• Richie Porte will lead BMC at the Critérium du Dauphiné (AAP)Source: AAP
As the clock ticks down to the start of the Critérium du Dauphiné the main contenders are itching to see how their training has panned out in this week-long test ahead of the Tour de France.
Cycling Central

31 May 2016 - 11:49 AM  UPDATED 31 May 2016 - 12:40 PM

The Dauphiné will host the world’s best cyclists from 5-12 June for a battle of titans in the Alps with a new time trial from the Les Gets ski resort to the finish at Superdévoluy.

Defending race winner, Chris Froome (Sky), who has been less dominating this season, will have to fend off attacks from Alberto Contador (Tinkoff), Richie Porte (BMC), Fabio Aru (Astana), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Romain Bardet (AG2R), all of whom want to win ahead of the Tour de France.

It will be difficult to pick a winner before the racing gets underway. While, for the most part, the main contenders are the same as last year, the conditions of their arrival at the start line have largely changed. With team transfers since the summer of 2015, the rise of key riders who have become credible contenders for the overall win and changes in riders’ physical condition will all play a part in how the event will unfold.

With the Dauphiné, like the Tour de France, Froome came into last year’s races as the overwhelming favourite for the win and most definitely assumed his stature. However, his 2016 calendar has been less engaging with a much lighter schedule of races, and he has more often than not been dominated by his direct rivals.

While no one would surmise that this has left the leader of Team Sky out of contention, the uncertainty about his superiority is likely be on the minds of his main rivals. The usual suspects like Contador, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and former team-mate Porte, are his most pronounced adversaries. Newcomers such as Aru, winner of the 2015 Vuelta, and Pinot, who rode particularly strong on the recent Tour of Romandie, where he finished second, are serious outsiders.

The French contingent has plenty of possible threats in addition to Bardet, who has always shown well on the Dauphiné (fifth in 2014, and sixth with a stage win in 2015). Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickSTep) could build on his momentum after winning the Amgen Tour of California to aim for another prestigious overall win or podium result.

Porte is looking forward to returning to racing after illness forced him to withdraw from the Tour de Romandie.

"Since the Tour de Romandie I've put in some really good training blocks at home and with the team at training camp, so I'm ready to put that training to the test at the Critérium du Dauphiné,” said the Australian.

“It's always a tough race and knowing that it will be my last race before the Tour de France, I want to show what I can do." - Richie Porte

"Of course you go into any race to win,” said BMC sports director Valerio Piva. “But the main goal of the Critérium du Dauphiné is for Richie to really test his legs and see where his form is at, as it's one of the biggest tests before the Tour de France.

"It's a great opportunity to race together as a team, especially for the riders who will be there to support Richie and are hoping to be selected for the Tour de France roster.”

Teejay van Garderen (BMC) will miss the Dauphiné and compete instead for the general classification in the Tour de Suisse. This will give both Porte and van Garderen separate opportunities to lead the team before working together during the Tour de France.  

SBS will broadcast all stages of the Critérium du Dauphiné LIVE on SBS2. All times are AEST.

Sunday 5 June
21:35-23:05 SBS2

Stage 1
Monday 6 June
23:55-01:25 SBS2

Stage 2
Tuesday 7 June
23:55-01:25 SBS2

Stage 3
Thursday 9 June
00:05-01:30 SBS2

Stage 4
Thursday 9 June
23:55-01:25 SBS2

Stage 5
Saturday 11 June
00:00-01:25 SBS2

Stage 6
Sunday 12 June
00:20-01:50 SBS2

Stage 7
Sunday 12 June
21:35-23:15 SBS2