Georges Mela, Christian Prudhomme© A.S.O.
On 29 and 30 March 2014, the world cycling elite is set to gather in Corsica once more. For the fifth consecutive year, Porto-Vecchio will play host to the three stages of the Critérium International.
Cycling in Corsica is forward-thinking. That much was clear back in 2010, when the island first unveiled its landscape and caught the collective attention of the discipline’s elite with the Critérium International. Since then, it has become a regular fixture for cyclists, making it a highly popular event. The coastline stage, the Porto-Vecchio time trial and of course the climb towards the Ospedale Pass, gave rise to some first-rate tussles, confirming Bernard Hinault’s vision of the potential held by Corsican roads. As Christian Prudhomme recalls, “Bernard Hinault always told me that Corsica’s terrain was particularly well-suited to the Critérium International. The variety that you find there, especially around Porto-Vecchio, has quickly proven to be ideal for the event”.
Before the Grand Départ of the 100th Tour de France next summer, wanted by the Collectivité Territoriale de Corse, the city of Porto-Vecchio and A.S.O. already had a vision of prolonging the adventure by inviting the world cycling elite to take part in an island stay for the 83rd edition of the Critérium International, being held in Corsica for the fifth time. “In Corsica’s involvement I see a real desire to strengthen the ties between the island and cycling,” continues Christian Prudhomme. “Over these four years, we have been witnessing a movement that has gone from strength to strength and which will be a great source of pride for the Critérium International in the new perspectives it has opened up.”
The Mayor of Porto-Vecchio, Georges Mela, said, “the experience of the Critérium International de la Route for four years gave to the city and his stakeholders the possibility to develop a knowledge to receive great sporting events. With this 5th edition, we want to extend the positive effects of the 2013 Grand Départ in order to accentuate the attractiveness of Porto-Vecchio to worldwide professional and non-professional athletes”.
Cadel Evans© Presse Sports
Cadel Evans, who will be wearing number one on his back, will face, during the weekend, an impressive number of contenders like Chris Froome, Andrew Talansky, Pierre Rolland, Michael Rogers or Pierrick Fédrigo…
EVANS, READY TO DEFEND HIS TITLE
The winner of the 2010 Tour de France shows up in Porto-Vecchio as the title holder of the Criterium International. Last year, Cadel Evans had taken command of the race after winning the individual time-trial that has been modified this edition with a climb during the first two kilometres. The fact that he might have been slightly less convincing during the first part of the season (3rd of the Tour of Oman, 22nd of Tirreno Adriatico) isn’t a concern for his DS at BMC, Yvon Ledanois: “Cadel is someone who works in a very careful and precise way. He knows himself by heart and he knows where he stands. He has always had good results here (6th in 2010) and even if the years go by, they don’t always look alike. I have the feeling that the time-trial could suit a rider like Richie Porte. Anyhow, Cadel isn’t late in the work he has done”. For Ledanois, what goes on during the Criterium won’t reveal that much on the preparation for the Tour de France: “100 days is still a long way to go. A lot of things can still happen. For the moment, the Criterium is the Criterium!’’
SEVEN FORMER STAGE WINNERS
Among the 112 riders registered to start the race, three have already put their names on the winners’ list: Cadel Evans (2012), Pierrick Fédrigo (2010) and Jens Voigt (1999, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009). A total of seven men have already won at least one stage of the Criterium International: Jens Voigt (2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2009), Pierrick Fédrigo (2010, 2012), Cadel Evans (2012), Florian Vachon (2012), Andreas Klöden (2011), Simon Geschke (2011), Thomas Dekker (2005).
L’OSPEDALE, FOR THE YOUNG
The Criterium International also known as « le triptyque de la route » (three different type of stages), is also a key moment for young Corsican cyclists who are expected to perform in the years to come, based on the fact the number of licensed riders has grown from 200 to 1000 since the Criterium has settled on the island in 2010. On each of the three stages, the Cadets-Juniors project has been set up with the help of 7 cycling clubs that have selected young riders, aged 12 to 18, in their teams. The girls and boys invited will therefore have the opportunity, for instance, to test themselves before the real champions on the final climb heading up to the Col de l’Ospedale, but also establish a first reference time on the 7 kilometres of the individual time-trial in Porto-Vecchio.
