The Giro d’Italia may only just have finished but all attention now turns to the forthcoming Tour de France. ASO stable-mate, the Criterium du Dauphine, takes centre stage for the next week as the three biggest favourites for the Tour gather to do battle over a testing mountainous parcours which will provide a tasty prelude ahead of July..
- The battle for overall victory is likely to be focussed around the opening two and closing two days, although the lack of a genuine flat stage means the GC favourites will need to be watchful every single day.
- The first two days will see the GC start to take shape immediately, with a hilly 10km trial in Lyon followed by a summit finish on the hors catégorie Col de Béal (13.6km, 6.6%).
- The closing two stages both conclude with summit finishes to provide a big finale. Stage seven is the tougher of the two on paper: a five-climb day finishing with a pair of 8% HCs.
- Although the final stage is less difficult – ‘only’ two cat 1s to finish – it’s tough enough that, if the race remains close, the yellow jersey could still change hands.
- In between we have a variety of medium mountain stages. In particular, stage six features two cat 4s in the last 20km and will attract the classics men and breakaway specialists.
- All 18 WorldTour squads will take part – plus wild-cards Cofidis, IAM and NetApp-Endura – competing in teams of eight.
- French riders have won the race 30 times. Spain (ten) are the only other country with more than five victories.
- The list of previous winners reads like a Who’s Who of cycling royalty: five-time Tour de France winners Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain recorded seven Dauphine wins between them.
- The last three editions have all been won by British riders: Bradley Wiggins in 2011 and 2012, and Chris Froome last year. On the latter two occasions, Wiggins and Froome went on to win the Tour de France.
- Last year Froome and Richie Porte produced a Sky one-two, with Daniel Moreno (Katusha), Jakob Fuglsang (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) rounding out the top five. All five return for this year’s edition.
Who to watch
The three favourites for the top step of the podium in Paris at the end of next month – defending champion Chris Froome (Sky), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) – will all be looking to score psychological points off each other. Of course, it’s dangerous to read too much into form here but none of them will want to concede any quarter either. Their most likely challenger, Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde, is absent, choosing a lower-profile build-up at the three-day Route du Sud later in the month.
Watch out also for a pair of 25-year-old Americans: BMC’s Tejay van Garderen and Garmin-Sharp’s Andrew Talansky, who will be looking to upset the proverbial apple-cart ahead of their Tour campaigns. Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) turned 24 on Monday – after a few weeks off, he’ll be looking to pick up where he left off in the early spring season.
While all of the above are guaranteed their Tour spots, Jurgen van den Broeck has rather more at stake. Twice a top four finisher at Le Tour, the Belgian has suffered an injury-hit last 12 months and will need to show well to earn his spot in Lotto-Belisol’s line-up.
A number of key names from the recently completed Giro also appear on the start-list, such as Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) and Wilco Kelderman (Belkin). It’s probably asking too much for them to have recovered enough to genuinely compete for the podium though.
The biggest-name sprinters are shunning the mountain-heavy parcours in search of flatter racing, with FDJ’s Arnaud Demare arguably the fastest of the few quick men in the field. But the medium mountain stages in the middle of the race will be an attractive proposition for puncheurs such as Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Sylvain Chavanel (IAM), Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) and the BMC pair of Greg van Avermaet and Thor Hushovd. Voeckler won in Grenoble from a small breakaway group last year.
June 8th: Stage 1 – Lyon to Lyon, 10.4km individual time trial
June 9th: Stage 2 – Tarare to Pays d’Olliergues-Col du Béal, 156km
June 10th: Stage 3 – Ambert to Le Teil, 194km
June 11th: Stage 4 – Montélimar to Gap, 167.5km
June 12th: Stage 5 – Sisteron to La Mure, 189.5km
June 13th: Stage 6 – Grenoble to Poisy, 178.5km
June 14th: Stage 7 – Ville-la-Grand to Finhaut-Emosson, 160km
June 15th: Stage 8 – Megève to Courchevel, 131.5km
Daily live coverage and highlights will be shown by Eurosport in the UK. For other coverage check cyclingfans.com.
Link: Official website