PREVIEW | Critérium du Dauphiné 2023 - Tour defending champion Jonas Vingegaard headlines colossal GC battle ahead of Tour de France

Preview. Many times termed the main preparation race for the Tour de France, the Critérium du Dauphiné will be specially hilly in 2023. The French race will take place from the 4th to 11th of June and will include several big tests for the Tour de France contenders to test their form ahead of a big goal.

The opening stage of the French race will be a hilly day, very open where several types of riders can succeed. It's a short and explosive stage taking place at high altitude. There will be a four-lap circuit to end the stage, including a slight ascent and then a fourth-category ascent, a kilometer at 7.3%. Afterwards follows a fast descent almost all the way into the finish in Chambon-sur-Lac.

Stage 2 sees another hilly day, most of it at around 1000 meters with a lot of rolling roads. The finale is once again in a circuit, with three laps including several small ascents. With 10 kilometers there will be a one-kilometer ascent at 8%, with the finale also slightly uphill into La Chaise-Dieu. Stage 3 is the one where the sprinters have their best chances. Along 191 kilometers the riders will have only two categorized. The final one with 7.8 kilometers a 3% is a challenge but there won't be tough gradients in which the fast men can be dropped before reaching Le Coeteau.

Stage 1: Chambon-sur-Lac - Chambon-sur-Lac, 158.5 kilometers
Stage 1: Chambon-sur-Lac - Chambon-sur-Lac, 158.5 kilometers
Stage 2: Brassac-les-Mines - La Chaise-Dieu, 168.5 kilometers
Stage 2: Brassac-les-Mines - La Chaise-Dieu, 168.5 kilometers
Stage 3: Monistrol-sur-Loire - Le Coteau, 194.7 kilometers
Stage 3: Monistrol-sur-Loire - Le Coteau, 194.7 kilometers

Stage 4 is the race's individual time-trial. Comparing to the Tour de France, this day alone sees more kilometers against the clock than in the Grand Tour. Here there will be 31 kilometers, not pan-flat but mostly without tough gradients. Stage 5 sees the peloton return to it's hilly challenges. As the main stages lay ahead it should be a conservative affair. However, there is a 3.7-kilometer long climb at 8.2% where there can be attacks. A small plateau will antecede the descent to the finish in Salins-les-Bains.

Stage 6 has the peloton ride into the Alps. it's not a high-mountain stage, rather a warm-up. A short day into Crest-Voland, it features three categorized climbs towards the end: 7.7Km at 5.9%, 3.2Km at 6.4% and then a summit finish with 2.4 kilometers averaging 7%.

Stage 4 (ITT): Cours - Belmont-de-la-Loire, 31.1 kilometers
Stage 4 (ITT): Cours - Belmont-de-la-Loire, 31.1 kilometers
Stage 5: Cormoranche-sur-Saône - Salins-les-Bains, 190.6 kilometers
Stage 5: Cormoranche-sur-Saône - Salins-les-Bains, 190.6 kilometers
Stage 6: Nantua - Crest-Voland, 171.3 kilometers
Stage 6: Nantua - Crest-Voland, 171.3 kilometers

The first true mountain stage will only come on the seventh day. 4000 meters of climbing including two big passes. The Col de Madeleine will be featured with 25 kilometers at over 6%. The day will however be decided later on, the Col du Molard will have it's longest vertent raced with with 18.5 kilometers at 5.8%. However it will be the final climb to Col de la Croix de Fer where the main attacks are expected. It's a climb of two halves, with the final kilometers significantly harder. It is a summit finish at over 200 meters, the ascent has 13 kilometers at 6.1% average gradient.

The final day of racing is a very tough one, and a classic day for the Critérium du Dauphiné, with a very hard and explosive start where a GC raid is possible and a very strong group is likely to go up the road. There will be three main climbs towards the end of the day with the Col du Granier being the thoughest - 9.6Km at 8.6%. Two climbs with 7.7Km at 6.2% and 7.4Km at 6.8%, where the race should be attacked. A long descent will follow into Grenoble. Although it almost appears invisible in the profile, the finale is one of the steepest of the whole year. Not unknown, it's the climb to La Bastille which averages 14% for 1.8 kilometers, and the gradients go well over 20% in sections.

Stage 7: Porte-de-Savoie - Col de la Croix de Fer, 149.5 kilometers
Stage 7: Porte-de-Savoie - Col de la Croix de Fer, 149.5 kilometers
Stage 8: Le Pont-de-Claix - La Batille (Grenoble Alpes Métropole), 153.2 kilometers 
Stage 8: Le Pont-de-Claix - La Batille (Grenoble Alpes Métropole), 153.2 kilometers 

Estimated start and finish times for Criterium du Dauphiné:

Stage 1: 13:10-16:45CET

Stage 2: 12:40-16:25CET

Stage 3: 12:10-16:25CET

Stage 4: 13:30-16:35CET

Stage 5: 12:05-16:25CET

Stage 6: 12:20-16:25CET

Stage 7: 10:40-14:35CET

Stage 8: 10:30-14:35CET

GC contenders

Jonas Vingegaard - The man to beat. The Tour this year is a pure climber magnet as there isn't a single "normal" time-trial, hence Vingegaard here faces the climbers. However here it is much more favourable to him as there are more (and flatter) TT kilometers. The Jumbo-Visma rider flew here last year and there seems to be no reason why he wouldn't come with good form, it'll more be a psychological performance for the Dane.

