I know, I know: it's classics season. And we at Podium Café love the classics. But today the Critérium du Dauphiné announced their (June) 2017 route and I am excited.
This will be short. As always, I'll publish detailed previews for the Tour de Romandie, Tour de Suisse, and the Dauphiné just before each race. But in my excitement, I can't help but give you a brief update.
Romandie: Two stages starting in UCI-headquartered Aigle (no surprise), a fun circuit course, a time-trial, and a couple of mediocre mountain top finishes. Fine. 6.5 / 10. Official Site here.
Swiss law requires Romandie and TdS to ride past UCI Headquarters in Aigle:
Tour de Suisse: A couple of nice circuit courses, a ride past UCI-headquartered Aigle (no surprise), a time trial, and three mountain stages including for the third consecutive year a visit to Austria and the super high Rettenbachgletscher - they'll even go a touch higher this year. Not bad. 7.5 / 10. Official site here.
Austrian glaciers again (Coppel in 2015):
But the Dauphiné route? 10 / 10. It begins with a fabulous rolling stage through the mountains above St. Etienne ending with a hilly three lap circuit. Then a few interesting enough looking stages that might be sprints or might be strong-man break-aways, plus a time trial. Finally, three jaw-dropping mountain stages. Woohooo. Official site here.
Consistent with recent years, the Dauphiné will showcase a part of the Tour de France route. Specifically, Stage 6, while not a duplicate of the much crazier TDF Stage 9, will feature Mont du Chat. A monster climb above Chambéry that will become big news come July. Le Cycle magazine once called it possibly the toughest in France. It's not, but still!
Note: this is not even the same 12% kilometre marker as in the title photo.
As had been rumoured, Stage 7 will indeed finish at Alpe d'Huez. Boo! But wait a moment. They will not climb the hugely over-rated 21 hairpins. But instead will climb the back way via the majestic (and higher) Col de Sarenne, then briefly descend before apparently climbing four kms to finish in the village of Alpe d'Huez itself. Bravo. Standing ovation. So much better than a standard Alpe d'Huez.
My suggested viewing spot near the top of Col de Sarenne:
Finally, Stage 8 resembles a typical Tour de France mountain day with four relatively big north-Alps climbs in regular succession. But again there is a twist. While the first three climbs are lovely but old Tour regulars: Col des Saisies, Col des Aravis, and Col de la Colombière, the final mountain is a giant that you may not know. Plateau de Solaison is a monster on the very edge of the Alps. A dead-end road in the same massif as Colombière with a superb cliff stretch, it did feature in the 2014 Tour de l'Avenir. 11 kilometres averaging more than 9%, with several full kilometres averaging 10% and above. Fun.
OK, got it? In 2017, Romandie and Suisse = good. Dauphiné = great. Now go back to drinking Belgian beer and enjoying the classics. Bedankt.