After a break of almost six months, the first stage race was ahead of me. The race was planned as a preparation for the TdF. Strong competition was gathered on the starting list, which was to be expected, as this is the only serious stage test before the big TdF. The number of stages was reduced to five this year and there was no time trial. However all five stages had focused on mountain climbs.
Let’s go stage by stage:
Stage 1: Claremont Ferrand – Saint Christo en Jarez
Data from the meter: length 217.4km, altitude meters: 3.432m, duration: 5h 27min
This was my first appearance at the Dauphine race and the first difficult and varied stage was the longest of all planned with seven categorized ascents – five fourth categories, one third and one second. A very hot and steamy day awaited us. The team helped me all the time and stood by my side throughout the entire stage. The last two climbs were shorter and not too steep and thus less selective. Because of this, a fairly large group of over 50 competitors came to the climb against my expectations. In the end, I had to find myself in this crowd and I managed to “sprint” to a great fifth place on the longer outside. Considering the fact that there were really many of us in the end and that all the best competitors gathered at this race, and that I didn’t have the best position before the sprint, I was more than satisfied with the result.
Stage 2 : Vienne– Col de Porte
Data from the meter: length 135.8km, altitude meters: 2,724m, duration: 3h 40min
On paper, there was a short but very demanding stage ahead of us. The weather continued to be very sultry. My well-being and legs were not the best that day but I still endured almost to the end. It was difficult for me on the last most demanding slopes of Col de Porte, but I still managed to keep up with the first group until the last 2 km before the finish, where the best ones accelerated even more. I reached the finish line at my own pace with a minute behind and squeezed out of myself everything that was possible that day.
Stage 3: Corenc – Saint Martin de Belleville
Data from the meter: length 156.1km, altitude meters: 3.245m, duration: 4h 07min
The stage was a bit easier in the first half and in the second half of the stage we had to overcome two very difficult slopes. The first Col de la Madeleine came in turn after 86 km driven. The slope of more than 17 km and an average slope of 8.3% was the first obstacle to the finish line that day. On the run in front we had David (Formola), who managed to shake off everyone else on this very slope and held on to the finish line in a solo run and thus won the stage. I felt a little better that day and managed to reach the finish line with all the best in 8th place. The victory of my teammate Formula gave the team additional motivation for the next day, when, according to the profile, the most difficult mountain stage awaited us.
Stage 4: Ugine – Megeve (Montee de l’Altiport)
Meter data: length 148.8km, altitude meters: 4,186m, duration: 4h 31min
Saturday’s stage was the hardest on paper. That day we had in the breakaway group David De La Cruz, who managed to pick up most of the points at the passes and at the end of the day also wore the polka dot jersey for the best cyclist on mountain goals. There were six peaks that day. First the two first categorie ones, then the ascent of the third and second categories, the ascent of the Montee de Bisanne extra category (12.4 km 8.2%) and finally the last slope to Megeva (7.4 km 4.7%). Unfortunately, in addition to the difficulty, the stage was also marked by crashes and resignations. Primož (Roglič) was also on the ground, but fortunately he was able to continue and we reached the finish line together. Luckily, I managed to avoid all these falls and ride to the finish line with all the best. A really difficult stage, but my well-being and the rhythm of racing seem to be getting better compared to the previous days.
Stage 5: Megeve – Megeve (Montee de l’Altiport)
Meter data: length 141km, altitude meters: 3,834m, duration: 3h 59min
As you know, Primož gave up the start in the last stage and did not defend his yellow jersey due to the consequences of the fall. This meant a lot of “changed” tactical variants ,as the differences between the leading in the race were small, and the effects of the difficulty of the previous stage were well known in our feet. Megeve hosted the start and finish of the last stage, and in between we had as many as eight categorized ascents. We were all expecting a tough day and so it was. Right from the start, it went full throttle and so on until the end. The team did a great job for me that day. We managed to break up the group with some others, leaving some favorites in the GC behind. I myself was very active in the second part of the stage and tried jumping a few times. 26km before the finish I managed to dilute the group and there were only five of us left. Everyone had their goals and in the end the strongest won that day, I ran out of time to win, but I am more than satisfied with winning third place in the stage and fourth overall and at the same time am happy that everything related to preparations for the big Tour went according to plan . However, this stage was the most difficult of all, as it went to full speed from the beginning without tactics (this is also proven by the data from my computer). I can also write that this was the most difficult stage race I have ridden so far, as all five stages were mountain climbs with a lot of altitude meters, and an additional problem was the heat.
In the end, I would like to thank my UAE Team Emirates team and all the guys who helped me all these days and tried to bring me to the conclusions of the stages as fresh as possible. We are a real “gang” and together we enjoyed all the rest of the time that was available to us these days. I would also like to thank my family who have been following me and cheering for me all week. I wish all the guys who suffered injuries due to falls, especially Primož, a speedy and, above all, a successful recovery and a return to the “peloton” as soon as possible.