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First, the American is using the Dauphiné to glide back into peak racing form and what’s expected, a return ticket to the Tour de France.
He’s also racing to win in what will be his biggest chance yet to score a major victory in one of cycling’s most prestigious races.
“I’m looking forward to being back into the racing,” McNulty said ahead of Sunday’s start. “There’s a good GC opportunity, with a nice time trial in the middle of the week. It’s 32km almost, so it will be good. I’m excited for it.”
A strong GC ride here this week would not only confirm his Tour credentials but his own future leadership possibilities as well.
At 23, he’s still growing and improving, and the Dauphiné packs plenty of prestige.
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Only a handful of Americans have excelled in this race, and a spot on or near the podium would only serve to confirm his future candidacy as a team captain.
McNulty safely negotiated Sunday’s stage that ended in a reduced bunch sprint, and goes into Monday and Tuesday looking to defend his position before Wednesday’s decisive time trial.
“There’s a lot of elevation this week, but it’s not really big mountains every day, but more with hills, but there are some big climbs at the end of the race,” McNulty said. “There will be a good chance it could rain this week, so it won’t be easy.”
With Tadej Pogačar not racing again until the Tour of Slovenia later this month, McNulty has the full weight of the team behind him.
Juan Ayuso also sees freedom to move, with Sebastian Molano for the sprints.
The American is on the rebound for illness this spring, and hopes to fine tune his legs ahead of July’s big date at the Tour.
“After Romandie I was sick, and I was antibiotics for four or five days, and I was able to be relaxed at home,” he said. “I did a big training block and I just came back to Europe this past week. Once I got over the sickness and the antibiotics, I was good to go.”
For McNulty, who made a high-profile Tour debut in 2021, the Dauphine is also a way to confirm his spot on the UAE Team Emirates Tour roster.
Things look good for a return to the Tour, where the team will rally around Pogačar in his quest for a third straight yellow jersey.
“Hopefully this week goes well, then a little bit of training, then hopefully back to the Tour,” McNulty said. “We’ll see how I go in the mountains, but hopefully whatever I do here I can go a little bit higher in the coming weeks.”
McNulty roared into 2022, rattling off three wins early before coming down with COVID-19 that forced him to miss Itzulia Basque Country. Then he was zapped by a chest cold at the Tour de Romandie, but after a spell in the warm climes of Arizona, he returns to Europe fit, healthy, and motivated.
This week’s Dauphiné is a race with two finish lines, the first on Sunday and the second in Paris on July 24.