Criterium du Dauphiné Line-Up
A race that will give an excellent insight into who is on form for the Tour de France next month, the Criterium du Dauphiné is an exciting and beautiful race in its own right. Taking place over eight days, the 68th edition starts with a prologue in Les Gets on Sunday. The race in recent years has seen strong showings by the riders who eventually went on to win the Tour, and having come close in 2014, with a second place GC finish, Alberto Contador will return to the Dauphiné, having had a successful start to the season with a GC win in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco and podium finishes at the Volta a Catalunya and Paris-Nice stage races.
Taking place on some of the terrain the Tour de France will cover in July, the Dauphiné is an excellent opportunity to test form – both within the team, but also of the rivals for the Tour GC. Set in the Rhone-Alpes region in the south east of France, the terrain suits climbers, with each stage taking in at least two categorised ascents, including some of the most challenging and stunning climbs of the region, with the toughest undoubtedly being the ascent and descent of the Col de la Madeleine on stage 6.
Criterium du Dauphiné Line-Up
Coming into his first race since winning in Pais Vasco, Alberto is happy with how he has worked in the build up to this period. “It has been a busy past few weeks, trying to build a good base, always thinking about the Tour de France,” he said. “I primarily worked on building my strength and I hope everything goes well. The Dauphiné will be important to build speed in the legs, which is what will still be missing the most, but the most important thing is that there haven’t been any setbacks and that’s always good news.
“Similar to other years, my approach will be a bit different to the early-season races, because the goal is to fine-tune my body for the Tour de France. Of course, a lot of work has already been done and that will be seen, but there will be tough days in which I will be able to see where I stand compared to the rivals. After the Dauphiné is over, I will know whether I have to give more intensity to my training or if we have to be a little more cautious. I feel much better than last year. At this point I was destroyed, very tired because of the demands of the Giro d’Italia. I feel much better now.”
Having ridden at the Giro d’Italia in 2015 instead of the Criterium du Dauphiné, Alberto Contador returns to the race after his second place on the GC in the 2014 edition and tenth in 2013. Alberto will face many of his Tour de France rivals and will be presented with an excellent opportunity to assess their form over a challenging and testing course.
Sport Director, Steven De Jongh, knew that with such a strong showing for the GC race, this was going to be an edition to watch and was eager to see how Alberto would perform in race conditions after a training camp. “It’s going to be a big race of course, with a lot of contenders for Tour de France there – it’s always interesting to see how the field is looking. For us as a team we have Alberto as our leader – he’s just came back from camp so it will be a good test to see how he will go. For sure he needs some more race rhythm to be ready for the Tour, so it’s the perfect race for this.”
Joining Alberto at the start in Les Gets for a steep and challenging uphill prologue will be Robert Kiserlovski, who finished 14th in last year’s edition, Sergio Paulinho, Roman Kreuziger, Michael Gogl, Jesper Hansen, Yuri Trofimov and Michael Valgren. Having proved themselves both individually and riding in support of their team leader, this strong team will be able to provide support to Alberto where he needs it the most. Most of the team has spent time at a training camp in Tenerife, where the altitude training on Mount Teide will set them up well for the latter stages of the race, where endurance and stamina will play a huge role.
With a testing profile, where one of the stages sees riders climbing seven categorised climbs before an uphill finish, and another with five categorised climbs – four of them being either first category or ‘Hors Categorie’ – the highest category climb in the race, the Dauphiné is one for the climbers.
De Jongh’s intention for the race is to perform well in the GC and to take a stage win where possible, but fully aware that the other teams would be sending their best riders to the race, he would be taking each stage as it comes and the opening prologue would be crucial in his strategy for the rest of the week. “We’re aiming for a stage win and a good result on GC, but I think a lot of teams will be aiming for the same as us here so we will take it day by day to see how the tactics are. The race starts with a tough 3.9km uphill prologue – this first day will give a good view on how the strength in each of the teams is looking.”
After some poor weather in the early season, with the racing calendar entering the summer months, good weather should see riders performing well as we go into a key build up for the biggest races of the season.
“There’s the first uphill finish on stage 2 already which will be interesting and then also stages 5, 6 and 7 will be tough. We have a good line-up, most of the guys coming from training camp in Teide, and Gogl coming from California where he was going well. The first days will be hard for them to re-find their rhythm but they will grow in the race.”
Looking at the race parcours, Alberto said: “It’s very, very hard and demanding. Perhaps it is noteworthy that most of the summit finishes are not very hard, but on the other hand they are preceded by other very demanding climbs. They are finishes of 5% or 5.5%, but you will reach them with just enough strength left. And because it is a very demanding parcours, it alters a bit the ‘obligation’ to contest the race, because you cannot wear yourself nor the team. We will have to take it day by day.”
He continued: “After The Dauphiné, I will have to recover and depending on how I feel, we will apply more or less intensity to my training. I will concentrate on keeping working, but the difference will be that I will take part at the Spanish Road Championship, thinking about the Tour as well as about participating in a one-day race, such as the Olympics, even if they aren’t comparable.”