Groupama-FDJ fights for scraps behind Ineos and Jumbo-Visma at Dauphiné

Team boss forecasts further dominance by Dutch squad at Dauphiné; Pinot rallies after dissapointment at cancelation of Swiss worlds.

This week’s Critérium du Dauphiné is already shaping up to be a two-team race. And it’s not just the fans and media that think that, but also Groupama-FDJ boss Philippe Mauduit.

Wednesday’s opening stage of key pre-Tour de France race saw Jumbo-Visma asserting dominance over the pack, shepherding Wout van Aert to yet another victory. Behind the Dutch squad, Ineos and the likes of Groupama-FDJ, Ag2r-La Mondiale, and UAE-Team Emirates were left elbowing for room among themselves.

“Jumbo-Visma showed its ability to do the work, and there is no doubt about Ineos’ [ability to do the same],” Mauduit said after the stage Wednesday. “I believe that collectively it will be a game between these two teams. Then, individuals will take part in that game, like Thibaut [Pinot] for us.”

“We had bet on a sprint finish and a day controlled by Jumbo-Visma. This is what happened,” Mauduit said of yesterday’s stage into Saint-Christo-en-Jarez. He expects more of the same Thursday, where a short stage capped by a 17-kilometer haul to the summit finish atop Col de Porte beckons. “We can imagine that the day will be controlled by Jumbo-Visma again and we can expect a climbing train as we have witnessed lately,” he said.

Despite being outmuscled by Jumbo-Visma at the opening stage of this week’s Dauphine in an ominous portent for the Tour de France in a few week’s time, Mauduit and his leader Thibaut Pinot are retaining their focus on a podium in Paris.

Wednesday’s cancelation of the Swiss world championships, originally slated to take place just a week after the Tour,  has changed nothing for the pair’s approach to this year’s Grande Boucle. Pinot had harbored major ambitions at the hilly road race on tap at Aigle Martigny, and the cancelation came as a disappointment – though may well stoke the fire of ambition in his hopes of bettering his career-best third overall at the Tour.

“It’s a shame. These worlds were a goal for me, I had it in mind for three years now, since the course was actually announced, so it’s obviously a disappointment,” Pinot told L’Equipe after the confirmation that the worlds’ venue would be shifted to a new yet-to-be-confirmed venue.

“It does not change anything in my management of the season, I would have really been resting after the Tour of France. Our first objective will stop on the evening of the Champs-Élysées and not a week later. For the Tour itself, it does not change anything at all.”