Today ASO announced the course for the 2014 Critérium du Dauphiné. And the route looks fantastic with a little something for everyone.
Starting June 8th, the week long Tour will have eight stages including a prologue, three sprint stages, and 4 mountain stages - three with uphill finishes. I am particularly excited about the "Queen" stage #7 with a visit to a couple of challenging and beautiful climbs in Switzerland that you may not know.
I'll do a more complete route preview as the race approaches, but here are a few highlights.
The 10 kilometre prologue will be in Lyon and while quite flat will have a twist. A 1.8 kilometre stretch called "Le Tube," a new cycling route through a tunnel.
And the four mountain stages:
This should be a beautiful stage in the remote Massif Central. It includes Col de la Croix de l'Homme Mort (Pass of the Cross of the Dead Man), so that's fun. Col du Béal is probably closer to a Category 1 climb but it is supposed to be quite interesting.
Stage 5 will climb Col de la Morte (photo) - notice a theme? -- before attacking the Côte de Laffrey, famous as the most dangerous stretch of road in France over the last century (bikes are usually banned). The stats look wrong as this is steep.
This is the queen stage and certainly the most beautiful. The route visits some small French climbs including the steep Col du Corbier -- a recent Dauphiné regular - and then heads into Switzerland for two truly superb climbs.
First, Col de la Forclaz (don't confuse this with several other Col de la Forclaz -- for example near Annecy - Forclaz means "narrow gap"). This starts climbing through beautiful terraced vineyards above Martigny and then heads into the Alps straight towards Mont Blanc.
Finally -- woohooo -- the stage will climb to the barrage d'Emosson. One of the biggest and most beautiful alpine dams in an area that has quite a few beautiful alpine dams. This is a tough, steep climb that also happens to be stunning. Looking at the altitude on the stage profile it appears they will finish just past Col de la Gueulaz at the parking lot just above and before the dam.
For me, this is a surprising and exciting choice for a stage finish - truly paradise. If you want more information here is an old blog post about cycling Col de la Forclaz and Barrage d'Emosson.
By the way, the trails above the dam are famous for well preserved dinosaur footprints, but this is another story.
Stage 8 is nice and short but has plenty of bumps. Of interest to some might be the inclusion of the Domancy climb -- site of Bernie the Badger's World Championship victory some decades ago. Saisies is a nice scenic climb, and ultimately to end the race we will have a gentle uphill finish. But note that this "Courchevel" finish is sadly well below the main town of Courchevel and well below the high point of the road at the famous alpine airport for the rich and famous (signs in Russian) at 2000 metres Oh well.
But still a fun stage without being ridiculous.
Here is the official route video: