Tag Archives: Critérium du Dauphiné

Froome shows he’s still the man to beat with commanding Dauphiné victory

This time last week we were wondering about the form of Chris Froome in this the final preparation race ahead of the Tour de France. The Sky rider had been beaten by his rival Alberto Contador in the uphill prologue of the Criterium du Dauphiné with former team-mate Richie Porte even finishing in front of him.

Fast forward a week and it is clear that any fears as to his form were unfounded. Froome bounced back in style winning the first big mountain stage of three over the final three days of racing to seize the yellow jersey before taking more time from his nearest rivals a day later and marking them tight on the final stage that seen him wrap up the overall victory ahead of Romain Bardet and Daniel Martin with Porte and Contador back in 4th and 5th respectively.

Following that prologue win by Contador, stage victories on flat to rolling roads were taken by Nacer Bouhanni, Jesus Herrada, Fabio Aru (in a superb opportunists move to attack late and hold off a charging peloton in an attempt to take something from his race after losing a heap of time in previous stages) and Edvald Boasson Hagen, while the GC remained largely untouched as the contenders kept their powder dry for the three mountain stages.

And as he likes to do, Froome struck on the first of those three stages to Vaujany. He left Contador for dead and only Porte could remain close as Froome took the stage and a 7sec lead over Porte with Contador dropping to third at 27sec. Only Froome’s former lieutenant Porte was of a serious threat.

A day later on an epic stage to Méribel, Froome marked his rivals for the majority while the young Frenchmen of Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet, down far enough on GC for Froome to take his eyes off of them, went up the road to duke out the stage. Bardet looked the stronger of the two, putting in incessant attacks only for Pinot to dig deep and hold the wheel. So it was with great admiration that Pinot then took the sprint between the pair, digging deeper still to remain Bardet that he remains the greatest French hope for July. A little further behind Froome was attacking again and nobody but Dan Martin could react. The result increased Froome’s lead overall to 21sec on Porte and Bardet.

The final stage was tough but not quite as challenging and it was perfectly suited to Britains Steve Cummigns who thrives on a lumpy stage in which he can spring a late move. Bardet and Pinot will have been glad not to have seen him the day before, with stark reminders of when the French duo were mugged by Cummings at stage 14 of last years Tour de France. But Cummings took his victory and was followed in by a small group of names that included Bardet and Martin, but not Froome. He was only 5sec further back, with his eye on Porte and Contador and safely the winner of the Dauphiné for the third time.

The last two times Froome won the Dauphiné he went on to win the Tour de France so confidence will be high.

Criterium du Dauphiné final classement:

1. Chris Froome (Sky)

2. Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale)

3. Daniel Martin (Etixx – Quick Step)

4. Richie Porte (BMC)

5. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff)

6. Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx – Quick Step)

in 29h59’31”

12″

@ 19″

@ 21″

@ 35″

@ 51″

Tour de Suisse underway

Elsewhere, another Tour de France prep race got underway just as the Dauphiné was coming to its climax. I’ll have more on the Tour de Suisse next week as it comes to its nine stage conclusion but with three stages now complete, it’s very much the Peter Sagan show. Fabian Cancellara rolled back the years with a win in the race opening time-trial, but Sagan won the next two stages with moves that caused time splits and put him into the overall lead by 3sec over Jurgen Roelandts.

The major climbing here doesn’t start until stage 5 at which time Sagan is expected to fall away from contention as the GC contenders take over. Look out for Sky’s Geraint Thomas who is looking to add this result to his Paris-Nice victory and prove his ability to lead Team Sky should Froome falter at any time during the Tour. Also keep an eye on defending champion Simon Spilak as well as Rui Costa who won this race three times between 2012 and 2014.

Rider of the week

Only one real winner here: Chris Froome. Bounced back from the uphill prologue to take a stage win and the GC and show complete control over his rivals.

Attention turns towards the Tour

After almost a week to allow the dust to settle on a fantastic Giro d’Italia, thoughts slowly began to turn towards the next Grand Tour of the season: The Tour de France. And with it comes some week long stage racing to fine tune those who consider themselves favourites as each looks to lay down a psychological marker on his rivals or perhaps see how much work he still has to do.

