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
Aussies and Alaphilippe show encouraging form
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.