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PEZ Preview: Dauphiné 2015

The Critérium du Dauphiné has always been one of the warm-up races for the impending Tour de France and a good guide to the form of the top Classement Général riders. Of course the Giro d’Italia winner, Alberto Contador, will not be on the start line in Ugine on Sunday, nor will Nairo Quintana but the last two Tour winners will be. Along with Nibali and Froome; Valverde, Van Garderen, Talansky, Dan Martin and Rodriguez should make it an interesting race. Sam Larner takes us through the French stage race.

The Dauphine has become synonymous with overall Tour de France success, of the last 8 winners of the Tour de France all 8 have ridden the Dauphiné before they won in Paris. As much as it’s the race to aim at for general classification riders, it’s one to avoid for green jersey contenders – just 1 out of 8 have won the green jersey after racing the Dauphine, Tom Boonen 2007. This year the Dauphine organizers have fully embraced their role as the best preparation for the Tour by including one stage, stage 5, which is an exact replica of stage 17 of the Grand Tour. Again, it’s slim pickings for sprinters who will have to make do with just one pure sprint stage all week. The Dauphine will be even more appealing to overall contenders and their teams because it features a 24.5km team time trial which mirrors almost exactly the profile that they will ride one month later during the 9th stage of the Tour in Brittany. I’ve picked out the three stages that I think will be key to the race this year.


Stage 1 – Ugine – Albertville – 131.5km
The Dauphine usually starts with nice short prologue but there’s no such start this year. If I told you that there are only three categorized climbs on the route, two 4th cats and one 3rd cat, you might think that it’s going to be an easy stage. However, what if I told you that the 3rd category Cote du Villard is as long as the Mur du Huy, and only slight less steep, and is climbed 6 times? Now you get an idea of just how difficult this first stage is. There was a similar final stage in 2010, where the peloton did laps around the 1980 Sallanches World Championship circuit. This stage was won by Boasson-Hagen and I would expect a similar rider to win again, although if someone wants to make it seriously hard then it could end up just being a sprint between the top 5 or 6 overall contenders.

dauphine15st1-map-profile-2-920Not an easy start to the 2015 Critérium du Dauphiné

Criterium Dauphine Libere 2014  stage -5

Stage 3 – Roanne – Montagny – 24.5km
Including this stage is a masterstroke by ASO. They are in direct competition with the Tour de Suisse in the calendar and the reason they are winning is because they provide a course which is similar to what riders will experience at the Tour and, perhaps more importantly, a warm and dry week of racing, the average rainfall in June, for Bern is just under double what it is in Lyon. It’s amazing how alike both the Tour de France’s TTT and this one are, not just in profile, but also in environment. Both feature sections of course which are very exposed and sections which are surrounded by tall hedgerows. Despite the rolling hills this will be a very fast course, expect to see average speeds up and over the 50kph mark. When looking for possible team time trial winners it’s wise to just focus on the anglophone super teams; Sky, Orica, Cannondale-Garmin. Of those teams Sky are likely to have their entire Tour de France team, except Porte so they would be the favorites. If you’re looking for an outsider then how about Bora Argon 18? They won the Giro del Trentino earlier in the season and have a number of very strong German chromo-men to call on.

CDD15_ET03_Profil webA Flat and fast TTT – Sky will bring a stronger team than at the recent Giro d’Italia

giro15st01rp-astana-920Astana need to bring their ‘A Team’

Stage 7 – Montélian – Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc – 155km
Stage 5 to Pra-Loup, might be the most important stage in the grand scheme of things but it’s not the Queen stage here nor will it be the Queen stage at the Tour. Instead, it’s this stage which will have the biggest impact on the overall standings. There are 6 categorized climbs, 5 of which are first category, gradually stepping up until the finish at the beautiful Le Bettex ski resort in the shadow of Mont Blanc. The stage starts with two first category climbs, Col de Tamie (8.5km @ 6.4%) and Col de la Forclaz (8.1km @ 7.8%), which are both difficult but aren’t sustained. After the descent of the Forclaz there is just under 80km to go but still four climbs to tackle. The Col de la Croix Fry has a gradual opening section but with 7km to go there’s a change and the road heads straight up, never dropping below 6%. At the summit there’s just over 60km to go so don’t expect any attacks yet, however, the stage has been so difficult to this point that there will be very few riders who are still in contact.

dauphine15st7-mont-profile-920The monster stage 7 to Mont Blanc

dauphine13st6-view-920Dauphiné – Mountains practice for the Tour

As engaging as the early part of this stage will be, it is nothing compared to all the excitement that will be squeezed into the last 12kms. The climb of the Cote des Amerands is just 2.7km long but averages 11.2%. This is a climb that riders could put in huge time gaps, and with just 3km, mostly downhill, between the summit and the foot of the finishing climb there’s little disadvantage to going clear this early. The final climb to Saint-Gervais is 7km long and averages just under 8% with a final ramp in the last kilometer which averages over 9%! This is going to be a hell of a stage and although most riders will just be glad that it’s over, there will be a few big names sweating because they know that their form isn’t where they’d like it to be.


Overall Contenders
It’s hard to look beyond Chris Froome and Vincenzo Nibali, however both have lost their lustre of invincibility this season. They have only had one overall victory and stage win between them all year, Chris Froome with both in the Vuelta a Andalucia. They will also suffer from the lack of individual time trial, don’t expect the TTT time gaps to be anywhere near as big as they would’ve been with an individual time trial.

dauphine14st8-froome-920Dauphiné/Tour double again?

tdf14st18-nibali-descent-920Vincenzo Nibali likes yellow

The French will have plenty to cheer at the Dauphine this year, Romain Bardet and Jean-Christophe Peraud have had decent seasons so far and will want to show that they have some form before they line up in Utrecht. Alejandro Valverde is certainly one to watch after his fantastic season so far and at 35 this might be the last Dauphine he races as a genuine Tour contender.

Tour de France 2013 stage-8Jean-Christophe Peraud and Romain Bardet will want to show their form

fleche14-valverde-920Alejandro Valverde is having one of his best seasons

If you’re looking for some outsiders then how about Kenny Elissonde and Alexandre Geniez of FDJ. Both will come direct from the Giro where Geniez ghosted to a top 10 finish and Elissonde showed flashes of talent but was generally disappointing, they should be able to carry their form into the Dauphine which will suit them better. Simon Yates will be racing his debut Dauphine and the Brit will be disappointed by anything less than a top 10 overall, given Orica’s lack of GC options he may well be thrust into the Tour tasked with being the team’s overall contender – that’s a lot of pressure for a 22 year old. Finally Rui Costa will be racing the Dauphine after winning the Tour de Suisse for the last 3 years, can he transfer his June form from Switzerland to the French Alps?

stage-15 of the Vuelta a EspaÒa 2013The FDJ pair of Elissonde and Geniez could surprise

FlËche Wallonne Elite 2014Young Simon Yates cound be an outside bet

suisse14st9-costa-920What about Rui Costa?

It looks very likely that the Tour de France winner will be lining up in Ugine on Sunday. Neither Alberto Contador nor Nairo Quintana will be racing in the Dauphine, Contador is only racing the Spanish Championships and Quintana, surprisingly, is in the South West of France racing the Route du Sud. The Dauphine organizers have designed a course which attracts Tour contenders but will they be able to extend their run of Tour de France winners to 9? Froome and Nibali certainly hope so.

dauphine14st8-talansky-920Talanski and Van Garderen will be at the Dauphiné

You can catch all the live action on Steephill.TV.



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