This year’s Critérium du Dauphiné doesn’t really feature any flat roads and the start list reflections that. Only a few, if any, teams brought a pure sprinter. Yet, today counted as the race’s sprinter’s stage.
The terrain on Stage 1 reminded me of the Blue Ridge Mountains with the climb lengths, green foliage, and thick humid air---all absolutely beautiful and perfect for bike riding. The humidity provided us with off and on rain for much of the stage.
Kilometer 0 was the start of a 10-kilometer climb, which turned out to be less brutal than most of us were expecting. A small break got away early, but that didn’t mean it was an easy day; it was every bit of World Tour pace and constant position fighting.
I spent a lot of the day towards the back just to keep out of the passive-aggressive position fighting. Getting to do that is one of the perks of not having one of the race favorites here with the BMC Racing Team. Instead, we get to pick our moments. Like all World Tour races in France, those “moments” came early with fighting ramping up with more than 50 kilometers remaining and finale nerves already kicking in.
The wet roads definitely factored in, and once we reached the final 2.5 laps of the finishing circuit, things only got more intense with numerous crashes.
The circuit was pretty sketchy and in my opinion overly dangerous. A finishing circuit is a great way to have more control over potentially dangerous variables, but it didn’t feel like that today. One thing that I noticed was that the majority of the course marshals that were flagging obstacles were not standing in front of the danger points like they usually do. Instead, they were off on the side of the road at an arbitrary distance. I’m not sure if this is new protocol, but it definitely lessens the effectiveness of the marshals and makes avoiding road furniture much more dangerous.
In the end, we had our GC man Damiano Caruso up there in the top 10. I smiled when I saw fellow Girona resident Daryl Impey grab the win. He’s a super nice hardworking guy who always displays impressive grit and versatility.
Tomorrow is looking like it’ll be even wetter. It features more of these “small” 5-6 km climbs and then we head into the TTT on Wednesday.
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