Critérium du Dauphiné Preview

The summer stage race season is underway and the Critérium du Dauphiné is a major rendez-vous for many of the contenders for the Tour de France. The week ahead looks like it’s Jonas Vingegaard vs. the field with the Dane finding a route to suit and saying out loud he’s in top form already.

The Route

Stage 1

The opening stage takes place on the flanks of the Massif du Sancy, the area visited by the race last year when David Gaudu mugged Wout van Aert in the sprint and also on roads that the Tour de France will borrow in July when it will also use bigger mountain passes during Stage 10. All this isn’t a coincidence, the region wants to promote the area. First a big loop towards Le Mont Dore, then four laps of a finishing circuit. It’s a lumpy stage with some small roads but nothing fierce.

Stage 2

Another hilly day in the Auvergne region, another course with a finishing circuit that avoids some of the bigger climbs. Who ever won the previous day has a good chance of striking again today.

Stage 3

Recent editions of the Dauphiné have been so hilly that at least one well-known sprinter has arrived at the start, got a copy of the roadbook… and discovered there’s not a single stage for them; at least they got a week to work on their climbing ahead of the Tour. This stage though does suit the sprinters, if any attend.

Stage 4

A 31km time time trial, one third longer than the Tour’s TT quasi-mountain time trial stage. This is no dragster course but still suits the specialists with a 10km false flat up to the finish, all through rural farming country full of charolais cattle.

Stage 5

If it’s late into the Tour de France and you get a sense of déjà vu it could because of memories from this stage as it overlaps with the route of Stage 19 on the way to Salins-les-Bains, a spa town once renowned for its salty waters and today the kind of place you might ride through and remark on its charms but conclude that it’s seen better days. The final climb is hard, a forest backroad to Thesy that should select the winner before a fast descent on a wider road.

Stage 6

Out of the Jura and into the Alps, the graphic above suggests not much is happening until late but the route will sap the riders. The big question is will much happen later on? The Col des Aravis is a big ring climb but that just means the speed is higher before the finish to Crest-Voland, half way up the Col des Saisies with a finish at 1,218m. The final climb’s got a hard start but in avoiding the whole climb it’s a bit of a softer stage that’s open to all, someone from the breakaway will fancy their chances.

Stage 7

4,000m of vertical gain in under 150km and you can see the substantial flat sections, it’s really 4000m in 100km which is beaucoup. The Col de la Madeleine is a staple of the Dauphiné and Tour de France over the years leading the riders over to the Maurienne valley. Then comes the Croix Fer summit finish. But look closely and it’s via Albiez-le-Jeune, a “new” way up for the race and the road has about 45 hairpin bends – double Alpe d’Huez’s 21 in less distance – before picking up the main road to the Croix de Fer and a very hard slog to the top.

Stage 8

If life should ever bring you to Grenoble with a bike, this is a textbook ride to do in a day. Starting in the suburb of Pont-de-Claix, it’s up the Isère valley via the balcony road to the Col des Mouilles before dropping to the valley and then comes the glorious Chartreuse Trilogy with a side route up Mont Granier before the Cucheron and Porte and the descent back to Grenoble.

It’s here the race reprises the climb of the Bastille above Grenoble. It’s not a new road but almost as nobody in today’s peloton has done it. Used seven times before, the last occasion was a prologue in 2000 but it’s probably infamous for the finish in 1977 when Bernard Hinault got off his bike, shouting “I want to quit”. His manager Cyrille Guimard put him straight back on the bike and he won the stage and race.

The Contenders

Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) is the clear pre-race pick. The Tour de France winner says he is in great shape, finds a course to suit with a 30km time trial where he can leave many of the other contenders trailing and he’s got a strong team all behind him, this time Wout van Aert isn’t here. So far, so obvious but this does suggest anything less than a win and something will have gone wrong or will require explaining. Yet he doesn’t need to win here while some of his rivals crave a stage race win at this level, doubly so if it’s ahead of Vingegaard.

Dani Martinez (Ineos) is a very solid all-rounder and that’s his problem as it’s hard to see him outriding rivals in the time trial and the mountains alike but he’s won stage races this way, taking the overall but without winning a stage… including the 2020 Dauphiné of course. Ineos have a second ace card to play in Carlos Rodriguez, the 22 year old is due a big win and can handle himself in a time trial, he was fourth in the Vuelta’s flat course last year, he’s said to be moving to Movistar next year although it’s surprising Ineos want to let him go and it looks like they’re counting on him here and probably for the Tour de France too. There’s also Egan Bernal who continues his rehab and work back to the top level and keeps progressing, but a top-10 here would be a result.

