The final stage of the 2014 Critérium du Dauphiné delivered a dramatic conclusion to the most significant of the final, pre-Tour de France tune-ups.
Tinkoff-Saxo’s Alberto Contador and defending champion, Chris Froome (Team Sky), rolled out of Megève separated by just 12 seconds, with 131.5km, four categorised climbs and a summit finish at Courchevel to negotiate.
RoadCyclingUK.com travelled to Megève to ride some of the brutal parcours and to get up close to the riders and their machinery.
We left with the gallery below and the impression that professional cycling is arguably the most accessible of all elite sports: one where fan and athlete – not to mention millions of Euros of bikes, buses, and team cars – share the same space happily.
Check back soon for a second gallery from the
arrivée in Courchevel.
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RoadCyclingUK travelled with Savoie Mont Blanc Tourism – a partner of the Critérium du Dauphiné
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Hard day's night
The teams arrived in Megève the night before the final stage, having travelled from the finish of stage seven in Finhaut-Emosson. Katusha’s mechanics were hard at work on the bikes of Simon Spilak, winner of stage five, and Dani Moreno, who finished third overall last year.
Stop the press
Yuri Trofimov won stage four from Montélimar to Gap, and appears to have been awarded a new bike by Katusha's bike supplier, Canyon, for his efforts. The top tube sports the legend, Aeroad CF SLX, and the handlebar is a one-piece unit integrated with the stem. Trofimov's is the first new bike we spotted at the Dauphiné. Scroll down to see the second.
Flick the switch
Unusually for a climber, Dani Moreno uses Shimano’s ‘sprinter switches’, allowing him to shift while riding on the drops. The 59kg Spaniard has a fast finish when the sprint is uphill, as he proved by winning the 2013 La Fleche Wallonne.
You can't park there, mate...
Perfect sunshine greeted the riders on the morning of the final stage in Megève and the team parking area, positioned close to the Palais Des Sports in the centre of the upmarket ski resort, soon thronged with staff and fans.
The fourth emergency service
Mavic’s neutral service cars are an ever-present at races organised by the ASO, and the Critérium du Dauphiné was no different. The iconic yellow vehicles carried three Cannodale CAAD 10 bikes in sizes 52, 54, and 58cm, and a cargo of Cosmic Carbone Ultimate carbon hoops and R-Sys aluminium clinchers.
Toe the line
With such a proliferation of pedals in the peloton, the neutral service teams are hard pressed to cater for everybody. Part of Mavic’s solution is to offer a traditional toe clip and strap, as well as a selection from leading manufacturers, such as Time. Jens Voigt famously rode a section of the sixteenth stage of the 2010 Tour de France on an undersized Mavic machine equipped with toe clips after crashing on a descent of the Peyresourde.
Start me up
Several of the riders used the countdown to the start of stage eight to turn their legs on the rollers. Astana’s Andriy Grivko was among the many who filled their time with a pre-race warm up. The Ukranain endured a tough stage and led home the grupetto more than 27 minutes after stage winner, MIkel Nieve, had crossed the line.
Wheel selection was varied for the final stage, with many of the GC contenders opting for rim depths of 40mm and more, despite the weight penalty and a mountainous parcours. Europcar’s Cyril Gautier opted for Campagnolo’s ultra low and ultra light Hyperon Ultra Two. The 21mm rear wheel weighs a claimed 695g, while Campagnolo say the 20mm front tips the scale at 536g.
Four-armed is forewarned
Campagnolo’s new four-arm, carbon chainset first appeared on select Europcar bikes at last month’s Giro d’Italia, and despite a subsequent public unveiling of the new MY2015 Super Record, Record, and Chorus groupsets, was in limited supply at the Dauphine, appearing on just one of the French team’s machines. The design allows the use of three different arm lengths (170mm, 172.5mm, 175mm) across three different chainring combinations (53/39, 52/36, and 50/34).
Meet the new bike...part one
Trek is remaining tight-lipped on any evolutions to its flagship Madone 7 race bike, but the machine ridden by the Basque veteran, Haimar Zubeldia, appeared significantly different to the Madone 7.9 you’ll find in your local bike shop, most notably in its rounded tube profiles and seat-stay mounted rear brake.
