With the dust kicked up from the recent absorbing, exciting and downright entertaining Giro having barely settled, it’s almost come as a surprise that the Critérium Du Dauphiné has come round so quick and that it could have such a strong line up of riders that didn’t feature during May’s grand tour.
Instead of giving a rundown of every single rider that could be within a chance for GC and/or stage wins, we’re going to put up a speculative top ten that presents our best guess at how we think the final leaderboard will look on the evening of June 11th.
10. Simon Yates (ORS)
Having had his season reshuffled somewhat by swapping the Giro for the Tour, Simon will come into this race mainly as a super domestique for his team leader, Esteban Chavez. If Chavez fades at all then expect Yates to pick up the mantel — his second place overall at the Tour de Romandie suggests he has what it takes, its just whether he’s let off the lead or not.
9. Dan Martin (QST)
A rider whose race calendar, and favoured parcours, mirrors that so closely of Valverde (Martin was second in both the Ardennes races Valverde won), Martin will be using his style of attacking racing to gain some time gaps on his competitors, but we don’t think he’ll be able to beat the real heavyweights in the GC. We would love him to do well though.
8. Andrew Talansky (CDT)
Another rider who hasn’t seen much racing action this year, we’re putting our faith in the American Cannondale-Drapac rider mainly for his strong showing at the Tour of California, winning the Queen Stage up Mount Baldy and finishing third overall on GC. He won this race, to Chris Froome and Alberto Contador’s surprise, in 2014 and we think he’ll do better here than he will over the longer, more stressful Tour de France.
7. Alejandro Valverde (MOV)
He hasn’t raced since his remarkable string of victories in the spring (we won’t list them all here there’s that many), and he’s probably going to be riding in support of Nairo Quintana in the upcoming Tour De France so we think Alejandro will be testing himself out over the week, finding his racing legs again and, rather than going full gas to win, he’ll be reporting back to his Columbian teammate on how his opponents are faring.
6. Esteban Chavez (ORS)
Everyone’s favourite smiley Columbian (he seemingly smiles for himself and his fellow countryman, Quintana) has been using his spring to recover from a knee injury that has held up his training, and caused Orica to draft in Simon Yates as back up. With his other trusty domestique Damien Howson also in the team, we think he’ll perform well, maybe get a stage win, but be distanced on the really tough stages.
5. Fabio Aru (AST)
Aru was devastated that a knee injury sustained in training forced him to miss the 100th Giro, a race that was going to feature his home town. He’ll be very keen to do well in this race without having his ex-teammate, Vincenzo Nibali, breathing down his neck and he’ll want his chance to honour late teammate Michele Scarponi. Admittedly his form is a big unknown, and it is a bit of a gamble putting him so high, but if he was feeling ready to challenge at the Giro before having to pull out, he should be in a good condition to challenge here.
4. Alberto Contador (TFS)
Like most of the other riders, he’s been training hard during the months of April and May out of the public eye. His string of second places in early spring will have given him confidence he’s still got life in the ‘old’ legs yet, but he’ll also be wary of his younger opponents. We’re looking forward to seeing him make his customary attacks, but we’re not sure his team are as strong as some of his past squads so he may find himself isolated on the tougher stages.
3. Romain Bardet (ALM)
After Thibaut Pinot’s brilliant Giro, France will be turning their attention back on to their other young great hope. We think Bardet is one of the most exciting riders in the current peloton, and with his second place at last year’s Tour in the bag, he’ll be full of confidence to back up his extraordinary ascending and descending skills. We hope that his talent can overcome the no doubt huge expectations that will be placed on his shoulders this year.
2. Chris Froome (SKY)
Going for a record breaking fourth overall victory at the Dauphiné, Froome has only had 19 days racing this year. That is remarkably low compared to the other contenders here so it’s anyone’s guess at his form — and we’re guessing it’s pretty good, because, well, he’s Chris Froome. Having raced so little we expect him to not yet be alert and capable enough to be able to out ride his ex teammate and good friend for the win.
1. Richie Porte (BMC)
Disregarding the crosswinds of northern France during Paris-Nice, this is the year where Richie Porte’s luck comes good. After winning the Tour de Romandie in early April, and the Tour Down Under in January, and grabbing a mightily impressive win on Stage 7 at Paris-Nice, Porte is the guy who can stop Froome from taking that fourth victory. He maybe doesn’t have the strongest team to back him up, but they’ll keep him protected on the flats, be very wary of crosswinds and be able to deliver him to the steeper gradients with good legs. If he doesn’t lose too much time to Froome in the time trial (and given it’s only 23.5km he shouldn’t do) we think he can take the yellow jersey in preparation for his attempt at a Tour victory.
Stages 1-3 offer no easy introduction to this year’s race. Stage 1 is 170.5km long with no less than 8 categorised climbs (three cat 4, four cat 3 and one cat 2). The final three category 3 climbs are all up Côte de Rochetaillée which should provide some exciting circuit racing from the climbers. Stage 2 is another lumpy affair but with only four categorised climbs, the last of which comes with 70km still to go, and a slight uphill drag for a finish this will be one for the sprinters. Stage 3 is a much nicer run in for the sprinters teams with a (roughly) 20km gentle descent running into about another 20km flat, there should be ample time for the trains to form and for us to get an idea of who is looking good for the green jersey in July.
Stages 4-6 are like a mini Grand Tour themselves, covering all the traditional disciplines. The individual time trial of stage 4 is across 23.5km of flatness, with some very gentle ascents and descents. We can’t see anyone but Froome winning this stage, and it’ll be a case of the other G.C. riders limiting their losses. Stage 5 is another lumpy but mostly flat stage for the sprinters, and is their final chance for a stage win so expect this one to be competed for heavily. Stage 6 is the first proper climbing stage, 147.5km long including an ascent of the uncategorised climb of Mont du Chat. This comes at 132km and the rest of the stage is the descent and run in to the line. Froome and Bardet are probably the best descenders here so they’ll be looking to get some big time gaps here.
Stages 5 and 6 are two more mountainous stages. Stage 5 begins with a climb that goes from a cat 4, to a cat 2 and the onto a cat 1 (Col de Porte — one for Richie then) before a long slow ascent the foot of the alps until they reach the sight all cycling fans like to see, Alpe D’Huez. There will be big attacks on this climb and all the contenders are very familiar with its gradients, so expect some brilliant racing up it. Stage 6 is up and down all day, but in a less severe manner than stage 18 at this year’s Giro. Climbing and descending Col des Saisies (cat 1), Col des Aravis (cat 2) and Col de la Colombière (cat 1) before reaching the final uncategorised climb of Plateau de Solaison, the riders have a pretty full on day ahead of them. The final climb is 11.3km in length, so not super long, but averages at a painful 9.2% so only the strongest will be able to use this climb as a springboard for one final attack.