The 2022 Critérium du Dauphiné is upon us and that means that the Tour de France season is officially open! This year’s edition starts on Sunday, June 5th, and ends exactly one week later on the 12th. Traditionally the main race used by general classification (GC) contenders to prepare for the Tour, the 2022 Critérium du Dauphiné has a great route (which can be seen below). In 2021 the first 8 riders were all within a minute of each other. A year later I do not think the same will happen.
Startlists aren’t official yet so all the upcoming analysis is subject to change, but most of it should be solid. We’re just two days away from the race after all.
The question right now seems to be: who can stop Primoz Roglic from winning his second World Tour stage race of 2022? The second one in France too, after the Paris Nice earlier in the year. The answer is probably nobody. Jumbo Visma’s lineup is crazy: in addition to the Slovenian, the Dutch team will bring to France: Jonas Vingegaard, Steven Kruijswijk, Wout Van Aert, Rohan Dennis, Tiesj Benoot, and Christophe Laporte. All of these could be team leaders in not-so-few teams taking part in the race.
Anyway, Jumbo’s main rivals should be Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers), Wilco Kelderman (Bora Hansgrohe), David Gaudu (Groupama FDJ), Ben O’Connor (AG2R Citroen) Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious). From these I would look mainly to David Gaudu and Bahrain as a team to rival Jumbo Visma.
David Gaudu seems to me to be the strongest of the rest on the mountains, even if his 2022 has been less than stellar, so far.
I’m not a fan of Jack Haig as a Tour de France leader – I think his peak is top-10 contender which is out of this world for a normal human being but for a professional rider inside of a team like Bahrain, isn’t brilliant. The team also brings Damiano Caruso and Pello Bilbao who, together with the Australian, make for a fantastic trio. Thus, the team has several cards to play in GC but it’s doubtful they can challenge Jumbo Visma.
Hopefully, Tao Geoghegan Hart looked at his 2020 Giro rival’s recent performance and was inspired. Jai Hindley was 2nd to Hart’s 1st in that race and Hindley just won the 2022 edition of the Giro. I’m rooting for the young Brit to confirm his status as a premiere Grand Tour (GT) contender. His recent 5th place in the Tour of Norway is a good sign but certainly not enough for a former Giro winner.
Wilco Kelderman is just coming off a productive Giro d’Italia where he still finished in a respectable 17th place, despite working for the eventual winner, Jai Hindley. I don’t think anybody looks to Kelderman for victories at this point of his career but he’s always a rider to take into account when discussing a top-10 or potential top-5.
After a miserable Giro d’Italia, AG2R will once again be looking to Ben O’Connor to save their Tour de France aspirations. The Australian was 4th last year, largely on the back of a successful breakaway and stage victory in Tignes. In 2022 everybody knows how dangerous he is so it’s less likely teams will afford him the same liberties. He’s had a quiet but successful 2022 so far, having placed 6th in the Vuelta a Catalunya and 5th in the Tour of Romandie. He’s try to repeat these result in the Dauphiné but, especially, in the tour de France next month.
Other riders to keep an eye on are Jan Hirt and Louis Meintjes (both from Intermarche Wanty Gobert) and Tobias Halland Johannessen (Uno X).
Hirt is coming off the best GT performance of his career (6th in the Giro) and Meintjes just won the Giro dell’Appennino, an Italian one-day race. Meintjes traditionally performs well in the Tour so I’m looking more to him for a good performance here. He already placed twice in the top-10 in 2016 and 2017.
Finally, leaving the bets for last, Tobias Halland Johannessen is the rider that I’m the most curious to see. He won the Tour de L’Avenir last year and was already 7th in the 2022 Vuelta a Catalunya and 4th in the Tour of Norway. Uno X wasn’t invited to the Tour so this is one of the premiere opportunities the Norwegian youngster will have to show what he can do amongst the best in 2022. It’s clear he’s in good form and has the tools to impress. I expect a top-10 from him in the 2022 Critérium du Dauphiné. A stage win would be incredible for him and the team as well.
The Route (Source: Critérium du Dauphiné website)
The biggest difference, in my opinion, is the time trial length: 17km in 2021 compared to 32km this year. Almost double the distance, which will ensure there won’t be 8 riders within a minute of each other in 2022.
The stage profiles themselves are very interesting, not much different from last year, to be fair. This year the final stage will take the riders to the top of the Plateau de Salaison in a stage remarkably similar to stage 7 of the 2021 edition that took the riders to the top of La Plagne.
On the contrary, last year’s final stage is very similar to this year’s stage 7. Both with finishes atop of “easier” climbs after hors categorie summits.
I am a big fan of short stages so having both of these mountain stages span 135km and 139km is a fantastic bonus especially for the riders.
Together with the time trial, these should be the two stages that will define the GC.
About the remaining four stages of the 2022 Critérium du Dauphiné, it’s probably easier to order these thoughts in a list:
- Stage 3 is not so different from stage 6 of 2021, won by Alejandro Valverde. This was the time where the Spaniard turned back the clock and won the stage with one of his trademark accelerations close to the finish line, on a mountain summit. It didn’t make significant differences between the GC contenders and neither should its 2022 counterpart.
- The remaining stages (1, 2, 5 & 6) all have climbs on the 2nd half of the route, which will make bunch finishes impossible. These will likely still be contested in a sprint, but certainly not with the whole peloton in contention. Traditionally the sprinters that take part in the Dauphine are decent climbers as well but rarely have a team built around them. This makes these stages all the more interesting – hopefully they’ll be approached almost like classics and provide fantastic days of racing even if they won’t be very impactful in terms of GC.