The Inner Ring | Critérium du Dauphiné Stage 7 Preview

    Another early finish, another tough day in the Alps with a tricky summit finish.

    Roglič takes over: the stage win and yellow jersey for Primož Roglič. He managed a victory salute but said his arm and shoulder were sore from recent crashes, even reaching into his jersey pockets was difficult but he was able to get into the drops just before the finish and out-sprint Giulio Ciccone, his only rival after Aleksandr Vlasov had loyally helped tow his leader clear of the fray.

    It was an usual finish with many riders cracking, presumably paying for yesterday’s crashes. Among them Remco Evenepoel who was not able to respond to the moves and rode his own time trial to the finish with a bit of help from Mikel Landa; frustrating as we can’t apportion form and injury to the result. The surprise was Derek Gee in fourth; although Oier Lazkano was not far behind in 15th place.

    Roglič is now 19 seconds ahead of Evenepoel with Jorgenson and Gee around the minute mark so it looks advantage Roglič from here on but just, as he still looks sore.

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    The Route: 155km and 4,200 of vertical gain. It’s up the valley out of Albertville to Beaufort, home of the eponymous cheese and then the scenic Col des Saisies with the descent via the Crest-Voland side. Then it’s through Megève and down to Sallanches and along the valley.

    The Côte d’Araches is a new climb for the Dauphiné, handy as the race can steer away from the main road but scenic as it is the first part of the Col de Pierre Carrée which leads to the Flaine ski resort and cut into a cliff on the way up. After a balcony section across that’s not really flat it’s down to Taninges and around the Col de la Ramaz. This has featured in the Tour de France before and is a tough climb, long but just awkward as it winds its way up through the meadows and gets steeper towards the top where there’s a tunnel before flatting out for the Praz-de-Lys plateau and then a final kick up to the pass.

    A fast descent leads back to the valley floor and then the new climb.

    The Finish: Samoëns 1600 climbs on the opposite side of the valley to the Joux-Plane. It’s a tough road to a ski station; this climb is often known as the Plateau des Saix and it’s a tough climb, forums abound with adjectives like “terrible”, “wild”, “infernal”.  It’s 10km at 9% and after two gentle kilometres it gets well over 10% once in the woodland and stays like this until 5km to go. The slope eases but only just and remains a tough climb up to the finish.

    The Contenders: Primož Roglič is the obvious pick, he out-climbed everyone yesterday and Bora-hansgrohe have a strong team here. He didn’t look too incisive on the climb, his jumps are usually more trenchant but all the same the climbing rate yesterday was high. Aleksandr Vlasov has a chance here because he is climbing well and his boss this week can help out.

    Giulio Ciccone (Lidl-Trek) has a chance if he can get some space, he’s 11th on GC so doesn’t have to be marked in the final kilometres.

    Ineos could hold the key to the stage, if they join Bora in chasing then this can help contain the breakaway and Carlos Rodriguez and Laurens De Plus have a shot at the stage.

    Derek Gree impressed yesterday but this is a harder test with the Ramaz + Saix.

    Roglič, Vlasov
    De Plus, Rodriguez

    Weather: rain clearing with sunshine later, 22°C in the valleys.

    TV: the finish is forecast for 2.50pm CEST.

    Postcard from Samoëns
    Samoëns (“sam-wan”) sits almost at the end of a valley in the Alps. You can keep cycling beyond but the road ends soon. Instead the usual option for cycle tourists and the Tour de France alike is to do a left turn out of the town.

    This is where the Joux-Plane starts, over 11km at 8.5% which is plenty but it is one of those climbs that feels harder than the stats suggest, probably because the steep start can take its toll and the mid-sections seem to climb through meadows with none of the usual visual cues to aim for: no hairpins, no road cut into a cliff. Plus it is south-facing and hot on a summer’s day.

    Samoëns is maybe not the place you’d sit down for long lunch before tackling the climb. Which poses a challenge as plenty pass through but few stop, let alone stay. So today puts a “new” climb in the spotlight. Samoëns name with “1600” indicates the altitude in metres. It probably sounded like a boast when the infrastructure was built but today it could equally evoke slushy slopes.

    For the cyclists it’s going to be a tough climb and if the Dauphiné can put it on the map, it might be a matter of time until it appears in the Tour de France too. Regular appearances are need to make a climb really famous but just a couple of visits to Samoëns 1600 might suffice to encourage more cyclists to think of this as a destination: come for the Joux-Plane and Morzine, stay for the Samoens 1600.

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