The Critérium du Dauphiné has always positioned itself as a dress rehearsal for the Tour de France and the 2018 edition of the race continues that tradition with a team time trial and short, explosive mountain stages that provide a taste of what will follow in July.
Stage 3 of the 2018 Dauphiné is a 35km team time trial, which is precisely the same distance as the Cholet team time trial on stage 3 of the Tour de France. The 110km penultimate stage, meanwhile, is a virtual replica of stage 11 of this year’s Tour de France to La Rosière, and is the prelude to a tough final leg to Saint-Gervais, where Romain Bardet soloed to victory in La Grande Boucle two years ago.
Jakub Fuglsang (Astana) won the Dauphiné in 2017, taking the lead from Richie Porte (BMC Racing) on the final day of racing by soloing to victory and surging from third on GC to the top step of the final podium. It was his first ever general classification title in a WorldTour race.
The route of the 70th edition of the Dauphiné was presented on Thursday.
The race gets underway on Sunday, June 3, with a 6.6km prologue time trial in Valence, while the opening road stage to Saint-Just-Saint-Rambert ought to be one for the sprinters, and the fast men might get another chance to shine on the slightly hillier stage 2 to Belleville.
Next up is that team time trial from Pont-de-Vaux to Louhans Châteaurenaud. With the Tour starting a week later than normal in 2018 due to the World Cup in Russia, it seems that the Tour de Suisse might prove a more popular preparation race than the Dauphiné this year. This team time trial, however, might yet convince some of the principal Tour contenders to overlook the four-week gap between the end of the Dauphiné and the Grand Départ in the Vendée on July 7.
The second half of the Dauphiné is a mountainous affair. On stage 4, the peloton must cross a new mountain pass, the hors categorie Col du Mont Noir (17.5km at 6.9%) before the category 2 haul to the finish in Lans-en-Vercours.
Stage 5 features an hors categorie summit finish at Valmorel, where Chris Froome denied Alberto Contador and Matt Busche in 2013, but it is the penultimate stage that will elicit most interest in the build-up. Some four mountain passes are crammed into just 110km of racing, with the HC Montée de Bisanne and Col de Pré followed by the Cormet de Roseland, before the category 1 climb to the finish at La Rosière.
There is similarly little respite in the final stage, which shoehorns four category 1 ascents into 130km, with the Cormet de Roseland, Col des Saisies and Côte des Amerands preceding the summit finish at Saint-Gervais in the shadow of a snowy and serene Mont Blanc.
Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale), Dan Martin (UAE-Team Emirates) and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) are among the riders already expected to ride the Critérium du Dauphiné.
2018 Critérium du Dauphiné route:
Prologue, Sunday, June 3: Valence – Valence, 6.6km (ITT)
Stage 1, Monday, June 4: Valence – Saint-Just-Saint-Rambert, 179 km
Stage 2, Tuesday, June 5: Montbrison – Belleville, 180.5km
Stage 3, Wednesday, June 6: Pont-de-Vaux – Louhans Châteaurenaud, 35km (TTT)
Stage 4, Thursday, June 7: Chazey-sur-Ain – Lans-en-Vercors, 181km
Stage 5, Friday, June 8: Grenoble – Valmorel, 130.5km
Stage 6, Saturday, June 9: Frontenex – La Rosière, 110km
Stage 7, Sunday, June 10: Moûtiers – Saint-Gervais, 129km.