Primož Roglič, Giulio Ciccone and Matteo Jorgenson during stage 7 of the 2024 Critérium du Dauphiné.

Answering the Dauphiné’s questions: The favourites have work to do, but at least Visma-Lease a Bike has a Plan B

Primož Roglič came out on top, but his form is just one of the many questions left after the pre-Tour de France race.

Primož Roglič (Bora-Hansgrohe) casts an eye over the competition, including Giulio Ciccone (Lidl-Trek) and Matteo Jorgenson (Visma-Lease a Bike) during stage 7 of the 2024 Critérium du Dauphiné. Photo: © Cor Vos

Kit Nicholson
by Kit Nicholson 10.06.2024 Photography by
Cor Vos
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Just 24 hours ago, I expected to be describing Bora-Hansgrohe’s word-perfect dress rehearsal for the Tour de France. Sure, their Critérium du Dauphiné lead remained intact on the final Alpine stage, but it was a deflated yellow jersey that Primož Roglič pulled on for the last time.

Roglič and his new team were far from the only storyline from the French stage race: there was a measure of Evenepoel’s recovery after the Basque Country crash; an evaluation of the underdog contenders, even a chance to identify who they might be; and one pretty significant revelation.

A little over a week ago, we posed some questions to which the Dauphiné was likely to offer answers:

At the culmination of eight stages, we have answers to some of these questions, and we’ve got new ones to add to the list.

Is recovery on track?

Perhaps we should define ‘on track’ before digging into this: we’re talking back to expected form or pretty darned close. For that reason, I would offer an optimistic, “Yeah?” It’s also worth noting that their comebacks don’t really compare. While Roglič was nursing the superficial injuries – bruises and abrasions – collected in multiple crashes, Evenepoel had fractures to overcome.

In the end, both finished in the top 10, Roglič obviously on top – albeit only by 8 seconds – and Evenepoel seventh, both of them winning one or two stages along the way.

For much of the race, the only question around Roglič was whether he was holding something back by not taking more time out of his rivals than what he gained in the final kilometre of stages 6 and 7; would he be able to build on his current winning form to take on the likes of Tadej Pogačar and Jonas Vingegaard (assuming they’re both fit)? After showing weakness on stage 8, we’re back to wondering if he’s got it in him to match the repeated accelerations that a Tour champion requires.

Evenepoel meanwhile was telling the world until blue in the face that he wasn’t expecting to threaten the yellow jersey, he just wanted to win the time trial in his world champ’s bands and ride his own pace in the mountains. Mission accomplished.

For Evenepoel, another key element of the Dauphiné was to develop his new partnership with Mikel Landa. They seem to be getting on pretty well, at least.

Both Remco and Roglič now have three weeks and some sharpening to do before the Tour gets underway in Tuscany.

Will Bora-Hansgrohe dominate?

Like I said above, Bora-Hansgrohe was showing off some textbook racing … until stage 8 when it went a little wrong.

Most notable was stage 7 when no one really tried to take control away from the team in yellow – Ineos Grenadiers in particular had got in on the pace-setting on stage 6 – each rider taking in turns to lead the bunch onto and up the final climb: Marco Haller, then Nico Denz, Bob Jungels, Matteo Sobrero, Jai Hindley, and finally Aleksandr Vlasov for the final tow under the flamme rouge, preserving his own top-10 GC placing in the process.

Bora Hansgrohe look after yellow jersey-wearer Primož Roglič during stage 7 of the 2024 Critérium du Dauphiné.
Nico Denz leads the peloton on stage 7.

It was a seminar in good old-fashioned GC team riding, putting off their rivals from doing anything by forcing them into the red where only one acceleration might be fatal to a contender’s goals. Better just to let them get on with it. 

However, it was a completely different story on the following day, the crucial final day. Matteo Jorgenson, by now Roglič’s closest rival at a one-minute-two-second disadvantage, said he could tell the yellow jersey was suffering early on the stage, and by the final climb, the other GC teams were ready to pounce.

“On the first climb of the day the pace was very high and … I already felt that Primož was a bit on the limit there, Tiesj Benoot saw that too,” Jorgenson said on the Plateau des Glières at the finish of stage 8.

The Ineos Grenadiers had already shown their cards with a show of force on the penultimate Category 1 climb, applying pressure on the peloton with about 60 km still to go. Domestiques were dwindling for all the favourites at the foot of the final climb, so when Laurens De Plus hit the front at a blistering pace for Carlos Rodríguez, everyone was pushed to the limit. The group began to shred, and despite his best efforts, Vlasov couldn’t keep pace and drifted off the back more than 5 km from the line, leaving the yellow jersey isolated. Then when Rodríguez launched just a few-hundred metres later, Roglič was unable to follow.

What went wrong? Perhaps Bora-Hansgrohe were too focused on themselves, or maybe they had an off day, or they just weren’t strong enough. They had a good day on Saturday, and on Sunday they were spent … All that said, one bad day shouldn’t wipe the slate, and it might even be the catalyst they need to do their best to avoid similar happening down the line.

How are the Ineos Grenadiers looking?

The once-general classification powerhouse ended on a high with a Rodríguez stage win and top-four GC result about six weeks after the young Spaniard took his first GC title at the Tour de Romandie. As for the question at hand, it’s fair to say that the British outfit was at least one of the better-equipped to take on Bora, not least because they were the only other team to finish the race with a full bus.

Josh Tarling at the head of the Ineos Grenadiers train alongside Matteo Jorgenson in the white jersey during stage 6 of the 2024 Critérium du Dauphiné.
Josh Tarling at the head of the Ineos Grenadiers train during stage 6 of the Dauphiné.

