The Inner Ring | Critérium du Dauphiné Stage 6 Preview

    The Dauphiné reaches the Alps and the first of three days with summit finishes.

    Neutralised: it looked like a sprint finish was on the cards until a crash on a descent before the village of Marennes with 22km to go felled about 50 riders, to grab the brakes was to slide out of control but seeing others sliding meant more grabbed the brakes.

    The race was neutralised while medics attended to the wounded, a lot of riders with torn clothing and skin abrasions but Dylan van Baarle and Steven Kruijswijk looked worse off and they were among the eight riders not to finish the stage, although some of these had crashed earlier. The race neutralised, the rest of the peloton was escorted the finish and that was that.

    The Route: a stage in two parts, first plenty of flat and rolling roads, the marked climb out of La Côte-Saint-André is real and at KM50 the race tackles the small Col de la Rossatière.

    With 70km to go the race climbs into the Chartreuse Alps and tackles the Col du Granier via Saint-Pierre-d’Entremontier, listed at 5.4% it’s more like 6-7% most of the time but with a flat section halfway which softens the gradient. The hard part is the descent, the steepest road of the Granier is used.

    The Finish: the Collet d’Allevard is a ski station summit finish meaning a regular, engineered road but it’s steeper than usual for the French Alps with a selective 8.1%. It was last used in 2011 when Joaquim “Purito” Rodriguez won.

    The Contenders: a pinch of salt for all picks with riders wounded. Taking to the start today doesn’t mean everyone is 100%, even a bad night’s sleep because of raw skin can spoil things for today. Primož Roglič (Bora-hansgrohe) has fallen twice already but he’s stoically joking about using up his stock of team kit. He’s in from from the time trial and should be fast for taking the stage.

    Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain) is an excellent climber and “only” two minutes down. That’s not much but tells us he did a great time trial so the form is there.

    Among the breakaway picks Clément Berthet (Decathlon-Ag2r La Mondiale), Tiesj Benoot (Visma-LAB) and Davide Formolo come to mind but all three might prefer tomorrow or the day after.

    Ciccone, Rodriguez, Kuss

    Weather: 24°C but a strong chance of rain.

    TV: the finish is forecast for 5.10pm CEST.

    Postcard from the Gorges du Guiers
    In between the intermediate sprint in Les Echelles and the Col du Granier is the Gorges du Guiers where the road climbs up a narrow canyon. This is probably the location of a famous photograph.

    You may have seen this photo of Bernard Hinault before. There’s a lot going on. He’s wearing the yellow jersey and we can tell it is the Tour de France by the “Banania” sponsor of the jersey. His race number 11 corresponds to the 1985 edition. He’s sporting Rayban glasses, something that became his “look” in a time when few riders wore sunglasses.

    Hinault’s stopping to urinate, the photo captures things mid-flow which is unusual but typical Hinault machismo. Stopping to pee often marks a tactical moment in the race: when the yellow jersey pauses for a leak the peloton is often expected to ease up. It’s not ordained, there has to be some sense and consensus, for example the breakaway has gone and everyone, perhaps reluctantly for some, has sat up. If the yellow jersey can stop, others will take their cue and so we have a tactical moment.

    But where was it taken? He took the jersey on Stage 8 that year and kept it to Paris. The terrain looks mountainous and the addition of infrastructure with the white fence and the zinc railing below suggest the Alps. As Hinault has stopped it’s probably early in the stage. By a process of familiarity and elimination it’s the Gorges du Guiers by the Pas de Frou, note the postcard with the white fencing and the darker railing below.

    Today’s stage won’t quite climb past this point as the road has been changed, the old road was literally hanging over the steep cliffs in places and subject to heavy rockfall. A tunnel has been built. The old portion and the white fencing still exist though, they’re just fenced off for motorists.

    Hinault looks in command, surveying the scene. While Fred Vichot had attacked on the descent – his thing – the bunch was relatively calm until a hectic finale. With moves flying Hinault was struggling to cover his rivals as Luis “Lucho” Herrera rode away for the stage win. Hinault got back on terms and coming into the finish, crashed after hitting a sunken inspection cover and tangling with Phil Anderson. Hinault sustained a range of facial injuries, including a nose broken in two places and needed stitches to his face and scalp. Perhaps the metal and glass Raybans made things worse. He pedalled across the line, blood running down his face to make another famous Hinault image.

    Hinault did not lose time as the crash happened in the final kilometre. A touch of irony here as the finish was in the city of Saint-Etienne and it was here that Eddy Merckx fell while sprinting for the win in 1972. He was given the same time as the group he was with, this incident was part of the origin of the kilometre rule, today now extended to three kilometres.

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