Just time between getting over the excitement of the Giro d’Italia and revving up for the Tour de France to squeeze in the ever excellent Critérium du Dauphiné which runs its eight stages between June 3 and 10. Established, like so many great cycling events, by a newspaper (the Dauphiné Libéré) looking to promote both itself and the Dauphiné of France, the first running of the event took place in 1947 – Won by Polish rider Edouard Klabinski – and has always been seen as a precursor to the TdF.
Now celebrating its 64th Edition the Critérium du Dauphiné, which shortened its name from Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré in 2010 when Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) took over full organisational responsibility, will once again see top teams sporting top riders lining up for the 5.7km prologue in Grenoble this coming Sunday. Amongst them will be Sky’s Bradley Wiggins who finished first in the 2011 Overall Standings (on time, with 26h 40′ 51″) managing to nudge Cadel Evans into seconds at + 01′ 26″, making it clear what an indicator of the TdF it can be given that Evans went on to win le Tour (Wiggins crashing out).
In many ways the Critérium du Dauphiné can also be viewed as a distillation of all that is great about the TdF – the hills, the TTs, the dramatic sprints, the irrepressible French crowd support, the sheer Joie de vivre. Christian Prudhomme, Director of Tour de France, describes the 2012 edition thus: ‘After a long absence lasting 24 years, the Col du Gran Colombier ascent is back on the Critérium du Dauphiné agenda. Sports fans are waiting with bated breath to witness this year’s hot topic – the strengths and weaknesses in the time trials – between the prologue stage in Grenoble and the 53 km individual time trial between Villié-Morgon and Bourg-en-Bresse. The Rhone Alps region offers competitors a real chance to test their mettle, with its extremely wide range of landscapes, the slog of the roads through the Ardèche and the ascents leading to the mountain passes of Joux-Plane or Colombière. Perhaps this is where Bradley Wiggens, expected to reclaim his title this year, will have to fend off the threats of Cadel Evans, four-time runner-up and winner of the 2011 Tour de France.’
Prologue June 3 Grenoble – Grenoble 5.7 km
Stage 1 June 4 Seyssins – Saint-Vallier 187 km
Stage 2 June 5 Lamastre – Saint-Félicien 160 km
Stage 3 June 6 Givors – La Clayette 167 km
Stage 4 June 7 Villié-Morgon – Bourg-en-Bresse 53.5 km (ITT)
Stage 5 June 8 Saint-Trivier-sur-Moignans – Rumilly 186.5 km
Stage 6 June 9 Saint-Alban-Leysse – Morzine 167.5 km
Stage 7 June 10 Morzine – Châtel 124.5 km
Full details at www.letour.fr