Criterium du Dauphiné 2021 – Stage 1 preview – Ciclismo Internacional

Criterium du Dauphiné 2021 – Stage 1 preview

By David Hunter

Issoire > Issoire 182.5km

We start with a lap circuit.

It’s a funny looking stage for the first day. The riders go out on a big loop before they begin two full laps of the 37km circuit, but they cover the big climb on three occasions. It’s too hard for the pure sprinters, but there’s hardly any of them here. Will Bahrain chase all day for Colbrelli?

Weather

A bit of cloud, a bit of sun and temperatures getting up to 20 degrees. The wind will be around 10km/h and coming from the north, which means a lovely tailwind from the top of the final climb to the finish, great news for the attackers.

The Climb

The organisers have decided to split this into two climbs. The first hill is the hardest, we’re talking 3km at 7%. Not only that but the road is very narrow which means the GC teams will fight for position and naturally lift the pace. Once over the top, where it gets steep, we have 1km of downhill before the road kicks up for 1.5km at 5%. From the crest there is just 12km left, most of which is downhill and with a nice tailwind. This will make it very hard for any team who wants to organise a chase and set up a sprint.

Finale

Fairly easy. There are two roundabouts around the 2km mark, on both occasions only the right-hand side will be open. The final turn is a fast left hander with just 400m to go.

Tactics

It looks like a good day to be in the break, but most riders will be aware of this, which means it won’t be easy to get up the road. Not many teams will want to chase all day to set up a late attack or reduced sprint, this is a risky strategy. I think everyone will look to Ineos to control, but will they use up energy chasing down the break?

The composition of the move will be important. The break needs to have representation from some of the big teams and be bigger than six men. Teams that miss that move could well be instructed to chase, it is the opening stage after all, and everyone will be fresh. It’s not a nailed on breakaway stage, but they do have a slight advantage.

The late attack is another option for quite a few riders. If the break is caught the lap circuit is tough enough to slim the peloton down a bit, which means less riders to chase a late move. I see only two fast men who will survive the climbs: Colbrelli and Aranburu. The pressure will be on Bahrain and Astana to do the chasing but I’m not sure they’ll be strong enough to hold off the late moves. We have a long list of hugely talented riders who could surge off the front on the final climb never to be seen again. I like the look of this stage; it should be very entertaining to watch.

Contenders

Sonny Colbrelli – he was flying in Romandie, climbing with the best. His stage win was just his third success at world tour level, can he back that up here? This stage is certainly within his capabilities but holding it together for a sprint is very complicated. Bahrain has a strong looking team, but they have Teuns and Haig as protected riders, which means not many riders to chase. This could be a frustrating day for the Italian.

Alex Aranburu – his win in the Basque Country was his first for Astana, he was beginning to get a reputation as a rider who couldn’t win. He’s climbing better than ever, but often finds ways not to win races. The Astana team don’t look that strong to me, I don’t think they can hold the race together.

Tim Wellens – he’ll love the look of the lap circuit. Wellens is exactly the type of rider who can attack on the final climb and hold off the bunch. He started off the season in fine form, but then it went a little downhill for him. Now that he’s had a break and a chance to hit the reset button, I expect to see him at his best.

Kasper Asgreen – the big Dane has enjoyed a great start to the season, winning E3 & Flanders, and he continued to impress in the Algarve. If you’re looking for someone to attack on the final climb and TT to the end, he’s your man.

Sven Erik Bystrøm – you know me, I love watching as many cycling races as possible. In the wee hours of the morning, I was sat in my bed looking at the Mallorca races, and I spotted Bystrøm riding stronger than I’d ever seen him before. This was backed up in Andalucía where he was 3rd on the wall finish, a result that still took me by surprise. On the final stage he survived the final climb, even though Ineos set a crazy pace, the big Norwegian is looking amazing just now. Still not a big name, he could well be given some freedom by the bunch, a decision they’ll likely regret.

Alexey Lutsenko – first half of the season was a disaster, he looked miles off his best. I’m hoping the break will have been good for him and he can return at his normal level. With eyes on Astana to control the finale, Lutsenko is a good candidate to attack.

Greg Van Avermaet – when I looked at the profile his name popped into my head. It’s a good day for Greg.

Michal Kwiatkowski – he’ll probably have to work for others, but it’s still wise to include him as a contender for this type of finish.

Anthony Perez – the type of rider who could win from the morning break.

Prediction Time

I think an attack on the final climb will take the day. Got to be a win for Tim Wellens.

David HunterFollow us on Twitter and InstagramJoin us on facebook: Ciclismo Internacional

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1 thought on “Criterium du Dauphiné 2021 – Stage 1 preview

  1. Love the reviews, but glad we’re done with the giro and all those annoying nicknames

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