Critérium du Dauphiné Stage 6 Preview

The race goes into the Alps with the last chance for the sprinters and non-climbers.

Dylan’s blues: another close one with suspense all the way to the end. Is it just the Dauphiné that’s supplying these thrills, and come the Tour de France the sprint stages will be all too predictable? Sadly yes, because this week has had supplied plenty of hilly days, few sprinters have showed up so there aren’t many trains either to contain things either. But just as the Giro’s sprint stages weren’t so obvious, the Tour route often isn’t either.

The early breakaway of Jan Bakelants, Sebastian Schönberger, Fabian Doubey and Benjamin Thomas had a two minute lead going into Maconnais hills. Bike Exchange had again been working for much of the stage, then suddenly Ineos got to the front for the series of three climbs in the final and sure enough Dylan Groenewegen was out the back. It’s not his fault, the terrain didn’t suit and has suggested in yesterday’s preview these côtes were ripe to be harvested. If the speed was enough to eject Groenewegen, bringing back the quartet was a lot harder and even Primož Roglič was needed with a big turn to the flamme rouge. Up ahead the break looked to lose their cool, their cohesion understandable broken given the stakes and they were overhauled, just with Bakelants still making the top-10. Wout van Aert won, just holding off Jordi Meeus with Ethan Hayer in third.

The Route: if you’re going to Die, then visit the Vercors before. It could be a motto but it’s also today’s route. There’s 196km and almost 3,000m of climbing nothing very steep. After a start in the Isère plans the race wisely avoids the valley to reach the scenic Vercors plateau. Hipsters and experts will lament that it takes main road up, but the D518 road via the 1.8km Grand Goulets tunnel is still scenic, at least before the tunnel but there are many other roads that climb up and they have less traffic. Then the race leaves the plateau via a short tunnel before the Col de Rousset and it’s majestic descent. Here the race goes through the town of Die, capital of the Diois (“dee-wah”) area, the poorer cousin of the Vercors but often as scenic. The Col de Cabre is steady climb that never gets steep and then the route zigs and zags around valley roads, often up or down too but nothing steep.

The Finish: it’s into the town of Gap and then back out over a small hill but if you remember Gap and a finish with a hill out the back from the Tour de France, it’s definitely not the climb of La Rochette and the infamous descent, today’s got a much smaller version. Here it’s not long or steep, 3km at 3% but with one steep part early and another later maybe just enough to fatigue someone on the limit already but if that’s the case they’d struggle in the looming sprint anyway, a sprinter could lose places but not the peloton. Then comes a descent back into town and then the flat main road into town for the final 3km.

The Contenders: guess who? Yes, Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) again because it’s hilly and he’s sprinting so well. The big question though is whether his team will work as hard, he’s now won two stages so they don’t really need a third, is it worth deploying the whole squad to bring back the breakaway? Likewise for Ineos who can win with Ethan Hayter but may not use up Ganna again today.

So today’s a big breakaway day, the winner will need to make the right moves over the Vercors climbs and then have the power later for the finish. Andrea Bagioli and Mikkel Honoré (Quick-Step), Samuele Battistella (Astana), Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ), perhaps Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic) but unsure about the form, and maybe Nils Politt (Bora-hansgrohe) if he can get in an early move that settles down to ride tempo over the early climbs.

Do Dylan Groenewegen (Bike-Exchange) and the other sprinters have a chance? Yes as the second half of the stage is not as hard. Sure there’s lots of climbing all day but the worst for them comes early. The Col de Cabre is the kind of climb where being on a wheel helps and the final climb above Gap is a big ring climb. But Jordi Meeus (Bora-hansgrohe) did well yesterday so he and J-S Molano (UAE) could be fresher picks for the finish.

Wout van Aert
Hayter, Meeus, Honoré, Molano, Groenewegen

Weather: sunshine and clear skies and only a light tailwind from the NW, up to 27°C by the finish.

