Warming up for Le Tour: 2021 Critérium du Dauphiné

Warming up for Le Tour: 2021 Critérium du Dauphiné

As the 2021 Giro d’Italia was reaching its end, another race of note was kicking off in France, in the form of the 2021 Critérium du Dauphiné. One of the foremost races in the lead-up to the Tour de France, this edition’s 8 stages ran from 30ᵗʰ May to 6ᵗʰ June. The route this year totalled 1205.3km, with a couple of days in the Alps to finish things off, and as we reached the end of the week, the standings were as follows:


cycling 2021 Criterium du dauphine general classification gc podium richie porte geraint thomas alexey lutsenko

General Classification:

  1. Richie Porte (Australia) – Ineos Grenadiers – 29h 37′ 05″
  2. Alexey Lutsenko (Kazakhstan) – Astana–Premier Tech   + 17″
  3. Geraint Thomas (Great Britain) – Ineos Grenadiers   + 29″

Points Classification:

  1. Sonny Colbrelli (Italy) – Team Bahrain Victorious – 91 points
  2. Kasper Asgreen (Denmark) – Deceuninck–Quick-Step – 58 points
  3. Alex Aranburu (Spain) – Astana–Premier Tech – 58 points

Mountains Classification:

  1. Mark Padun (Ukraine) – Team Bahrain Victorious – 50 points
  2. Lawson Craddock (USA) – EF Education–Nippo – 33 points
  3. Michael Valgren (Denmark) – EF Education–Nippo – 26 points

Young Rider Classification:

  1. David Gaudu (France) – Groupama–FDJ – 29h 38′ 17″
  2. Aurélien Paret-Peintre (France) – AG2R Citroën Team  + 1′ 59″
  3. Mattias Skjelmose Jensen (Denmark) – Trek–Segafredo + 5′ 44″

Teams Classification:

  1. Ineos Grenadiers – 88h 53′ 28″
  2. Movistar Team + 4′ 09″
  3. Team Bahrain Victorious + 14′ 04″

Victory for the lieutenant

With 4 current and former Grand Tour champions and a number of other notable young riders on the Ineos Grenadiers roster, it won’t be very often that Richie Porte will get the chance to lead the team at a big race. Coming into the Dauphiné, Porte was part of a triple-pronged attack alongside Tao Geoghegan Hart and Geraint Thomas, but likely knew that if push came to shove, he would likely be the one who would become the lieutenant as the race went on.

That all changed on Stage 7, as with about 8 and a half kilometres still to go, the Australian attacked the leaders’ group. It’s been a common tactic by Ineos in recent year: keep a domestique high in the GC and send them on an attack. This will cause many of the leader’s GC rivals to have to use up their own domestiques (or work themselves if already isolated) earlier than they want to chasing down the domestique, allowing Ineos’ leader to ride on their wheel and stay fresh to attack at the very end with devastating consequences. This time, however, the rivals were unable to chase across to Porte, and this allowed him to stay clear of the yellow jersey group and go from a 15 second deficit to a 17 second lead in the GC.

cycling 2021 Criterium du dauphine richie porte mark padn sepp kuss enric mas

This was a crucial moment in the race, as it meant that Ineos went into the day with their domestique (who has plenty of experience as a leader) leading the GC and their leader in 3ʳᵈ, 29 seconds back. In that situation there was only one option: move the leadership to Porte when push came to shove. “G” has years of experience as a super-domestique for Chris Froome, and he showed it with his ride on the final day, riding back across to the leaders’ group on the final climb and pacing the group to ensure Porte’s win.

So what does this mean for Le Tour? Well don’t be surprised to see Ineos going for a similar tactic, with 2 of their Grand Tour victors as the nominal leaders, but with Porte there in a super-domestique role that can also stay high in the GC and cause havoc for their rivals while protecting their leaders as the race goes on.

