154 riders from 22 teams compose the start list of the 71st Critérium du Dauphiné. Pre-race favourites are Chris Froome, Jakob Fuglsang, Romain Bardet, Michal Kwiatkowski, Adam Yates, Dan Martin, Richie Porte, Thibaut Pinot, Nairo Quintana, Tom Dumoulin, Steven Kruijswijk and Michael Woods.
The route includes a 26.1km individual time trial on stage 4 in Roanne and three mountain stages to finish with. Two to three stages suit the sprinters. Sam Bennett, André Greipel, Sonny Colbrelli, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Alvaro Hodeg and Nacer Bouhanni are in contention.
Unprecedented lumpy start in the Cantal province.
STATISTICALLY, TOUR DE FRANCE WINNERS GEAR UP AT THE DAUPHINÉ
The star-studded start list of the 71st Critérium du Dauphiné features two former winners – Chris Froome (2013, 2015, 2016) and this year’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège victor Jakob Fuglsang (2017) – and regular stage or GC top contenders of the event like current world’s number 1 Julian Alaphilippe, Richie Porte, Romain Bardet, Thibaut Pinot, Adam Yates, Michal Kwiatkowski, Dan Martin but also some newcomers, or sort of, despite their strong experience at the highest level of cycling.
Colombia’s Nairo Quintana, 29, returns to the Dauphiné for the first time since he won stage 6 to Morzine in his only participation up to date in 2012 as a neo pro. Dutchmen Tom Dumoulin, 28, and Steven Kruijswijk, 32, have never taken part in the Dauphiné so far. Same goes for Canada’s Michael Woods, 32, but the former runner took up cycling very late and only joined the WorldTour in 2016. A bronze medallist at the world championship and a Vuelta a España stage winner last year, he’s also scheduled to line up at the Tour de France for the first time this year.
These riders might be aware of an interesting statistics: in the past thirteen years, all Tour de France winners had taken part in the Critérium du Dauphiné the month before at the exception of Andy Schleck in 2010 but Alberto Contador who received the yellow jersey on the Champs-Élysées in Paris before being disqualified finished second at the Dauphiné and won stage 7 to L’Alpe d’Huez that year.
UPS AND DOWNS TO START WITH
The Critérium du Dauphiné is unprecedented in the Cantal province. The lumpy terrain enables the organizers to begin the race with two undulated stages rather than an inaugural time trial. Stage 1 scheduled on Sunday from Aurillac to Jussac (142km) features the ascent to the Puy-Mary. It opens the race to different types of riders who can target the first leader’s jersey, according to race technical director Gilles Maignan who explained: “The Puy-Mary might be a bit far away from the finish but it can inspire many rider because the stage is fairly short with a final circuit that is likely to generate an interesting dynamics. However, I believe that stage 2 (from Mauriac to Craponne-sur-Arzon, 180km) has even more pitfalls, especially because of a hilly first part deprived of any respite. If it rains as well, this day can be particularly demanding. If I was the sport director of one of the favourites, I’d target stage 2. Even if the gaps are small on that day, they might be decisive at the end of the Critérium du Dauphiné.” Stage 1 will kick off in Aurillac, cours Monthyon, at 11am.
ROMAIN BARDET: “TIME LOST IN THE TIME TRIAL WILL BE HARD TO RECOVER”
Twice on the final podium of the Dauphiné (2nd in 2016, 3rd in 2018), Romain Bardet starts on home soil in the Auvergne region this time around. “This year, there isn’t a three-part work in the Alps like we usually have. So I’m not sure if there’ll be any possibility to turn the race upside down. The time trial is tailor-made for specialists. It’ll be hard to recover the time lost to them. I may not be able to target a high position overall as in previous years but I need to race at this level to test myself. I’m a bit in the unknown. My state of form is lower than usually at this time of the year but I’ll certainly know more about myself in one week from now.”
CHRIS FROOME IS READY TO WIN AGAIN, SAYS TEAM INEOS
Servais Knaven, sport director of Team Ineos, spoke to criterium-du-dauphine.fr on the eve of stage 1. “The Dauphiné is always an important race for us”, the Dutchman said. “It’s important to see how the guys are, looking towards the Tour and comparing with the other guys. Of course, we’re gonna try to get the best result. Training is always different than racing. We want to win the overall but getting this group work together for the Tour de France is our priority. The time trial is a long one. There’ll be some time gaps. After that, we’ll decide the tactic but looking at the first few stages, we have to be ready from day 1. Chris [Froome] is in a good shape but he hasn’t raced a lot lately. He’s ready to do a good race and we hope we can win it.”
TOM DUMOULIN TO TEST HIS KNEE
The 2018 Tour de France runner up Tom Dumoulin is a late inclusion on the start list. He’s using the Dauphiné as a test for his left knee he injured in stage 4 of the Giro d’Italia. “I still have some fluid in the knee and the cartilage is a bit damaged”, the Dutchman said. “I was able to train last week but not pain free. I’ll take a day by day approach to figure out what I can hope for at the Tour de France.”