Dissecting the Dauphiné – Stage 5

Featured image courtesy of @ASO/Criterium du Dauphine

The 72nd edition of the Critérium du Dauphiné, shortened as it was, will go down as one entertaining showdown before a Tour de France where we have no idea who will win the yellow jersey in Paris.

Despite the pandemic causing mischief, a five stage Dauphiné has brought drama, surprises and individual glory. Every year this race acts as the best indicator of who’s in form before the biggest stage in world cycling.

EF Pro Cycling’s Daniel Martínez wins the 2020 overall after Jumbo-Visma took their 17th victory of the year with Sepp Kuss. A mixed day for the Dutch team after Primož Roglič abandoned after a crash on Stage 4.

The Tour is now two weeks away, lots to dissect from this year’s Dauphiné.

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First up, the stage winner and another win for Team Jumbo-Visma. We saw attacks everywhere across the 157 km stage, the finish on exactly the same terrain as yesterday in Megève.

Julian Alaphilippe and Pavel Sivakov found themselves caught by the main pack before the race came to life with the likes of Miguel Ángel López, Tadej Pogačar and even Sivakov, who suffered from a crash, trying his best for Team Ineos.

After leader of the race Primož Roglič didn’t start this morning, you’d think that Jumbo-Visma might rest up easy and save their legs. Forget it! Tom Dumoulin attacked on the Col de Romme and in Sepp Kuss he now adds a stage victory from the Vuelta last year. The American has not put a foot wrong over the five days – a loyal domestique, got a free hit today and delivered! Should he be off to the Tour? On this evidence absolutely!

One final climb, one final push to finish this Dauphiné on a high after some disappointment along the way – Jumbo-Visma are fully prepared for the Tour. Despite losing Steven Kruijswijk, losing Primož Roglič to rest easy – they should be satisfied.

The big question is what condition will Roglič be in for the Tour? A question that we’ll ask but three stage wins out of five at this Dauphiné – lots to smile about.

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Second, let’s look at the overall winner of the 72nd Dauphiné – Daniel Martínez. Stage winner at Paris-Nice in 2019, he’s a new talent and a worthy win, the best of his career to date. Martínez found himself isolated but that didn’t matter – EF Pro Cycling and Jonathan Vaughters will be delighted!

Credit must go to Thibaut Pinot who finishes second overall. He did look quiet in the first few days of this race but did start to pick it up – climbing quietly not attacking too much before the final two stages not necessarily a bad thing.

Pinot goes into the Tour as the big French hope. After suffering from an unfortunate knee injury last year – now is the time for redemption. He could have taken the overall today, he gave everything by attacking the race – Pinot deserves credit for having a go.

The French wait for a Dauphiné victory let alone a Tour de France goes on. Not since Christophe Moreau in 2007 has their been a French winner of the Dauphiné but there were even moments today where fellow French riders were trying to help Pinot – some might find that annoying but others might have different opinions. To make things more important for the French they’ll be pleased to see not only Pinot make the podium but also Guillaume Martin, who’s ridden consistently too.

We say it every year that not since 1985 have we had a French Tour de France champion. 35 years since Bernard Hinault in yellow – Thibaut Pinot could end the wait.

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Other names who deserve a mention include Miguel Ángel López, who rode better today and also Julian Alaphilippe seems to be getting stronger day after day.

Ride of the day belongs to Pavel Sivakov. An unfortunate crash on a descent (we’ve had a few!) but he kept going. The Russian even attacked on the final climb, great to see while nursing nasty road rash and a ripped jersey.

So what can we take overall from this year’s Dauphiné?

We’ve seen a head-to-head between Jumbo-Visma and Team Ineos where both their riders in form abandoned the race. Jumbo-Visma will come away the slightly happier and Ineos will wonder where they got some things wrong.

Youth shone brightly at this Dauphiné as we saw huge glimpses into who will be riding and targeting future Grand Tours. Lennard Kämna, Tadej Pogačar, Daniel Martínez, Pavel Sivakov and even key domestiques such as Sepp Kuss are the ones to watch in future.

