Dauphiné roundtable: Froome’s head games, Porte’s blunder

As it does every year, the Dauphine has delivered plenty of talking points to the cycling world as we head toward the Tour de France.

France’s Critérium du Dauphiné wrapped up on Sunday with a thrilling and chaotic final stage to Plateau de Solaison, which saw Richie Porte lose the overall lead to Jakob Fuglsang after a day of bold attacks and cat-and-mouse tactics. As it does every year, the Dauphine has delivered plenty of talking points to the cycling world as we head toward the Tour de France, which is now just 19 days away. So without any delay, let’s roundtable!

What was the most memorable moment from this year’s Dauphiné?

Andy Hood @EurohoodyI love seeing headbangers like Thomas de Gendt take a win like that and then hold the jersey for a week via old-school pedal bashing — de Beast!

Caley Fretz @caleyfretz: Chris Froome dive-bombing Richie Port on Saturday’s descent, reminding us that he may look gooney but he has balls of steel.

Spencer Powlison @spino_powerlegsI love an awkward sprint between GC guys, and that stage 6 kick between Fuglsang, Porte, Froome, and to a lesser extent, Aru was choice. Plus, that time bonus mattered in the final GC.

Fred Dreier @freddreierPorte watching Froome on the Colombière while the other GC riders attacked up the road.

Froome said Porte is now the favorite to win the TDF. What do we make of this comment?

Andy: Ol’ FroomeDog is taking a page from Lance Armstrong’s playbook. Remember how Big Tex always said Jan Ullrich was the favorite to win the Tour? Well, that’s just one more way to turn the mental screws. Porte knows he’s on the form of his life, and so does Froome, so there’s no better way to ramp up the heat than put all the pressure on the Tasmanian’s shoulders. Today’s pros rarely play these psychological games, but it’s going to be fun to see how Froome and Porte go at each other next month. Porte was accusing Sky of racing negatively, just to make sure he didn’t win the Dauphiné. That’s sure to get everyone’s hair up!

Caley: Classic cat 3 pre-race move. Froome was probably “using this race as intervals” too.

Spencer: In part, he is deflecting the pre-race pressure. He’s not blowing smoke though. Porte rode a terrific time trial, and he nearly saved the yellow jersey with that solo effort on stage 8. However, I don’t think BMC is a favorite to win the Tour. Porte was isolated in that final stage, while Froome had help from Michal Kwiatkowski. I think that could make all the difference come July.

Fred: This is Froome’s F-you move to get inside Porte’s head before the Tour. Sure, Porte was stronger than Froome at the Dauphiné. Froome used his one bullet and shot it right into Porte’s gut. Then he tells everyone that Porte is the favorite for the Tour, thus sending the media to Porte’s doorstep for the next month. Chapeau, Froome, masterful head games!

Give a letter grade and one sentence of analysis for the following TDF contenders at this year’s Dauphiné:

Froome: B-. He didn’t win, but he didn’t have to; on track for July.
Porte: A-. He didn’t win, but should have; strongest going into July.
Contador: C. He didn’t win, and couldn’t; needs major step up for July.
Aru: C. He’s trying, he’s trying.
Fuglsang: A+. He won, and no one expected it; his biggest win doesn’t mean big July.

Froome: B+. Still missing an edge but he has time.
Porte: A+ for form. B- for his team. Did he peak too early?
Contador: B. He says he likes to be slower at the Dauphiné. Hope he’s right.
Aru: A-. Solid climbing form.
Fuglsang: A. Where did he come from?

Froome: B. Love the aggressive descending, but it seemed like he was attacking at inopportune moments.
Porte: A-. Did he learn nothing at all from the 2014 Dauphiné? Froome isn’t the only guy in the race…
Contador: C+. He needs to do more than simply beat Froome by two seconds in a short TT to win the Tour.
Aru: A-. Wow, Aru sure does look rested, doesn’t he?
Fuglsang: A. Hmm!?

Froome: A+. He wasn’t on top form and still managed to completely psych out his biggest TDF rival.
Porte: B-. His form says victory, yet his team and tactical acumen scream defeat.
Contador: INCOMPLETE. Bertie came in undercooked this year, so here’s hoping it pays off in three weeks.
Aru: B. Aru’s climbing strength (and pain face) are BACK!
Fuglsang: A+ He took advantage of the Froome/Porte rivalry to win, a-lá Talansky in 2014.

What lesson does Richie Porte learn from this loss?

Andy: Porte was caught out because he was chasing the wrong wheel. Froome’s Sky raiders set the trap, but Froome wasn’t Porte’s most dangerous or strongest rival. Porte also got a taste of what it will be like if he’s in a similar situation in July. Attacks will come from all sides. A race leader cannot expect things to always go to plan, and must be ready to improvise. Unfortunately (at least for fans), there are not enough of these short, explosive climbing stages in the Tour de France when all hell can break loose.

Caley: I’m not sure they were his mistakes, or mistakes at all. His team left him isolated but almost everyone was isolated. He should have followed Froome on the Colombière, but I’m not sure he could.

Spencer: As I alluded to in the previous question, Porte made a big mistake in only marking one rider — Chris Froome — on the Col de la Colombière. Clearly he was on great form in the final stage. He should have ridden the race aggressively and recognized the threat posed by any number of the riders in that move that went away while he and Froome were having a staring contest. Don’t base your racing strategy on what one other rider is doing, even if he is a three-time Tour champ.

Fred: I think Porte learned that his old buddy Chris Froome isn’t afraid to twist the knife in his gut, if given the opportunity. Like Spencer said, Porte only marked Froome on the Colombière, and that was a huge miscalculation. I think Porte also learned that he needs one or two climbing aces for his TDF squad.

Does Astana’s Aru/Fuglsang duo have what it takes to win the Tour?

Andy: No. Not even close. Fuglsang had a super week, but a super week does not make a Tour champion. And Aru hasn’t shown that he has the depth to go the distance in three weeks in July. May and September are something else, but July is when the big boys come to play. These two are still in Grand Tour kindergarten.

Caley: Nope. Aru is ascendent but his time trial isn’t good enough. Fuglsang took advantage of Sunday’s chaos and the Tour is less chaotic.

Spencer: Nope. The Dauphiné is sometimes a clear bellwether of Tour performance (2016 and 2015), and sometimes it’s just the right place at the right time for an underdog. This happened in 2014 with Andrew Talansky. The final day was tactically quite similar to stage 8 of 2017, in fact. Let’s not forget, Janez Brajkovic won in 2010 — add that one to the “where are they now?” reel. Fuglsang is riding great, but I don’t think he can go the distance in the Tour. Aru is looking fresh, but if Froome is at peak form with the Sky hit-squad, I don’t see him being a true challenger.

Fred: Sure, why not? Fuglsang came time trial, and Aru is a danger man in the mountains who deserves the attention of the GC men. If there is a perfect confluence of luck and tactics at le Tour, they can shake ‘n bake their way to victory.