It might be a shorter race this year, but it sure packs a punch. Here's six reasons to watch the 2020 Critérium du Dauphiné on SBS VICELAND.
Team Ineos v Jumbo-Visma
So much was made of the great Team INEOS v Jumbo-Visma Tour de France trident war of 2020. And we saw the first proper battle between the claret grenadiers and the killer yellow wasps at last weekend's Tour de l'Ain.
The little watched and little-raced-by-the-big-stars race most years saw Jumbo-Visma open a can of psychological whoop a** on a team stacked with three of the last three Tour de France champions.
INEOS' spork now looks a little damaged. Bernal was isolated on two of the three stages; Geraint Thomas (+21:09) and Chris Froome (+26:45) finished way down the general classification in a race only 19 sleeps from the Tour de France.
Meanwhile, in addition to Primož Roglič edging out Bernal by 18 seconds for the overall classification, Jumbo-Visma finished with Steven Kruijswijk (4th) and George Bennett (5th) in the top five, with Dumoulin just outside the top 10 at 11th (+6:01).
INEOS will have a slightly different team for Dauphiné and one of the riders coming in could make all the difference.
Enter Pavel Sivakov.
Last month on his Watts Occurring podcast with Luke Rowe, Geraint Thomas predicted the Russian would have a huge season after he saw him in action at the team's training camp. And so far, G's not wrong. Sivakov finished second to team mate and leader Egan Bernal at La Route d'Occitanie early this month.
And INEOS is sure to bounce back - it WAS G's first race back from the coronavirus pause. And Froome's role as he climbs back to form before the Tour and/or shipping to Israel Start-Up Nation in 2021 is to play Bernal's domestique, one he seemed happily resigned to, at least at the Tour de l'Ain. Even if he doesn't remain happy playing, it will only benefit us watching.
What made the Tour de l'Ain even more exciting was Bernal didn't really crack. Jumbo-Visma nearly muffed the victory on Stage 2 despite isolating the Colombian and surrounding him with a swarm of yellow and black. And on Stage 3, Roglič only beat him by four seconds.
That adds an extra layer of 'will he/won't he crack' tension to the racing. And we won't have to wait until the end of August to see the next salvo between the two teams.
Add to Jumbo-Visma, super domestique Tony Martin and man of the Monument(al) moment Wout van Aert who rides Critérium du Dauphiné again, we've got ourselves one heck of a bike race.
Jumbo-Visma at the Critérium du Dauphiné: Primož Roglič, Tom Dumoulin, Steven Kruijswijk, Wout van Aert, Tony Martin, Robert Gesink, Sep Kuss.
INEOS at the Critérium du Dauphiné: Egan Bernal, Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas, Pavel Sivakov, Jonathan Castroviejo, Michal Kwiatkowski, Dylan van Baarle.
But the entire field...is...stacked...
It's not just the INEOS and Jumbo-Visma mix of past grand tour champions and Tour de France winners and runners-up this year's Criterium du Dauphiné brings to the yard.
The absence of the Tour de Suisse and the coronavirus pause to the season generally means we can't move down the list too far without spotting a past grand tour champion here, a potential Tour de France winner there, and another star of the sport over there.
Julian Alaphilippe who inspired a nation by owning the yellow jersey in 2019, apart from that time Bernal put it on in Paris, heads to Dauphiné with a swashbuckle in his step after finishing second at Milan-San Remo.
And the Frenchman who broke all of our hearts as we watched him sob and pull to the side of the road at last year's Tour, Thibaut Pinot also lines up for Dauphiné armed with a fourth place at La Route d'Occitanie.
2016 Vuelta a Espana and 2014 Giro d'Italia champion Nairo Quintana, who finished third on GC behind Roglič and Bernal at Tour de l'Ain and eighth at the Mont Ventoux challenge where Australian Richie Porte finished second, is also hoping to do some good things for Arkea Samsic.
Bora-hansgrohe's Emanuel Buchmann could be the silent achiever among the field. Last year, the German finished third at the Dauphiné and fourth at the Tour de France. Little is known about his form - he has not raced since February. But he did attempt an Everesting record (beat the record but it was not endorsed by officials) and spent a lot of time in the Austrian and German mountains training while many riders were still in lockdown.
And the youngster who finished third behind Roglič and Valverde (who also heads to the start for Movistar) at last year's Vuelta a Espana, Tadej Pogačar (UAE) will race Dauphiné with some strong performances at Strade Bianche (12th) and Milan-San Remo (13th) under his belt.
Other riders to watch out for: Enric Mas (Movistar), Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana), Mikel Landa (Bahrain McLaren), Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), Rigoberto Urán, Sergio Higuita (EF Pro Cycling), Romain Bardet (Ag2R)
...and so is the climbing
The first stage is 'hilly' meaning there's only Category 2,3 and 4 climbs. But the rest are mouth and eye watering.
Aussie Aussie Aussie - oi oi oi
Richie Porte will take to the start with some good form after finishing second at the Mont Ventoux challenge and while he finished well down the classification at Tour de l'Ain, he finished strongly on the final stage.
The other Aussies to cheer include Ben O'Connor (NTT Pro Cycling) and Mitchelton-Scott's contingent riding for Adam Yates - Nick Schultz, Jack Haig, and Damien Howson who just won the Czech Tour.
Getting ready to Hulk out for the first time ever at the Critérium du Dauphiné is Peter Sagan. Enough said.
It's bike racing baby!
And it's FREE! Can we get another 'Enough said?'
The Critérium du Dauphiné LIVE and FREE on SBS VICELAND and streaming via SBS On Demand:
Wednesday August 12
LIVE: Cycling: Critérium du Dauphiné STAGE 1
Thursday August 13
LIVE: Cycling: Critérium du Dauphiné STAGE 2
Friday August 14
LIVE: Cycling: Critérium du Dauphiné STAGE 3
Saturday August 15
LIVE: Cycling: Critérium du Dauphiné STAGE 4
Sunday August 16
LIVE: Cycling: Critérium du Dauphiné STAGE 5
For the live TV coverage on SBS VICELAND - all stages will be live to Eastern (NSW / VIC / TAS / QLD) and Central (SA, NT) with the Central coverage crashing half an hour in.
WA will be delayed on SBS VICELAND but viewers can watch LIVE via streaming at SBS On Demand.
Replays will be available shortly after each stage online at SBS On Demand or the Cycling Central website.