Tour favourites prepare for Dauphine battle

Road,Dauphine,FRA,Froome,Porte,Wiggins,Sky,Contador, Rodriguez
Form guide...2012 Dauphine podium (Getty Images)
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With the first Grand Tour of the year completed, attention turns to the Critérium du Dauphiné, an important test for the Tour de France favourites.

The testing climbs featured in the eight-stage French Alpine tour provide a reliable form guide ahead of the Tour. Bradley Wiggins won the Dauphine title in 2012 before going on to win the Tour de France weeks later.

Wiggins was joined on the podium by two Australians, Michael Rogers, then racing for Team Sky, and Cadel Evans (BMC).

While Wiggins stole the show in 2012 it is likely to be his team-mate Chris Froome who will be the key contender in the event that gets under way on 2 June.

Froome has had an enviable start to the season, winning the Tour of Oman, Critérium International and Tour de Romandie. He has only been beaten once in a stage race this year, finishing second to Giro d'Italia winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) in Tirreno–Adriatico in March.   

Froome will be joined by an ever-strong Team Sky squad that includes Paris-Nice winner Australian Richie Porte and recent Tour of Norway winner Edvald Boasson Hagen

Other Tour favourites will be closely watched, with Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Katusha's Joaquim Rodriguez vying for their first Dauphiné crown. Australia's Cadel Evans (BMC) who recently finished third in the Giro d'Italia will miss the Dauphine.

Former Dauphiné winners Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Janez Brajkovič (Astana) will also fight to write a new chapter in the history of the race.

Meanwhile, the French team Ag2r-La Mondiale will voluntarily miss the event as a result of Sylvain Georges's recent positive drug test. The outfit is a member of the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC) anti-doping movement which requires teams that have had two positive drug tests in the space of a year to voluntarily miss the next WorldTour race. In addition to Geroges's result, Ag2R-La Mondiale Steve Houanard tested positive for EPO last September.

Testing course
For the first time the Dauphiné,will start outside the French border with the Swiss town of Champéry hosting the opening stage, a 121km road race.

The 32.5km individual time trial on Stage 4 in Villars-les-DombesParc des Oiseaux will be a key stage for the race contenders but the vital moments will come in the Alps with a summit finish at Valmorel on Stage 5 and the famous l'Aple d'Huez featuring in Stage 7.

SBS will have LIVE online streaming of the Criterium du Dauphine through the Cycling Central website followed by a delayed television broadcast of each stage. Details here.

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