With the Giro behind us, the focus now falls on the Tour de France. The Dauphiné offers up its usual mix of stages, a mini-Tour for those who want a lazy description. With many riders coming here straight from altitude camp, we’ll have to see who’s been training hard up in the mountains.
The race begins with a lap circuit, one that has a little lump in it. The sprinters will all hope to get over the climb and set up a grandstand finish, but if someone pushes the pace on the climb, we’ll see some of the fast men out the back door. Saying that, the start of the stage is also good for those wanting to win from the breakaway, it’s a tricky stage to predict.
Will the cat 2 climb be too far from home to have an impact on the outcome of the stage? We’ll have to see if anyone wants to set a fast tempo on the climb to put some of the quick men into difficulty. Also, the cat 4 climb at the end of the stage is harder than you would expect.
The climb up to the finish isn’t the hardest in the world, but it’s still tough enough to force a big selection. We’re talking 4.7km at 6.6%, before a much easier final 1.2km to end the stage. We’ll have to see who steps forward to control the morning break, the attackers will sense an opportunity to win the stage and take the yellow jersey. If it does all come back together, it will be a fascinating fight between the puncheurs and GC riders.
32km of TT with just 120m of climbing, this is a day for the big powerhouses, but also a huge day in the battle for the yellow jersey. This is a terrible route for most of the climbers, they are likely to lose minutes to the better TT riders.
The easiest stage of the race in terms of altitude gained, but the placement of the cat 4 climbs in the final 30km will make the likes of Groenewegen a little nervous.
The sixth stage finishes in Gap, home of many a Tour de France stage. There are a few ways into the town, this side is easy, and another bunch sprint is the most likely scenario, but the breakaway artists will hope to spoil their party.
Just 136km of racing, but it features a whopping 3730m of climbing, that’s quite a lot! We have the Galibier, Croix de Fer and finish on top of a cat 2 climb in Vaujany, where Froome won back in 2016. This is a big old day in the fight for the yellow jersey.
Another short stage with some huge mountains. This time we have 3840m of climbing in 137km of racing. The final climb is one rarely used in pro racing, last time we were here Fuglsang won in 2017. As we’ve already had a long TT and a mountain stage, this stage could be a good one for the breakaway, but you’ve got to be a great climber to win here.
With several stages likely to end in a sprint, we have a few fast men at the race, but not many of the division 1 lads. The two fastest men in the race are Dylan Groenewegen and Wout Van Aert, they are the men to beat, but neither of them has a particularly long sprint train. Looking to also get in the mix will be Phil Bauhaus, Ethan Hayter, Jordi Meeus, Juan Molano and Jasper Stuyven. All the sprint stages contain difficult moments for the pure sprinters, we’ll have to see how many opportunities the pure sprinters will have.
Primož Roglič – he starts the race as the overwhelming and rightly so. He hasn’t raced since the Basque Country, a race he finished with a knee injury, but all is good now. He’s recently been at altitude, and we all know that he normally goes very well straight after altitude camp, so he’s bound to be in great form for this race. The long TT is perfect for him to put some time into his rivals, giving him a great advantage for the final two stages. With the Tour fast approaching, he’ll be wanting to send a message out to his rivals.
Jonas Vingegaard – he starts as a domestique, not co-leader, but that doesn’t mean he can’t challenge for the podium. Jumbo-Visma have a strong team at the race, especially when you consider the length of the TT. It’s unlikely that Vingegaard will win the race, but you just never know how the short mountain stages will play out from a tactical point of view.
Ben O’Connor – I’ve loved watch Ben progress over the last few years, he’s going from strength to strength. 6th in Catalunya and 5th in Romandie were impressive results, but he wants more. This week we’ll see him go full gas to try and finish on the podium of a world tour event for the first time, but it won’t be easy considering the TT ability of his rivals. The flat TT isn’t great for the Aussie, he’ll need to limit his losses if he hopes to get on the final podium.
Damiano Caruso – he’s backed up his sensational 2021 season with some solid results this year, so he arrives in France with confidence and the hope to push the Jumbo boys all the way. Caruso is a classy rider, he always seems to be in complete control, this is a great opportunity to show what he can do before the Tour de France.
Jack Haig – 5th here last year, he’ll be hoping for a similar performance this time round. The Aussie has been a great signing by Bahrain, remember back to last year, he was being touted as a potential Tour de France podium finisher. He’ll hope to form a strong partnership with Caruso, having two options puts the team into a strong position.
Wilco Kelderman – he comes here from the Giro, something we’ve seen a few riders try before, with varying degrees of success. It’s all to do with how much gas is left in the legs, but even he won’t really know what to expect in the big mountain stages.
Jan Hirt – he’s no stranger to doing a stage race soon after the Giro, but it’s usually the Tour de Suisse he goes to after three weeks in Italy. He ended the Giro in fine form, he’ll hope that his legs hold up and he can go for another stage win, and possibly a good result on GC.
Tao Geoghegan Hart – I wonder what he was thinking when he saw Hindley win the Giro, the last two seasons have not progressed the way he would have hoped after winning the pink jersey in 2020. Tao has often been used as a domestique, but when given the chance to lead the squad, he’s disappointed. Last week he was 5th in the Tour of Norway, but he was a million miles behind Evenepoel, but it was still his best result for a while. The next couple of races are very important for him, I’m hoping to see him back to his very best.
Enric Mas – results this year haven’t been anything to write home about, but that’s to be expected from him, it’s much the same as previous years. Mas likes to ride both the Tour and Vuelta, that means he doesn’t start to hit top form until the summer months, he might not even be at his very best in this race. If he is near top form, he’ll be fighting for the podium.
Brandon McNulty – the start of the season seems like an eternity ago, but at that point the American was simply stunning on his bike. Normally I’d be tempted to say that the two big mountain stages are too hard for him, but I think he’s developed over the last year, and he should be able to fight for a good spot-on GC.
FDJ – they arrive with Gaudu and Storer, two riders whose GC bid will end on TT day, but it will free them up to chase stages in the mountains.
With Jumbo-Visma fully behind their main man, I think we’ll see a dominant display by Primož Roglič.