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2012 Critérium du Dauphiné Course Preview and FSA DS Smack Talk

The eight day Critérium du Dauphiné begins this Sunday.

As usual it's a star studded field as many riders use this as key preparation for the Tour de France. It’s perhaps less hilly than last year but don't worry, there are plenty of mountains to struggle up and fly down.

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Photo. Riders at the 2010 Dauphiné stuff Dauphiné Libéré newspapers into jerseys before descending Chamrousse. © Will

Along with defending champion Bradley Wiggins (SKY), favourites scheduled to appear include Cadel Evans (BMC), Vincenzo Nibali (LIQ), Samuel Sanchez (EUS), Juan Jose Cobo (MOV), Tony Martin (OP), Andy Schleck (RS), Jurgen Van Den Broeck (LB), etc. Below is a tentative start list so you can tell me who your favorites are.

French hopefuls include Thomas Voeckler (EUC), Roman Bardet (AG2R), Rémy Di Gregorio (COF), David Moncoutié (COF), Sylvain Chavanel (OP), Brice Feillu (SAU), and of course, my favourite and local boy: Jérôme Coppel (SAU).

Official Race Site: here
Official list of teams and riders here (Cycling Fever)

Eurosport will be televising and I am sure as always that steephill.tv will provide other viewing options.

EDIT: TV Coverage note (thx andrewp)

At the moment Eurosport only planning on showing live Thur/Fri/Sat stages – all others delayed highlights instead (French Open second week matches until Wed and Superbikes on Sunday instead) Is on France 3/Rai Sport2/TDP/RTL/SBS etc. Distinct lack of live English commentary probable unless can get SBS.

(Also Sun’s opening day TT, the Queen Stage to Morzine on Sat, and the final day start/end earlier than usual – all done by 3pm local)

After the jump, let’s take a brief look at each stage. And please feel free to use the comments for FSA DS smack talk.

The Dauphiné was first held in 1947, and was until recently run by the Dauphiné Libéré newspaper. It is now managed by ASO (who also run the Tour de France).

Past winners include such cycling legends as Louison Bobet, Jacques Anquetil, Poo-Poo Poulidor, Podium Café friend Eddy Merckx, The Badger Hinault, Miguel Indurain, and more recently: Alexandre Vinokourov, Tyler Hamilton, Iban Mayo, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Christophe Moreau, and Alejandro Valverde. Hmmmm - that’s some list.

Our Annual History Lesson:
Roughly equivalent to the English title Prince of Wales, the Dauphin of France was the title given to the heir apparent to the throne of France from 1350 to 1791. "Dauphin" is literally the French for dolphin, a reference to their coat of arms/flag. Originally the Dauphin would rule the Dauphiné region of France - whose area roughly corresponded to that of the present departments of Isère, Drome, and Hautes-Alpes. Wikipedia.
My Favourite Dauphin

Here’s a quick look at each stage:

(if you're in a hurry, the best stages are last):

Prologue - 5.7 kms:

A short, flat Prologue in Grenoble.

For the Tourists: The French Revolution started in Grenoble: Heads may roll.

Official Prologue Details

Stage 1 - 187 kms. Albertville to Saint-Pierre-de-Chartreuse:

A mid-mountain stage to get things started. Up and down all day.

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Official Stage 1 Details

For the Tourists: "Col" means "mountain pass." "Côte" means "hill" and is often used by races to name smaller climbs that might go up but not be an actual pass.

Stage 2 - 160 kms. Lamastre to Saint-Félicien

A much more difficult mid-mountain stage. The last 2.5 kilometres are at 4.4%. A "Classics" route.

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Official Stage 2 Details

For the Tourists: Lamastre is on the edge of the beautiful Ardèche region of France. A cycling paradise, the region plays host to one of the most popular cyclosportives in Europe: L'Ardèchoise. Different length courses for all levels, while the locals dress up to greet, entertain, and feed the participants. Official site.

Trivia: Two time Tour de France winner Bernard Thévenet is the Dauphiné race director.

Stage 3 - 167 kms. Givors to La Clayette

A chance for the sprinters? If so, it's the last one left. Luckily Lyon airport isn't too far away.Stage3_medium

Official Stage 3 Details

Stage 4 - 53.5 kms Time Trial. Villié-Morgon to Bourg-en-Bresse

Fairly flat, but quite long. To win the Dauphiné will require a good performance here.

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Official Stage 4 Details

For the Tourists: Bourg-en-Bresse is home to the world renowned Bresse chicken. Tender and delicious few are left uneaten to export outside of France. Wiki.

Stage 5 - 186.5 kms. St-Trivier to Rumilly

Hors Categorie baby! The giant Col du Grand Colombier should drop anyone but the most serious contenders. Riders planning for the Tour de France will get to practice this monster (as well as Col de Richemond). It's not the hardest side, but it has plenty of ramps in the % teens.

Don't confuse this Jura giant with it's better known alps neighbour Col de la Colombière. I'll do a ranking of the top 5 mountains next week just before the big stuff arrives so the info is fresh. :)

Unfortunately the long downhill run-in might neutralize the mountains. But I will fearlessly predict a break-away finish and an exhausted Gruppetto.

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Official Stage 5 Details

For the Tourists: Although Swiss, the Nobel Prize winner and Red Cross founder Jean Henri Dunant spent most of his life living in Culoz at the base of Grand Colombier. The final climb, Col de Richmond features a small monument to the Maquis (French Resistance).

Stage 6 - 167.5 kms. Saint-Alban to Morzine ---- THE QUEEN STAGE

Woohooo. This is a huge (potentially epic?) stage with six categorized climbs including the classic side of Col de Joux Plane and a jaw dropping descent into Morzine. Not to be missed. This descent is steep and ends at the finish in Morzine - it's reminiscent of the great Tour de Suisse stage last year descending Grosse Scheidegg won by Peter Sagan.

Floyd Landis will remember the last 80 kms of this route, as the 2nd half of this stage replicates his "miracle" day-after-the-bonk ride in 2006. Oh, the Good Old Days.

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Official Stage 6 Details

For the Tourists: The route will pass two Chartreuse monasteries including the beautiful and perfectly preserved Chartreuse de Reposoir part way down Col de la Colombière. This is Reblochon Cheese country.

Stage 7 - 124.5 kms. Morzine to Châtel

A very intriguing final medium-mountain stage. It starts with a tour through the beautiful Valleé Verte region and finishes in the Abondance valley just below the Swiss border. Col du Corbier is not easy (profile), and after a quick descent the last 15+ kilometres are ever-so-slightly uphill.The final 1.5 kms is at 8.7%. I like this stage a lot

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Official Stage 7 Details

For the Tourists: Monks from the Sainte-Marie d'Abondance monastery (near the finish) have been making cheese since the 14th century.

In Summary:

Another tough Dauphiné course with the usual strong field. Should be fun! My pick? Jerôme Coppel for the "hometown" win!!

Please feel free to use the comments for the usual VDS smack talk.

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