The 60th Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré was announced in Lyon, France, this week. The organisers of the race, the Dauphiné Libéré newspaper, invited all 18 ProTour teams, including Astana, but snubbed French Professional Continental team Agritubel, even though defending champion Christophe Moreau joined the squad this winter. The event, which will be held from June 8-15, will see the riders line up for a prologue on the outskirts of Avignon, Provence, and finish eight days later in the pre-Alpine town of Grenoble.
The Astana team has planned to include 2007 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador, as well as the 2006 Dauphiné winner, American Levi Leipheimer. Other hot favourites will be Australian Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto), runner-up to Contador last year in both the Tour and the Dauphiné, as well as Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne).
After the 5.7km-prologue in Le Pontet (Avignon), the peloton will embark on the journey taking them through the Alps, of which the four last stages as well as the 31km-time trial in Saint-Paul-en-Jarez will be the decisive ones. The first, rather flat stages might see Tom Boone (Quickstep) battle it out against Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole).
In stage four from Vienne to Annemasse, the riders will climb the Salève mountain from its steepest side, and the next day has the Col de Joux-Plane on the menu. Stage six will see the only mountain top finish of the race in La Toussuire, after the Col de la Croix-de-Fer. On the last day of the race, the riders will tackle the Cols du Granier, du Cucheron and de Porte.
Besides the favourites, other big names expected to race include: Yaroslav Popovych (Silence-Lotto), Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne), Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Juan Cobo, Angel Gomez Marchante (Saunier Duval), Vladimir Efimkin (AG2R La Mondiale), David Moncoutié, Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), Philippe Gilbert, Sandy Casar (Française des Jeux), Bradley Wiggins, Michael Rogers (High Road), Robert Gesink as well as Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank).
The stages of the 60th Dauphiné Libéré outline as follows:
Prologue - June 8: Le Pontet - Avignon, 5,7 km
Stage 1 - June 9: Avignon - Privas, 194 km
Stage 2 - June 10: Bourg-Saint-Andéol - Vienne, 184 km
Stage 3 - June 11: Saint-Paul-en-Jarez, 31 km (ITT)
Stage 4 - June 12: Vienne - Annemasse, 193 km
Stage 5 - June 13: Ville-la-Grand - Morzine, 125 km
Stage 6 - June 14: Morzine - La Toussuire, 233 km
Stage 7 - June 15: Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne - Grenoble, 127 km