Six classified climbs on Stage 7 of the Criterium du Dauphine lead to an exciting finish to the penultimate stage to the top of Alpe D’Huez.
The stage starts in the town of Aoste and travels up a long false flat period until just after the 25-kilometre mark, where the first climb of the day starts. The category-four climb of the Côte de Berland is extremely steep, with this climb having the highest average gradient of the stage, at 8.1 per cent for 1.2 kilometres.
There’s no descent after the first climb but rather a flat period of just over 15 kilometres before the first major climb of the day, the category-two climb of the Col du Cucheron, which goes for 7.7 kilometres at 6.1 per cent. Immediately after cresting the second climb of the day the riders complete a short descent to the category-one climb of the Col de Porte, which is 7.5 kilometres at 6.7 per cent.
After a technical descent, the riders make their way back down to the flat roads, but after the halfway point of the day’s stage at 84 kilometres completed the roads change to a gradual rise all the way to the early slopes of the category-two climb of the Côte de Garçin.
The climb is 3.5 kilometres at 6.4 per cent and starts the long 25 kilometres section climbing all the way to the category climb of the Col de Sarenne.
If your memory serves you well, you will remember the Col de Sarenne was part of the 2013 Tour de France, where the Alpe D’Huez was climbed twice. On that occasion the Col de Sarenne was descended down by the peloton. The riders on this occasion get to go up it.
The climb averages out at just under 7 per cent for 15.3 kilometres; however, there are three distinct parts to the climb.
The first four kilometres range from ramps of only 3 per cent to 8 per cent, which allows the riders to ease into the climb before the road descends to the next section.
From kilometres five to seven the road has sections of well over 10 per cent gradien, but then at the top of this ramp once again descends before the final long section of the climb begins.
From kilometres eight to 15 the climb averages over 8 per cent, with the final kilometre averaging 10.3 per cent.
At the peak of the climb the riders will have only 15 kilometres to go before the finish.
In those final 15 kilometres the riders will face a short descent off the Col de Sarenne, then a relatively ease uphill section of around 3 per cent for four kilometres before descending sharply to the bottom of the final climb.
The final climb to the finish up to the top of Alpe D’Huez is just under four kilometres with an average gradient of 7.2 per cent, with steep ramps of above 10 per cent in the first kilometre. This finale should give rise to a cracking end to a fantastic stage.
Richie Porte (BMC), Chris Froome (Sky) and the Astana duo of Fabio Aru and Jakub Fuglsang were the general classification contenders that shone on the Mont du Chat on Stage 6, so you would have to assume that they will be in contention for the stage win once again.
Porte looked super strong, pulling himself and Froome towards the Astana pair who attacked earlier on the climb, while also being the fastest in the sprint finish. If only he was not partially blocked by Froome in the finish, Porte would have taken the stage and an extra four bonus seconds.
The Australian currently holds a 39 second lead over his former teammate Froome, with Fuglsang, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Aru less than 90 seconds off the lead.