TV: the stage starts at 11.15am and finishes around 16.40 CEST with the last two hours live on TV, so the Col de Cabre onwards.

Local info: today’s Col de Cabre probably gets its name from the word for goat, chèvre in French and capra in Italian, closer to the Latin root. The verb se cabrer in French literally means for an animal to stand up on its hind legs. But it is used in cycling to suggest when the slope rises, when things get steeper, conjuring up images of a goat bounding up a steep pitch. Only today’s Col de Cabre doesn’t really se cabre as it is not a récalcitrant sort of climb but more an even one.

26 thoughts on “Critérium du Dauphiné Stage 6 Preview”

  1. It’s incredible to think that with only a minor change in circumstances – a better chase on stage 2, an extra pedal stroke on stage 3 etc – WvA could be anticipating his 6th stage win in a row today…

    • The other side to this is that all the road stages have been virtually the same. Although he is a super rider, its just that he is the strongest sprinter in the race who can survive hills and he has just done the same on repeat each day which for me takes the aura away from his results.

      • To be fair, neither stage 3 or stage 4 do resemble your description, as also mirrored by their results, yet WVA came painfully close to win both of them, too.

        • To defend my comments I did say road stages, so you can ignore stage 4, and Mr Inner ring himself described stage 3 as ‘an uphill sprint’

          • To follow up as a mere joking aside, I should then notice about stage 3 that an “uphill sprint” isn’t the same as “a sprint after going up some hills”, just as the Flèche Wallone isn’t the same as the Gent-Wevelgem ^___^
            And taking out the ITT is a bit absurd, given that we’re commenting about how versatile and consistent WVA’s been.
            Well, at least today he didn’t come close to victory at all.

  2. Last chance for the pure sprinters. Both with so few sprinters surely a powerful breakaway will form today. I guess bike exchange will be desperate be even then i think its not guaranteed groenewegen would make it over the last hill hes pretty poor at the climbing thing. I think if a strong breakaway forms BEX will not be able to handle it.

    Surely Ineos will not pace today for WVA to win. Hayters just not 100% suited to big group flattish sprints.
    If been funny watching Jumbo who are desperate to get WVA in a sprint try and bluff everybody stage after stage so much so they either keep just missing a sprint for the win or just getting the break in time. Because they keep trying to bluff everybody they are sending there GC riders to the front at the end in a desperate bid to smash a few turns super hard to bring the break back. If they did this in the tdf you can just about count Roglic out of your calculations for the GC.

    • For Roglic, this a training camp with perhaps a dress rehearsal during the weekend. If he is a GC contender next month, he will surely be protected and his GC bid would be the a priority for his team. (Either his bid – or Vingegaards.) But sure, with WvA, JV has perhaps conflicting priorities…

    • Yes, we discussed this the other day.
      Jumbo could have conceivably won every single stage of this race by its end but at what cost.
      And if you throw Caleb Ewan and van der Poel into the Green Jersey mix at the Tour, intermediate points might be important there too.
      And no one’s mentioned Peter Sagan yet.
      GC & GJ @ TdF = #%£* (pardon my French) 😀

  3. What even is a ‘pure sprinter’ any more?
    WvA is getting to the sprints, which is all that counts when there are hills in the way.
    More recently we’ve seen sprinters present but so far in the red they couldn’t stay upright.
    The pure sprint stages in the Giro brought on yawns, and it’s only crosswinds or some breakaway miscalculation that bring excitement.
    Sure, there will always be the need for quick riders in a sprint but it’s being there at the end of whatever was in the stage that gets them the opportunity.
    For the sprinter in cause to be Groenwegen is all the more telling, since this is the guy who also brought havoc in sprints as a deliberate way of winning. There’s no pleasure in seeing him suffer out the back but there would be none in seeing him contest either.
    – Have organisers moved on from needing pure sprinters?

