Italian heads to Dauphiné to "get the Tour feeling"

With the 2018 Tour de France starting a week later to avoid excessive overlap with the football World Cup, many riders are opting for the slightly later Tour de Suisse for their final Tour build up.

However while likes of Richie Porte (BMC Racing) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) may be shunning the Critérium du Dauphiné, Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) says that he prefers to get that “Tour feeling” at the French race.

The Tour de Suisse could be the better option since there is not so much of a gap before the Tour de France. The Critérium du Dauphiné, starting on Sunday in Valence, France, could leave the classification stars with too much time on their hands before the Grand Départ on July 7.

“The Tour de Suisse is very beautiful, I think I did it only once,” Nibali told La Gazzetta dello Sport. He raced it in 2005 as a first-year professional with Team Fassa Bortolo.

“Suisse is a week later, but in the Dauphiné, you get in the Tour feeling. And the roads too, the roundabouts, the French atmosphere. It’s very important.”

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Infront-Ringier organises the Tour de Suisse while Tour organiser ASO runs the Critérium du Dauphiné. The race seems like a mini-Tour given the the same organiser, yellow leader’s jersey, some of the same roads and support staff.

However, stars are flocking to Switzerland for the Tour de Suisse in 2018. Movistar will take its star trio of Quintana, Alejandro Valverde and Mikel Landa, while BMC Racing will field Porte and Tejay van Garderen and Trek-Segafredo will have Bauke Mollema.

Those like Nibali who want that same French feeling remain faithful to the Critérium du Dauphiné and its value as a Tour build up. To sweeten the deal, the second last stage covers the same roads as the 11th stage of the Tour de France, 110 kilometres from Frontenex to La Rosière Espace San Bernardo.

Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale), third in the 2017 Tour, will start on Sunday. So too will Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) and Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott). They will be the strongest rivals for Team Sky who will line up without Chris Froome for the first time since 2011, with Geraint Thomas and Michal Kwiatkowski supported by Tao Geoghegan Hart, Jonathan Castroviejo, Gianni Moscon, Luke Rowe and Dylan Van Baarle.

Chris Froome is not racing in June as he is resting before the Tour after winning the Giro d’Italia.

“The Giro confirmed my thoughts,” said Nibali, who watched the race he won twice before while at a training camp in Tenerife.

“It’s was a simpler course with very few passes over 2000 metres, but it was raced differently. It was a fight to escape every day, Mitchelton-Scott controlled it for the bonus seconds, so it was very stressed.

“Froome’s long attack was beautiful. For sure, if the judge rules against him [in the salbutamol case] it could also affect the Giro and the outcome, but we already knew this. It’s up to the authorities to decide these things.”

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Nibali’s best result in the Critérium du Dauphiné is seventh overall which he achieved before winning the 2014 Tour de France. He also finished seventh in 2009.

“We worked well at altitude in Tenerife. I have to admit, though, I’m ready to return to racing,” he said.

“We had a good group. We did our homework after a period of rest. More than quality, we did volume. Besides aerobic efforts, strength and resistance, and hard efforts.

“I’ll lack some race rhythm, for sure, but I’m not going to the Dauphiné to crush everyone. In the past, some years have gone very well for me, and some years poorly, but it’s important to get yourself ready for July.

“If there’s the chance, I’m going to try to try something in some stages.”