The Tour de France build-up begins here

It's one of the final tests of form before the Tour de France, so you won't want to miss a second

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The Tour de France comes ever closer into view this week with the final big French warm-up race, the Critérium du Dauphiné.

For decades future winners of the Tour de France have fine tuned their preparation at the eight-stage Dauphiné, with a series of high mountain climbs preparing the ground for the big battles that will take place in July.

When Team Sky were at the height of their powers, Chris Froome (three times), Geraint Thomas and Bradley Wiggins all won the race before triumphing at the Tour, and Jonas Vingegaard hopes that he will continue that trend this time around for Jumbo-Visma.

The Dane was in sparkling form in the spring with two GC victories in Spain, even in spite of being beaten to victory at Paris-Nice by Tadej Pogačar, and the 26-year-old is the overwhelming favourite to win the Dauphiné. He will, however, face stiff competition from a number of riders, in particular Groupama-FDJ’s David Gaudu who finished above him at Paris-Nice, taking second overall.

Pogačar will not be present, but his UAE Team Emirates will have a strong candidate for the overall victory in Adam Yates, the recent winner of the Tour de Romandie. There is also the double threat that Movistar pose with Enric Mas and Matteo Jorgensen. Ineos Grenadiers, meanwhile, have their Tour de France duo lining up: Dani Martínez and Carlos Rodriguez.

The start list, further bolstered with Mikel Landa, Jai Hindley and Ben O’Connor, is five-star, and you can check out the entire startlist on the GCN+ app. It’s not just GC men, either. Though there are no clear-cut sprint stages on offer, the race has still attracted Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco-Alula) and Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe), and they will be among the Tour’s fastest men come July.

The quality of the field is exceptional, and the parcours is explosive. All seven road stages could force major rejigs in the general classification, and stage four’s 31.1km time trial to Belmont-de-la-Loire finishes with shallow 12km climb will also result in sizeable time gaps. Find out about every detail of the route through the GCN+ app.

You will want to make sure that you’re sitting comfortably for next Saturday’s stage seven that finishes atop the iconic Col de la Croix de Fer. The queen stage, the racing will be dramatic and full-on from the off, with the stage odometer totalling just 147km.

One of the many great things of the Dauphiné is its ability to constantly test riders, and the mountainous terrain makes it essential that everyone is switched on. With so many GC teams sharpening their collective tools ahead of the Tour, and with so many riders wanting to deliver a psychological blow to their rivals just a few weeks out from their quest to win yellow, action can ignite at any time.

Fortunately, each and every stage will be shown live and ad-free on GCN+, with every kilometre broadcast into our homes or wherever we may be. Thanks to the GCN+ app, the racing can be streamed on our mobiles, tablets and computers, ensuring that even if we’re away from the TV and instead at work (our bosses will understand) or on a train, we needn’t miss a single kilometre of what will unfold.

Guiding us through the race will be GCN+’s informed commentary and expert punditry, while the pause, rewind, fast forward and resume options make it impossible to miss any of the action.

David Gaudu impressed with his performance Paris-Nice earlier this year (James Startt)

In a race like the Dauphiné where unpredictably rages, it’s good to know that GCN+ put together a series of highlights packages to suit however much time we have, and when we’re craving for some post-stage analysis, it’s even more pleasing to know that the World of Cycling Show is on hand to digest everything that happened, highlighting the race-winning moves and dissecting any controversy.

After eight days of racing we will have a firmer idea of where Vingegaard, second in this race last year behind newly crowned Giro d’Italia champion Primož Roglič, currently is in his attempt to defend Tour yellow, and we’ll also know if Gaudu can transform his good early-season form into a serious challenge for the Tour victory.

If after all the thrilling racing you still need a bike fix, scroll through GCN+’s archives of previous races, including the recent Giro d’Italia, or treat yourself to a night in watching one of the dozens of epic adventure films and record-breaking pursuits.

Ahead of another thrilling summer of racing, make sure you’re subscribed to the best streaming service around in cycling so you’re on top of every moment of action.

You can catch all of the Critérium du Dauphiné and Tour de France by subscribing to GCN+ here. (Territory restrictions may apply).

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