The 2017 Critérium du Dauphiné will feature a novel approach to Alpe d'Huez, with the peloton set to ascend the Col de Sarenne before tackling the final four kilometres of the more celebrated Alpe for a summit finish at the ski station.
The Alpe d'Huez finish comes on the penultimate day of the race and is the highlight of a tough concluding trio of Alpine stages. The Dauphiné gets underway in Saint-Étienne on Sunday, June 4 and ends with a summit finish on Plateau de Solaison a week later.
The opening stage, starting and finishing in Saint-Étienne, features three laps of a tough finishing circuit over the Rochetaillée climb and will provide an early, though hardly decisive, test for the overall contenders.
The following two legs, to Arlanc and Tullins, ought to give the sprinters an opportunity to shine, before the general classification picture begins to take shape with a 23.5-kilometre individual time trial from La Tour-du-Pin to Bourgoin-Jallieu.
Stage 5 to Mâcon takes in some rolling terrain that might give a breakaway attempt a fighting chance to hold off the fast men, who will be eager to grasp their final opportunity before the tough finale in the Alps.
The first instalment offers riders an important pre-Tour de France reconnaissance, as stage 6 tackles the hors-categorie Mont du Chat (8.7km at 10.3%) before the descent to the finish in La Motte-Servolex. Mont du Chat will feature in the finale of stage 9 of the Tour to Chambery, the first time it has been on the route of La Grande Boucle since 1974.
The penultimate stage brings the Dauphiné from Aosta in Italy to Alpe d'Huez by way of the Col du Cucheron, Col de Porte, Côte de Garcin and the hors-categorie Col de Sarenne (15.3km at 6.9%) before the shortened finale on the Alpe d'Huez (3.7km at 7.2%). The Tour descended the sinuous Col de Sarenne in 2013 when stage 18, won by Christophe Riblon, included two ascensions of Alpe d'Huez.
In keeping with organiser ASO's recent tendency across its stage races, the final leg from Albertville to Plateau de Solaison is short but potentially spectacular. Although only 115 kilometres in length, it features the category 1 Col des Saises (15.1km at 6.4%), the category 2 Col des Aravis (6.6km at 6.9%) and the category 1 Col de la Colombière (11.3km at 6.1%), before the hors categorie haul to the finish on the Plateau de Solaison (11.3km at 9.2%).
Chris Froome (Sky) won last year's Dauphiné, his third in four years. The Briton has gone on to win the Tour de France on each occasion.
2017 Critérium du Dauphiné route:
Sunday, 4 June. Stage 1: Saint-Étienne - Saint-Étienne (170 km)
Monday, 5 June. Stage 2: Saint-Chamond - Arlanc (171 km)
Tuesday, 6 June. Stage 3: Le Chambon-sur-Lignon - Tullins (184 km)
Wednesday, 7 June. Stage 4: La Tour-du-Pin - Bourgoin-Jallieu (23.5 TT)
Thursday, 8 June. Stage 5: La Tour-de-Salvagny - Mâcon (175 km)
Friday, 9 June. Stage 6: Parc des Oiseaux Villars-les-Dombes - La Motte-Servolex (145.5 km)
Saturday, 10 June. Stage 7: Aosta - Alpe d'Huez (167.5 km)
Sunday, 11 June. Stage 8: Albertville - Plateau de Solaison (115 km)