – after the extent of his injury was revealed last year, I was confident that despite his otherworldly focus and desire, he was finished as a GT threat. The injury was just too extensive, and his age and bone density not in his favor. I expect he’ll be better next year, but he’ll never be near where he was. Given that we’ve seen a host of surprisingly young GT stars appear in the last couple of years, I’m skeptical that even without the injury he would have won another GT, last year included.

    Another barkless dog was Geraint Thomas. The gossip about Thomas in some forum comment sections has highlighted Thomas’ supposed lack of training discipline. Age isn’t on his side, either, and he seems to be woefully under prepared for the TdF starting in a couple of weeks. Perhaps the COVID race pause has worked against him more than most if it’s true that he’s less dedicated to preparation than other GT riders.

  7. I do not understand Ineos. Or perhaps they have got so much right over ten years that they are due some bad luck.

    Froome: 6 months with leg muscles withering is a problem when your legs do the work.
    Bernal: good but little to unnerve Roglic
    Thomas: wtf? For £3.5m I would want a lot more in return. Is he ill or injured or sandbagging? Or just not fit enough and diminished in hunger after 2108?
    Kwiato: wasted as a super-dom and not that super now. Is he too well paid? Preferred him as 1 day race terminator
    Sivakov: great talent but not sure he is ready to do Rogers / Porte / Poels last man role
    Sosa: overlooked but wouldn’t be at other teams
    Hart: not sure if he is future GT leader or super-dom.

    Roglic is big clear favourite for TdF

    • I think it’s a culture thing and a dynasty thing. That special spark that pulled them all together as an unstoppable force is gone for one reason or another and now JV has it.

      Despite their results at the TDF last year, I think you could see the start of it then. At the same time the extent of the slide since is something when you think back to the end of last years Tour and that many were talking of a 10 year reign for Bernal. All seems a long time ago.

      • I think Bernal still has an immense future, and Ineos is loaded with young talent. I’m willing to write off Froome and Thomas, but not the team. Not that I’m a fan of the team, but they still have an amazingly stacked roster. Perhaps what is missing this year is not some culture thing or spark, but Nicolas Portal?

        • Another vote here for RIP Nico Portal, in this context at least.
          It was a huge shame to lose such a genuinely lovely human being from the world, but I honestly think what is missing for Ineos is a racing brain like his. Understanding what is going on in the racing we’re getting in 2020 is massively difficult as none of the previous rules seem to apply, which is fairly typical of this year.
          I’ll also add my “chapeau” to Inrng’s style once again on the “Roglic’s jump” point earlier – I missed it first time I read it, but that is the kind of wordplay that makes this blog such a joy to read.
          Please keep it up, I’m not sure any of us has quite been able to express how much we missed it when this blog didn’t update for so long! Having you back is a tiny sliver of normality in a crazy world.

          • Without doubt, he’s missed hugely by Ineos but even Portal couldn’t make Froome and Thomas faster. It wouldn’t surprise me if both fail to make the Tour team – Brailsford is all winning, not sentiment. That said, I’m not so sure that Bernal is quite as good as many make out. And if Ineos aren’t bossing the GTs he may struggle to win another

        • No, not writing them off, but it seems like that unrivaled era of dominance is over. Hypothetical: if JV wins the Tour, it gets a little harder for Ineos to secure the budget that built that roster, while at JV the reverse happens… and so on.

    • Sivakov had a great ride in the Dauphiné. To take one case, Geoghegan Hart was strong in the Route d’Occitanie, it was he who took over after Froome on the Col de Beyrède and really shrunk the group down to just Bernal, Sivakov, Pinot and Vlasov… but he crashed in the Tour de l’Ain.

  8. Good race, better write-up.

    How much time does Roglic need over Dumoulin going in to the last TT? Roglic approaching evens and Dumoulin still at 6-1… I know the latter has had time out but that seems interesting to me.

    I really want Pinot to win, but I’m not sure how that would happen given his team isn’t that strong – even if he can overhaul Roglic in the mountains (possible based upon form improvement), will it be enough for any TT?

  9. Roglic’ should be excellent at safely falling as well as jumping.
    Ineos must be tinkering with lots of structural things, it’s like they’ve taken on the silicon valley corporate ideology of ‘move fast and break things’ rather enthusiastically. But the apparent disarray does nonetheless seem to offer young riders unique opportunities, and Sivakov etc might have sensed that(?). Would a talented young rider snootily reject an offer from them now?
    I worry that the TdF might become more of a political story than a sporting one as the weeks roll on, is that a risk the organisers are willing to take?
    ‘French forums fizzing with mockery’… I immediately thought of that Monty Python sketch.

  10. Great race all around but Sep Kuss’ performance was impressive. Tour of Utah is a great race to win but this was something else entirely… grand tour material it would seem.

    • Nice to think he may become a GT winner. Needs a bit more time trial work within JV Given Roglic and Tommy D he has some great teachers.

    • Kuss has already done three GTs and took an impressive stage in last year’s Vuelta (while also strongly supporting Roglic’s win), so we know he’s cut out for them. However, as a GT threat himself I think he would have to improve his ITT skills significantly to ever aspire to more than a top ten finish.

  11. I feel so bad for Pinot. I’m sure he was happy with his position before Roglic retired. Once in the leaders role was on a hiding to nothing. The lack of depth in FDJ was always going to let him down. It was nice to see Bardet, Martin, Barguil and Alaphilippe do what they could for him. But I can only imagine that he must have been in mental anguish all afternoon.
    Flipping the tables, what if Martinez had been race leader, how would that have played out? Would Pinot have pipped him? I think so. But we will never know.

