Criterium du dauphine

Stage 7 - Criterium du Dauphine

It feels great to be finished with the Critérium du Dauphiné, especially after these past four stages. The climbs were pretty crazy, especially how we raced over them.

Stage 7 was similar to Stage 6 except the break didn’t go until we were well into the first cat 1 climb, which made it smaller and GC threats made the selection. This meant the pace was on all stage. I focused on taking it one climb at a time, and I did my best to dig deep and stay with Damiano Caruso over the first three climbs.

We did so many switchbacks that I think the entire group was starting to get dizzy from the back and forth. The final kilometers were ones I had done at the 2016 TDF but had forgotten how fast and technical and how much road furniture filled the downhill approaching the base of the last climb.

We were riding good position with Damiano in the reduced group but some bonehead farther up opened a gap in one of the corners and we came into the 2-km flat before the final climb needing to close a small gap. Joey, Dylan and I poured it all out to get Damiano back in the mix. He did a great climb to lock in fifth place overall.

This race and its mountains were up and down, both literally and figuratively. Looking back at the past eight days, I’m pleased with how we raced and performed and with the final results. Personally, I was pleased to be with the best riders in the prologue, stay out of trouble in stages 2 and 3, and go into the TTT and make a significant contribution to the team’s ride.

I was happy to make some important and elite selections to support Damiano in his bid for a strong GC result. Now my legs are pretty cooked, and I’m looking forward to a few days in Girona before heading home to the USA for nationals.

📷 Getty Images / Tim De Waele

Stage 6 - Criterium du Dauphine

Another Queen Stage-Gran Finale at the Critérium du Dauphiné. If you caught the race, you probably saw the same 20 guys that you’ve seen over the past two stages racing while everyone else was basically in survival mode.

From kilometer 0, it was straight into a 5-km climb at berserker speed. I fought my way to the front when we hit a valley and was following moves as we approached the start of the first HC climb. This is always a tricky moment. Frequently, it’s a good time to jump, but there’s a risk that if the move doesn’t go, you’ll be cooked for the climb and never recover.

Seeing more and more guys jump and Sky beginning to block the road, I saw this as my last chance and went for it. It took me the first few km of the climb to make contact with the front and once there, I was just hanging on to the top trying to recover from the hard effort I put down to make contact.

Our gap briefly went out to 3 minutes and then started to come down as we hit the next climb, another HC beast. The break began to explode as the strongest climbers heard the peloton was increasing speed and falling to pieces.

I realized I wasn’t up for following the best guys in the break, so I switched focus and pace in the hopes of staying with Damiano Caruso once the GC group caught me. It was only about 20 riders when they found me with three km to go. I fought hard to stay with them over the summit, so that I could get Damiano bottles and food in the short flat section following the few km descent.

It never ceases to amaze me how aggressive the positioning and fighting is in such a select group.  After making sure Damiano had everything he needed, I bit down and tried to hang on over the following climb, but was crushed from the high altitude and my earlier efforts and didn’t quite make it.

For a minute, I thought we might catch them on the downhill if they slowed down at all, but the race was on at the front, and that was it for me. I switched into survival mode up the final climb where Joey and Paddy joined me along with a steady group to ride to the top. A handful of guys came chugging by still pouring it all out and fighting for the top 50. I’m continually amazed how guys can get away with shenanigans like that. If I spent my resources that way, I wouldn’t still be in the game.

Tomorrow, we have even more climbing, which will come after a night sleeping at altitude in cold, no heat ski apartments that have been shut down for the season.

📷 Getty Images / Tim De Waele

Stage 5 - Criterium du Dauphine

Stage 5 of the Critérium du Dauphiné started well before kilometer 0 with an 11-km neutral where the last two kilometers were a solid climbing before we even started racing. Then immediately it was another 4 km at 8 percent.

These starts are the stuff of nightmares.

I’m always blown away how we sprint up a climb like this and then still have a full stage to ride. The guys who got in the breakaway earned it, but as we often see, there’s always a team who wants to chase it down even if it doesn’t make sense to the rest of us.

The middle of the stage was deceivingly hard. We were on small roads bouncing through French villages. If anyone wants the specs on a speed bump for a small French town, I smashed into about 500 of them today and now have a pretty in-depth knowledge of their construction.

The approach to the final climb intensified with some wet roads and so much road furniture that it meant game over if you weren’t already towards the front.

Fortunately, we stuck Damiano in a good position, and Dylan and Joey stepped up to take good care of him on the lower portions of the climb. Damiano finished off the final kilometers in strong fashion to move up into second overall.

As for me, I was really feeling the effects of yesterday’s big effort, and once I realized I couldn’t contribute anymore, I tried to wind it down—which is that even possible on a 12-km climb?—in hopes that I’ll rebound for the final two brutal days of climbing.

📷 Getty Images / Tim De Waele

Stage 4 - Criterium du Dauphine

Stage 4 was your typical Critérium du Dauphiné day---no talking, no looking around. You bite the handlebar and go. I think we did around 50-52 km/hour for the first 90 minutes, so it’s no wonder no one got off the front.

Sixty kilometers in, we crested an uncategorized climb, and I found myself in a split with about 30 riders. A lot of the GC guys were there, but some had missed it. Mitchelton drilled it in the front group and QuickStep chased from behind and eventually brought us back. A few guys finally managed to get some separation in what would be the break of the day.