INEOS - Three GC contenders bring depth to the team, but over recent years the Dauphiné has not been so easy on the British team. None bring absolute certainties, but it's the trio the team is hoping to see lead the Tour team. Egan Bernal has changed schedule and is on the Tour path, after finishing eighth at the Tour de Romandie and Tour de Hongrie there are signs of positive change and consistency. Daniel Martínez has won the Volta ao Algarve, however has not had form this year and it will be very important to show change this week. Carlos Rodríguez lastly has not raced since Strade Bianche, all have their issues but will look to put their cards in line.

Mikel Landa - Landa has been riding really well last year and now this one too. Having finished second to Pogacar and Vingegaard at the Vuelta a Andalucia and Itzulia Basque Country are good signs, his third spot at Flèche Wallone also a surprising one, the Basque is at this best career form. The TT kilometers will cause damage for him, but he will have high mountain stages where he can test his legs, and certainly a podium is very much in the cards.

David Gaudu - Second at Paris-Nice behind Pogacar was a great ride from Gaudu, who hopes to fight for the podium at the Tour this year. At the Dauphiné the ambitions should be similar, it's a strong Groupama team, the Frenchman has had a strong spring and will have the support of Lenny Martinez and Valentin Madouas.

Enric Mas - The Spaniard likes to play the long game. Grand Tours used to be his specialty, and with the Tour-Vuelta double on his schedule it's likely that he'll still be far from his best form here. However since last summer he's shown a lot more sharpness and Mas could battle for the top places if he does have good form. He leads Movistar which also has Matteo Jorgenson as another card for the overall classification.

Jai Hindley - BORA have a Tour test here, with both Hindley and Bennett having their domestiques alongside. The Australian is a Grand Tour specialist, it won't be easy to fight for the podium here specially with the amount of time-trialing kilometers which will see him enter the mountains on the back foot.

Adam Yates - Adam Yates is a good mix, he is building towards the Tour but will have a supporting role. Here the Briton has the opportunity to lead the team and also has the option to have prepared above the rest of the field since his focus on the Tour is lesser. Leading a strong UAE - most of the TDF team - Yates will stand good chances.

Ben O'Connor - AG2R are also preparing their Tour team quite clearly, the Australian has a consistent performance to show most likely. A likely Top10 figure, O'Connor could ambition more if he shows his best form. He hasn't yet shown great performances this year, he will need some improvement.

Giulio Ciccone - Ciccone was heartbroken to miss out on the Giro d'Italia which started in his home region. Little option remained afterwards, the Italian is now all eyes on the Tour de France and using the Dauphiné as build up. Ciccone has shown terrific legs and consistency this year, he has even beat Roglic and Evenepoel directly in a summit finish at Catalunya, it wouldn't be a shock to see him among the very best in the mountains.

Tobias Johannessen - Johannessen has finished ninth at the Tour of Norway. A very difficult season for the Norwegian who has shown so much talent over the past few years, he is racing the Tour de France and here at the Dauphiné we will learn the likely ambitions he will take there.

Max Poole & Oscar Onley - An interesting duo. Poole is proving to be one of the biggest breakthroughs of the season after finishing fourth at the Tour de Romandie, he then backed that up with the same result at the Tour de Hongrie. A rider who can peak here and not worry about the Tour (he won't be present), he can be with the big boys once again. Oscar Onley has also been evolving quite nicely, the high mountains are terrain where he can ride, he's just off a second place at the Alpes Isère Tour and is in great form.

Louis Meintjes - A consistent figure, could at his best make it into the Top10. Meintjes will lose a lot of time in the time-trial but has last year shown his best career form around the summer. He could repeat that, perhaps he can take advantage of his status to get into breakaways too.

Other big figures

The Dauphiné is at the end of the day a very important preparation race for the Tour de France. It doesn't feature a sprinter-friendly route so the fast men largely stayed away from the French race, however it does feature the presence of Dylan Groenewegen and Sam Bennett.

Among other noteworthy names who will be chasing stage wins and/or playing domestique roles we will have big riders such as Christophe Laporte, Tiesj Benoot, Fred Wright, Ethan Hayter, Julian Alaphilippe, Rémi Cavagna, Valentin Madouas, Axel Zingle and Thomas de Gendt,

Prediction Criterium du Dauphiné 2023 overall classification:

*** Jonas Vingegaard, Enric Mas
** Mikel Landa, David Gaudu, Adam Yates, Matteo Jorgenson
* Richard Carapaz, Daniel Martínez, Carlos Rodríguez, Jai Hindley, Ben O'Connor, Giulio Ciccone, Max Poole

Pick: Jonas Vingegaard

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