As one of the last real tests before the 2011Tour de France the Criterium Dauphine came with some ready made pre-race hype centered on the stage three individual time tria.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:37 PM

As one of the last real tests before the 2011Tour de France the
Criterium Dauphine came with some ready made pre-race hype centered on
the stage three individual time trial (ITT) which was run on the same
course as that on stage 20 of the upcoming Tour.

Certainly
strength in the ITT at this stage of the season is a strong indicator of
fitness, but did it live up to predictions as a pointer to a strong
Tour?

I don't think the strong climbers and pre-Tour favourites
will be too worried about their ITT performances at the Dauphine because
they know the strong men against the clock will come back to them a bit
by the time at the Tour de France gets to Grenoble.

Two hard
days traversing the Co0l du Galibier and L'Alpe d'Huez will be enough to wash
off some speed from the specialists allowing the contending climbers, who should be
at their best, to stay in touch.

So while the Dauphine is an
important test and the time trial specifically so I don't think is
matters as much as many seem to think.

Still it is interesting
to see how some of the expected Tour de France performers fared and look
forward to a possibly decisive stage 20 ITT in Grenoble.

As the
next best ITT rider outside of Fabian Cancellara it was no surprise to
see Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad 0:55:27) take the stage. Couple that with a
strong early season where he won the Volta ao Algarve and Paris-Nice
(and their ITT stages) and placed 2nd at the Tour de Romandie and you
have a rider on track to perform. While Martin hasn't done well on the
few climbs at the Dauphine his predicted goal of a top-ten finish at the
Tour seems intact.

Bradley Wiggins (Sky 0:00:11) also delivered an expected result and
it was enough to put him in the race lead by a solid margin. Outside of
his fourth place overall in the 2009 Tour Wiggins remains an enigma as a
Tour performer. Incredibly talented and always appearing on the cusp of
a serious result Wiggins always leaves us wondering where the greatness
is. His ability to put it all together for the 2011 Tour de France is
still in doubt but a win at the Dauphine would settle a few questions
about his readiness to step up.

Cadel Evans (BMC 0:01:20) again put in a workmanlike performance,
which for him means always riding at the highest level and being at the
business end of a big race. With two stage race wins under his belt
Evans has looked incredibly strong this season and has been the most
impressive Grand Tour rider apart from Alberto Contador. Experience in
the big ones, great early season preparation and a Tour focus means he
is on track for a podium finish, barring catastrophe.

Sixth in the Tour de France last year, Robert Gesink (Rabobank
0:02:49) is my smokey for 2011, but after promising rides against the
clock at the Tour of Oman and Tirreno Adriatico earlier this year I
expected more from the Dauphine ITT. But with the Tour de France time
trial coming after two epic climbing stages I expect riders like Gesink
(and Andy Schleck) to 'surprise' with good rides on stage 20. Still
young at 25 Gesink is poised to be a serious rival to any rider with
Grand Tour pretensions in the coming years.

Janez Brajkovic (RadioShack 0:01:17), Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Omega
Pharma-Lotto 0:02:39) and Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:03:27) are
all in a somewhat similar position to Gesink. Sanchez and Van Den
Broeck finished finished 4th and 5th respectively overall at last years
Tour and both will have to make their mark at other points of the race.
But with a Dauphine stage win in his back pocket and in his prime
physically, Van Den Broeck looks close to his peak form and will head
into the Tour with very high expectations of a podium. Sanchez will no
doubt perform to his high standards at the Tour but now well into his
thirties his level won't be much higher. Brajkovic on the other hand
seems ready to step up after performing domestique duties at the 2010
Tour. A well balanced rider I expect him to be in the top-ten in Paris.

Finally, the wheels appear to have fallen off one of my personal
Tour de France favourites with Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale 0:06:16)
struggling to find the kind of form he displayed at last years Giro
d'Italia. Following illness and a crash which has hampered consistent
training it appears that Basso is unlikely to challenge for anything
except the race to the sag wagon in Paris. However the Tour is a back
heavy race and he may yet ride himself into useful fitness by the second
week.