Richard Carapaz (EF Education-Easypost) was probably the big transfer in last year’s market and he’s had a discreet season so far, 52nd in Catalunya, DNF in the Basque Country but a recent winner of the alpine Mercan’Tour Classic. He’s likely to lose ground in the time trials but he’s aggressive when it comes to taking it back in the mountains.

Adam Yates (UAE) can do more than limit his losses in the time trial but that still means it’ll be harder to win, it’s easy to see him on the podium but reaching the top step is the hard part. A support rider for Pogačar at the Tour, this is a chance for him to get a result with the team riding for him.

No more tridents but Movistar have a twin pronged attack with Enric Mas and Matteo Jorgenson. On paper Mas has the pedigree but so far this season Jorgenson’s got the better results, a win on Oman and second place in the Tour de Romandie. This could invert now though as Mas has always been focussing on the Tour de France this season while Jorgenson’s back to racing after his successful spring.

On the podium a year ago surely Ben O’Connor (Ag2r Citroën) would sign up for the same again today? He can do well in a time trial if he’s in top form so paradoxically we’ll probably get an early glimpse of how well he’ll do in the mountains from Tuesday’s time trial.

Many come for a pre-race test, a chance to race for week and keep up their reflexes of racing in a bunch before putting the finishing touches on their form for July. The relatively long time trial is likely to be a bittersweet day for several as it’ll undo their GC bids but since we all know this, nobody is expecting them to win outright anyway. As such they get a trial but without a punishing verdict. Mikel Landa (Bahrain), David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), Jai Hindley (Bora-hansgrohe), Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) should all lose time in the time trial but there’s a range, it’ll be interesting to see where Gaudu and Hindley are at and all will look forward to the Alps after.

Finally Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-Quickstep) rode the Ardennes classics as part of his return to racing but his mind’s long been on turning around his results for this summer with the Tour de France as his big goal. The outright win? Unlikely in July but we’ll see this week how he’s doing, he’ll turn 31 next Sunday and with age should be losing his legendary ability to jump on steep climbs and becoming more of a diesel, just a turbo diesel.

Jonas Vingegaard
Adam Yates, Carlos Rodriguez, Dani Martinez
Richard Carapaz, Matteo Jorgenson
Mas, Landa

TV: it’s on France Télévisions for locals, GCN/Eurosport for many others and NBC Peacock and SBS for Americans and Australians. The timing varies with next weekend’s stages having early finishes so that France TV can clear the schedules for the Rolland Garros tennis tournament finals, their other annual sporting staple.

23 thoughts on “Critérium du Dauphiné Preview”

  1. After the past few months of bastardry from Lefevere, I would love Alaphilippe to grab a couple of the mini mountain stages here and carry some form into the Tour.

    • Yes, it’s always obvious when he wants rid of someone, and he does it in the most classless manner, as he does with so many things.

  2. Thanks for the preview – enlightening as always.
    Be interesting to see how the form is for the GC contenders. Hopefully no Covid and no crashes and some sunshine.
    Monday is Denmark’s National Day (Constitution Day) so expect lots of red sausages and beer (probably the best beer in the World …)

  3. There doesn’t appear to be much real competition for Vingegaard but perhaps Mas and Jorgensen can spice things up a little.

  4. Carapaz aggressive in the mountains? I beg to differ. More often than not, and certainly the past few years, he’s one of the biggest wheel suckers around on the climbs (yes, there are exceptions, eg his Giro win, but that was a while ago ). If he attacks Jonas even once, I’ll eat my hat.

    • The Olympic win (ok, the attack was not “in the mountains”, just after)? The attack with Higuita which allowed the latter to win Catalunya (perhaps not in the mountains enough, either…)? The Torino stage one year ago (yes, they’re mountains, although barely so)? The Suisse win attacking the fav’s group on Leukerbad? Ahem…The Mercan’Tour this same week?

      (The Covatilla stage at the 2020 Vuelta? Navacerrada and Pandera last Autumn?, albeit the latter couple of stages were won with no GC bid)

      • Exactly, he doesn’t attack in the obvious places like the steepest part of the climb but will go elsewhere, especially when the others are trying to catch their breath and he knows they’ll hesitate to chase, then again to cooperate.

