Criterium du Dauphine 2015 – Stage 5 Preview

By David Hunter

Digne les Bains – Pra The cat Loup 161km

dauphine5

The sprinters have had their last chance, it’s now time for the GC riders to come out to play. This stage, is an exact copy of stage 17, of the TDF. Riding this, gives an advantage to Froome and Nibali, over Contador and Quintana. Yes, they will recon the stage, but it’s not the same as race conditions. That being the case, I expect a fast and demanding stage.

Expect the GC stars, and teams, to try and get a dress rehearsal for the Tour. They will ride hard and look to set up a stage win, for their star. We should see BMC, Astana and Team Sky vying for position, at the front of the bunch.

The racing will really start with the Col de la Colle Saint-Michel. It’s 11km at 5.2%, expect a hard tempo to be set. After the descent, we have a long climb to Col d’Allos. The road rises for around 40km, with the climb classified as 14km at 5.5%. This is the first test of the week for potential GC winners, and we hit some serious altitude, at 2250m. A steep descent follows, before the final climb of the day.

dauphine5a

The cat 2 climb, is 6.2km at 6.5%. The last kilometre is at 7.2%, with the final 100m, at 9%. I know what you’re thinking…. Valverde! Rodriguez! A Spanish sprint off!

If you are thinking that, then you’d be right. The cat 1 climb, although long, isn’t steep enough to create a serious selection, among the peloton. The descent might challenge a few, but the roads should be dry, so most will be fine. Personally, I love descents that immediately end with a climb. For the riders they have to drop from 70km/h, to almost immediately, going into the small chainring. This hurts and you quickly find out, who is struggling!

On paper, the final climb isn’t that hard. It’s not very long and won’t hurt the top riders, until the final kilometre. This means we should have a sizeable group, going under the flamme rouge. That means, this will be a very difficult finale to control and we could get a surprise result.

Both Astana and Sky will be happy that BMC are the team having to defend. There are still, a large number of riders, close on GC. Expect Astana to attack, with Nibali, Scarponi, Westra and Taaramäe just 4 seconds down on GC. All these men are dangerous and cannot be allowed any freedom. Taaramäe is a fan of attacking from distance and I can see him going on the cat 1 climb and trying to stay clear, on the descent. However, the climbs just aren’t hard enough to cause panic and BMC should be able to control the situation.

If things start to get a little crazy, Team Sky will take control. Froome doesn’t like all the attacking and prefers a steady pace. As this is a dry run for the TDF, they might just try to ride, as if Froome was in yellow. Their squad is perfect for this stage, as it isn’t too hard. Rowe, Stannard and Boswell should be able to last for most of the cat 1 climb, leaving them Roche, Poels, Deignan, Kennaugh and Froome for the end of the climb and the final ascent. This is a strong group and I’m particularly looking forward to seeing what Roche can do. In his prime, he is a top quality rider but often doesn’t peak until the Vuelta. Sky want a rider to be ready now, so he should be flying. Kennaugh is determined to make theTDF squad, after missing out in 2014. All riders are aware, that a big Dauphine, guarantees a TDF spot. Team Sky will expect much from their helpers. This is the same for all riders, in all teams.

Julian Alaphilippe is an interesting addition to the contenders. Fresh from a brilliant Ardennes and a stunning win on Mont Baldy, the 22 year old, will be wanting to test himself against the best. The climbs don’t look hard enough to eliminate him, so he should be fighting for the win. He possesses a very fast finish, making him a big threat. The fact he is close on GC will go against him, as he won’t be allowed any freedom.

Some riders will hope their lowly position on GC, will get them a free pass: Machado, Mollema, Kiserlovski and Navarro are over 1 minute down and could escape from the bunch, on the final climb. We might get a situation where the GC riders mark each other and a “smaller” rider is allowed to escape.

Sitting around the minute mark are Wellens, Gallopin, Kelderman, Bardet, Vuillermoz, Peraud and Rodriguez. It’s hard to imagine that Rodriguez would be given any freedom but Tim Wellens might. Nibali and Froome would be confident at beating him in the high mountains, so they won’t mind if he takes this stage. He’s already attacked on stage 1 and today, so he’s in form and I would be surprised, not to see him attack. Gallopin is likely to try and stay with the peloton, in the hope of a sprint finish.

Or could we get a battle between Froome, Nibali, Valverde and Rodriguez? The last climb doesn’t look hard enough for this to happen. It looks more likely to happen on Friday or Saturday.

Both Movistar and Katusha will expect Valverde and Rodriguez to win this stage. The last kilometre is perfect for both. I would expect both teams to hold the race together and try to set up the sprint. They should have plenty of riders left and should be able to set a pace that deters attacks. That is the crucial point of the stage. If the pace on the final climb is too slow, a late attack will succeed. If the pace is high, Valverde and Rodriguez will battle out for the win.

Prediction Time

After 4 stages for the sprinters, I cannot see Movistar and Katusha, missing out on this stage. The short final climb, makes it hard to escape the bunch, although Wellens will try! With the final 100m at 9%, I think, this is a finish for Rodriguez. His explosive kick should be enough to see off Valverde, but it’s going to be close. Expect Julian Alaphilippe, Romain Bardet, Dan Martin, Rui Costa, Wilco Kelderman, Chris Froome, Tony Gallopin and Mathias Frank to all be in the mix.

David Hunter

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