A week since the Giro has finished but it seems to have lasted a lot longer! There have been smaller races on mid-week, such as the Tour of Luxembourg but there has been nothing on TV. That will change come Sunday when we are treated to the annual pre-amble to the Tour with the Criterium du Dauphiné.
As I’ll be doing daily previews again for this race I won’t bother going into the stages in much detail here.
Definitely not what you’d expect if someone said a 3.9km prologue! Expect a few time gaps and maybe a few surprises. Some GC guys will love this, but some of the Ardennes riders could go well.
Rolling start to the stage but should be kept together for a sprint. Bouhanni has to be favourite.
First road stage hill-top finish. Not the toughest of climbs so there shouldn’t be many time gaps. A bunch sprint of GC favourites or a well-timed late attack the most likely outcome.
Interesting stage, possibly first break day but looks most likely to be a reduced bunch sprint, or another late attack. Steve Cummings is here…
If we didn’t get a sprint of sorts the previous day, we should here. The final Km rises ever so slightly, it’ll be a power sprint. Will the man smuggling chickens in his calves win here? *If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch this*
A harder mountain top finish than we had earlier in the week. The final climb isn’t the toughest in terms of average gradient and length, but it is very stop-start with several steep ramps. A punchy GC guy should go well here.
The progression of difficulty of the mountain top finishes continues, this time on the cat-1 climb to Méribel. This should be where the GC is won.
The GC might not have been won convincingly the previous day so time gaps could be small enough for this to become a very exciting GC stage. If not, should be one for the break.
The GC Contenders
⭐ ⭐ ⭐
There are two riders here who are head and shoulders above the rest of the field in terms of Grand Tour quality; Chris Froome and Alberto Contador.
Froome has had an underwhelming start to the season winning the GC at the Herald Sun Tour and a stage at the Tour de Romandie. Not the best start for the reigning TDF champion. However, his season is geared towards being in peak condition at the Tour and it properly starts here. He should at least podium and will probably accept nothing less than overall victory. Team Sky send what looks like the bulk of their Tour team and oh boy, it’s a strong one.
Contador has had a different approach and has raced a lot more than Froome so far this season. His progression in GC has been steady and impressive as well (3rd, 2nd, 2nd, 1st). After having a poor TDF last year because of his Giro-Tour double attempt, he means business this time round! With the majority of Tour hopefuls riding this race (only Quintana and TVG missing), he’ll want to set out his stall as favourite for the Tour with a win here. He has a very good chance and probably has to start as favourite ahead of Froome.
However, it’s not a Grand Tour and there are a few riders who will fancy their chances in this week-long race. Below Froome and Contador we have 3 riders who could feasibly challenge for the title. They are Thibaut Pinot, Fabio Aru and Mikel Landa.
I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Pinot this season, he’s been thereabouts on GC when it’s mattered and has performed well against the World’s best on some of the mountain top finishes. His TTing has vastly improved this season but he won’t need them much as I assume they’ll be using road bikes in the prologue. If Contador and Froome mark each other out, I’m sure the Frenchman will be there waiting to take the reins.
Fabio Aru has had a quiet season so far this year, but let’s not forget he is a former Grand Tour winner, having won the Vuelta last year and an incredibly strong climber on his day. Having not competed since Amstel there is a big question mark over his form, but I expect him to turn up all guns blazing. He’ll want to dispel the rumours that Nibali will be co-leader with him at the Tour by going well here.
The real unknown phenomenon here is Mikel Landa. After dropping out of the Giro with illness he’ll want to bounce back strongly. If he’s recovered then he’ll be a great bonus to Team Sky and Froome and is quite easily another winner of this race. Will he work for Froome? Most likely.
Away from the riders above, there are a few names that can be thrown around (I’m just going down the betting odds). After all, we could have a Talansky style win again. Although I can’t see it.
Joaquim Rodriguez – Past it IMO. Might win a stage, not GC.
Richie Porte – Did OK at Paris Nice (3rd) and Catalunya (4th) but hasn’t raced since Romandie. I just can’t say he’ll put in a good performance with any conviction.
Romain Bardet – His development seems to have stagnated a bit and he’s been left behind by Pinot. Like JRod, he won’t win GC but maybe a stage.
Others who could Top 10? Mollema, Yates, Martin, Poels, Reichenbach. There are a lot of second-tier GC riders here, none of whom should challenge the Top 5.
Carlton Kirby Joker – Julian Alaphilippe.
I can’t see past any of the top 5 that I’ve mentioned, they are the fairly obvious ones. I’ll narrow it down, suggesting that Landa will be a super-super-domestique for Froome, which leaves Froome, Contador, Pinot and Aru.
Being bold as per usual, El Pistolero wins this relatively comfortably. Aru and Pinot will round out the podium with the latter pipping Froome on the final day who falters and finishes 4th.
2.5pts WIN on Contador @ 3/1 (PP)
.75pt EW on Aru @ 12/1 (Betfair)
Hope you enjoyed this shortish GC preview. Any feedback would be great! I’ll be back with daily stage previews, starting Saturday evening for the following day’s prologue. Have a nice evening! Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.