On a sad note we saw some favourites crash out. Egan Bernal, Emanuel Buchmann, Steven Kruijswijk and Primož Roglič were four big casualties of the race – their prospects before the Tour has begun will be interesting to predict especially as three of the four names above were the fourth placed, third placed and defending champion from last year’s Tour.

Today’s stage also saw a slow ride protest after Kruijswijk himself suffered from a dislocated shoulder on a descent described as having a horrendous road surface. Fabio Jakobsen’s crash in Poland after a downhill sprint, both Remco Evenepoel falling off a bridge and Max Schachmann colliding with a car in Lombardy – rider safety is in an unwelcome spotlight at the moment, something to ponder.

The Tour de France is now so close. All the preparation is complete. We cannot wait until Saturday 29th August in Nice…

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Dissecting the Dauphiné – Stage 4

Featured image courtesy of @ASO/Criterium du Dauphine

There are moments in sport that can surprise us out of the blue and for today’s stage of the Dauphiné we had surprises in abundance.

Stage 4 from Ugine to Megève with seven categorised climbs including the Montee de Bisanne and right at the start we got a breakaway with Jumbo-Visma doing everything they could to shut it down before letting them have the stage win.

Julian Alaphilippe, Fausto Masnada, Luis León Sánchez, David de la Cruz and other big names were always going to be threats and at one point Primož Roglič was out of the virtual lead.

With Alaphilippe in the break you’d thought it’d be his day but not to be as Lennard Kämna, young German star and one day after he had a go on yesterday’s stage. A bright future ahead and on a difficult day for BORA-Hansgrohe as they lost Emanuel Buchmann to an abandon.

Kämna rightly deserves his day in the spotlight but talking about Julian Alaphilippe, he’ll be pleased to get some more climbing in the legs. It doesn’t look as if he’ll be in the best form going into the Tour and the GC a long way off.

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It is the numerous surprises however that are the big talking points from today’s stage and it came right at the start. Egan Bernal did not start the stage due to a back injury – again throwing up more questions for Team INEOS.

With the defending champion now out of the running, what on earth happens now for the team? Bernal looked out of form yesterday and today Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas were not visible, perhaps saving themselves but in Russian Pavel Sivakov he’ll be the new option. It’s maybe not a lot to read into but Bernal suffering from a back injury two weeks before the Tour – doesn’t look good.

For Jumbo-Visma they’ve also suffered from an unlikely setback after looking so solid. A key climber and last year’s third placed rider at the Tour Steven Kruijswijk crashed dislocating his shoulder, for racer leader Primož Roglič he also suffered from a fall.

Kruijswijk now out of the race, now unlikely to make the Tour – that is a blow for the team. Jumbo-Visma also experienced a bit of a test from today as other teams decided to take it to them. Team Bahrain-McLaren rode well for Mikel Landa by putting Dylan Teuns in the break but also riding on the front up the Bisanne.

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Jumbo-Visma and Ineos have both suffered setbacks today and other teams showed their metal.

Thibaut Pinot once again looked good with Reichenbach his domestique looking better but talk about someone who has ridden like an invisible man almost as if he’s not being taken seriously – Nairo Quintana. We keep on saying that he appears to be a refreshed rider but apart from that he doesn’t seem to be putting a foot wrong. Unless anything disastrous happens, Quintana is a pre-race threat when the Tour begins in Nice.

As mentioned we saw Emanuel Buchmann sadly abandon the race. The German rider finished fourth overall at the Tour last year, so we do hope he’ll be back racing for yellow very soon.

Ride of the day of course belongs to Lennard Kämna and team of the goes to Bahrain-McLaren for taking things up on the Montée de Bisanne and doing some decent efforts for Mikel Landa. Credit also to David de la Cruz as he swept up enough KOM mountain points to move into the jersey replacing teammate and yesterday’s stage winner Davide Formolo.

One final stage to go, Primož Roglič on the cusp of taking the Dauphiné overall but knowing that he’s taken a small hit from a crash but also the loss of a key domestique. The Tour isn’t far off now as the Grand Départ gets excitingly closer.