Meet the new bike...part two
Team Sky’s bus and bikes predictably drew the greatest attention with a crowd of several hundred people testimony to the appeal of Britain’s only UCI WorldTour team. A fleet of Pinarello’s new Dogma F8 machines awaited the riders, who remained on the team bus until moments before sign-on, with good reason – Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome had to fight their way through the throng.
A Welshman abroad
Geraint Thomas was one of the riders in greatest demand. The Welshman took time out to sign autographs for fans on his way to and from the team bus to the sign-on area.
My other bike is a Dogma F8
Chris Froome’s spare Pinarello Dogma F8 takes pride of place on the outside of the team car. The team leader’s machine is always kept closest to hand in case of emergency. Froome ran a combination of 50mm Shimano Dura-Ace C50 rear wheel and 35mm Dura-Ace C35 front wheel for the final stage of the Dauphine, shunning the Japanese component giant’s ultra light C24 climbing wheel.
Oval is the new round
Froome, ahem, rolled out with Osymetric’s radically-shaped chainring, poorly disguised by the Team Sky mechanics, who appear to have opted to fill in the identifying stickers with black pen after failing to remove them entirely. Bradley Wiggins used the ovalised rings for his 2012 Tour de France triumph, but has since returned to conventional round rings.
Man of the moment
Chris Froome was mobbed on his way to sign on for the final stage. Few sports offer such access to its elite athletes, but occasionally it’s possible to understand why the biggest stars need a little security. Froome, as ever, was unfailingly polite, and after he had signed on, was happy to sign autographs.
Choose your weapon
The FDJ.fr team now has a host of machinery to choose from, following the recent addition of two new models from French supplier, Lapierre: the Aircode aero-profiled road bike, and the Pulsium endurance bike. It was the Xelius Ultimate EFI, however, that served as weapon-of-choice for the team at the Dauphine – the lightest of the three.
Share and share alike
The tiny Lapierre Xelius EFI Ultimate of French climbing sensation, Kenny Elissonde, was fitted with his team-mate’s power meter for the final stage of the Dauphine. Presumably Yoann Offredo didn’t need it on this particular day.
One day, that's gonna be me
French sprinter, Arnaud Demare, winner of last year’s inaugural RideLondon-Surrey Classic, is a rider keen to carve out his own legacy, but the name of a more accomplished rival adorns his handlebar stem.
Round is the new oval
Unlike Scottish team-mate, David Millar, Garmin-Sharp’s team leaders, Ryder Hesjedal and Andrew Talansky, use Rotor’s circular No-Q ring in preference to the ovalised equivalent with which the Spanish brand has made its name. Also absent from the Canadian’s machine (and that of his American team-mate) are the ‘pods’ necessary to transmit data from Garmin’s Vector power pedal.
Packed and ready
With changeable weather forecast for the high mountains of the French Savoie-Mont Blanc region, Tinkoff-Saxo were taking no chances, packing spare kit for each of the riders. The team’s foresight proved to be well-placed: heavy rain hit the penultimate climb, the Côte de Montagny.
Steed of champions
Tinoff-Saxo’s blue and yellow-liveried fleet of Speicalized S-Works machines are among the smartest in the peloton, in the humble opinion of this correspondent. The 54cm Tarmac of the man who rolled out as race leader, Alberto Contador, is no exception.
Contador was another of the GC contenders to roll out on deep-ish wheels, rather than opt for the shallowest and lightest profile available. The Spaniard opted for Specialized Roval Rapide CLX 40s, despite having Zipp’s ultra light 202 at his disposal. The additional 60g did not appear to weigh him down. The Spaniard produced another impressive display to ride away from chief rival, Chris Froome, and finish second overall.
On the line
Chris Froome and Alberto Contador lined up side-by-side for the final stage of the Dauphine. The pair had spent much of the race in close proximity and the final stage was no different. When the chips went down on the Côte de Montagny, however, the pair parted company.