The Criterium du Dauphiné plays a very unique role among that group of preparation races. Held in the French Alps, it is one of only two races – the smaller Route du Sud held in the Pyrenees being the other – to offer the riders the chance to test out the terrain that they will encounter during the month of July. In that sense, the race is the French analogue to the Italian Giro del Trentino and the Spanish Vuelta a Burgos as all three races are formidable tune-up events for the grand tours of their home country. All are held a few weeks prior to the start of the three-week races and all take place in mountainous parts of the countries that host the three grand tours.
Racing a total distance of 1,148km over its eight-day length, none of the stages are longer than the second stage’s 186km, but it’s the difficulty of the terrain that will decide the Dauphiné as opposed to the distance. The final three stages of the race are classified as mountain stages, although the previous days are anything but flat.
Prologue: Les Gets – Les Gets, 3.9km
Starting with a 3.9km uphill time trial for the prologue, an average gradient of 9.7% will show riders the shape of the race to come and will give teams a chance to assess the GC contenders from the start. The 9.7% is in fact fairly misleading, as the opening kilometre’s 6.1% gradient brings the average down somewhat. What awaits riders will be a maximum gradient of 15.2% and early sections reaching 14.7% before the finish in Le Mont Chery.
Stage 1: Cluses – Saint-Vulbas, 186km
Stage 1 marks the start of the race proper, and takes riders on a 186km route from Cluses to Saint-Vulbas. With a cluster of fourth category climbs in the first 100km, this will put some climbing kilometres into the riders before a relatively flat run to the finish.
Stage 2: Chêches-sur-Saône – Chalmezal-Jeansagnière, 167km
With stage 2 comes the race’s first uphill finish. Riders will tackle an undulating parcours, with two categorised climbs before a hilly ride to the second category Cote de Saint-Georges-en-Couzan, which leads riders to the uphill finish in Chalmazel-Jeansagnière. This final climb could see some attacking moves, creating some space before the stage finish.
Stage 3: Boën-sur-Lignon – Tournon, 182km
The third stage sees a flat start before a steady climb up to the two fourth category climbs of the day, before a descent prior to the climb of the 8.2% Cote de Secheras. An attack here may see a breakaway stick on the descent of the climb, before a flat run to the finish in Tournon-sur-Rhone.
Stage 4: Tain-l – Belley, 176km
Perhaps the flattest stage of the race, stage 4 sees the race cross only two fourth category climbs. While the stage sees some small climbs, the aim here will likely be to complete the 176km stage safely, ready to contest the three days in the big mountains that follow.
Stage 5: La Ravoire – Vaujany, 140km
The route on stage 5 from La Ravoire to the ski town of Vaujany is one of the toughest of the race – climbing seven categorised climbs over the 140km stage, six of these climbs are covered in the first 80km, before a run along the Isere valley prior to climbing the 6.5% to Vaujany. An attacking move is unlikely to stick on this long flatter section, so the moves of the day are likely to come on this final climb.
Stage 6: La Rochette – Méribel, 141km
The race’s Queen Stage takes place on stage 6, as the route climbs five categorised climbs – four of these being first category, with the Hors Categorie Col de la Madeleine at the stage’s halfway point. The Madeleine may be too early in the day for an attack, but the sheer difficulty of this 19.2km climb, with average gradients of 7.9%, will show who has the legs to contest the uphill finish in the ski resort of Méribel.
Stage 7: Le Pont – Superdévoluy, 151km
The final stage – a testing 151km route from Le Pont-de-Claix to Superdévoluy – will see the race’s overall winner crowned. The Dauphiné is a race to the finish and will see the GC contenders putting in a last effort to either cement their win, or to shake up the result of the race. There are plenty of opportunities to do it on this mountain stage as well – with six categorised climbs and two first category climbs in the last 50km, some last minute attacks on the uphill finish might also change the shape of the GC if the time gaps are small enough.
*** Chris Froome, Alberto Contador
**** Richie Porte, Fabio Aru, Joaquim Rodriguez
*** Thibaut Pinot, Romain Bardet, Wout Poels, Mikel Landa
** Adam Yates, Daniel Martin, Sergio Henao, Bauke Mollema, Julian Alaphilippe, Daniel Moreno
- Rohan Dennis, Daniel Navarro, Pierre Rolland, Roman Kreuziger, Louis Meintjes, Diego Rosa, Ryder Hesjedal, George Bennett, Romain Sicard
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alberto contador Chris Froome criterium du dauphine Fabio Aru preview richie porte Tour de France