  12. Manny Buchmann shouldn’t be forgotten either. Another one to crash out, where he was sandwiched between Pinot and Martinez on GC and at the time looking strong. With his 4th in last years Tour, he’s a definite top 5 threat, assuming the injuries from his fall haven’t too much of a negative impact.

  13. Thanks my inner ring for the write ups. Your great blog posts were missed almost as much as any racing.
    Last year before his injury i thought pinot was a real contender and he still is. But after this race i wonder if he has the write mindset. After the others got away he needed to tt to the end. But what he did was alternate sitting behind others who had no intention of towing him and furious surging. He needed to grind it out and not worry about those around him. He also looked like being number one french rider was more important. Now his team for this race was to weak and it may have all been in vain but he needed to maximise his chances.
    Pinot can win tdf but he needs a better team and a good captain to keep his emotions in control and focus on what is needed.

    • It’s funny, but when I watched this live I sort of felt a bit like you. But there was a lot going on and on replay I realised that Pinot was riding as hard as he could, and that his French friends were doing pulls to help close the gap. But secret is that Pinot had too much to do on his own.
      On what was a pretty tough stage he was having to do pretty much the last three climbs on his own. I agree he did surges, but these may have been when he felt good. I noticed that some of the other riders in the lead groups did these too on steeper gradients. And, we don’t know what advice he was getting in his ear.
      Again, a counter-factual is a good idea – would Pinot have won if Roglic was there? I don’t think so, since he never beat him on the climb finishes. So second was his destiny – but the final day was a particularly cruel tease for him.

  14. Is anyone starting to consider Dumoulin as a genuine GC threat in the TdF?
    What are people’s thoughts about the final TT – will 30k of flat before the final cat1 climb be enough for the TT masters to put significant dents into the more pure climber style GCers like Quintana and Pinot?

    This is it here:

    • Let’s not forget that it’s stage 20, and that this climb up to the Planche is a really bad one. I guess even the best TT riders will approach the first 30 ks of that ITT somewhat conservatively as they might otherwise lose it all in that climb. Whereas for someone like Pinot it’s a different thing.
      I’d say if this ITT was in the first week an in-form Roglic would probably absolutely smash it. And even Ala would stand a good chance to be on the podium of that stage.
      But as the last stage after three hard weeks I reckon this ITT will be even more “different” than last week GT ITTs usually are anyway.

  15. Well I don’t think you can look past Roglic in his own team. I doubt his road rash is going to dent his form too much (if at all). Dumoulin looked up to speed with the other competitors. The real problem for his are his team mates (Kuss and Roglic both looked better). Are JV going to try to have both him and Roglic on the podium? I can’t see them trying to balance two baskets. His best hope is that Roglic gets injured.

  16. Was a great race. Agree with everyone on here that Jumbo look by far the strongest team. The big question is who has the better legs, Rog or Dumolin? Ineos looked pretty shambolic to be honest, very unlike them pre Tour. Based on that performance I can’t see either Froome or Thomas justifying their places, especially when they have so many good riders to call on. May save themselves a headache as well if they leave them two home.

      • It’s hard to tell from the outside. Outwardly on what we’ve seen both didn’t deliver much but we don’t know how hard they were trying or if they went in fried, it seemed Froome was due to take over the duties from Kwiatkowski on the Col de Porte but was he at his max? The same for Thomas, he tried to get in the break on the final day but couldn’t get across, was he 100%? We can all guess on the outside but the coaches will know a lot more. It seems the team decision will be out soon.

        • Looks like they’ve both been dropped with Carapaz and Amador brought in. Good decision I think. Will certainly avoid any potential ego clashes, or at least minimise the risk.

  17. Great write-up, even per your lofty standards. Thank you!

    With regards to INEOS, I’ll admit I struggle to believe it. You don’t lose all the wisdom about training, preparation, etc. from one season to the other. And even the loss of Nicolas Portal and Rod Ellingworth cannot explain it on a factual basis I’d say. Their loss didn’t take away any crucial knowledge from the team I’d suggest.

    G for example had a much better off-season training-wise than the year before after he had just won the TdF. Then he became second in the TdF despite some sub-par preparation. And he knows his body, he knows what he needs to do and what to avoid.

    So they’re either playing a show here – although I struggle to imagine a reason why they should do that -, or the team was hit by some illness while being on a training camp, or it’s a mental or mood thing. Which given how “important” Nico Portal beyond his role as a strategist obviously was as a human, as a friend, as a source for positive energy for those guys somehow seems the most probable explanation to me. “Most probable” though should not be interpreted as really likely.

    It’s a mystery, and although I’ve certainly never been a fan of their team I’d like to see them bounce back or at least understand what went wrong. I certainly hope – somehow for all of us attached to professional cycling – that the reason for their current situation has nothing to do with things they did in the past and for some reason can no longer do.

  18. Excluding ‘G’ and Froome is perhaps the most ingenious feature thought after Dauphine.
    It really is an adult decision, which means that the team avoids the sky-high level of expectations and gets more peace of mind as the focus shifts to the Visma team. Now Kwiatkowski and Amador can get calm thiol to keep together on the team and tactics, while the 2 golden boys, Bernal and Carapaz can frolic as much as they like. It is very close to being an ingenious move from Team Ineos.

  19. Ineos had no sensible choice.

    Meanwhile Brailsford’s team have gone from Ocean Rescue to a dinosaur in Ratcliffe’s 4×4 tank substitute in a few short years. Shame on them.

  20. I used to be mad at Tony Martin for not being able to win as much as he used to, but now I see it is because of team strategy, which makes him even a better rider, has there ever been a rider who can control the bunch single-handedly like he does?

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