The Criterium International is a three-stage, two-day race offering stage racers and all-rounderâ€™s a chance to score nice mid-sized win all in one weekend. Saturday’s Stage 1 is a hilly affair with a summit finish atop the lâ€™Ospedale that will pit the day’s breakaway against teams looking to launch patient climbers. Stages 2 and 3â€”a short sprint stage and a 7-kilometer ITTâ€”should only tweak the GC at best.
Jens Voigt has made the Criterium International his own, winning it five times (thrice consecutively from 2007 to 2009) thanks to a simple formula: finish at the front on the flat stage, in the break on the hilly stage, and in the top-3 in the time trial. The format’s changed since Voigt’s last win in 2009 though, look for few climbers to populate the top of the GC after the first day and then enjoy a few hours cruising the streets of Corsica Sunday morning before determining their final GC positions in the short, afternoon time trial.
2010 Criterium International-winner Pierrick Fedrigo returns with FDJ, as does second-place finisher Tiago Machado of RadioShack. Indeed, RadioShack looks loaded to propel Machado to a win here, bringing a strong squad with wily vets Andreas Kloden and Yaroslav Popovych and young up-and-comers Ben King and Bjorn Selander.
Not to be outdone, Leopard-Trek brings two Schlecks, a Voigt, a Wegmann, and a Fuglsang. Both Schlecks haveâ€”according to fashionâ€”started the year slowly, but Leopard-Trek is surely looking for a good-sized win. Frankâ€™s a better bet for a rebound following his anonymous Paris-Nice. Euskaltel’s Samuel Sanchez always has an upset up his sleeve and may be looking for revenge following his second-place filled Paris-Nice. However, a chance of rain throughout the weekend adds a significant variable to the racing. Tune in for the Stage 1â€™s mountaintop finish fireworks. It should be an interesting hour of racingâ€”one that will offer plenty of fodder for speculation about the form of some midsummer Grand Tour contenders.
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