The beauty, drama and suf­fer­ing of the Dauphiné, cap­tured by Thomas Ma­heux

Procycling - - Contents - Pho­tographed by THOMAS MA­HEUX

This was my first Critérium du Dauphiné; I’d never been be­fore, ei­ther as a spec­ta­tor or a pho­tog­ra­pher.

It’s an in­ter­est­ing race, be­cause this is the dress re­hearsal for the Tour de France. The best clim­bers and the best sprint­ers all re­port for duty, and they’re not far from their best form. A lot of spec­ta­tors, of all ages, came as well. Most seemed to grav­i­tate to the starts and fin­ishes, be­cause the cols them­selves seemed less crowded. I was struck by the empti­ness of the Col de la Madeleine, com­pared to how it would have been a month later if it had been used by the Tour de France.

All this re­in­forced the no­tion that the Dauphiné is still a re­hearsal, a fi­nal tune-up for the teams, me­dia and fans be­fore the main event, the Tour de France. With­out wish­ing to sound chau­vin­is­tic about bike rac­ing, I was par­tic­u­larly struck by the per­for­mance of my young coun­try­man, Ju­lian Alaphilippe. Still only 24, he was up there com­pet­ing for stage wins, whether in sprint fin­ishes or in the moun­tains, which I think shows that he has a real thirst for vic­tory, and will leave ev­ery­thing out there to achieve it. It’s im­pres­sive, and what’s more he does it all with a smile.

With only a month to go be­fore the Tour, it was re­ally in­ter­est­ing to fol­low all the team lead­ers to and ob­serve how each one showed to their ri­vals that they would be in good form while at the same time not want­ing to re­veal too much. But the race told us a lot – Froome first, Bardet sec­ond and Dan Martin, Richie Porte, Adam Yates and Louis Mein­t­jes all in the top 10. As a dress re­hearsal for the Tour, the Dauphiné was al­most as good a per­for­mance as the real thing.

1. Fol­low­ing an im­pres­sive early sea­son cam­paign, Thibaut Pinot was ag­gres­sive and strong at the Dauphiné. Alas, he’d peaked, and he fell apart at the Tour 2. Ag2r La Mon­di­ale’s Alexis Gougeard digs deep in the inal me­tres of the very tough up­hill pro­logue. He in­ished 58th at 1:22 from win­ner Al­berto Con­ta­dor 3. Ry­der Hes­jedal reels from the e fort of the pro­logue. In his last sea­son, the Cana­dian held noth­ing back and placed a ine 14th 4. Con­ta­dor poses a lit­tle wearily for a photo with a fan ahead of stage 1 5. Gougeard again, this time with a fright­en­ingly deep hole in his knee fol­low­ing a crash on stage 4. He reached the in­ish but didn’t take the start the fol­low­ing day 6. If this were the Tour, this climb would be packed with fans. If you want to see big names rac­ing hard on fa­mous climbs, the Dauphiné lets you get closer 7. Jesús Her­rada takes the big­gest win of his ca­reer on stage 2 from Crêches-sur-Saône to Chal­mazel-Jeansag­nière with a per­fectly timed late at­tack 8. These French fans were re­warded for their com­mit­ment with sparkling per­for­mances from Ro­main Bardet, Ju­lian Alaphilippe, Pierre Rol­land and Pinot 9. Steve Cum­mings took a bril­liant solo win on stage 7 from 50km out. It capped a great race for Di­men­sion Data who also took the points and KoM jer­seys 10. Good friends Richie Porte and Chris Froome fought hard for the GC and ac­tu­ally tan­gled on the inal climb. Froome hung on to win, Porte slipped o f the podium 11. The pelo­ton’s best beard of 2016, Geo frey Soupe, lined up to work for and lead out Co idis sprinter Nacer Bouhanni for a stage win 12. Bardet clearly had mixed feel­ings at in­ish­ing just 12 sec­onds back from GC win­ner Froome. The order would be the same in Paris six weeks later, the gap big­ger

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