    • I’m not sure it’s fair to Groenewegen to say he brought havoc in sprints as a deliberate way of winning. I think aside from the extraordinary example at the Tour of Poland his record of dirty sprinting is no more remarkable than the average big-name sprinter. My sense is that he needs a good leadout and some clear air to get rolling, and that when he wins it’s because he had the chance to spool up to his top speed, which is considerable.

      I also don’t think you can generalize from this particular race to the value of pure sprinters for teams and races. This happens to be a race with very few sprinters or sprint trains, and right now Groenewegen isn’t climbing as well as we’ve seen him do so before.

  4. B&B Hotels in the break for Roland until … Col de Rousset? Then soft pedal home, unless lots of guys have marked this down for the breakway and it’s every man and his dog going up the road. Could see JV taking it easy, so if Groenewegen wants to win, he’ll have to get in the break. “Team attack” by Bike Exchange? 🙂 Ineos looking very jovial at the sign-in – easy day for them too?

  5. As IR suggests we had a classic example of the breakaway conundrum yesterday where four riders, who could have shared the first four places, got nothing through finessing in the forlorn hope that they would not be caught and that the craftiest would win. How much of that was down to advice from the teams cars, and how much down to the riders? There must have been regrets at the finish and not one of the breakaway teams had a rider in the bunch able to win.

    • It’s a game you need to play in the break, but yeah.
      However, to be fair Hugo Page was a reasonable contender for Intermarché, which, OTOH, had the strongest man in the break – such a combination was the worst one for the break, whatever the rest had tried to do, it made little sense anyway 😛

  6. Chris Froome couldn’t even hold the group on the early climbs today… sorry to say, but he has to be done as a GC rider. Joseba Beloki all over again – tried to make it back but was never close to being able to hold the leaders.

    Feel bad for Froome

    • No matter what you might think about what Froome did in the past, one of my friends reminds me “There is no cure for the common birthday.” He should take a cue from Nibali, Gilbert and Valverde and hang up the wheels though it’s hard to argue with taking 5 million from the boob who bankrolls this team as long as he’s willing to sign the checks…and they don’t bounce. I guess all that money overcomes swallowing pride and calling it a career? The other 3 are going out while still very competitive, BRAVI to them!

    • If you follow Froome’s YouTube channel at all, you will have become very familiar with the almost plaintive tone of voice he adopts when talking about “progress” and “getting back to where I need to be.” It’s really obvious that he’s never given up and has put a huge amount of work into trying to recover, but 35 isn’t 25. You can’t just bounce back from serious injuries like he sustained, and sometimes you never fully recover. Unfortunately it seems increasingly clear we’ll never see Froome be competitive again. Even without the crash, he might have been on the cusp of a natural physical decline regardless. With Froome, I honestly don’t get the sense that he’s just cynically cashing the paychecks. He still wants to win. How much longer he’ll keep trying is anyones guess…

    • It’s professional cycling alright, but in road cycling there is, as we all know, room for riders who will never – or never anymore – win races. As long as Froome’s presence in his time is somehow justifiable to his GM, his DS and his team mates, I can’t and I won’t join in the choir telling him to call it a day.

      i’ll gladly admit that a rider named Who with his injuries or a rider named Never-Heard at his age would never get a multi-year contract with a WT team and he wouldn’t have to sit down and finally come to the decision to finish his career. But I still see Froome as pro cyclist who is not merely collecting a paycheck or even primarily there to collect a relatively huge paycheck.

      It’s not my business as a cycling fan to tell – for instance – a rider who repeatedly fails in his pursuit of GC success to stop doing that and to concentratea on grabbing a stage victory when he can. And it’s not my business to tell a rider who once wwas eminently successful to stop trying to reach a level that is far below where he once was. Not even when it seems plain obvious that even such a deplorably mediocre goal will be impossible for him to reach.

  7. Froome seems to genuinely love riding and could be the next Davide Rebellin. The Sky years of the “stick insect” diet though seem to be taking it’s toll.

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