Bradley Wiggins’ bid to defend his Criterium du Dauphine crown could be useful in more ways than one this June as the Briton continues his bid for Tour de France glory. Wiggins’ joy at winning his maiden Dauphine, a major French stage race and a crucial warm-up for the Tour, last year was tempered by him crashing out of the Tour de France a few weeks later. But with this year’s Tour de France featuring nearly 100 km of time trials, one of Wiggins’s specialities, the Briton, fourth overall in 2009, is expected to be among the bona fide yellow jersey contenders come July.
This year’s Dauphine should boost Wiggins’s yellow jersey hopes. Organizers on Tuesday unveiled a route which features a combination of difficult climbs and a long time trial on stage four. In a top class field it will also feature reigning Tour de France champion Cadel Evans, and the winner of the 2010 edition, Andy Schleck.
Opening with a 5.7 km time trial around Grenoble on June 3, the race ends on June 10 with the 126 km-long seventh stage between Morzine and Chatel. In between are some formidable climbs, some of which will feature on the 2012 Tour de France which begins June 30 and ends July 22.
The fifth stage between Saint-Trivier-sur-Moignans and Rumilly takes in some of the climbs used on the 10th stage of the Tour from Macon to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine, notably the Col du Grand Colombier, which makes its return to the Dauphine for the first time in 24 years. Stage six is just as hilly, with the peloton crossing the Col de la Colombiere and Joux-Plane, just before descending into Morzine on the eve of the race finish in Chatel.
Race organizers ASO have also included a 53 km race against the clock on stage four between Villie-Morgon and Bourg-en-Bresse. While triple Olympic track cycling champion Wiggins claimed what was the biggest stage race victory of his career here last year, Evans, a four-time runner-up,will be keen to show his strength.
Schleck, who had been a three-time runner-up at the Tour de France until he inherited the 2010 title following a doping ban for Spain’s Alberto Contador, is also scheduled to race. It means the Luxemburger breaks with the tradition of using the Tour of Switzerland as his traditional warm-up for the Tour.
Criterium du Dauphine Stages:
June 3: Grenoble prologue (5.7 km)
June 4: stage 1 from Seyssins to Saint-Vallier (187 km)
June 5: stage 2 from Lamastre to Saint-Felicien (160 km)
June 6: stage 3 from Givors to La Clayette (167 km)
June 7: stage 4 from Villie-Morgon to Bourg-en-Bresse (53 km time trial)
June 8: stage 5 from Saint-Trivier-sur-Moignans to Rumilly (186.5 km)
June 9: stage 6 from Saint-Alban-Leysse to Morzine (166.5 km)