With just over one week until the 68th edition of the Criterium du Dauphine, race organisers ASO have released the preliminary list of starters with defending champion Chris Froome (Team Sky) headlining the announcement. The stacked field includes the majority of riders who are expected to challenge for overall Tour de France victory with Nairo Quintana the noticeable exception.
Two-time Tour winner Alberto Contador (Tinkoff), 2015 Vuelta a Espana winner Fabio Aru (Astana) and the French duo of Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) have also been named for the WorldTour race which starts June 5 with a 3.9km time trial in Les Gets.
Contador has finished third (Volta ao Algarve em Bicicleta), 2nd (Paris-Nice), 2nd (Volta Ciclista a Catalunya) and 1st (Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco) in his first four races of 2016 and will start the Dauphine as one of the favourites for victory. The Criterium du Dauphine is of the rare races to have eluded the Spaniard's palmares thus far.
Froome on the other hand started his season in Australia, winning the Jayco Herald Sun Tour before heading back to Europe via a South African training camp and placing eight overall at the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya. The 2013 and 2015 Tour champion then rode a snowy edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, won by teammate Wout Poels. A flat tyre took him out of contention at the Tour de Romandie before bouncing back and taking a stage win.
BMC Racing will have one of its Tour GC riders in Richie Porte for the race with the Australian looking to add to his podium finishes at Tour Down Under and Paris Nice. While Tejay van Garderen was not named in ASO's preliminary rider list, Rohan Dennis and Greg Van Avermaet are down to race.
Current Giro d'Italia race leader Steven Kruijswijk is set to race the Dauphine and will add to the depth of contenders but first must navigate a tough final weekend of the Italian grand tour if he is to become the first Dutch winner.
The French trio of Pinot, Bardet and Pierre Rolland (Cannondale) will be aiming to impress on home soil and fine tune their form before the Tour. Compatriot and recent Tour of California champion Julian Alaphilippe is an outside chance for the overall podium and one of several up and coming GC riders to start the Dauphine.
Simon Yates has been named as a starter despite the Orica-GreenEdge rider returning a positive test at Paris-Nice for asthma medication Terbutaline. He is joined by Simon Gerrans and brother Adam in the Orica-GreenEdge team list.
From the Wild Card teams, Amstel Gold Race winner Enrico Gasparotto leads the Wanty-Groupe Gobert, German national champion Emanuel Buchmann the Bora-Argon 18 squad. Cofidis head to the race with Nacer Bouhanni, who won two stages and the points classification last year, while Direct Energie can call upon Thomas Voeckler and promising neo-pro Lillian Calmejane.
AG2R La Mondiale: Romain Bardet, Alexis Vuillermoz, Alexis Gougeard (Fra)
Astana Pro Team: Fabio Aru (Ita), Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz), Diego Rosa (Ita)
BMC Racing Team: Richie Porte, Rohan Dennis (Aus), Greg Van Avermaet (Bel)
Cannondale: Pierre Rolland (Fra), Tom-Jelte Slagter (NL)
Dimension Data: Igor Anton (Spa), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor),Steve Cummings (GBr)
Etixx-Quick Step: Julian Alaphilippe (Fra), Dan Martin (Irl), Tony Martin (Ger)
FDJ: Thibaut Pinot, Arthur Vichot (Fra), Sébastien Reichenbach (Sui)
IAM Cycling: Jérôme Coppel (Fra)
Orica-GreenEdge: Simon Gerrans (Aus), Simon Yates, Adam Yates (GBr)
Movistar Team: Dani Moreno, Herrada (Spa)
Lampre-Merida: Louis Meintjes (RSA)
Lotto-Soudal: Tony Gallopin (Fra), Thomas De Gendt (Bel)
Team Katusha: Joaquim Rodríguez (Spa), Jurgen Van den Broeck (Bel), Alexander Kristoff (NOR)
Team Lotto NL-Jumbo: Steven Kruijswijk (NL)
Team Giant-Alpecin: Koen De Kort, Ramon Sinkeldam (NL)
Team Sky: Chris Froome (GBr), Wout Poels (Ned), Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol)
Tinkoff: Alberto Contador (Spa), Yuri Trofimov (Rus), Michael Valgren (Ded)
Trek-Segafredo: Ryder Hesjedal (Can), Bauke Mollema (Ned),Haimar Zubeldia (Spa)
Pro-Continental Wild Card Teams:
Bora-Argon 18: Emanuel Buchmann (Ger), BartoszHuzarski (Pol), Dominik Nerz (Ger)
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits: Nacer Bouhanni, Arnold Jeannesson (Fra), Dani Navarro (Spa)
Direct Energie: Lillian Calmejane, Romain Sicard, Thomas Voeckler (Fra)
Wanty-Groupe Gobert: Enrico Gasparotto (Ita), Frederik Veuchelen (Bel)