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Is Your Tour de France Hopes Learning Yet?

A look at the warming up going on this week. There's a lot of it. Everything is getting warm in Europe, except the weather.

Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Happy Maximum Koppenberg Exploitation Day!

[Apparently the KoppenbergCross race has announced that they will use the entire climb this year. November 1 is now the most important date of that month, particularly with the US election having already been decided.]

Did We Learn Much at the Dauphine?

Uh, sure, the Criterium du Dauphine always generates a great deal of new information for a starving audience. It's just a question of what to do with any of it.

The main event, of course, is FroomeWatch 2016, and it portends bad, bad things for his rivals. Froome won, his third such success, and the previous two coincided with his previous two victories at the Tour de France (just as his intervening loss portended bad things in France in 2014). To my occasionally focused eye, he didn't look like anything special in the process, which is exactly what Froome fans, should they exist, would want to hear right now.

The other big winner, I guess, is Romain Bardet, who succeeded in getting people outside of France to notice him and talk about his chances in a serious way. Of course, people might also see that he has two top ten finishes at the Tour already, and he's only 25, and if so might think that's a reason to take his Tour chances seriously. Previous to finishing second last week, he was fifth and sixth in the race, so his movement up the Dauphine GC... could be read either way -- he's getting better or he's burning more matches too soon.

Alberto Contador demonstrated that he's not going down without a fight. Why don't I like him more? His attacking style is something I should be shouting about from the mountaintops. Oh well, at least late-career Contador is finally an underdog, which makes whatever he's going to do next that much cooler.

Which is more than you can probably say for Fabio Aru, who does not look good, or Richie Porte, who is 31 and has flirted with the hopes of his fans too many times for us to say more than "prove it". Dan Martin... I dunno, three weeks has always been too long for him, but every year there are a few riders who exceed expectations, and a classic example is the one week guy who, for once, goes well all three weeks. Martin is a very intriguing dark horse. If nothing else, he could be an early maillot jaune, with the stage 2 uphill fun looming.

Thibaut Pinot told us nothing. Just the way he intended to.

Are We Learning Anything at the Tour de Suisse?

No. We never do. Well, we learned that Tejay van Garderen hates cold rain. Isn't he from Montana? I guess it doesn't rain much. And that Petr Vakoc isn't going to win the Tour (this year). We got a glimpse of World Champion Peter Sagan doing World Champion Peter Sagan things, and if anyone has hopes of winning the green jersey this year, they either don't know who Sagan is, or haven't checked the Tour route yet, or both. This contest has less suspense than Donald Trump's bid to be elected president of Mexico.

The GC battle has quite a bit more suspense, but mostly among guys who will fill out the top 20 at the Tour and maybe grab the KOM jersey. The Keldermans, Talanskys and Izagirres won't rate much in terms of attention, not until they force us to watch. Ah, but there are several names who could fill out the Maillot Blanc quite nicely, now that Nairo Quintana is officially 26 years old (as is Pinot). Warren Barguil looks perfectly fine, as does young Miguel Angel Lopez (though he's too green for a Tour start just yet). Joe Dombrowski might have looked nice in white, but he won't get a start before turning 26 next spring. Ah well. That's only one name. Between Bardet, though, and Barguil we will have a nice little Bar-brawl for best young Frenchie.

What About Those Other Races?

Meanwhile, at the Route du Sud, Nairo Quintana decided now is a good time to stretch his legs, and maybe put his fans at ease, by attacking a bit on a hill today. Unfortunately, the race finished far from any hills, but Quintana is not about results just now. He did some altitude training in Colombia (redundant?) prior to the Route du Sud, and from a glance at the relentless climbing that awaits at the Tour, I'm thinking that wasn't a bad way to go.

Here are some thumping final kms from today's opening stage, where, if nothing else, the weather didn't suck. This is a possible thing, at least in some parts of Europe. Bryan Coquard beat Arnaud Demare for the title of Fastest Frenchie, though somewhere Nacer Bouhanni would like a word.

And in the Netherlands, the Ster ZLM Toer marches on, as sort of a classics rider's stage race championship. Marcel Kittel and Dylan Groenewegen are trading blows, though only Kittel is assured of starting in Mont St Michel. If anything interesting happens there, well, it'll be interesting.