Bradley Wiggins sets out to defend his 2011 title at the Critérium du Dauphiné in Grenoble on Sunday, June 3.

The British Sky leader will be looking to repeat last year’s victory in the prestigious French stage race as he puts in his final preparations ahead of his bid to win the 2012 Tour de France this July.

Wiggins will come up against several of his key Tour de France rivals, not least 2011 Tour winner Cadel Evans (BMC).

Eight days of racing kick off in Grenoble on Sunday with a short 5.7-kilometre opening prologue. This is then followed by three consecutive road stages, all of which feature several categorised climbs but will likely end with a bunch finish.

The overall favourites will really have a chance to show their hand in Thursday’s long individual time trial. At 53.5 kilometres, it’s safe to say that the race can be won or lost on the roads between Villié-Morgon and Bourg-en-Bresse.

The potential for large time losses in the TT is huge – and it’s a stage that plays into the hands of 2011 World time trial silver medallist Wiggins. Last year, Wiggins placed second in the TT and held on to the race lead until the finish.

On Friday, it’s straight into the mountains with a stage punctuated by the hors categorie climb of Le Grand Colombier. It peaks with 70 kilometres to go, giving some chance of a re-grouping before the finish.

The final weekend will be the real decider. Two high mountains stages will undoubtedly shake up the general classification. Saturday’s trek to Morzine takes in six categorised climbs culminating in an ascent and descent of Col de Joux-Plane.

Sunday’s finale is the shortest road stage in the race, but a steep climb to the finish line in Châtel will be a fitting end to another tough edition of the Critérium du Dauphiné.

Along with Evans, Wiggins’ biggest rivals at the race will be Vincenzo Nibali (Liquiga-Cannondale), Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan), Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) and 2011 Vuelta a Espana winner Juan Jose Cobo (Movistar). Also watch out for Europcar trio Christophe Kern, Pierre Rolland and Thomas Voeckler.

Wiggins, Chris Froome (Sky) and David Millar (Garmin-Barracuda) are the Brits at the race.

Cycling Weekly will be covering the 2012 Critérium du Dauphiné with daily reports, news and photo galleries.

Critérium du Dauphiné 2012: Stages
Prologue, Sunday June 3, Grenoble to Grenoble, 5.7km ITT
Stage one, Monday June 4, Seyssins to Saint-Vallier, 187km
Stage two, Tuesday June 5, Lamastre to Saint-Félicien, 160km
Stage three, Wednesday June 6, Givors to La Clayette, 167km
Stage four, Thursday June 7, Villié-Morgon to Bourg-en-Bresse, 53.5km ITT
Stage five, Friday June 8, Saint-Trivier-sur-Moignans to Rumilly, 186.5km
Stage six, Saturday June 9, Saint-Alban-Leysse to Morzine, 167.5km
Stage seven, Sunday June 10, Morzine to Châtel, 124.5km
Total distance: 1,052 kilometres

Critérium du Dauphiné 2012: Teams
Ag2r La Mondiale (France)
Argos-Shimano (Netherlands)
Astana (Kazakhstan)
BMC Racing Team (USA)
Cofidis (France)
Europcar (France)
Euskaltel-Euskadi (Spain)
FDJ-Big Mat (France)
Garmin-Barracuda (USA)
Katusha (Russia)
Lampre-ISD (Italy)
Liquigas-Cannondale (Italy)
Lotto-Belisol (Belgium)
Movistar (Spain)
Omega Pharma-QuickStep (Belgium)
Orica-GreenEdge (Australia)
Rabobank (Netherlands)
Radioshack-Nissan (Luxembourg)
Saur-Sojasun (France)
Saxo Bank (Denmark)
Sky (Great Britain)
Vacansoleil-DCM (Netherlands)

Critérium du Dauphiné 2012: TV guide

Digital and satellite channel British Eurosport will be showing coverage of the 2012 Critérium du Dauphiné. Times may be subject the change.

Sunday June 3, 21.30-22.30, Prologue highlights, British Eurosport 2
Sunday June 3, 23.45-00.15, Prologue highlights, British Eurosport
Monday June 4, 19.30-20.30, Stage one highlights, British Eurosport 2
Monday June 4, 22.30-23.30, Stage one highlights, British Eurosport
Tuesday June 5, 17.30-18.30, Stage two highlights, British Eurosport 2
Tuesday June 5, 23.45-00.15, Stage two highlights, British Eurosport 
Wednesday June 6, 19.00-19.45, Stage three highlights, British Eurosport
Wednesday June 6, 21.00-21.30, Stage three highlights, British Eurosport 2
Thursday June 7, 13.45-15.30, Stage four LIVE, British Eurosport 2
Thursday June 7, 22.30-23.30, Stage four highlights, British Eurosport
Friday June 8, 14.00-15.30, Stage five LIVE, British Eurosport 2
Friday June 8, 18.30-19.00, Stage five highlights, British Eurosport 2
Saturday June 9, 12.00-13.45, Stage six LIVE, British Eurosport 2
Saturday June 9, 20.00-21.00, Stage six highlights, British Eurosport 2
Sunday June 10, 16.30-17.30, Stage seven highlights, British Eurosport 2
Sunday June 10, 21.30-22.00, Stage seven highlights, British Eurosport

2011 winner Bradley Wiggins

Critérium du Dauphiné: Recent winners
2011: Bradley Wiggins
2010: Janez Brajkovic
2009: Alejandro Valverde
2008: Alejandro Valverde
2007: Christophe Moreau
2006: Levi Leipheimer
2005: Inigo Landaluze
2004: Iban Mayo
2003: Lance Armstrong
2002: Lance Armstrong

Critérium du Dauphiné: Last year’s top ten
1. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky in 23-33-24
2. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing at 1-26
3. Alexandre Vinkourov (Kaz) Astana at 1-49
4. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto at 2-10
5. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 2-50
6. Christophe Kern (Fra) Europcar at 3-05
7. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale at 3-30
8. Kantstantsin Sivtsov (Blr) HTC-Highroad at 4-14
9. Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Radioshack at 4-22
10. Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Europcar at 4-30

Related links

Critérium du Dauphiné 2011: Coverage index