      • the Olympic win is a prime example. He refused to do even one pull on the climb, he just sat on Wout the entire time, then attacked later (yes, some of you will consider this evidence of his “genius”, but it doesn’t change my point above). Carapaz is a strong lad, I have said that before – I can even see him finishing 2nd at the Dauphne – he just almost always sits on on the climbs, refusing to work. His wins this year do not impress me – dropping Cat 2s on a climb is not the same as a World Tour team leader.

        • Fine, now we’ve gone from not being “aggressive in the mountains” to “not dropping WT leaders on a climb” or not sharing the works on the climb, which, as you yourself say, kinda makes sense, after all, if the others are stronger.
          Of course, we’re really speaking of *some* WT leaders (a handful or less, sometimes actually just a couple of them during the 2021 TDF, you might remember them, a guy named Pogacar and a less known Dane called Vingegaard).
          Anyway, Landa amusingly expressed his opinion about Carapaz’ approach during the 2022 Giro, so I sort get this new version of your point.
          Only, that’s completely different from not being aggressive. I’m not totally sure that Carapaz was the strongest even when he won the Giro (not sure of the contrary, either).
          OTOH, he surely was sharing work, and something more, when Kwiatkowski got his long due TDF stage, same as in Volta Catalunya with Higuita.
          He obviously attacked top WT rivals in the latter, just as when he tried to go for the win with very aggresive attacks both at the 2020 Vuelta and the 2022 Giro, eventually beating every rival – barring one (and we know how that Vuelta ended).
          He’s probably a shrewd guy, perhaps a pinch too much, but he’s able to ride aggressively a good deal of times, and not necessarily in situations which are already won on paper (in fact, he actually *lost* several of those races where he raced aggressively).
          He’s simply able to use a range of approaches which includes very different and nearly opposite ones.
          Which, after all, is great for road cycling, because the alternative is called Zwift – and watching how Pogi and MvdP and WVA win all the races there on Watopia.
          However, the funny thing is that I’m not a fan of Carapaz, I myself couldn’t say exactly why (that Giro 2019 which I’d have preferred to be won by Nibali or Landa?), yet depicting an athlete so unfairly doesn’t add much to the debate.
          All in all, it’s very far from sure that he’ll race for anything but a stage win at the Dauphiné, or a GC placement, but if there’s somebody on the startlist which could make the GC fight slightly more interesting is precisely Carapaz. Have a look at inrng’s favourites list…

  5. A handful of pure sprinters at the start (Bennett, Groenewegen, Vernon…). Looking at the stages, it’s hard to imagine them getting more than hard miles of TdF preparation from the race and certainly no bunch finish.

  6. “Jonas Vingegaard so far, so obvious but this does suggest anything less than a win and something will have gone wrong or will require explaining.”
    I wonder why J-V is blowing their own horn so hard? What’s to be gained from it since as you noted if they don’t wipe the floor with the others they’re gonna look as stupid as they did when they signed the SRAM deal. That almost cost them big-time in the Giro and I can’t help but wonder how many more “SRAM Moments” we’ll be treated to the rest of the season? Will they use Roglic again as a “Plan B” or foil to make the others attack when LeTour comes round? I doubt Pogacar will fall for that trick again or mess up his fueling in any case. Are they just hoping his hand injury has thrown a pump into his spokes in his Tour buildup…so why the crowing now?

    • Horner just provided some interesting analysis of the stage. It’s more a case of Pog can’t afford to go back to the car for food without somebody attacking than he simply messed up fuelling (forgot to eat).

      • Rather simplistic I’d think. I’d ask Horner if that only works if J-V’s “somebody” attacking is a somebody who can win the Roglic” Is Pogacar and the entire UAE team (which should have riders this year to match the rest of the J-V team with the exception of WVA?) gonna fall for that again? That’s assuming J-V shows up with a team that can try that trick in the first place. Don’t forget it was UAE in the Covid nightmare in LeTour 2022 while J-V got away pretty much unscathed by the pandemic. Hard to believe we’ll see the same situation in 2023.

        • If Pogacar keeps riding as we all love by going full gas and attacking then there’s a chance that he’ll be isolated and get into the same problems as last year.

          • I seem to remember UAE facing some Covid-19 issues last year that made Pogacar’s team less-than-the-best, but this year “there’s a chance” that won’t be the case so “same problem as last year” could just as easily turn out to be J-V’s, don’t you think?
            IMHO Pogacar’s failure to win LeTour 2022 wasn’t caused by “going full gas and attacking” but what do I know?

  7. Thanks’ as usual for the useful preview.
    Course looks ideal for some decent aggressive racing. Let’s hope the riders rise to the challenge this time and provide some exciting racing, and maybe provide a surprise winner!

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