The Inner Ring | Critérium du Dauphiné Stage 8 Preview

    The final stage of the race and it’s mountainous but not as severe as the past two days. The finish is earlier once again.

    Soler energy: two stage wins in row for Roglič. Which was the more surprising? Two days ago he didn’t seem so lively but still delivered. Yesterday it looked like the win was promised to Marc Soler who had over five minutes coming off the final descent, bookmakers must have been giving even odds or worse for his triumph.

    Only it was Soler, a fascinating rider capable of bold moves but also supernova-style implosions and we got the later as he cracked, he shattered on the final climb. Some of this happened because Bora-hansgrohe applied the pressure but still, five minutes in 20km.

    Once the final kilometre arrived the result from Roglič seemed inevitable, like watching a drama where you know a particular character has the plot armour to win. So it was and once he gets a small gap nobody can seem to come past. It was the kind of riding that, with hindsight must have his ex-Visma management green with envy, although presumably if he stayed with them he’d have fallen off a ladder while changing a lightbulb etc. Still Dutch management can console themselves with Matteo Jorgenson who was second on the stage and second overall, a strong signing and instant delivery.

    Movistar ought to be delighted with Oier Lazkano finishing fourth, he was even attacking in the finale – in case you are wondering there is only one Lazkano in the pro peloton, the same rider who was crushing the cobbles earlier in the spring – but he’s leaving and on many teams the moment a rider is known to be leaving they become a secondary presence. One place the Spaniard him was Derek Gee. Javier Romo did a solid ride for Movistar while Callum Scotson’s impressive performance to Le Collet d’Allevard didn’t repeat but he was still 15th. Meanwhile Remco Evenepoel was adrift and again it’s hard to apportion form versus injury.

    The Route: after a downhill start on a big road it’s around to the Col de Forclaz de Montmin, a scenic pass that has been used before to take the race away from the opal shores of Lake Annecy. It’s got a soft middle section before kicking up before the top again.

    From here on a series of hilly roads. It’s easy to skip past them but they’re still roads that would be decisive in many another race, it’s just they are dwarfed but today’s big climbs.

    The Salève a long climb with steep sections all the way to the top and then a balcony section across before a more gradual descent.

    The Finish: 9.7km at 7.1% but the first seven kilometres are regularly over 10%. After the gradual valley road approach the road kicks up and starts climbing the flank of the valley. It’s steep from the start and on a narrow road. It’s like this for 7km to the mountain pass and from here the road drops, the race profile doesn’t capture this, and then it kicks back up to the line.

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    The Contenders: Primoz Roglič (Bora-hansgrohe) for three in row? The finish suits with the uphill run to the line and his team are riding well. If there’s a sprint among him and the rest it’s hard to see him losing.

    Breakaway picks include Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), Romain Grégoire (Groupama-FDJ), Davide Formolo (Movistar) and Sep Kuss (Visma-LAB) on a route that gives the breakaway a good chance to form and get clear.

    Weather: grey skies and the increased chance of rain, 21°C.

    TV: another early finish, forecast arriva; time is 2.50pm CEST with the last 90 minutes on TV. This frees up France TV’s schedules for the Roland Garros tennis tournament.

    There’s a small irony as the tennis tournament is named after the stadium it takes place in which is named after Roland Garros who is celebrated as a first world war aviator. He had little to do with tennis and in fact enjoyed cycling, and become French schools champion in his youth but under the pseudonym of “Danlor” (an anagram of Roland). So all this clay court to-and-fro is a tribute to a cyclist.

    Postcard from the Plateau des Glières
    Much of today’s stage is on the same route as the final stage of the 2013 Tour de l’Avenir. While winners of the race are supposed to go onto great things, the 2013 edition was won by Spain’s Rubén Fernández who a decade later is still in a pro peloton having just finished the Giro for Cofidis but yet to land a win. What’s helped him along the way is consistency, he’s had many top-10 finishes and so he’s reliable and when it comes to scoring points, valuable.

    The stage that day was won by Julian Alaphilippe who broke a spoke on his back wheel and despite a wobbly wheel went solo for the win ahead of Matej Mohorič. Adam Yates finished second and brother Simon took two stages; the prologue went to Alexis Gougeard, also with Cofidis today. Caleb Ewan took two sprint stages. Michael Valgren took the other stage which went to Albertville where yesterday’s stage started and it was a remarkable win for he and the Danish team attacked together in a coordinated move on the Col du Frêne and only the USA’s Gavin Mannion could follow. The short version of what happened then was the Danish team rode a team time trial to the finish with riders peeling off to leave Valgren to outsprint Mannion, holding off the bunch by seconds. It would be fun to see a team repeat this kind of move… but easier said than done.

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