Life is all about innovation and new adventures. And so it is that, in 2020, road cycling’s traditional alpine race will visit the capital of the Massif Central for the first time. There is nonetheless an air of familiarity about the challenge awaiting the peloton on the opening stage of the 72nd edition of the Critérium du Dauphiné, which will be contested on a route towards Lyon that is almost identical to that of the 14th stage of the Tour de France. On the following day, the hilly terrain of Saint-Christo-en-Jarez and its final circuit should ensure that only the most durable of sprinters prevails. The third stage to Saint-Vallier, including a grueling stretch of over a kilometre at an average gradient of 12%, may see them eliminated entirely in favour of the punchier climbers.

The established tradition of bunch sprint finishes in the Rhône Valley is set to be honoured by the stage to Bourg-de-Péage. However, the Wednesday time trial has been dispensed with in order to avail the overall contenders of the widest array of tactical options. As a result, and for the first time since 1947, participants in this year’s Dauphiné will not ride a single kilometre against the clock. The pure climbers will get their first opportunity to assess the form of their rivals when the race reaches the mountains for the 5th stage, culminating in what Gilles Maignan describes as the rock ‘n’ roll descent of the Côte Maillet. The following day, the peloton will take the chance to familiarise itself with a section of the 17th stage of this year’s Tour, including an ascent of the Col de la Madeleine. However, the real showdown in the mountains is reserved for the weekend, with 4,700 metres of elevation gain to tackle on Saturday alone including climbs up the Col de la Croix Fry in the Aravis and to the ski resort of Bisanne, before a final drag to the altiport of Megève. The final stage will be similarly punishing, leading a scattered peloton up the Côte de Domancy, the Col de Romme and the Col de la Colombière before embarking on the brutal Côte de Cordon. A true festival of altitude.

Critérium du Dauphiné 2020 stages:

Sunday, May 31st – Stage 1 – Clermont-Ferrand (63) > Lyon (69) – 197 km

Monday, June 1th – Stage 2 – Saint-Germain-au-Mont-d’Or (69) > Saint-Christo-en-Jarez (42) – 181 km

Tuesday, June 2nd – Stage 3 – Saint-Chamond (42) > Saint-Vallier (26) – 175,5 km

Wednesday, June 3rd – Stage 4 – Loriol-sur-Drôme (26) > Bourg-de-Péage (26) – 173 km

Thursday, June 4th – Stage 5 – Vienne (38) > Col de Porte (38) – 132,5 km

Friday, June 5th – Stage 6 – Corenc (38) > Saint-Martin-de-Belleville (73) – 156,5 km

Saturday, June 6th – Stage 7 – Ugine (73) > Megève (74) – 156,5 km

Sunday, June 7th – Stage 8 – Megève (74) > Megève (74) – 153 km