Critérium du Dauphiné 2018: A generation on the rise

Key points
 The 70th edition of the Critérium du Dauphiné will start with a 6.6 km prologue through the streets of Valence on 3 June. After a long, hard slog on the roads of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, the adventure will draw to a close in Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc on 10 June.

 The Alps will separate the men from the boys in the Dauphiné and the Tour de France. A dynamic new generation is heading into the race with solid climbers such as Romain Bardet, Marc Soler, Egan Bernal and Bob Jungels. They could well end up toppling Vincenzo Nibali, a rider who has won all three Grand Tours and remains a powerful force to be reckoned with.

Even the old adage that every season is different can sometimes be wrong. This time of the year usually sees a changing of the guard, as the stars of the winter and spring races give way to a different breed of riders, one that lights the fireworks in the major stage races of the summer calendar. However, this year’s start list tells a different story, heralding a fierce battle among the elite of a generation on the rise that already shone in the early part of the year. Vincenzo Nibali is the only rider older than 30 with a clear shot at victory. The 2014 Tour champion has rarely excelled at the Dauphiné, but his victory in Milan–San Remo served as a good reminder of his ability to surprise. The Italian is right on track in the build-up to his main goal of the season. However, potential rivals have also shone during their preparation for the Tour de France. Movistar is banking on the youthful moxie of Marc Soler, who claimed Paris–Nice back in March, while Team Sky is fielding Geraint Thomas, Tirreno–Adriatico winner Michał Kwiatkowski and the newly crowned champion of the Tour of California, the sensational 21-year-old Egan Bernal.

The most prolific team since the start of the season, Quick-Step Floors, is heading to the Alps with the same ravenous appetite it displayed in Belgium: Flèche Wallonne winner Julian Alaphilippe and 25-year-old Liège–Bastogne–Liège champion Bob Jungels will have an ace or two up their sleeves. Tiesj Benoot, the winner of Strade Bianche and leader of the other Belgian team, Lotto–Soudal, also has cards to play. Romain Bardet, runner-up in Siena, has had the best start to the season of his career so far, including a podium place in Liège–Bastogne–Liège (third). Fortuneo’s standard-holder, Warren Barguil, has been uninspired so far, but last summer more than proved his ability to bounce back into the game. Mitchelton–Scott is pinning its hopes on Adam Yates (fourth in California), whose form often moves in lockstep with that of his brother Simon, currently leading the Giro d’Italia.

22 teams: the main contenders (as of 24 May)
South Africa
Team Dimension Data: Boasson Hagen and Cummings
Team Sunweb: Bauhaus and Teunissen
Bora-Hansgrohe: Buchmann and Kennaugh
Mitchelton–Scott: A. Yates
Bahrain-Merida: Nibali and Gasparotto
Quick–Step Floors: Alaphilippe and Jungels
Lotto–Soudal: Benoot, De Gendt and Vanendert
Wanty-Groupe Gobert: G. Martin, Backaert and Eiking
Movistar Team: Soler and Erviti
United States
BMC Racing Team: Caruso and Teuns
EF Education First Drapac p/b Cannondale: Rolland and Moreno
Trek–Segafredo: Skujiņš and Felline
AG2R–La Mondiale: Bardet, Latour, Gallopin and Naesen
Groupama-FDJ: Gaudu, Molard and Vichot
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits: Navarro, Simon and Teklehaimanot
Team Fortuneo-Samsic: Barguil and Feillu
Vital Concept Cycling Club: Coquard and Reza
United Kingdom
Team Sky: Thomas, Bernal and Kwiatkowski
United Arab Emirates
UAE Team Emirates: Martin, Byström and Ulissi
Astana Pro Team: Bilbao and Valgren
Team LottoNL–Jumbo: Boom, Leezer and Van Emden
Team Katusha-Alpecin: Zakarin and Kišerlovski