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Corsica is ready to host a preamble with some of the Tour de France favourites, as the Critérium International comes to the island for the fourth time on March 23 and 24.
The names of Tour de France champions Cadel Evans, Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck will not go unnoticed on the start list of the Critérium International, but no-one knows how many future winners are on the list —it would be quite a surprise if the riders who have shown flashes of promise here and there over the last few months failed to shine next July or, at least, in the coming years. With less than 100 days to go until the 100th edition of the Tour de France, these go-getters will get the opportunity to steal the show on the roads of Corsica in a three-stage race which also tends to smile upon the best all-rounders. Returning champion Cadel Evans is not necessarily the odds-on favourite to win this strategic battle. The focus of attention will be on the winners of the first big events of this season. Chris Froome came out on top of the fierce competition at the Tour of Oman, while his Sky teammate Richie Porte took his first prestigious victory just a few days ago in Paris–Nice.
A handful of champions in the making have already done their best to upset their plans on several occasions and will no doubt try again in Corsica, including the last two winners of the best young rider's white jersey at the Tour de France, Tejay Van Garderen and Pierre Rolland, and the winner of the same at the recent Paris–Nice, Andrew Talansky. The American has the quality and frame of mind he needs to make up for the disappointment of finishing as runner-up on the French Riviera. The week-long Race to the Sun also saw a French charge by third-placed Jean-Christophe Péraud, as well as his young teammate Romain Bardet and even younger Warren Barguil. The changes made to the time trial course could play in their favour in Porto-Vecchio if they make the most of the slope in the first two kilometres. This is unlikely to help national champion Nacer Bouhanni, but he will get his chance in the stage on Saturday morning.
16 teams, main contenders
Colombia (COL): Atapuma, Pantano (COL)
Team Saxo-Tinkoff (TST): Contador (ESP), Rogers (AUS)
BMC Racing Team (BMC): Evans (AUS), Moinard (FRA), Van Garderen (USA)
Garmin-Sharp (GRS): Talansky (USA), Martin (IRL)
AG2R La Mondiale (ALM): Bardet, Péraud, Gadret (FRA)
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits (COF): Coppel (FRA), Taaramäe (EST)
FDJ (FDJ): Fédrigo, Bouhanni (FRA)
Bretagne-Seche Environnement (BSE): Koretzky, Lequatre, Vachon (FRA)
Sojasun (SOJ): Hivert, Pauriol (FRA)
Team Europcar (EUC): Rolland, Voeckler (FRA)
Team La Pomme Marseille (LPM): Gonçalves (POR)
Sky ProCycling (SKY): Froome (GBR), Porte (AUS)
RadioShack-Nissan (RLT): A. Schleck (LUX), Monfort (BEL), Klöden, Voigt (GER)
Blanco Pro Cycling Team (BLA): Bos, Kelderman (NED), Bobridge (AUS), L. L. Sánchez (ESP)
Team Argos-Shimano (ARG): Barguil (FRA), Geschke (GER)
IAM Cycling (IAM): Denifl (AUT), Tschopp (SUI)
Saturday, March 23
Stage 1: Porto-Vecchio > Porto-Vecchio, 89 km
Stage 2: Porto-Vecchio > Porto Vecchio, 7 km (ITT)
Sunday, March 24
Stage 3: Porto-Vecchio > Col de l'Ospedale, 176 km
Sixteen cycling teams have been selected to take part of the 82nd edition of the Critérium International which will take place in Corsica on March 23rd and 24th :
AG2R La Mondiale (FRA)
Blanco Pro Cycling Team (NED)
BMC Racing Team (USA)
Garmin – Sharp (USA)
RadioShack – Leopard (LUX)
Sky Procycling (GBR)
Team Argos – Shimano (NED)
Team Saxo – Tinkoff (DEN)
Bretagne – Séché Environnement (FRA)
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits (FRA)
Team Europcar (FRA)
IAM Cycling (SUI)
La Pomme Marseille (FRA)
Pierre Rolland, leader of Team Europcar, has gone to Corsica looking for thrills. Just like the French rider, the island undoubtedly has its eyes turned towards the Tour de France… in 2013! Such projects are even further in the future for the Cadets-Juniors who will be joining the race this weekend.ROLLAND: “BACK TO WORK”
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Unable to harness his potential on the Race to the Sun, on which he was stopped in his tracks by a severe fall on the second stage, Christophe Le Mével has taken advantage of a break to put himself back in top physical condition. The leader of the Garmin-Barracuda team will be taking part in the Critérium International with the intention of being top billing.
Christophe Le Mével, have you physically and mentally got over the painful week you spent on Paris-Nice?
During the race, I was suffering from really bad back pain and I just wasn’t in a good riding position. I’ve rarely been that badly hurt. Despite that, I stayed on the race because it was the best way to get daily treatment from the team’s doctor and osteopath. After the race, we agreed that it was wiser not to take part in Milan-San Remo. As a result, I had three days of complete rest, which did me a world of good, before resuming training.
Was this resumption difficult?
Well, I was able to get back to work without any problems. Even if at present the pain hasn’t totally subsided, I think it will be gone by the end of the week. I’m hoping to be as strong as before Paris-Nice, because I was feeling really good. I’ve spent the last few days in Nice where I’ll be staying until I leave for Corsica: it means I can limit the amount of travel, train in the sunshine and receive treatment from doctors that I know in the region.
Will the format and profile of the Critérium International be suited to you this year?
