The Ardennes leadership duo of Dan Martin and Julian Alaphilippe will lead the charge, with the Frenchman, coming into the race on the back of winning the Tour of California last month, where he took victory on the hors-catégorie summit finish at Gibraltar road.
Irishman Martin, a new signing from Cannondale-Garmin, has taken two stage wins this season – at Valencia and Catalunya – with aggressive attacks on finishing climbs.
“We come here with a team focused more on stage wins, and less on the GC, with Julian and Dan being two of the ones who can notch a victory,” said directeur sportif Brian Holm.
“Still, if the right circumstances will be there, then Dan, who has a lot of experience, could leave his mark on the overall."
The pair could find fertile ground on road stages 2, 5, or 7. Stage 2 features a long but relatively gentle ascent to the finish, with a second-category climb followed by a short third-category and a steep kick towards the line.
Stage 5 features a string of early climbs and the pair may fight to be in the breakaway. Either way, the final climb to Vaujany has ramps of over 12 per cent – an ideal launchpad for their aggressive characteristics. The final stage will have the GC contenders out in force but Samuel Sánchez showed in 2013 that the penultimate climb-descent-short final climb combination suits the opportunists.
“A tough prologue awaits on Sunday, but otherwise is a balanced course, more or less the same to what we’ve seen in the past years. It’s a race that brings us closer to the Tour de France, having some of its flavor, so the guys are very motivated. Will be important to see where we stand and to tune up the condition," added Holm.
Etixx-QuickStep also head to the race with Maxime Bouet and neo-pro Laurens de Plus, both of whom may look to make an impact in the mountainous final three stages.
The team is rounded out by rouleurs in the form of Tony Martin, Niki Terpstra, Stijn Vandenbergh, and Martin Velits.
For many the Dauphiné’s status as a prelude to the Tour de France is reflected in their team selection, but Etixx’s plans for July are likely to revolve around sprinter Marcel Kittel. Fabio Sabatini and Matteo Trentin will be expected to form the key components of his lead-out train.
Etixx-QuickStep to the Critérium du Dauphiné: Julian Alaphilippe, Maxime Bouet, Laurens De Plus, Daniel Martin, Tony Martin, Niki Terpstra, Stijn Vandenbergh, and Martin Velits.