• 153 riders from 22 teams compose the start list of the 70th Critérium du Dauphiné. Pre-race favourites Vincenzo Nibali, Romain Bardet, Geraint Thomas, Michal Kwiatkowski, Adam Yates, Dan Martin, Marc Soler and Ilnur Zakarin.
• The route includes a 6.6km prologue, a 35-km team time trial and four mountain stages to finish with.
• The first rider to start the prologue will be Johan Le Bon (Vital Concept) at 12.08 and the last on the ramp will be Hugo Houle (Astana) at 14.40.
No pitfall on Valence prologue course
The 70th edition of the Critérium du Dauphiné begins with a 6.6km prologue. The first yellow-blue jersey holder should be an explosive time trialist. In a recent past, the race has started against the clock every second year but it was a “vertical” uphill prologue in Les Gets in 2016 (won by Alberto Contador) and a longer time trial in Lyon in 2014 (won by Chris Froome). The last similar prologue was won by Luke Durbridge in Grenoble in 2012. “Considering the team time trial scheduled in the middle of the race (on Wednesday), it’s interesting on a sporting point of view to begin with a prologue”, explained technical director Gilles Maignan. “The distance shouldn’t generate too big gaps. It’s a flat and rolling course, with few curves and most probably a tail wind on the way back. There’s no pitfall. We expect the race to be won at about 52km/h.” The performances of the GC contenders will be watched carefully on Sunday. “It suits Geraint Thomas but I’m not sure if Vincenzo Nibali and Romain Bardet will be at their ease. They haven’t raced since Liège-Bastogne-Liège and it’s the kind of effort they don’t like very much.”
Romain Bardet: “I’ve come sedond before, I hope to do better”
After making the top 3 of a Monument for the first time with finishing third in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Romain Bardet took a break, headed to Sierra Nevada for an altitude training camp and went to reconnoitre some of the roads of the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Tour de France. The leader of AG2R-La Mondiale is hungry before his favourite one-week race even though the prologue time trial isn’t his forte. “Whatever happens in a prologue isn’t a reflection of a rider’s state of form”, he warned on the eve of the race. “Even after the team time trial on Wednesday, we won’t have seen anything”, he continued. “But the last four stages will be contested in the mountains, on roads that I’m familiar with and I appreciate a lot. In any case, there will be a strong competition. But I’ve already finished second in the Dauphiné in 2016 and I hope to do better this time.”
Team Sky in an unprecedented situation
Having won the Critérium du Dauphiné five times in the past seven editions (with Bradley Wiggins in 2011 and 2012 and Chris Froome in 2013, 2015 and 2016), Team Sky lines up for the first time since 2011 without their designated leader for the Tour de France. “The Dauphiné is an important race and it’s always important to win”, said sport director Servais Knaven. “It’s a different situation for us this time. We have a few riders able to win the prologue: Geraint Thomas, Michal Kwiatkowski, Gianni Moscon, Jonathan Castroviejo… They all resume racing after a break and a training camp. We have a good team for the team time trial too but it won’t be easy to control the race with all the top mountain finishes suitable for climbers to get a lot of time back. It would be nice to win the Dauphiné with Thomas or Kwiatkowski before the Tour.”
Adaptive sports champions to open the road
Five cyclists from the French federation of sport for people with learning difficulties (FFSA) will ride the course of the prologue in Valence before the riders of the Critérium du Dauphiné: Aurélie Minodier and Jérémy Pereira, both world champions, Léo Collet, Jean-Claude Thievent and Vincent Pomorski. They’re currently gearing up for the world championship of adaptive sports (INAS), scheduled in Paris for July 16-19.