I like the way it has all been set out, especially with the climb up to the Ospedale pass to finish. Last year, I had a broken hand, but it was there where I started to regain a good feeling on the bike. In fact, the climb isn’t very difficult, but overall, however, the stage is very demanding. This means we’ll be tired when we arrive at the foot of the slope and that’s a situation I like.
In an ideal scenario, what place do you think you can aim for?
I know that I’ve got nothing to lose and that I can put myself in a good place on the last climb to try and pick up a good result. There isn’t much risk of losing a good deal of time on the time-trial at Porto-Vecchio, which is short in length, so I can contemplate on finishing in a very decent position.
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The three-stage road race will tackle its third Corsican episode on 24th March, with a sequence that breaks from habit and especially with a status that has leapt up the ladder of riders’ priorities during the year.
Since the announcement of the Grand Start and the first three stages of the Tour de France 2013 in Corsica, winning on these roads now has a symbolical value looking forward to the historical occasion of the 100th Tour. This obviously concerns the pretenders for triumph on the Saturday morning stage, when eyes will be on both the sprinters and fighters. In the afternoon, the time-trial experts will start to measure up against each other on the loop around Porto-Vecchio: Cadel Evans (BMC), Jean-Christophe Péraud (ALM), David Zabriskie (GRM), Andreas Klöden (RNT), Thomas Lövkvist (SKY), Laurent Mangel (SAU) or also Colombian Fabio Duarte (COL) will be the favourites for this exercise. However, it is especially the day after, on 25th March, when the clocks will have gone forward to summer time, that the pack will get a taste of the Tour de France atmosphere, in particular when they approach the final climb up to the Col de l’Ospedale pass, where the finish of the last stage will take place. Last year’s Tour de France winner will have to keep his eye on his runner-up, Fränk Schleck, who is none other than the current title holder in Porto-Vecchio. In addition to the all-rounders mentioned above, the list of challengers for the title should also include climbers like John Gadret (ALM), David Moncoutié (COF), Igor Anton (EUS), Pierrick Fédrigo (FDJ), Jonathan Hivert (SAU), Chris Froome (SKY) or Pierre Rolland (EUC).
16 teams: the main participants
Colombia-Coldeportes (COL): Duarte, Peña (Col)
Euskaltel-Euskadi (EUS): Anton (Spa), Sicard (Fra)
BMC Racing Team (BMC): Evans (Aus), Moinard (Fra)
Garmin-Barracuda (GRM): Le Mével (Fra), Zabriskie (USA)
Team Type 1 - Sanofi (TT1): El Fares (Fra), Bertogliati (Swi)
AG2R La Mondiale (ALM): Péraud, Gadret (Fra)
FDJ - BigMat (FDJ): Fédrigo, Pauriol, Bouhanni (Fra)
Bretagne-Schuller (BSC): Dion, Lequatre (Fra)
Cofidis, Le crédit en ligne (COF): Moncoutié, Buffaz (Fra)
Saur-Sojasun (SAU): Engoulvent, Hivert, Mangel (Fra)
Team Europcar (EUC): Rolland, Kern (Fra)
Auber 93 (BIG): Bacquet (Fra)
La Pomme Marseille (LPM) : Koretzky (Fra), Siskevicius (Lit)
Sky Procycling (SKY): Froome, Swift (GB), Lövkvist (Swe)
RadioShack-Nissan (RNT): F.Schleck (Lux), Monfort (Bel), Klöden, Voigt (Ger)
Project 1T4I (PRO): Geniez (Fra), Geschke (Ger)
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The 81st edition of the Critérium International will also be the 3rd to take place in Corsica, which will additionally welcome the Grand Start and three stages of the Tour de France in 2013.
To get a taste of the relief on the Isle of Beauty, the leading riders of the world elite will be coming to Porto-Vecchio on 24th and 25th March. According to the traditional concept of the event, three stages that are both varied and complementary are served up to the riders for the first weekend of spring. However, this year, a significant change has been made to the sequence of the triple stage event. After the flat stage and the time-trial that will take place on Saturday, the medium altitude mountain stage has been scheduled for the climax of the race on Sunday afternoon. The final climb to the Col de l’Ospedale pass, which has always designated the winner since the arrival of the Critérium in Corsica, promises a defining struggle between the pretenders for the title. After this ascent, there will be no time to catch up lost ground.
The 16 selected teams
BMC Racing Team (BMC)
Team Type 1 - Sanofi (TT1)
AG2R La Mondiale (ALM)
FDJ - BigMat (FDJ)
Cofidis, Le crédit en ligne (COF)
Team Europcar (EUC)
Auber 93 (BIG)
La Pomme Marseille (LPM)
Sky Procycling (SKY)
Project 1T4I (PRO)
THE RACE SCHEDULE
Saturday 24th March
Stage 1: Porto-Vecchio > Porto-Vecchio, 89.5 km
Stage 2: Porto-Vecchio > Porto Vecchio, 6.5 km (i.t.t.)
Sunday 25th March
Stage 3: Porto-Vecchio > Col de l’Ospedale, 179 km
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On the final time-trial of the event, Frank Schleck managed to hang on to his overall lead to catpure the 80th edition of the Criterium International. The afternoon’s stage went to Germany’s Andreas Kloden, beating specialist Bradley Wiggins and Jakob Fuglsang on the 7.8km course.
One final test remained for yellow jersey holder and winner at the Col de l’Ospedale yesterday, Frank Schleck (LEO): hang on to his slim 16’’ lead over Kyrienka and 20’’ over Taaramae on the 7.8km final time-trial around the city of Porto Vecchio.