Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Road from Le Critérium du Dauphiné

With the Critérium du Dauphiné (CdD) approaching, we look ahead to what is popularly the biggest cycling race of the year, namely the Tour de France. As a weeklong stage race featuring similar climbs to the TdF, the CdD is often considered to be a preparation race for those with TdF aspirations, along with Tour de Suisse as an alternative option.

Route of the 2012 Critérium du Dauphiné.

We quickly examined where the top-ten CdD GC finishers have performed in the last two editions: 2010 and 2011. What have we discovered?

In the 2010 edition we see that most of the top performers of the CdD survived the TdF. Even though Alberto Contador has been disqualified, we think it more informative to include him in this analysis as if he were the winner. After all, he did finish the race and he dictated the nature of the GC battle for most if not all of it. Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Chris Horner, and Pierre Rolland pretty much "met their expectations", whereas Jerome Coppel went from 5th in CdD to 14th in the TdF. This isn't as bad as Sylvester Szmyd, who went from 10th in CdD to 42nd in the TdF and couldn't fit into this chart.

From the latest 2011 edition we saw that the 2011 TdF's high attrition rate. Many GC contenders fell into the DNF misfortune. On the fortunate side, we can see Thomas Voeckler jump from his 10th place in CdD to 4th place in TdF. Cadel Evans, of course, bettered his second place in CdD to win the TdF. What happened to other CdD performers? Wiggins had to bail due to injury, as did Vinokourov, Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Christophe Kern, and Janez Brajkovic.

In summary, in the last two years both winners on the road (asterisk Alberto Contador) had done extremely well in the Critérium du Dauphiné and followed it up on the Tour de France. Some riders bettered their position significantly as Thomas Voeckler did, some went nowhere, some others suffered misfortune in the Tour de France. We argue that for those dreaming of outright victory, it is an important race. As for those dreaming of a top-ten finish, things are less certain as many more aspirants are in the same competition, and the volatility of the Tour de France makes analysis difficult (or misleading).

What do you think of the Critérium du Dauphiné? Is it fair to say that it's a good preparation course for the Tour de France? Share your thoughts below.


  1. I think the placings are not totally relevant, as some riders don't go full gas in the CdD. They like the length, the somewhat shorter stages, the roads that are similar or even overlap the TdF and the full 3 weeks interval before the Grand Boucle. TdF placings for a support rider like Szmyd are also irrelevant because when he's not helping Basso, his job is to conserve energy, not improve his time.

  2. I agree with your assessment! What is interesting to me is that recent winners of TdF have done really well in Daupine, unlike back in the first half of the 2000s.

    There may be something to be said about those aiming for an all-out win in the TdF versus those aiming for top-ten placing in the TdF. Not sure yet how to best analyze this. Are second-tier GC aspirants showing up to Dauphine less in shape relative to the TdF?

    Good point about Szmyd, last year Basso came back to the TdF straight from injury, so he didn't even ride the Dauphine.