Critérium du Dauphiné Stage 2 Preview

The “tour of the Auvergne” continues with a ski station summit finish… sort of as you can cross-country ski in winter if there’s any snow plus it is a long climb. But it’s open to many riders thanks to the gradual rise.

Great Dane: a sprint finish and a win for Mads Pedersen on a day that looked more like April with grey skies, weak light and damp roads. Pedersen was the most powerful in the finish, Sam Bennett tried to come out of the Dane’s slipstream but couldn’t get level. If Pedersen was stronger, he was helped by his team with Alex Kirsch back and it showed and Ryan Gibbon as the leadout when Decathlon’s train got derailed on the approach.

As much as we can muse on what happened, we should also be pleased little else happened because the tailwind in the finish helped the peloton get close to 100km/h on just a false flat approaching the finish but all without incident. The fear of crashing seemed notable for Remco Evenepoel who could be spotted towards the back, not bothered about a split in the field.

The Route: a dash across the plains to Châteldon and then up into the hills of the Forez, part of the massif central. The Col Saint Thomas has a surprisingly steep section before the top but if it’s hard it’s miles from anywhere so won’t shape things.

The Finish: 25km uphill but never very steep, the road out of Chalmazel to the Col de la Croix Ladret is the steepest section at 6%. The profile makes it look like the road climbs after this but it’s often flat as it makes its way to the finish at the Col de la Loge, and it’s all on a big wide road.

The Contenders: Primož Roglič (Bora-hansgrohe) and Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-Quickstep) both pack a good sprint and their teams can shrink the number of rivals.

Giulio Ciccone and Tao Geoghegan Hart (Lidl-Trek) are both quick too if at their best and can extend their team’s winning ways.

Ineos pairing Omar Fraile and Michał Kwiatkowski have a shot today, the Polish rider is older but just and a crafty finisher.

Andreas Kron (Lotto-Dstny) is a specialist for uphill finishes but an infrequent winner. Romain Grégoire (Groupama-FDJ) is making a name for himself in just this kind of finish. Magnus Cort (Uno-X) is another contender, a big signing for the Norwegian team.

Dorian Godon (Decathlon-Ag2r La Mondiale) should find the climb too much but if rivals don’t set a tough enough pace he’ll find the flatter finish suits. Astana pair Ide Schelling and Anthon Charmig seem suited but the team are having a rotten season and they’re harder picks. Past Dauphiné stage winner Dylan Teuns (IPT) is suited on paper but form unknown too.

Roglič, Cort, Grégoire
Kwiatkowski, Evenepoel, Kron, Ciccone, Gaudu, Ayuso

Weather: rain drying out and just 16°C.

TV: KM0 is at 1.20pm CEST and the finish is forecast for 4.50pm CEST.

Postcard from Châteldon
With many a bike race passing famous vineyards, today’s the chance to talk about water instead. The route goes through Châteldon, home of the eponymous bottled water. The spring here doesn’t gush like other outlets and the bottling plant is small and built into the hillside without room for expansion. Apparently it has only four staff and a million bottles a year are produced, which sounds a lot but over at nearby Volvic that’s a morning’s production.

Châteldon is positioned as something special and typically sells for a premium €5 a litre when the likes of Volvic are €0.50. It has an origin story with Louis XIV being prescribed the water by his doctor back as mineral water was seen to have medicinal value. It was even transported by donkey to refresh the monarch. Today can be found in supermarkets sometimes but often the purpose of Châteldon water is to be something you don’t find in the shops, it’s typically served in upmarket French restaurants.

It tastes… like water but actually of not much. It’s not unique chemically in terms of the minerals inside. It is sparkling and the water is naturally so… or it used to be. There’s been scandal when the OCLAESP raided the Châteldon plant in December 2020 after a whistle-blower claimed they were using additional CO2 to dope the bubbles while the label claimed the bubbles were natural. OCLAESP? Yes, the same public health police agency that’s raided teams at the Tour de France and, as many a cycling fan knows, their raids generate headlines but convictions can take years. However as local paper La Montagne reports, the bottle’s labels used to read “naturellement gazeuse” but now say “finement pétillante” as in finely sparkling with the “natural” reference gone.

For the visiting cyclist the town has a fountain in the square to fill up your bidons but it is not the same source. It is free though so it tastes better.


10 thoughts on “Critérium du Dauphiné Stage 2 Preview”

  1. Magnus Cort was a big signing for Uno X but I’m not sure if I’ve even seen him in their kit yet. Has he been ill/injured?

  2. Not only Châteldon but the bottled water market in France seems to prosper despite numerous scandals. Vittel, Hépar and Contréx are among the others caught out cheating on illegal anti-bacterial treatments. Meanwhile thousands of lorries haul plastic bottles of the stuff all over France.

    For today, Grégoire looks a good bet. He’s young, talented and hasn’t yet had his abundance of confidence dented by contact with reality.

  3. Pretty good stage, finally, with all those riders exploding under Pacher’s pressure over modest gradients. I guess if the stage had had some 100km more, the explosions would have been even more spectacular.

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