Running from Sunday 2nd to Sunday 9th June, the 65th Critérium du Dauphiné is an eight-day World Tour stage race comprising a time trial and seven stages. Like last year, it will feature some of the same roads as the forthcoming Tour de France, making it an ideal test ahead of July. This year, the Alpe d’Huez-Col de Sarenne double will appear in both races.
What kind of race is it?
It’s essentially a mini Tour de France for the Tour contenders. In each of the last 11 years, the eventual winner of the Tour has ridden the Dauphine and frequently appeared on its podium.
All 19 ProTeams are taking part except Ag2r La Mondiale, who are taking a break from cycling following their recent second doping positive with Sylvain Georges, plus wild-card entries have been granted to Bretagne-Seche, Cofidis, Europcar and NetApp Endura.
Only eight riders have won the Dauphine and the Tour in the same year, the most recent being Bradley Wiggins in 2012. The most recent winners are:
2008: Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne)
2009: Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne)
2010: Janez Brajkovic (RadioShack)
2011: Bradley Wiggins (Sky)
2012: Bradley Wiggins (Sky)
What happened last year?
Bradley Wiggins (Sky) defended his Dauphine crown and landed his third successive stage race of the season to become the first man to win Paris-Nice, Tour de Romandie and the Criterium du Dauphine in succession. He subsequently added the Tour de France crown – becoming the first ever British winner – an Olympic gold medal in the individual time trial, BBC Sports Personality of the Year and a knighthood. Sadly Wiggins won’t be back to defend his title following his recent Giro d’Italia abandonment.
Wiggins seized the leader’s jersey on stage two after youngster Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEDGE) and the not-quite-so-young Cadel Evans (BMC) won the prologue and stage one respectively. Sky ably defended his lead which became almost unassailable after stage four’s individual time trial, where he was simply imperious. Sky also added a stage three victory from Edvald Boassen Hagen. Dani Moreno (Katusha) won two mountain stages, Arthur Vichot (FDJ) took stage five and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) won the queen stage six.
Cadel Evans won the green points jersey, Colombian Cayetano Sarmiento (Liquigas-Cannondale) was top dog in the mountains, Wilco Kelderman (Rabobank) was the best young rider and Sky were unsurprisingly the best team.
1. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) 26:40:46
2. Michael Rogers (Sky) 01:17
3. Cadel Evans (BMC) +1:26
4. Chris Froome (Sky) +1:45
5. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) +2:12
6. Vasily Kiryienka (Movistar) +2:58
7. Janez Brajkovic (Astana) +3:07
8. Wilco Kelderman (Rabobank) +3:26
9. Richie Porte (Sky) +3:34
10. Haimar Zubeldia (RadioShack-Nissan) +3:50
It’s once again a mountainous course – only one of the eight stages is devoid of categorised climbs – including two hors catégorie ascents, one being the legendary Alpe d’Huez. The route ranges far and wide, with a maiden start in Switzerland before heading to the Jura mountains and the southern Alps.
The opening stage is a 121km parcours around Champery featuring four climbs and finishing on a gentle uphill slope. The following day’s stage is billed as one for the sprinters but with a few bumps towards the back end, the last just 10km from the finish, it might play into the hands of a strong breakaway of non-GC contenders.
Stage three looks more likely to finish in a limited bunch sprint, if they can get up and over the appropriately named Col des Sauvages, as the favourites will be looking to save their legs for the following day’s 32.5km individual time trial which includes long stretches of straight road with a handful of sharp, technical turns.
Thursday’s stage five is a lumpy route with a summit finish in Valmorel after a steep 12.7km hors catégorie climb where the favourites for the overall will be looking to put time into their rivals. The pain continues the following day, although the last 20km are all downhill, possibly favouring a large group sprint of able descenders.
The final two stages are crackers, both with finishes on high summits.
Stage seven’s queen stage arrives at the foot of Alpe d’Huez after less than an hour’s racing. From there the peloton will snake to the top of the Col de Sarenne followed by a twisting descent into Le Freney d’Oisons before tackling two cat 1 climbs and then the final climb up the Col du Noyer – its last 2km are steep with stretches of 11-13% – en route to Superdevoluy. It might just allow a lone attacker to take victory.
The race finishes with a stage which takes in two cat 1 climbs in the last 50km, including the summit finish at Risoul, which is just under 14km long and averages 6.7%, which should guarantee a grandstand finish.
Who to watch
There’s a star-studded cast looking to test their legs, form and nerves ahead of next month’s 100th Tour. First up is Sky with Tour favourite Chris Froome. He’s bringing potentially his Tour team with key lieutenant Richie Porte.
Looking to land a psychological blow after finishing behind Froome in the Tour of Oman and Tirreno-Adriatico is multiple grand tour winner Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff). He’ll be hoping that the last month of training from his new Lugano base has paid dividends.
BMC have elected to send a team of stage hunters headed by Thor Hushovd. Everyone’s favourite underdogs Euskaltel-Euskadi will be fielding Samuel Sanchez, looking to make amends after his disappointing showing in the Giro.
Garmin-Sharp will be fielding Andrew Talansky, who’ll be expecting to do more than add to his ever-growing collection of white jerseys before riding in support of Ryder Hesjedal at the Tour. Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Merida) will be limbering up for the Tour while compatriot and namesake Damiano Caruso will be looking to hold onto his Giro form for a little while longer for Cannondale. Lotto-Belisol are coming with Tour hope Jurgen Van Den Broeck.
Movistar’s main man is former Dauphine winner Alejandro Valverde. Two of our favourite pocket rockets are riding for Katusha, Joaquim Rodriguez and former double stage winner Dani Moreno. Both will be relishing those last two days of climbing.
Europcar have Thomas Voeckler, Pierre Roland and their exciting Tour of Turkey star Natnael Berhane, while Cofidis come with Jerome Coppel and Christophe le Mevel.
Will this year’s parcours leave us on the edge of our seats until the final day’s stage or will someone seize control early on and marshall the race from start to finish? I know what I’m hoping for, but what about you?
June 2nd: Stage 1 – Champery to Champery, 121km
June 3rd: Stage 2 – Chatel to Oyonnax, 183km
June 4th: Stage 3 – Amberieu-en-Bugey to Tarare, 164km
June 5th: Stage 4 – Villars-les-Dombes to Parc des Oiseaux, 32.5km individual time trial
June 6th: Stage 5 – Gresy-sur-Aix to Valmorel, 139km
June 7th: Stage 6 – La Lechere to Grenoble, 141.5km
June 8th: Stage 7 – Le Pont-de-Claix to Superdevoluy, 184km
June 9th: Stage 8 – Sisteron to Risoul, 152km
The Criterium de Dauphine starts on Sunday 2nd June and concludes on Sunday 9th. Live action will be shown daily on France 3. In the UK Eurosport will be showing daily highlights and live action on most days. For other channels check cyclingfans.com.
Link: Official website