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Who are the favourites for the Criterium du Dauphine?

Joe Robinson
6 Jun 2019

The Tour de France curtain raiser starts this Sunday and here are the riders to watch

The Criterium du Dauphine, nothing to do with crits and nothing to do with creamy potato dishes but everything to do with the Tour de France.

Coming a month before the big one, these eight days of racing around a region of France are all that matter if you fancy yourself as the next Maillot Jaune.

It’s not since Andy Schleck was retrospectively handed the yellow in 2010 that a winner of the Tour de France has not been present at the Dauphine just a month before. More and more it seems that to win the Tour you have to race the Dauphine and race it well.

Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas have all done the Dauphine-Tour double in the past decade.

It’s why Thomas fans should be worried - he is at the Tour de Suisse instead, and Froome fans should be excited - he leads Team Ineos at the Dauphine.

The 2019 winner of the Tour will be on the start line in Aurillac this Sunday, we bet our bottom dollar on it. It’s just a matter of who.

Below is a look at the Criterium du Dauphine’s front runners and why (or why not) they could take the title.

Criterium du Dauphine: The favourites

It doesn’t matter that he hasn’t won a race in over a year or that he hasn’t raced for over a month, Chris Froome (Team Ineos) is by far and away the favourite for overall victory at the Criterium du Dauphine.

Six of the last eight Dauphines have been snapped up by Ineos - then Team Sky - with Froome claiming three of those titles himself (2013, 2015, 2016).

There is also a scary amount of firepower behind Froome in the shape of Wout Poels, Michal Kwiatkowski and Egan Bernal, all riders that are perfectly capable of victory themselves if circumstances were different.

With a gregari like the above, it would be perfectly feasible to see a final eight or so riders on a summit finish consisting of four Ineos men. I mean, it’s not like that isn’t the case every July at the Tour de France.

The 26km time-trial on Stage 4 also plays perfectly into Froome’s hands providing a chance to put minutes into his less-capable rivals.

To my mind, Froome’s biggest threat will come from Jakob Fuglsang (Astana).

What a Spring Classics the big Dane had. Third at Amstel Gold, second at Fleche Wallonne and then first at Liege-Bastogne-Liege, it wasn’t the results as so much the way he went about his business that impressed most.

At Liege, he took the race by the scruff of the neck. He attacked from a distance out, got a gap and held it. Classy riding that finally turned the bridesmaid into the bride in 2019.

A bit of this and a bit of that, his ability to mix climbing, time-trialling and aggressive race tactics has also seen him prosper over week-long races. After all, he is a previous Dauphine winner (2017).

You get that Fuglsang is at peace with the unlikeliness of winning the Tour and another Dauphine title would be fully sufficient.

It’s also worth noting that the likely presence of the Izagirre brothers and Luis Leon Sanchez will provide Fuglsang with firepower in the mountains, too, and that Astana have nine week-long stage races already under their belt this year.

French fancy will be taken by Julian Alaphilippe who leads a mighty Deceuninck-Quickstep team.

Stage 7 to Pipay will probably prove the 26-year-old’s undoing for any chance of winning the overall GC but the punchy terrain of Stages 1, 5, 6 and 8 all seem to suit ‘Lou Lou’s’ capabilities.

Anything less than one stage win could probably be deemed a failure, such is Alaphilippe’s current stature in the professional peloton.

A home favourite troubling the GC battle will be more reserved for Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale).

The 26km TT will probably unravel any chance of a first French Dauphine winner in over a decade but a podium is well within reach of both riders.

If not a podium, however, look to either of these enigmatic fan favourites taking stage honours on the Pipay.

Dan Martin (UAE-Team Emirates) always shows well at the Dauphine but, like the French, will probably haemorrhage time on the time-trial just like Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo Visma) who will likely aim for the podium.

Both, like Michael Woods (Education First), are probably better off chasing a stage win and testing their Tour legs on some of the sizeable summits across the week of racing.

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) returns to the Dauphine for the first time since 2012 with the chance to make history.

Bag a podium and he will be the first rider to take top three finishes at the Dauphine, Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico, Volta a Cataluyna, Itzulia Basque Country, Tour de Romandie and Tour de Suisse. Not even Eddy Merckx managed that.

Second at last year’s race makes me think Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) will be fully up for the challenge again this year.

More of a ‘wait and see-er’ than a ‘go-getter’, Yates can often be criticised for waiting for others to make a move before going himself, however, that could prove a smart tactic if he can sit in the mountain train wheels of Team Ineos.

It's rumoured that Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) and Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) could also race the Dauphine, and while it's not confirmed, their presence could present the biggest problem to Froome taking a fourth title.

Whoever wins, let's hope the Dauphine offers an exciting week of racing that tees us up for a spectacular Tour de France this July.