• Rúben Silva

Criterium du Dauphiné Stage 8 Preview

It was a dreadful day with horrible weather all through the queen stage of the race, Wout Poels came back from a disapointing time-trial to take a superb win in the race's sole summit finish. The day was marked by a very strong breakaway of 22 riders that was never given much of a leash, Alexey Lutsenko and Michael Woods were real GC threats and meant the pace was high all day long. In the final climb Movistar ramped the pace up before Quintana attacked with 11Km to go, but after being caught the favourites went by pace much of the climb, Buchmann attacked with some couple of kilometers left and Fuglsang went with him. The duo built a solid gap after the chasing group led by Yates and Pinot, from where Poels jumped from inside the final kilometer, catching up with the leading duo and powering to a strong victory after what's been a tough week for the team.

Positive: Fuglsang going into yellow after a great team and individual ride, he looked very strong, controled and never struggled. He's going into the final stage in front and has a good chance of taking it home. Buchmann and Poels coming up the GC with great climbs, van Garderen held his own today, still in 3rd in the GC, Teuns and Lutsenko despite not being pure climbers are both well within the Top10 with a chance of staying there. Lambrecht also a great performance with a 10th, sits 16th in GC with the U25 lead.

Negative: Quintana was the first to make a move, but he later suffered and lost time and doesn't sit in the Top10. After what was a strong showing on stage 2 I expected more out of him today. Kruisjwijk I didn't expect to be in stage contention, but he looked to loose more time than I was expecting, after a great time-trial I though he'd be well launched for a strong showing.

The Route

Despite that, the race is known for having amazing twists in the final day, and the race organizers once again set up a stage with the ideal conditions for a mountain raid. To start of the day there's a trident of short climbs, starting right at Km 0 that can make damage if the climbers decide to go on early, 5.4Km at 4,8%, 4.4Km at 5.9% leading straight to a 6Km climb at 4%, favourable terrain for agressive racing.

Col du Corbier (7,7Km at 7.4%) and Pas de Morgins (8.3Km at 4.1%) provide further launchpads for attacks, if not than it will likely serve as further damage to the peloton, possibly in the breakaway aswell. If it comes to the final part of the stage, attacks will come in the Côte des Rives mainly, a 8.4Km climb at 6.2% that summits only 12Km away from the finish. After a short descent there's a pitch to the line, with a 6.1Km climb at 4.6% with a short flat section in the middle. This stage is very well made, with no real brutal climb, and lots of them in a short amount of distance, there's lots of places where the climbers can attack, and it isn't terrain where the strongest can easily dominate, the stage comes with a total of 3000 meters of climbing, very decent for this distance.

The Weather

There isn't much rain forecasted but there's a good chance it will be there. Nonetheless the roads will be wet, the storm that's moving in the Alps is set to hit Champery this night, meaning the roads around will be wet and sketchy, adding to the dificulty of the stage.

The Favourites

The stage is ideal for raids and it's what the Dauphiné usually provides, it's the final day so it's all in for the riders and there are several that have nothing to loose, and if the roads are as wet as expected and there's a bit of chaos in the begining all hell can go loose early on.

Romain Bardet and Nairo Quintana will likely try something from far, they've been showing agressive and they're on the step of Top10 it won't make difference finishing some spots lower, and have a good explosivity. That separates them from Dan Martin, well he likes to go by pace but should be able to make something up, Kruisjwijk and Porte too but they don't seem to have the legs to really carry on a far-off attack. Above all none of these have really strong teammates that can carry them through the mountains, so it would have to be a perfectly planned attack to make teammates worth it in front, it will be a big fight early on to send riders to the front, by every team not just one or two.

Fuglsang to be honest seems to be the most trustworthy rider to go into the lead to the final stage, Astana have looked the strongest team today and if anyone is able to keep their leader protected it's them, and with Lutsenko in such a stage I wouldn't be surprised to see them on the agressive side like today and make the others chase, the climbs suit him better.

Adam Yates, Thibaut Pinot, they're both strong, they both got a strong team with them, but they seemed to lack a little spark today. But in all honesty the rain and long climbs could've been the reason behind it, if so tomorrow they should be feeling better, and both should prefer the shorter more explosive climbs, and both are smart riders which will be useful in this kind of stage.

Buchmann, Poels, they are agressive riders, I can see them trying something too, both looked superb today and both have strong teammates that can be in front early on and make good use of them, Muhlberger and Kwiatkowski mainly, but someone like Dylan van Baarle can be an absolute pearl in such a stage his climbing is dialed.

Some riders like Bjorg Lambrecht, Julian Alaphillipe, Nicolas Edet and some others are riders that can benefit from a breakaway situation, or surfing the wheels in a specific situation, they are strong enough to be in front and then benefit from GC riders coming from behind. Michael Woods too, but with Tejay van Garderen surviving the climbers until now there's a good chance he'll be in support duty, also Dylan Teuns should fancy the day but he's a bit of a joker, no-one really knows how strong he'll be.

Prediction Time

Fuglsang, Poels, Alaphillipe

A.Yates, Buchmann, D.Martin, Pinot

Quintana, Bardet, Lutsenko, Teuns, Kwiatkowski, Lambrecht, De Marchi

I'm going bold, it's a hard day to predict, Poels seems the best shot but a lightning rarely strikes twice, Fuglsang will have lot of responsabilities, and there are others but it's hard to choose who. Instead I'm going with a win for De Marchi, he had a "day off" today, he looks in great form and is one of the strongest riders for the type of rolling climb there will be tomorrow.

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