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Big mountains and bigger pressure — it’s all on the line at the Critérium du Dauphiné.
Some of the top favorites for the Tour de France converge in France from June 5-12 for the 74th edition of the Dauphiné.
With monster climbs and nerves ratcheting up, the eight-stage race across the Alps will provide some telling pre-Tour hints of who has it and who doesn’t ahead of the yellow jersey battle looming in July.
Such riders as Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard, second respectively in the past two editions of the Tour, headline a marquee starting list that also includes a who’s who of Tour-bound stars.
Also read: Froome, Roglič confirmed for 2022 Dauphiné
The eight-stage race, running from Sunday to June 12, hits a mix of terrain across central and eastern France, with stages into the Massif Central, some transition stages and an individual time trial, before climbing into the Rhône Alps for the final weekend.
The weeklong race traditionally serves as a final testing ground for Tour-bound favorites, but that’s not always the case.
A handful of recent Tour winners have shone at the Dauphiné, including Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins during their respective runs at Team Sky, with Geraint Thomas in 2018 as the last Dauphiné-Tour double-winner.
Ineos Grenadiers certainly has dominated the race during much of the past decade or so, winning seven of the past 11 editions, most recently with Richie Porte last year. The Tasmanian, who was forced to abandon the Giro last week with illness, is not racing.
Jumbo-Visma brings all of its hitters (except Sepp Kuss)
Ineos Grenadiers brings a strong squad led by Geoghegan-Hart and Michal Kwiatkowski, and Froome is back with Israel-Premier Tech in a late-hour bid to earn a spot for the Tour.
The five-star favorite, however, is Jumbo-Visma.
In addition to Roglič and Vingegaard, the Dutch team is bringing a veritable hit squad to the race. Also starting are Wout van Aert, Steven Kruijswijk, Tiesj Benoot, Christophe Laporte, and Rohan Dennis. The only big name missing is Sepp Kuss, who will be racing the Tour de Suisse later this month.
One marquee rider missing is Tadej Pogačar, who is steering clear of a showdown with his compatriot, and will race the Tour of Slovenia instead. UAE Team Emirates brings McNulty, Juan Ayuso, Rafa Majka, and George Bennett, all honing their form ahead of possible starts in the Tour.
In fact, that’s the Dauphiné’s long-running point of attraction. The race is a summertime rite of passage for not only Tour-bound favorites, but also top helpers and domestiques keen to show off their form to punch a ticket to the Tour.
France’s most important one-week stage race
The race certainly packs prestige, and is often considered the most important one-week stage race on the international calendar, though fans of Paris-Nice or Itzulia Basque Country might argue with that claim.
The race dates back to the post-war years in the late 1940s, and French riders dominated the race well into the 1980s. By then, the peloton was growing more international, and riders like Greg LeMond, Phil Anderson and Luís Herrera climbed onto the winner’s podium.
The race takes its name from the Dauphiné Libéré, the major daily of the region. Tour de France owners ASO took over the race in 2010, and changing the name to its current incarnation.
The race is unique from the Tour de France in that it can hit smaller roads and visit more remote and smaller start and finish towns compared to the monstrosity of the Tour.
🤩 The cycling season continues!
🗓 From Sunday, follow the 74th edition of the Critérium du #Dauphiné!
— Critérium du Dauphiné (@dauphine) May 30, 2022
Without the detritus of the publicity caravan and the media infrastructure required of the Tour, the race has almost old-school feel to it, and often visits towns and villages that would never be able to host the modern Tour.
Because the race inevitably dips into the Alps and due to its close proximity to the Tour, the race is long a favorite testing ground for GC captains and helpers alike.
In today’s finely tuned peloton, the race has lost a bit of its importance in terms of a measuring stick of pure form, but anyone off the beat in mid-June will have no time to catch up by the start of the Tour in early July.
What to expect this week
All eyes will be on Roglič and Jumbo-Visma. The Slovenian hasn’t raced since Itzulia Basque Country, where he lost the lead and finished eighth overall. He’s been camped at altitude, and will be keen to test his legs.
Whether or not that means he will be racing for victory remains to be seen, but considering he’s only raced it once and has never won the Dauphiné, Roglič will be in it to win it.
If Roglič is on form, it will be interesting to see who has the skillset to try to match him in both the climbs and time trials. On paper, McNulty and teammate Vingegaard could be his most dangerous rivals.
The race opens Sunday with a potentially explosive stage that hits out with a second-category and third-category climb right from the gun, meaning that the GC riders will have to be all over any early moves.
Stage 2 features a second-category climb midway through the stage that should set up a duel between the peloton’s few sprinters and breakaway riders. Again, the GC teams will need to be attentive on uneven terrain.
Stage 3 dips into the Massif Central and ends with a second-category summit finale that should see some selection. The 31.9km individual time trial in stage 4 will favor the likes of Roglič and McNulty, and could give someone a comfortable buffer for what lies ahead in the Alps.
Stage 5 could be a sprint, but again, the stage is riddled with four rated climbs and small narrow roads. Stage 6 rolls into Gap, and features two second-category climbs well-suited for breakaways.
Things get steeps in stage 7, tackling two legendary hors-categorie giants, first at the Col du Galibier and then at Croix-de-Fer, before a drop to the valley and the second-category summit finish at Vaujany.
Don’t miss the stage 8 finale, with the Col de la Colombiere to serve as a warmup for the HC summit finish to Plateau de Solaison. At 11.4km at 8.9 percent, anything can happen there.
Stages of the 2022 Critérium du Dauphiné
Stage 1, June 5: La Voulte-sur-Rhône to Beauchastel, 191.8km
Stage 2, June 6: Saint-Péray to Brives-Charensac, 169.8km
Stage 3, June 7: Saint-Paulien to Chastreix-Sancy, 164km
Stage 4, June 8: Montbrison to La Bâtie d’Urfé, 31.9k (ITT)
Stage 5, June 9: Thizy-les-Bourgs to Chaintré, 162.3km
Stage 6, June 10: Rives to Gap, 196.4km
Stage 7, June 11: Saint-Chaffrey to Vaujany, 134.8km
Stage 8, June 12: Saint-Alban-Leysse to Plateau de Salaison, 139.2km
The last 10 winners
2021 — Richie Porte
2020 — Daniel Martínez
2019 — Jakob Fuglsang
2018 — Geraint Thomas
2017 — Fuglsang
2016 — Chris Froome
2015 — Froome
2014 — Andrew Talansky
2013 — Froome
2012 — Bradley Wiggins