The long hard road to recovery

2 years ago at the Dauphiné, Chris Froome crashed during training ahead of the 4ᵗʰ stage, suffering severe injuries, including a fractured right femur, a fractured elbow and fractured ribs. Many people could have chosen to use that as the moment they retired, but Froome has fought on in the hopes of winning a 5ᵗʰ Tour de France, now with Israel Start-Up Nation.

cycling 2021 Criterium du dauphine chris froome time trial itt

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like this will be his year, as every day saw him falling back from the peloton well before the final selections on a stage and never making it into the leaders’ groups where we are so used to seeing him. It was a sad sight each day to see him being distanced by the peloton, and as the years go by that elusive 5ᵗʰ Tour de France looks less and less likely.

Of course, Froome remains positive in public; though he has admitted that he won’t be winning this year, he remains committed to winning again. Hopefully, even if that Grand Tour victory eludes him, he can still get back to being a regular in the leaders’ group and a threat for stage wins, similar to Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde. His is not a career that deserves to end seeing the group ride away from him.

Laying down a marker

The 2021 Dauphiné is not one that Team Bahrain Victorious’ Mark Padun will be forgetting anytime soon. The Ukrainian followed Richie Porte’s race-winning attack on Stage 7 along with Sepp Kuss and Enric Mas, but found himself the freshest of the four, soon attacking and dropping Porte and Mas, while Kuss also dropped away after a couple of kilometres, allowing Padun to ride the majority of the last 5km alone to secure the stage victory. That in itself was already a great achievement, but the very next day saw him get in the breakaway and attack with just over 27km remaining, riding away to consecutive stage victories in the Alps, which also secured him the King of the Mountains classification.

cycling 2021 Criterium du dauphine mark padun

Of course, it’s important not to overreact and say he is the next superstar on the strength of 2 stages, but he is clearly a rider in form, who looked very comfortable in the mountains, and you have to imagine that Team Bahrain Victorious will be looking to get him in the team for the Tour de France, where he could potentially compete for stage wins from the break, and also come in handy tactically by getting in the break on the mountainous stages that then leave him in a position to support his leader on the final climb as the leaders’ group catches the breakaway, by which point many of the team’s rivals will be out of domestiques.

 

What did you think about this year’s Dauphiné? Was there anything that stood out to you?

Thanks for reading. Until next time!

Back to Business: Giro d’Italia 2021

Back to Business: Giro d’Italia 2021

It feels like only months ago that Tao Geoghegan Hart was being crowned as the 2020 Giro d’Italia champion, but with the Giro back in its usual May spot, his reign is now over and we have a new champion in his Ineos Grenadiers teammate Egan Bernal. After 3,410.9 km of hard riding, the Classifications finished as such:


General Classification:

  1. Egan Bernal (Colombia) – Ineos Grenadiers – 86h 17′ 28″
  2. Damiano Caruso (Italy) – Team Bahrain Victorious   + 01′ 29″
  3. Simon Yates (Great Britain) – Team BikeExchange   + 04′ 15″

Points Classification:

  1. Peter Sagan (Slovakia) – Bora–Hansgrohe – 184 points
  2. Davide Cimolai (Italy) – Israel Start-Up Nation – 118 points
  3. Fernando Gaviria (Colombia) – UAE Team Emirates – 116 points

Mountains Classification:

  1. Geoffrey Bouchard (France) – AG2R Citroën Team – 184 points
  2. Egan Bernal (Colombia) – Ineos Grenadiers – 140 points
  3. Damiano Caruso (Italy) – Team Bahrain Victorious – 99 points

Young Rider Classification:

  1. Egan Bernal (Colombia) – Ineos Grenadiers – 86h 17′ 28″
  2. Aleksandr Vlasov (Russia) – Astana–Premier Tech  + 06′ 40″
  3. Daniel Martínez (Colombia) – Ineos Grenadiers + 7′ 24″

Teams Classification:

  1. Ineos Grenadiers – 259h 30′ 31″
  2. Team Jumbo–Visma + 26′ 52″
  3. Team DSM  + 29′ 09″

Fairytale stories

While there was no real surprise at Egan Bernal standing atop the podium at the end of the 3 weeks, the 2021 edition will likely be remembered as the race of fairytales.

