I like the Dauphiné. It’s a compressed Tour, with punches thrown and some indications of form ahead of the Grand Boucle, but nothing that nails it down with certainty. It’s also a race that has had more than its fair share of British winners; Wiggins and Froome have carved up 5 of the last 6. Robert Millar won in 1990, and Brian Robinson in 1961. One of the other reasons I like the Dauphiné is because my subscription to Eurosport has lapsed and it’s available on ITV4. Hurrah.
I like it because it uses some of the high Mountains; it’s the first chance to see the peloton get blown to smithereens over the course of 40 or 50 minutes of relentless uphill; the slow and steady grind as riders get shelled out of the back.
This year it opened with a savage uphill time trial, much closer in spirit to a longer British hill climb than anything particularly continental. It was a shakedown and had everyone salivating over the form of ‘el pistolero’. It’s easy to say in hindsight, but I didn’t see the time gap as all that relevant. It showed he had some form, but it isn’t a definitive statement; you can misjudge a time trial or simply be a bit cold, or rusty, or not quite on the rivet, and I had a feeling that Froome’s ride wasn’t all that worrying. Later in the week he replicated the narrative from last year’s Tour. Smash everyone on an early mountain stage with a brutal, uncompromising attack, take the lead and defend it, job done.
There are a couple of other warm-up races, the main one being the Tour de Suisse. After that, it’s heads down for the Tour.