Normally, I'd title blog posts on major events as 'preview & predictions' - but the Dauphine isn't so much about who will win, but more about watching intently to see who's form is coming together at the right time. So today's preview post is focused on who to watch out for to see how they are tracking for July.
Many have describe the Dauphine as a 'mini Tour de France without the boring bits'. The 8 stages include a 33km ITT, and 3 big mountain stages. The other 4 stages aren't what you'd call traditional sprint stages though, with all of them having pretty bumpy looking profiles.
So without further ado - who should we be watching during this year's Dauphine:
The Big Two - Froome & Contador
Froome & Contador, discussing their favourite French pastries...
Alberto Contador (Saxobank-Tinkoff), on the other hand, has had a much less spectacular build-up this year. He'll be looking to make a bit of a statement with a decent result at the Dauphine.
Both team's are bringing the core of their Tour de France squads, so they are clearly using this race as a dress rehearsal for July. It'll be fascinating to see how they are progressing...
Other Contenders To Watch
There is a long list of sub-plots to watch during the Dauphine. Plenty of riders that will be in contention for a podium spot at the Tour de France, and who'll be looking to show their team's that they deserve their full support on the lap around France.
Jurgen Van den Broek (Lotto-Belisol) - VdB came fourth in last year's Tour de France, and showed a massive step up in ability. He'll be looking to step up a place or two this year, but hasn't really shown any major form yet.
Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) - after an unhappy year with Radioshack last season, Fuglsang has much to prove here. He has shown potential in the past, and has publicly backed himself as a genuine contender. Time for him to speak with action rather than words if he is indeed the real deal.
Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) - 'Purito' is specifically targeting the Tour de France this year, a change from previous years. Hopefully he'll show his form is on target to trouble the Big Two...
Team Cofidis - Yep, a whole team to watch! Stacked with potential, I want to see who shines in the Dauphine as it'll tell us who they'll be riding for in July. Keep an eye on Jerome Coppel, Christophe Le Mevel, and Rein Taaramae.
Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) - one of the young American guns emerging in the peloton. Not sure if he or Ryder Hesjedal will lead the team in July, but he'll be looking to show he is up to the task.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) - does he still have the legs to be an overall contender? We'll know soon. Also watch out for his new teammate Sylvester Szmyd, who supported Nibali last year on Team Liquigas - he is an amazing climbing talent.
Thomas de Gendt (Vacansoleil) - an emerging grand tour talent, who promises much. Another who'll be looking to confirm his team's faith during the Dauphine.
Don't try and pick the winner of this race, instead watch it to see what it tells you for the Tour de France. It'll answer some questions, but will also likely raise a few new questions of its own.
My fellow Australian fans can watch the race on SBS2 - but sadly it'll be on delayed telecast this year. If you are techno-savvy though, it'll be livestreamed by SBS 'Cycling Central' as well. Enjoy the race!