Criterium du Dauphine 2021 – Geraint Thomas, Chris Froome on start list for Tour de France warm-up event
The Critérium du Dauphiné, a key warm-up event in the lead-up to the Tour de France, runs from 31st May to 6th June with live coverage of every stage. A world-class field will take on mountain passes, sprint stages and an individual time trial. Geraint Thomas starts as race favourite, and also riding are Miguel Angel Lopez, Fabio Jakobsen, Nairo Quintana and Chris Froome.
Geraint Thomas celebrates Tour de Romandie victory alongside second-place Fausto Masnada (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and teammate Richie Porte (Team INEOS Grenadiers) in third
A star-studded field will line up at the 73rd edition of the Critérium du Dauphiné, with Geraint Thomas and Miguel Ángel López among the contenders looking to test their form before the Tour de France begins in June.
Typically seen as the ‘warm-up’ race to the Tour held later in the month, the Dauphiné is no ‘quick loop round the easy bits of France’ by any standard. With back-to-back summit finishes on the final two stages, the general classification contest could come down to the last day.
The time trial that was so sorely missed from last year's shortened edition will also make a reappearance, allowing the general classification riders a chance to test all their specialities, which is important given the Tour de France presents two time trial opportunities in this year's route.
Last year’s victor Daniel Martinez has since moved from EF Pro Cycling to Ineos Grenadiers but has not been confirmed to defend his Critérium du Dauphiné crown. Ineos will instead be looking to 2018 winner Geraint Thomas and Richard Carapaz to bolster their GC hopes after Thomas’ successful early season campaign and the overall win at the Tour de Romandie in May.
Steven Kruijswijk and Sep Kuss lead a strong Team Jumbo-Visma after Primož Roglič has decided to forego any further racing until the Tour de France. His closest rival, Tadej Pogačar, will be following a similar path to La Grande boucle, and is instead expected to ride the Tour of Slovenia between June 9-13 before leaving for France. Tony Martin, returning from injury, will be eyeing up the time trial, as will Rohan Dennis of Ineos after his win at the Tour de Romandie.
Nairo Quintana will be looking to test his form as he is supported by Warren Barguil at Team Arkéa Samsic. The big question mark will be around Chris Froome and Israel Start-Up Nation as he runs out of time to get his form back on track before the Tour. Mountain goat Michael Woods will be alongside him and more than capable of being the leader should Froome falter, after several top-ten finishes and a podium at the Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var.
With two, possibly three stages, where the sprinters could flourish, Pascal Ackermann of Bora-Hansgrohe will be hard to beat. Although he's yet to win a race this year, he's been tantalisingly close on several occasions. Fabio Jackobsen is in for Deceuninck–QuickStep but is still finding his feet after returning to racing following his horrific crash last year.
Highlights: Dani Martinez beats Thibaut Pinot to thrilling Criterium du Dauphine win
What is the route?
Sunday May 30: Stage 1 – Issoire › Issoire (181.8km)
The 2021 edition of the Critérium du Dauphiné begins in Issoire with an 181.8km loop. Although designated a ‘flat’ stage by the organisers, the out-and-out sprinters may have to dig deep if they want the race to finish in their favour with a number of categorised climbs on the course.
Monday May 30: Stage 2 – Brioude › Saugues (173km)
If the sprinters thought they had to work hard on stage one then they're in for a treat on Stage 2. The first category one climb makes an appearance on the 173km route to Saugues roughly 50km after the riders depart Romain Bardet's hometown of Brioude. The downhill finish will suit the fast men but it’ll be a battle to get there.
Tuesday June 1, Stage 3 – Langeac › Saint-Haon-Le-Vieux (172.5km)
Stage 3 is a far more relaxed affair with just two categorised climbs and an intermediate sprint for the riders to contend with. An uphill finish will favour the likes of Greg Van Avermaet and other puncheurs.
Wednesday June 2, Stage 4 – Firminy › Roche-La-Molière (16.4km)
Rohan Dennis will be licking his lips at this stage, a 16.4km long individual time trial, with Filippo Ganna nowhere in sight! It’s not pan flat, but it’s not hilly enough to cause much concern for the pure testers. Look out for Geraint Thomas as well, as possibly the strongest time triallist of the GC contenders.
Thursday June 3, Stage 5 – Saint-Chamond › Saint-Vallier (175.5km)
The longest stage of the race brings the hopes of a breakaway victory, with plenty of climbs including the final category two ascent, the Côte du Montrebut. It appears just over 12km from the finish, making it the perfect spot for an ambush attack.
Friday June 4, Stage 6 – Loriol-sur-Drome › Le Sappey-en-Chartreuse (168km)
If the sprinters haven’t disrespected the traditionalists and abandoned the race already, they will almost certainly do so on this stage. Described rather nicely as ‘hilly’ by the organisers, the second half of the stage takes in four categorised climbs in quick succession, including the Col de Porte, and the first uphill finish of the race upon Le Sappey-en-Chartreuse, a 3.3km climb with an average gradient of 6.2%.
Saturday June 5, Stage 7 – Saint-Martin-le-Vinoux › La Plagne (171km)
Destined to suck any remaining energy out of the legs of the riders, the mountain stages are saved for the final two days. With two hors category climbs to contend with, the GC will be spiced up on this Queen stage. The finish line sits atop the 17.1km La Plagne, a monstrous climb with an average gradient of 7.5%.
Sunday June 6, Stage 8 – La Léchère-Les-Bains › Les Gets (147km)
In case the GC isn’t quite decided yet, the final day could see some momentous shuffling of the overall. Finishing the Dauphiné off in style is the 147km stage to Les Gets, with riders taking in no less than six categorised climbs before the final uphill push to Les Gets.
After his tremendous form in the Tour of Romandie and the strong support he is bringing to the Dauphiné, it’s hard to look past Geraint Thomas, although some of the more mountainous stages might suit a rider like Miguel Ángel López.