They certainly had the confidence and firepower to take it to Bora and Roglič on stage 8, picking it up from way out to wear down their rivals’ support systems, and De Plus might just have wrestled the week’s super-domestique award off Vlasov on the final climb. The Belgian’s work as righthand man to Rodríguez throughout the Dauphiné has seen him finish fifth overall, just one place behind his teammate, his best result in years – he won the BinckBank Tour in 2019, but that’s a very different creature, incomparable even to the mountainous terrain of the Dauphiné.

Michał Kwiatkowski was of course another stalwart of the Ineos lineup, as were Jonathan Castroviejo and Omar Fraile, but one of the surprise packages came in the form of one Josh Tarling. The heaviest man in the race narrowly missed out on time trial victory on stage 4, but more impressive by far was that he out-climbed some of the pre-race favourites including Jack Haig and Evenepoel on stage 7’s final ascent. He was then key to the pace-setting line-up with Kwiatkowski – a pretty decent mentor for this burgeoning stage racer – when the team began to unfurl their plan for the stage 8 finale. He’s one to watch.

Anyway, back to the question at hand. Unlike Bora-Hansgrohe’s clear goals to let their team gel all in one place, Ineos has split their Tour-destined riders across the Dauphiné and Tour de Suisse, Tom Pidcock and Egan Bernal the headliners in Switzerland, while Geraint Thomas is wedged between the Giro and Tour. Add those three to Rodríguez, Kwiatkowski, with De Plus now surely headed the same way, they have a pretty decent team. But how far can they really go?

Visma-Lease a Bike’s plan B

Let me get this out of the way first: who put a curse on Visma-Lease a Bike? Or maybe Richard Plugge actually made a deal with the devil for their success in 2023, which he’s now paying for … ?

The latest (double) blow to the Dutch superteam came in the massive crash on stage 5 of the Dauphiné where the worst-affected riders by far were wearing black and yellow. And these weren’t nobodies either. Steven Kruijswijk suffered a fractured hip and Dylan van Baarle broke his collarbone, meaning both key support riders will be unable to ride the Tour de France for the already ailing Visma-Lease a Bike team. To add insult to, well, injury, Sepp Kuss registered a DNS on stage 8, he and the team opting not to push him any further after several days struggling with illness and recovery.

Primož Roglič crosses the line just ahead of Matteo Jorgenson to win stage 7 of the 2024 Critérium du Dauphiné.
Jorgenson was the only rider not to lose time to Roglič on stage 7, besides the bonus seconds won via stage victory.

It wasn’t all bad, though. Not for the first time this season, be it at Classics or stage racing, Matteo Jorgenson came to the rescue. The 24-year-old American tried not to let Roglič out of his sight, unless he was leaving him behind. He finished on the Slovenian’s wheel on stages 2 and 7, and limited his losses on stage 6, then the final day came and he came oh-so close to snatching the overall title.

With Paris-Nice victory already under his belt in what has been his best season so far, Jorgenson has put himself at the head of the line for Visma-Lease a Bike.

Presumably Kuss’s Grand Tour experience will lend him some of the influence that his 2024 results sadly do not, but should Jonas Vingegaard be fit to race and lead the team, Plan B status is more than likely to fall to the younger American who’s just finished runner-up at the biggest pre-Tour race by just eight seconds.

Does anyone show signs of matching a Giro-esque Pogačar?


Additional head-scratchers

It’s always important to remind ourselves that the Dauphiné is not the Tour de France, but even so, there is one name in particular that is going to find itself in heavy use between now and the Tour.

That name is Derek Gee. His stage 3 win was a huge breakthrough for the rider who finished second on four out of his seven breakaway attempts at the 2023 Giro d’Italia, but it didn’t stop there. Sixth in the time trial followed, which saw him drop from first to fourth overall, then it was into the mountains proper for a trilogy of Alpine challenges. Top five finishes on stage 6 and 7 led to an ascent on to the overall podium, and he was considered a huge threat on the final day, which ended with third place for the Canadian after out-climbing all but Rodríguez and Jorgenson.

Who had Derek Gee on the GC podium on their Dauphiné bingo card?

His team staff have indicated almost as much surprise as the rest of us at Gee’s staying power this week, but they’re only too happy to embrace it, indicating that the 26-year-old has traits not far off the likes of Geraint Thomas, who was a fairly late bloomer as far as GC was concerned. And there’s some solid experience on the team. While Chris Froome continues to languish outside the top 70 (seventy), Gee himself commented that the four-time Tour winner was “Not a bad guy to have walking you through a GC bid.”

So just how far can he go? Top 10 at the Tour? A future Grand Tour champion for Canada? None of those are likely this year, but he’s suddenly indicating there’s a lot more to unpack in his powerful figure.

French hopes

I won’t labour the point. But it looks set to be another year of disappointment for French fans. Based on the Dauphiné, David Gaudu is a long way from the form needed to get anywhere at the Tour de France unless he makes an extraordinary turnaround in the next three weeks. In the past two years he’s finished fourth and ninth overall at his home Grand Tour, and with so much time trialing – very much not his discipline – he might be best served to target the polka dots by getting in the break, as he did in the Dauphiné’s stage 8.

Romain Grégoire, though, might be relied upon at least to animate the more punchy stages to give Groupama-FDJ and France something to celebrate. His response to Gee’s attack on stage 3 looked good enough to finish the job, and he’ll have even more motivation to ensure that happens next month.

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