This year's edition will be of particular importance to the below riders, as they must put in a strong overall showing if they are to assume full leadership at the Tour next month. A look into five riders that must be feeling the pressure to succeed at this year's Dauphine.
Janez Brajkovic spent his early career learning how to race from Lance Armstrong and Alberto contador. A climber at heart, Brajkovic arrives at this year's Dauphine in need of a strong performance to reassure his Astana managers that he is up to the task of leadership in July. Brajkovic has yet to truly break through into elite status as a grand tour threat, and a top result at the Dauphine would vault him toward the top of pre-race favorites for this year's Tour. That said, he'll face tough competition and won't be able to hide when racing begins. Too, he needs a strong ride to remain relevant on a team that is making a huge push to sign Vincenzo Nibali for 2013. Now is the time for Brajkovic if he wants to entrench himself as a protected rider for stage races.
Sammy Sanchez, as he is every year, is an enigma. He started strong for 2012 but lately has been out of the limelight. He'll be the leader for Euskaltel, that much is sure, but for his own good he needs to do a good Dauphine. Sanchez has been riding as a leader long enough to know how to stay toward the front of a race, but as of yet he seems to lack a killer instinct on the bike. His time at the top is running short (he's 34) and now more than ever he needs to go hard if he is to be a force in July.
Denis Menchov is probably done as an elite cyclist. He too is 34, but he seems an old 34. He is far removed from his glorious Giro d'Italia triumph of 2010, and thus far in 2012 he has done nothing. Menchov is a hard rider to read and can sometimes pull good form out of nowhere, but for his own sake he needs a strong ride at the Dauphine to show his team that he is ready for July's challenge.
Jurgen Van Den Broeck's 2011 season was derailed after a terrible crash at the Tour de France. His teammate Jelle Vanendert took over, winning the mountains classification and establishing himself as a sudden star of Belgian cycling. 2012 has been kinder overall to Van Den browck, but he still has yet to show the form that put him into last year's Tour as sole leader. If he fails to impress at the Dauphine, Van Den Broeck could find himself playing to role of super domestique for Vanendert. In fact, even with a great Dauphine ride, he still likely will head to the Tour as co-captain with Vanendert.
Andy Schleck has had an anonymous 2012 season. He has failed to play a significant role in any race thus far in 2012, and seems completely at odds with Johan Bruyneel. If Schleck can't get it going and at least follow wheels at the Dauphine, he could find himself facing the unreal possibility of being left off the Tour team. Worse still, if he continues to falter in the coming days he could also face the possibility of playing a support role to his brother Frank or the veteran Chris Horner.