More than just a Tour de France preparation

When ASO became the Criterium du Dauphine organisers in 2010, they asked Bernard Thevenet to be the race director.


The twice Tour de France champion, who also won the Dauphine in 1975 and 76, lives near Grenoble, knows the surrounding roads very well and he is proud to be at the helm of a race that has been part of the build-up for the Tour de France since it was created in 1947.

« There are several reasons why the Criterium du Dauphine is important for the Tour de France favourites, » he said. « With eight stages, including several in the mountains, it is a good indicator of the riders’ form. When you’re bad in the Criterium, it is likely that your Tour will not be easy. Meanwhile, you still have two weeks before the start and you still have time to adjust and work on a few weaknesses. And you can’t do this after the Tour de Suisse. It is also a nice line to add to your list. The Criterium du Dauphine is a preparation but most of all, it’s a race you want to win. »

In 2011, neither Alberto Contador, nor Andy Schleck, who finished first and second respectively in the 2010 Tour de France, will take part in the event but other contenders will be on the starting line in St Jean de Maurienne: Cadel Evans, Ivan Basso, Alexandre Vinokourov, Robert Gesink, Bradley Wiggins, Samuel Sanchez, Tony Martin, Juergen van den Broeck and defending champion Janez Brajkovic.

The race, in which French riders look set to play their part, is likely to be a tense affair.

« The difference between now and my time, is that the Tour is on the riders’ mind three months before the start and it is a race that is meant for those who care about it only. The Criterium du Dauphine is also in a fiercer competition with the Tour de Suisse, the Giro and some other events like the Tour of California but its interest is the same and the riders who take the start are aware that it is a major race in the calendar, » said Thevenet.

However, so that every rider on the race finds what he’s looking for, Bernard Thevenet designed a balanced route with two mountain stages, two hilly stages and a very demanding time trial in Grenoble – the very same one that will be tackled by the riders on the eve of the Tour de France parade in Paris.

« It’s a first. This never happened before and it will obviously be a genuine test for the Tour contenders, not just a reconnaissance. All kind of riders will find what they’re looking for in this route. The two big difficulties of the week will be this time trial and the ascent to the Col du Glandon before the finish in La Toussuire on the last day, » said Thevenet.