The first of these is the Critérium du Dauphiné and it’s already underway. Two stages in now and you would have to say already, it’s advantage Alberto Contador. The Spaniard won the opening up-hill prologue in spectacular fashion putting 13sec into Chris Froome over the 3.9km, 9.7% average gradient climb. Richie Porte only lost 6sec, but others lost a lot more: Mikel Landa, 44sec; Thibaut Pinot, 52sec; Fabio Aru, 1min 8sec.

I’d expect Froome to start to come good later in the week and you’d certainly expect better from Aru. Contador looks sharp though, skinnier than in many years and surely desperate for one last crowning glory in July. Froome might hope that the Tinkoff rider is peaking a month too soon, but the fact is, Contador knows what he is doing. There’s some huge climbing stages in this race towards the later part of this week however and that’s where we’ll truly see each pretender to win the Tour’s form.

Today’s stage finished not long ago and it was a rare flat one on this eight day race. It was won by Nacer Bouhanni with no time losses by the contenders.

Another pre-Tour warm-up race is the Tour de Suisse and that starts next Saturday with Sky’s Geraint Thomas looking to prove himself as the main domestique to Chris Froome, or indeed a viable plan ‘B’ should anything go wrong with the two time Tour winner. Someone not racing either is Nairo Quintana who is opting instead to do the Route du Sud, a race he won in 2012, which starts on the 16th June.

Rider of the week

Alberto Contador’s climb on the prologue of the Dauphine was impressive but how about Bryan Coquard? The Boucles de la Mayenne isn’t as prestigeous as the Dauphine but it had a solid field and the Frenchman won the prologue, the 2nd stage of three in all, and took the general classification.

Wiggins’ Knee…Cookson challenges McQuaids democracy…Another dope…and Contador looks human

KNEE JERK REACTION? WIGGINS OUT OF TOUR

What a shame to learn last week that Sir Bradley of Wiggins wouldn’t be defending his Tour de France title this summer with news that he has withdrawn from the race before it has even begun. The reason is a dodgy knee, though some suggest that following the Giro he learned he would have to go downhill again and voluntarily took himself out of the race. If you go with the official word from Sky, he’s injured and despite reports that he’s been training for four hours a day, unable to start.

Conspiracy theorists are out in force suggesting this is an easy out for Sky to avoid the potential headache of a Wiggins v Chris Froome head-to-head that would only have added entertainment value to the race. It suits Sky more this way, but watching these two going at one another would have brought back memories of LeMond v Hinault for those old enough to remember the mid-80’s (not me!).

With the loose end / loose cannon, that is / could be, Wiggins now tied up Sky can assume robotic focus on the Tour as they like to do. Marginal gains, matching the power of their rivals, and grinding their way to a victory. Chris Froome is the man now and the big question aside from what the real reason behind Wiggins’s sudden withdrawal, is whether Wiggins will now move on to a new team? You’d have to think so.

2013 has been a disaster for him. From the Giro to this, but you cannot feel too sorry given the year he had in 2012 winning the Tour and the Olympic title on home soil as well as a host of other pre-Tour races. You take the rough with the smooth and all he can do is focus on a strong end of season — Vuelta anyone? — and take that into 2014.

Still the Tour would have been better with him there as it’s always better with as many star riders as possible. Froome will miss Wiggins’s presence in the team-time-trial but that’s about it. For the rest it’s a blow. Sure they’re glad to see one more potential challenger fail to take the start, but the likes of Alberto Contador must surely have been hoping for Sky to get mixed up in fighting one another that they forgot to consider him as he scampered off into the distance.


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COOKSON TO CHALLENGE THE DEMOCTATIC PAT MCQUAID FOR UCI PRESIDENCY

Brian Cookson, the president of British Cycling, has stepped forward, removed his top-hat and tossed it into a ring containing Pat McQuaid in a bid to out-duel the current head of the UCI for his job.

Cookson who once — not so long ago — backed McQuaid has since seen the light and decided that cycling could do much better and that he’s the man to “restore cycling’s credibility”. Cookson who has been head of British cycling since 1996 felt he had little choice but to turn his back on McQuaid following the breakdown of the independent commission and a lack of support from WADA.