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Dissecting the Dauphiné – Stage 2

Featured image courtesy of Criterium du Dauphiné

As the weeks go by, as the Tour gets ever closer, we cannot help but wonder whether times are changing. We’ve got a serious battle on our hands between a team that has dominated the Tour de France since 2012 and a team looking to usurp their crown.

Stage 2 of the Dauphiné was the first big test of the five day’s as the race reached the Col de Porte, high above the city of Grenoble and another hurdle overcome yet again by Jumbo-Visma, Primož Roglič wins another one after victory at the Tour de l’Ain last week.

Time to do some dissecting…

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Hats off to CCC’s Michael Schär who went off in the break to sweep up some mountain points in the KOM jersey alongside numerous companions including Groupama FDJ’s Bruno Armirail. They were both caught on the final climb and immediately we saw the usual sight we’ve been accustomed to at the Tour and Dauphiné in recent years – Team Ineos controlling the pace and causing other favourites to struggle.

It looked like the usual gameplan, keep up the pace, put others in the hurt locker and then allow your leader to wrap things up – yet Ineos did it too early!

Jonathan Castroviejo and Michał Kwiatkowski did turns and Chris Froome is clearly on domestique duty but how surprising was it to see Geraint Thomas not go further, Pavel Sivakov struggle and Egan Bernal not keep up with Primož Roglič when he attacked in the final kilometre.

We saw glimpses at the Tour last year that Ineos had their moments in controlling the pace they certainly did not dominate. For this year’s Tour they certainly have met their match in a Jumbo-Visma team that just gets better and better the more you watch them.

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Wout Van Aert yesterday, Primož Roglič today – it’s turning out to be a superb season for Jumbo-Visma despite the season itself being disrupted and mixed up. Roglič took the win with ease, mirroring exactly what he did at the Tour de l’Ain with Ineos falling away, Bernal isolated and the current Vuelta champion taking victory. Also let’s not forget Sepp Kuss in all this who again did some great work to help the current Slovenian road champion.

It’s all down to team tactics but surely Jumbo-Visma will have looked at today and think they’ve played a very good game. Tom Dumoulin and Steven Kruijswijk did fall back which could be a little pointer as to who’s in the best shape but overall Ineos did all the work before the yellow troops pounced.

Cycling is complicated to describe but let’s just say that Jumbo-Visma are the form team, Ineos still have questions to answer and other names are still in the hunt.

One piece of encouragement Ineos will take is Primož Roglič himself winning now before the Tour has even begun. Think back to last year – wins at the UAE Tour and Tirreno-Adriatico, impressive form for the Slovenian before faltering in weeks two and three at the Giro.

The Dauphiné isn’t over yet, the Tour hasn’t even started – there’s a long way to go!

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Other points to discuss include the winners and losers.

French fans will be bittersweet with Thibaut Pinot putting in a good effort in the finish but last year’s Tour de France hero Julian Alaphilippe struggled on the Col de Porte. Riding for stage wins and aiming for the polka-dot jersey – could that finally be the answer to his goal for the Tour? There’s also another Frenchman to add to the mix as Cofidis’s Guillaume Martin finished fourth on the stage – one to watch?

After crashing yesterday, Emanuel Buchmann bounced back to finish third and the top ten consisted of three Colombians. Apart from Bernal, Nairo Quintana yet again looked strong, Miguel Ángel López always produces decent results alongside Daniel Martínez for EF although Martínez’s teammates Rigoberto Urán struggled and Sergio Higuita crashed before the climb.

Tadej Pogačar once again looked impressive but surprising to see his key domestiques Davide Formolo and David de la Cruz blowing up quickly. It was sad to see Dan Martin fall before the final climb. The Israel Start-Up Nation rider will be left disappointed that a silly crash for no reason stopped him from possibly having a go in the finale.

Also from a British point of view, surprising to see Mitchelton-Scott’s Adam Yates falling backwards way before the finish – but there’s still time to get more racing in the legs. Perhaps a bit harsh as this was Adam Yates’s first official race after cycling was halted – maybe just race fatigue.

Ride of the day belongs to Groupama-FDJ’s Bruno Armirail and team of the day was Jumbo-Visma – who else!

Three stages to go…

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