Of course, it wasn’t the case for everyone, with Mikel Landa leaving the race in the first week following an horrific crash, but Team Bahrain Victorious recovered in spectacular fashion with Gino Mäder—who had agonisingly lost a stage at Paris–Nice to one of Primož Roglič’s superhuman efforts in the final 50 metres—earning his first Grand Tour stage victory the very next day. Meanwhile, Damiano Caruso, an ever-reliable domestique, found himself holding a top 3 GC spot in the second week and held on to finish 2ⁿᵈ to Bernal, winning Stage 20 along the way.

Caruso wasn’t the only Italian to have a fairytale race, with Giacomo Nizzolo finally getting a Giro d’Italia stage victory on Stage 13, after 11 2ⁿᵈ place victories. Meanwhile Eolo–Kometa’s Lorenzo Fortunato won his first Grand Tour stage in style by being the first up the famous Monte Zoncolan, while his teammate Vincenzo Albanese held the King of the Mountains’ blue jersey for 2 stages to mark a fantastic first Grand Tour for the Italian outfit.

Not enough fairytales for you? Well how about Intermarché–Wanty–Gobert Matériaux rider Taco van der Hoorn holding off the peloton to win Stage 3 in his first Grand Tour, or Mauro Schmid of Team Qhubeka Assos winning on the gravels of Stage 11, after the team was saved from folding.

When you look back at the Grand Tours, it’s not all about big names and the General Classification. While that is the overarching story, there are dozens of wonderful smaller stories to enjoy each and every day.

Same old brand new you

It may have been different men, but it was the same old Ineos Grenadiers racing at the Giro. For so long, you could rely on Chris Froome pushing for the stage victories on time trials, but now they have Italian Filippo Ganna to boss these stages, while he is also doing a great job of taking on Luke Rowe’s old role of bossing things on the flat and minor climbs, with him devastating the pack on a number of occasions with his high tempo, while Dani Martínez—who won the 2020 Critérium du Dauphiné for EF Education First–Drapac—was dominant on the hard climbs, pacing Bernal back to nullify attacks on a number of stages and being so powerful that he actually had to slow down for his team leader on some occasions and spur him on—it’s easy enough to imagine that had he been leading the team (either given the lead outright or had it swapped to him had Bernal’s back issues hampered him), he could have come away with the maglia rosa himself!

While Chris Frome may be gone and they may face more challenges from other teams like Team Jumbo–Visma these days, Ineos Grenadiers are far from a spent force, and with 4 Grand Tour champions and other top young riders on their roster, they may actually be stronger than ever!

Deceuninck–Miss-Step?

For so long, they have been the ones to watch out for on sprint stages, but Deceuninck–Quick-Step made the decision to move their focus away from the sprints and onto the GC for this race, going with 2 potential leaders in João Almeida and Remco Evenepoel. Unfortunately, the way they handled this race showed a distinct lack of experience.

With Almeida losing time early in the race, the leadership was quickly focused onto Evenepoel. Now the Belgian looks to be an incredible talent, but at just 21 years old, this was his first 3-week race and he was coming off a serious injury that had left him out of competition for the best part of a year, so there was no evidence to suggest that he was in a legitimate position to challenge for the General Classification. This soon proved the case, as he lost significant time on the Stage 11’s gravel sections, with Almeida being pulled back (eventually) in an unsuccessful attempt to pace him back to the leaders.

As the second week went on, it became clear that Evenepoel could not hold with the leaders, and Almeida was allowed to ride as the leader again, but his efforts in service of Evenepoel had cost him time and he eventually finished 6ᵗʰ on GC, just over 3 minute off the podium.

Of course, the team will get better at managing the leadership as they gain experience, but it may take them a while to replicate their success in the Points Classification on the General Classification.

 

What did you think about this year’s Giro? Was there anything that stood out to you?

Thanks for reading. Until next time!