LIVE ON YOUR SCREENS… AND ON TWITTER
For this outstanding edition of the Criterium International, organised less than 100 days before the start of the 100th edition of the Tour de France, 11 broadcasters covering a total of 125 countries will show the event on their channels. A live coverage will be available for the third stage heading to the Col de l’Ospedale, aired by 7 broadcasters. The viewers of Eurosport 2 and France 3 will for example be able to follow the stage on their screens. The more impatient fans will be able to follow live text coverage of the first two stages as well thanks to letour.fr. The live updates of the website in French will also be available on the dedicated Twitter account.
Pierre Rolland© Presse Sports
Pierre Rolland is kicking off his second set of races of the 2013 season at the Critérium International, where he will be looking to flex his muscles ahead of the Tour de France which is due to start from Corsica.
Pierre Rolland may have shied away from the limelight, but no other Tour de France Top 10 contender has got more miles in his legs since the start of the 2013 season: a total of 27 days if one counts the Tour du Gabon, the Etoile de Bessèges, the Tour of the Mediterranean and the Tour of Langkawi, where he focused on contributing to the success of his teammates Yohann Gène, Jérôme Cousin and Bryan Coquard, the rising star of mass sprints. "I chose a large block of races to rev up my engine", explains the Team Europcar rider who hails from Orleans. "This is how I like to build up my form, with recovery periods of two or three weeks, instead of having a programme full of one-day races with loads of tiring journeys in between."
In Malaysia, he shined more for his aggressive riding than for his results (20th in the general classification). He almost managed to tip the overall balance in his favour the day after the Genting Highlands mountain stage, when he broke away under the tropical rain, but a puncture put paid to his chances a mere ten kilometres from the end of stage seven. "In all honesty, I was expecting something more", he says, "but I just happened to come up against riders who were stronger than me on the climbs (the race was won by Colombia's Julián Arredondo ahead of Pieter Weening, the last Dutchman to win a stage in the Tour de France... in 2005). But, after 27 days of racing, what was really important was to see I didn't feel tired. I've done a really good job."
"The Critérium International is an interesting test for the best-climbers. Coming here is a must."
The Critérium International in Corsica will see him return to the peloton after a three-week break from the competition. "It's a gorgeous race which I really like", he says excitedly. "The course is awesome and the Col de l'Ospedale fits me like a glove if I'm in the same condition as two years ago." He finished eighth at the top but had a puncture during the next day's time trial. In 2010, he took the polka-dot jersey home from the Isle of Beauty. "I don't know whether the opportunity to race on Corsica so often will last for long, so we'd better enjoy it", he adds. "It has a special taste to it this year because we'll be back for the Grand Start of the Tour de France. The Critérium International doesn't really use the same roads, so it's more about soaking the atmosphere of the island than about testing the courses. At any rate, we already reconnoitred the second and third stage of the Tour during our training camp on Corsica, in December. I've got a feeling it'll be hectic. Considering the difficulty, we'll have to be in top shape from the beginning and ready to jump into the thick of it for the overall. Unlike other years, you can't just come at 90% of your top shape and aim to peak during the third week."
Pierre Rolland is not the only rider who is especially interested in Corsica this year. "The Critérium International is an interesting test for the best-climbers", he confides. "Coming here is a must. It's quite impressive to see Froome and Contador (whose first and second place at the Tour of Oman, together with their second and third place at Tirreno–Adriatico, makes them favourites to win the Critérium) are already firing on all cylinders. They'll be just as strong in July." For these two riders, rather than just testing the waters before the big event at the Tour, it looks like it will be no holds barred this weekend on Corsica.
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)