At the weekend, the 66th Critérium du Dauphiné arrived near enough to Chamonix to make a day of it, so we cycled about 30km over to Finhaut-Emosson to see the riders come in.
Estimating that they would arrive in Finhaut from around 16.30, we left Chamonix at 1pm for a leisurely ride to the picturesque hilltop Swiss hamlet perched below the Emosson dam.
The annual cycling road race, which runs over eight stages in the Dauphiné region, is an important race in the lead-up to the Tour de France in July. Recently, all cyclists who have won the Tour, have also won the Dauphiné ie: 2013: Christopher Froome, 2012: Bradley Wiggins.
Covering a total distance of 1,176 kilometres, many climbs that are famous from the Tour de France – like the Mont Ventoux, the Col du Galibier or Col de la Chartreuse – often appear one of the 8 stages of the Dauphiné.
For us, the most arduous climb was through the Col Du Montets….by the time we hit the downhill end, it started to shower and get a little chilly…. So I stopped to layer up and have a sandwich. For the competitors however- no such fun. This stage for them had five categorised climbs, including the Col de la Forclaz and the summit finish at Finhaut-Emosson.
Most of us were there to see the clash between Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Chris Froome (Sky) We perched ourselves on a wall half way up the final climb, with a good view point and waited…eventually seeing a strained Alberto pass and an even more strained Froome. Before this stage, Contador was 12 seconds off Froome’s yellow jersey- not much given the difficulty of this stage and the number of sections greater than 9% on the finishing climb …..and after all…. Alberto Contador is perfectly suited to this kind of challenge. Contador eventually attacked with two kilometers to go to dethrone Froome and take the yellow jersey.
However, it was Dutchman Andrew Talansky, who finally got his win with a nail-biting showdown on the final climb. With only 150 meters to go, he caught and passed Katusha teammates Yury Trofimov and Egon Silin, who finished second and third on the day.
Once all the drama was over – I was so “exhausted with all the excitement” I wimped out of a return ride and got the train back to Chamonix with my souvenir cap.
Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) won the Critérium du Dauphiné after the final stage on Sunday.
For more photos take a look at our gallery.