“For far too many people our sport is associated with doping, with decisions that are made behind closed doors and with ceaseless conflicts,” said the man of the hour.

Of course, McQuaid couldn’t take this lying down and responded with a letter to the various presidents of national associations questioning Cookson’s character despite claiming in the same letter that he “would welcome any candidate to stand” against him. “The UCI will always be a democracy while I am in office” said the same Pat McQuaid who scampered off to Switzerland to get his nomination for the presidency when his own federations member clubs democratically attempted to shut him out.

That’s what we’re dealing with here.

I don’t know a ton about Cookson to be fair and like any good political figure he talks a good game, but let’s face it, can he be a lot worse? I’ve no doubt McQuaid has done some good for the sport on some level or another, but where it truly matters, where the face of the sport is visible in front of the world — the professional side of things, he has been found wanting. On top of abolishing the independent commission he has refused to implement a truth and reconciliation body, he has admitted that the federation took donations from Lance Armstrong during his all too sketchy career, and he called the likes of Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton “scumbags”, not for what they did as cyclists, but for coming clean and telling the truth on drug use while defending Armstrong to the hilt.

A fresh face is badly needed … Cookson might well be it. Right now it’s a case of better the devil you don’t know.


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SANTAMBROGIO THE LATEST DOPE

A quick word on Mauro Santambrogio who became the second rider from the Giro, and the second rider from the Vini Fantini team, to fail a doping test. Santambrogio failed a test for EPO from stage one which has left many wondering if he was a targeted man given that stage one was a sprint stage and that he’s a climber. He did win on stage 14 ahead of Vincenzo Nibali (can we retrospectively award the stage to Nibali for what would be his third stage win of the Giro he won?) and finished ninth overall.

I didn’t want to give this subject more than the paragraph it barely deserves but I did want to note that it’s good to see the process is working. That’s two positive tests for two riders quite well known in that one — Danilo Di Luca — is a former cheat and the other a man who contended for the GC. There was no hiding and no getting away from it. Cycling can be proud that it tests as much as it does and that it’s weeding out the cheats. More than ever before you’re likely to get caught if you decide to gamble of enhancing your performance through questionable means and that’s huge for the sport. It’s also nice to see Santambrogio’s fellow professional’s openly criticising him, a stance we’ve rarely seen in the past and one we need to see more of in the future.


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CONTADOR LOOKS MORE LIKE THE TYPICAL SPANISH CLIMBER SUDDENLY

That is, one who can’t time-trial. I seen the results of today’s 32.5 km time-trial in the Critérium du Dauphiné — the race formally known as the Dauphiné Libéré — and was surprised to see how normal Alberto Contador suddenly looked. He finished a staggering 3 minutes, 37 seconds behind the mighty time-trial specialist (and winner of the 2007 Ras, I might add!), Tony Martin who himself covered the course at an average —average — speed of over 52 kilometres per hour.

Is this a good thing to see Contador look so human compared to the days when he would win time-trials as well as punish his rivals on the climbs? Does this hint at a more normal, and dare I say, cleaner Alberto? It’s hard not to jump to such a conclusion.

Contador’s biggest rival for the Tour, Chris Froome showed that British climbers don’t have the same trouble with time-trials and finished third, 52 seconds behind Martin who beat Australian Rohan Dennis into second at 47 seconds. Sky had four men in the top ten (Edvald Boasson Hagen (6th), Richie Porte (7th), and Geraint Thomas (10th) to go with Froome), a real show of strength ahead of the Tour.

Contador was quick to excuse the result as being the result of allergies: “There were some difficult moments for me, because of the allergies. Finishing so far behind? It’s not very important, of course if I finish in front of him (Froome), it’s better, but I know that the Dauphiné is the Dauphiné and the Tour is the Tour. These allergies should have finished by then.

Good enough excuse in place should he suddenly surge in performance between now and the Tour then? Many will think so, but let’s wait and see. Right now I think it’s welcoming to see a more fallible Contador even if he could yet prove to be the best come July.