Criterium du Dauphine
The Criterium du Dauphine is the final lead up race for the Tour de France for many. Chris Froome, Richie Porte, Alberto Contador, Simon Yates, Daniel Martin, Nairo Quintana and Jakob Fuglsang were big names on the start list, just to name a few. Besides the above names, many other riders are trying to earn themselves selection in the upcoming Tour de France. And the race itself is held over 8 stages, taking over 30 hours and climbing over 20,000 vertical metres (including a 23km TT for stage 4).
Put these things together, and the race became one of the hardest I’ve ever done. The first few stages were solid, followed by a TT on stage 4, but then things really ramped up for stages 6, 7 and 8.
Starting with stage 6, and we had the Col du Mont du Chat (mountain of cat) which was 8.7km long at an average of 10%. Compare this to Mt Baw Baw back home in Australia, which is 6.4km at 11.4% gradient. But the race didn’t finish on the summit; instead, we raced down the other side towards the town of Chambery on roads just as narrow and steep (11.4km at -10% gradient). Fair to say it would have been pretty tense for those racing for GC at the front end of the race!
Stage 7 had the most elevation gain for the week, with nearly 4,000m gained over less than 170km, going over the Col de Sarenne (13km at 7%) and finishing up the backside of Alpe d’Huez. Talanksy finished 8th on this stage, after some aggressive tactical racing from the team. He attacked early on a cat 2 climb before the start of Sarenne with the help of Nate Brown. Then we had Simon Clarke drop back from the break to ride for him during Sarenne. Unfortunately, they never caught the break, and just got caught by a couple of the top GC contenders in the remaining KM’s. 30 minutes later I rolled over the same finish line, jumped on the bus, and enjoyed the views on our way down the normal side of Alpe d’Huez en route to our accommodation for that evening.
It’s quite amusing to think that we start a race together, but then I don’t see some teammates again until we sit down for dinner at 8pm that evening. (Once you lose contact with the front end of the race) as the first finishers often jump in cars and head back to the hotel immediately instead of waiting for grupetto. We sit down at dinner and tell our stories of the day’s events, hearing from others’ perspectives.
Stage 8 had less climbing, but considering it was only 115km, 3600m of climbing was INSANE. On paper, it was simply 4 big climbs, with 3 descents, and the GC guys didn’t hang around to get going. The race splintered on the very first climb, which meant it was a long day just to get to the finish line but at least we didn’t miss the time cut, unlike my experience at Volta a Catalunya. It was another day where I had no idea what was going on, other than the updates coming through on race radio, which were directed mostly to Simon Clarke or Talansky who were still ‘in the race’. But once they ascend a mountain and start descending the other side, we lose radio communication.
Crossing the finish line, I was a little bit surprised to see Fuglsang on the podium wearing the yellow jersey, only because Richie had been looking so strong all week and had over a minute time gap before the start of the morning’s stage. I actually descended down to the buses with Richie and got an update of how things unfolded at the very front of the race. He was encouraging of my week after I told him how poorly I had been racing, and to keep things in perspective. You might not be going too badly, but it doesn’t take much to find yourself out the back of the bunch.
It’s true, and sometimes I still need to remind myself of this point. I was recently reading an article about Richie where he talks about days where he was 30 minutes behind on stages where Cadel Evans was out battling to keep his yellow jersey in the Tour de France, and look where he is now! I do believe this year’s Tour de France will be very exciting for all those Aussies following back home…
At the moment, I have a little bit of time to rest, relax, and enjoy the Girona summer which is in full swing. This week is over 30 degrees every day… which is nearly too hot. Maybe I’ll need to venture up to altitude in the mountains for some training and avoid the heat! You probably saw I picked up some new Mavic shoes to test out, which I used for the first time this morning whilst riding on Zwift Island, and so far they seem great! And my Rocket Espresso machine is in full swing!
As always thanks for reading and the ongoing support!