The announcement of the 2014 Critérium du Dauphiné route at the Rhône-Alpes Regional Council in Lyon has revealed a tough course on which punchers, one-day climbers and pure mountain goats will all have their say.
From Lyon to Courchevel, via the Puy-de-Dôme, Ardèche and Switzerland, the leading lights of elite cycling will strive to take home a prestigious win and land the first blow ahead of the Tour de France. It is certainly not a coincidence that 2013 champion Christopher Froome has already put his name down for the Alpine race that will take place from June 8 to 15, just like Vincenzo Nibali and Alberto Contador, two of the big favourites to stand atop the podium in Paris in July.
The 66th edition of the Critérium du Dauphiné will kick off on June 8 with a 10 km individual time trial on the streets of Lyon. Before climbing the Montée de l’Observance and plunging towards the Confluence neighbourhood, the riders will blast through Le Tube, a brand-new 1.8 km tunnel for cyclists and pedestrians under the Croix-Rousse hill. The chips will come down for the overall contenders the very next day with a gruelling climb up the Col du Béal (13.6 km at 6.6%). A certain Nairo Quintana, Andrew Talansky and Romain Bardet were in the mix when the Tour de l’Avenir dropped by in 2010…
The stages to Le Teil (Tuesday 10), Gap (Wednesday 11) and Poisy (Friday 13) will be for the sprinters if they manage to keep on a tight leash the many adventurers who will use the rugged terrain (including the climb up the Col de Manse on the way to Gap) as a springboard to try and wrestle victory from the jaws of the peloton. Nevertheless, the second half of the race will feature mountains, mountains and more mountains, with a tricky finish in La Mure (Thursday 12) at the end of a leg-breaking stage in which the Côte de Laffrey (6.3 km at 6.2%) could set the scene for a clash of titans. The fearsome final weekend in Switzerland and Savoy promises to be decisive. In Switzerland, the double whammy of the Col de la Forclaz (12.6 km at 8.2%) and the first ever summit finish on Finhaut-Émosson (10.2 km at 8%) will provide an opportunity for the mountain goats to light the fireworks, while in Savoy, the short (130.5 km) and tricky (with three category 1 and one category 2 climbs) final stage from Megève to Courchevel has the potential to turn the overall classification on its head at the eleventh hour.
The 2014 route
Ø Sunday, June 8, stage 1: Lyon – Lyon, 10 km (individual time trial) Ø Monday, June 9, stage 2: Tarare – Pays d’Olliergues-Col du Béal, 158.5 km Ø Tuesday, June 10, stage 3: Ambert – Le Teil, 194 km Ø Wednesday, June 11, stage 4: Montélimar – Gap, 169.5 km Ø Thursday, June 12, stage 5: Sisteron – La Mure, 184 km Ø Friday, June 13, stage 6: Grenoble – Poisy, 168 km Ø Saturday, June 14, stage 7: Ville-la-Grand – Finaut-Émosson (Switzerland), 161.5 km Ø Sunday, June 15, stage 8: Megève – Courchevel, 130.5 km
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