We zipped through the feed zone all singled out at more than 50 km/hour and the position battle was on for the approaching massive climb. There is no easy way up a 17-km climbing at over 7% in this field and the selection continued as the pace went up.

 

By the top, it was a fairly small group and I was happy to be there for Damiano. I grabbed a few bottles for him because we were all overheating. That didn’t last long, and the clouds opened up just in time for the highest point of the stage and a very technical downhill.

 

We took it fairly easy on the descent, and the group swelled in size. This added to the speed and chaos approaching the final climb with each team having a few horses going all-in on the approach. I went back for one last round of bottles and was amazed how far back the commissary’s car made me go off the back of the group to reach the team car.

I waved my hands at the guy comfortably seated inside the car with the standard, “come on man, give us a break, let our cars come up” gesture. He told me to calm down. I guess he must have been sleeping for the first 160-km, which were anything but calm.

As we hit the final climb, my teammates began to swing off, and I found myself chasing the group as it raged up the road. It was my fault for not having better position, but it wouldn’t have made too much of a difference as the pace was clearly too much for me. Damiano was looking awesome and is now fifth on GC.

I was happy to be up there while it lasted but I was realistic about my expectations. I think I’m riding pretty well but clearly so are 150 other guys here. We will see how tomorrow goes. I’ll be there to support Damiano and then make the call whether it’s better to keep fighting to stay close in the overall or let it open up and focus on rolling the dice in the final two days.

📷 Getty Images / Tim De Waele

 

 

 

Stage 3 - Criterium du Dauphine

While shorter in distance, TTT days are always long days that take a commitment from everyone. It is no easier than a long road stage.

For Stage 3 of the Critérium du Dauphiné, we were up and out the door early to preview the course. While roads weren’t closed to traffic yet, we knew we needed to ride the course firsthand to feel the corners and undulations. Today’s course was a fast one with a slight cross tailwind, gently rolling roads and only a few corners.

After our recon, we headed onto the bus for a long wait before our warm-ups. At BMC Racing Team, we approach the TTT very seriously, and you can feel that focus on the bus and around the truck from everyone—mechanics, soigneurs, coaches, and directors. Everyone is on point and has a job to do.

You feel that pressure and energy, so today I made an effort to be aware of this collective effort and internalize it for my own power and motivation.

It’s a cool feeling racing a TTT with such a well-prepared and capable group. I’m always amazed once we hit the course how fast we go on those bikes and how close we are to one another. I don’t think any of the guys from BMC’s multiple TTT World Championships were here, but every guy on this squad has won a TTT before and knows what it takes.

In the end, we executed a strong and very solid performance, but we were outmatched by Sky. Still, at this level and this race, we are proud of that performance and the effort everyone put out there.

Tomorrow, a new race starts as we go into the big mountains and four straight days of summit finishes. Is there any race other than the Vuelta than does four straight summit finish days!?!

📷 Getty Images / Tim De Waele

 

 

Stage 2 - Criterium du Dauphine

Stage 2 of the Critérium du Dauphiné was similar to yesterday both in outcome and profile.

I think the group is a little intimidated by the massive mountain stages coming at us along with tomorrow’s team time trial. So today saw another small group get up the road.

While we had ominous rain clouds overhead, we were lucky and it held off for most of the stage, but it still meant we were navigating some slick, wet roads.

Again, the intensity ramped up early and the final two climbs brought about some selection and regrouping because there were still about 30 kilometers remaining after the summit of the final climb. If the reduced bunch made things less hectic, I didn’t notice!

The final kilometers felt chaotically desperate because everyone suddenly seemed inspired to be a sprinter and try their luck in what was still a pretty big group of around 80 guys.

My teammate Paddy hit out early with a super strong surge but was swallowed up before the line and ended eighth. We didn’t come here with a favorite for any of the stages, so personally, it’s encouraging to still be in the top 10 overall.

Heading into tomorrow’s TTT, Damiano Caruso and I are both in the top 10 overall and we are all motivated to put in a strong performance. I know they won’t make it easy on me, but I’m looking forward to only having to battle with my BMC Racing Team teammates and get out of that chaotic peloton before we go climbing crazy in the coming days.

📷 Getty Images / Tim De Waele

 

 

Stage 1 - Criterium du Dauphine

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.

📷 @gettyimages @tdwsport

 

 

Prologue - Criterium du Dauphine

The transition from California to Europe and into the Dauphine had its ups and downs, so today was nice to stop thinking and start feeling the fire of racing again. And a prologue was a great way to do that.

While I don’t remember my last prologue, I do remember my first Dauphine back in 2009. I had a strong performance then, so today I thought back to that and channeled the feelings and energy from then.

Seven and half minutes is a painful effort, but it is over so quickly that it’s important to get into a good mental place. I had a plan of attack—-there were a couple of corners that needed a little braking and speed scrubbing but otherwise it was quite fast and not too technical.

As always at this distance, the margins were small and every second counted. I was happy to be on the fast side of milliseconds to get into the top 10, especially considering the stacked field, most of whom are honing their TDF form.

The Dauphine is always extra challenging because it factors into pre-TDF build-up and the crazy team selection process. Additionally, it’s a time where many riders are negotiating contracts for the coming year. I am sure these dynamics will factor in during the week ahead and make an already physically daunting race a hard-fought battle every day.

📷@fotoreportersirotti