The Inner Ring | Critérium du Dauphiné Review

    Primož Roglič won, but just. None of the main GC contenders will come out delighted even if others are satisfied with the work last week, especially Derek Gee.

    An abbreviated review with no pictures because of travel in a place with little internet coverage

    Has Decathlon-Ag2r’s golden season slowed? On the opening day Sam Bennett was beaten and the next day Bruno Armirail was caught within sight of the finish when until now everything was going there way. The more rational explanation is Lidl-Trek had the beefier lead-out for the opening day and Mads Pedersen timed his sprint better to win; the next day Armirail did well to keep going out in front for so long until he was engulfed by the bunch within sight of the finish and Magnus Cort took the stage, holding off Primož Roglič.

    Derek Gee’s win on Stage 3 was impressive but made even more sense with hindsight, he was able to make a move off team mate Krists Neilands and then outplayed Romain Grégoire for the win. Knowing what kind of climbing ability he’d show in the coming days we can see things bode well for him for the rest of the summer.

    The time trial to Neulise was Remco Evenepoel’s day, the stage win and the yellow jersey after he beat specialist Josh Tarling and the uphill finish to town making the difference. Roglič was the only rider within a minute and he was followed by Matteo Jorgenson, Oier Lazkano and Derek Gee, again we can see these rides in a different light now. At the time they were solid performances but now part of a package with added range in the mountains from Lazkano and Gee. Continuing with the helmet visor of hindsight from the day Carlos Rodriguez lost 1m41 seconds or almost three seconds per kilometre so as good as we could climb later in the race this penalty put him out of the GC race.

    Stage 4 looked like a sprint stage on paper with a chance to the breakaway given some hilly roads in the final. Coming off the last categorised climb of the day the road down to Marennes was soaked and a mass crash happened. Riders were doing between 60-70km/h with the only mitigation being that many slid out rather than hit hard. But there was mass damage, so much so that the race could not go on. There must have been a run on medical gauze that day or the next as team doctors replenished supplies to tend to the all the abrasion.

    Laurens Huys, Adne Holter, Axel Mariault, Remi Rochas were out, as were Milan Menten and Luke Durbridge who reportedly crashed before. But so were Dylan van Baarle and Steven Kruijswijk, yet more bad luck for Visma-LAB as two key lieutenants look to have the kind of injuries that mean July is spent in rehab. At this race the team will be asking themselves whether they just stay on Mount Teide all season and fly in for the grand tours and Monuments; but the calculation is not new as during their Roglič years they weighed up the benefits of racing pre-Tour or not and in some years got their leader to race precisely to hone his peloton craft.

    The Marennes crash was a downer three times over, for the injuries sustained in the moment and the resultant lack of racing; for the impact it had on riders during the rest of the race with many left sore and inflammed and unable to show us what they were capable of; and worse because of the impact on the rest of the summer. Many more riders would leave the race with injuries and others are left nursing injuries that will need time to heal just when they want to be putting the finishing touches on their training.

    The mountain stages were still instructive. Roglič said he struggled to put his hand in his dorsal pockets to reach food but still managed to win two stages in a row. We’ll come to the third day for him in a moment. Derek Gee was the major revelation and active too, making a move in the final kilometre. Alas Remco Evenepoel was struggling here but relatively, he looked a little cherubic in the cheekbones and his boss Patrick Lefevere put it more bluntly writing that he needs to shed 1-1.5kg before the Tour. Back-of-envelope calculations see losing 1kg is equivalent to gaining 20W which probably closes the gap to the best so there’s hope for him to improve, especially as he was nursing a shoulder injury too. But this means he’s trying to get his body to break down, it’s delicate now.

    This was Roglič’s second win in the race and quite the contrast. The first in 2022 meant he went into the Tour de France as a top favourite, even if at the Plateau de Solaison his junior colleague Jonas Vingegaard was on the up and assume leadership after Roglič’s first week “mummie” crash. Now Roglič is leader of his team but instead of riding away from the field he was fighting to save his race lead. So he wins but did not float away with things.

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    The Verdict
    Lively at times. The Dauphiné has had some gripping editions when the result has been overturned on the last day. Recent editions (2021-2023) have lacked this drama so to see the overall result uncertain until the final moments added some spice but the suspense only came in the final five kilometres as Roglič faded. It probably won’t make the highlights of 2024.

    The race was spoiled by two crashes. The first was the infamous incident in the Tour of the Basque Country that meant Jonas Vingegaard was not racing and Remco Evenepoel is still in rehab. The second was on the way to St Priest. It had several effects, on riders, the race and possibly the Tour de France. From the outside the frustration is trying to apportion form versus injury, would Roglič’s fade on Col des Glières have happened normally or was it due to the crash injury, inflammation and fatigue? Likewise with Remco Evenepoel, was his performance in the mountains as he expected as he makes his way back, or temporarily derailed by injury?

    Carlos Rodriguez probably got one of his finest win so far and this bodes well for the Tour de France. The time trial cost him plenty but a year ago he was further off the pace and closed the gap by the Tour, if he can repeat this he’s got to be on the list of podium contenders, especially with Ineos behind him. They’d surely sign today for third place.

    Derek Gee was the revelation of the week. His Giro last year with long raids and endurance in the mountains showed plenty and told us he was an amateur ornithologist but at the Dauphiné he soared to new heights. Mentions to Oier Lazkano for added depth, Callum Scotson for climbing performances and Javier Romo too.

    While the final result was the second closest this century, just eight seconds it should also be defined by just 94 finishers, the least since 2010.

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