The Vingegaard show - the Critérium du Dauphiné 2023 in review

In their last test before the Tour in July, there'll be some serious concerns about the form of some of the GC hopefuls

The start list for the race known as being the ‘mini Tour de France’ lived up to its reputation, with many of the contenders for the yellow jersey in July hoping to find some timely form. Chief among them was Jonas Vingegaard, who finished second last year behind teammate Primož Roglič (absent this year following his Giro d'Italia victory) and who, while Tadej Pogačar continues to recuperate from his crash-sustained injuries, was hot favourite for overall victory.

Vingegaard wins at a canter 

Even with that tag as overall favourite, the margin of Vingegaard’s victory and the ease with which he swatted aside his rivals was remarkable. He was simply untouchable in the mountains, riding away on a late category three climb with an attack that wasn’t even planned to win stage five, then attacking 5km from the summit offstage seven’s Col de la Croix de Fer summit finish to win by a huge 41 seconds, before gaining even more time on the final stage with another unanswerable attack. His eventual winning margin of 2-23 was the biggest at the Critérium de Dauphine since the 1993 edition, as well as being the biggest of any WorldTour stage race this season, eclipsing the 1-12 Vingegaard won Itzulia Basque Country by in April.

This is a new Vingegaard we’re witnessing. Whereas in the last two seasons his Tour de France appearance was preceded by glimpses of brilliance but uneven form, this year he’s been relentlessly dominant, slipping up and failing to win the GC only once, when he misjudged his efforts on the key mountain stage of Paris-Nice. He’s not been afraid to show his hand, and, with all the doubts about Pogačar, has established himself as the favourite to win the Tour de France. 

Concerning form for top Tour favourites 

Whereas Vingegaard’s only real worry will be that he has peaked too soon, many of the riders billed as being overall contenders both here and for the Tour have been left anxiously hoping that there’s time between now and July to find some form. 

Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) still looked a shadow of his former self, riding steadily but without his previous bite to finish 12th overall, but that was to be expected as he continues to accustom himself to racing. What was more concerning was the form of Enric Mas (Movistar), Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious), David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) and Richard Carapaz (EF Education-EasyPost), who, despite all of Bernal’s problems, actually finished beneath the Colombian on GC.Rarely have so many top Tour favourites suddenly looked so off-form with the Tour so close. While none of these riders will have been surprised to lose between two to three minutes in the time trial given their relative weakness in the discipline (or especially concerned, given that the Tour only features 22km against the clock this year), their lack of climbing legs was startling given their form going into the race. Landa had been riding consistently all year and seemed to be improving with each race, following seventh-place finishes at Tirreno-Adriatico and Volta a Catalunya with second-place at Itzulia Basque Country; just three months ago Gaudu actually finished ahead of Vingegaard at Paris-Nice; Mas hadn’t finished lower than sixth in any stage race so far this season; and Carapaz looked like he’d turned a corner the week before by winning Classic Alpes-Maritimes. 

Will three weeks be enough for them to get to the required level to challenge for the Tour de France? They will have to hope so. 

UAE Team Emirates put up a fight 

There wasn’t much of a fight put up against Vingegaard and Jumbo-Visma, who as a team ended up winning four stages thanks to Christophe Laporte’s couple of sprint victories. What resistance they were met with mostly came from UAE Team Emirates, with Mikkel Bjerg denying Vingegaard another stage win in the time trial, and Adam Yates finishing second overall. 
Yates spent most of the mountain stages riding in pursuit of Vingegaard ahead of the rest of the field, something he may need to get used to ahead of his expected super-domestique role at the Tour de France, where chasing Vingegaard with leader Tadej Pogačar in his wheel looks set to be his remit.
Vingegaard didn’t actually have as much assistance from his domestiques as he’s used to, with the abandonment of Steven Kruijswijk leaving Tiesj Benoot and Attila Valter as the only men with him in the mountains, but that hardly mattered as he still won with ease. And with Wout van Aert, Sepp Kuss and others to join up with him in July, they’ll have more ammunition in the battle against UAE Team Emirates.

Aussies and Alaphilippe show encouraging form

For all the riders who were so surprisingly off form at the Dauphiné, there were a few who, even though they couldn’t so much as lay a glove on Vingegaard, will still be encouraged going into the Tour de France.
It was a particularly promising race for Australians. Ben O’Connor (AG2R Citreön) matched his podium finish of last year with another third place, laying the foundations with a revelatory time trial, before climbing well in the mountains. If he can avoid the same fate as last year, when he abandoned injured at the end of the opening week, a Tour de France podium certainly looks within reach.
And Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) also seems to be coming to the boil at just the right time. Last year’s Giro d’Italia champion showed his best form of the season so far to place fourth overall, and tends to peak at Grand Tours rather than the races that precede them. 

Away from the GC battle, there were also very encouraging signs from Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal–Quick-Step). Not only did the French favourite manage to win his first WorldTour race since last April on stage two, he was also in great climbing form, even managing to finish in the top ten on GC. The nation’s great entertainer looks like he’ll be back to his best on his much-anticipated return to the Tour next month. 

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