In praise of the Dauphiné
By Dave Land, posted 13 June 2017
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Dave thinks the difficult-to-pronounce Criterium Dauphiné has a lot more to offer than just a pre-Tour training ride
How, precisely, are we supposed to pronounce this? Is it like the potatoes without the wahs? Is it, like Matt the sports guy said on BBC Radio 2, Dough-feen? Does the little slanty thing over the ‘e’ make a difference? So it should be Dough-fee-nay? There seems to be a variety of opinion.
The Criterium Dauphiné is an old race. That is to say, it has a lot of history, yet all of its recent history seems to relate to the Tour de France. This is unfortunate. For some, the only relevance of the Dauphinéis to see what ‘the form’ is like before the Tour. It’s almost like we’re allowed to watch a mass training camp, as if we’d all gone to Mount Teide in Tenerife to watch at exactly the moment that every pro team rocked up there for their pre-tour block of training.
There are some pressing reasons why it’s talked about in this way. Five of the last six winners of the Dauphiné have won the tour. Furthermore, there are usually one of two stages that are almost exactly the same as Le Tour will be in a months’ time. It’s also in France, so combining the two races gives the perception of an even greater sporting spectacle than a single race on its own.
However, the coincidence of Tour/Dauphiné winners is not quite as compelling as might be believed. We understand that all sport relies on what happened before as a predictor of what will happen in the future. The difference between these two time points is what makes sport exciting. All the pundits in the world never get everything right; there are just too many variables in a one week, let alone, three week, stage race.
Given this, we’d like to make a plea to cut back on the Dauphine/Tour prediction market. The Dauphiné should get coverage. For the simple reason that it’s a cracking stage race.
The scenery can be beautiful, the weather is never less than unpredictable and the crowds are excellent, but not insane. There is more attacking, riders are hitting form, and are keen to show what they can do. It’s a week, so there is less need to ration energy (in theory), and teams are not always sporting the very best riders on their roster, so there is a lot of dynamism and stuff to prove, whilst opening opportunities for newbies, and youngsters.
Some of this is probably because of its connection to the Tour, so perhaps the two are inseparable. Perhaps the Dauphiné is so good, because of its relationship to the Tour.
There will be plenty of riders for whom the Dauphiné is the peak of their season. For them we say to not worry, it’s a beautiful race, and worth all that effort to cross the finish line of a tough stage race in France. It can be your tour of France, even it’s not Le Tour de France. Just keep riding that bike.