Friday, March 22, 2013

Criterium International: Preview and Favorites

If Paris-Nice is a mini Tour de France, this race is a mini-mini Tour de France. We have a sprint stage, a time trial and an uphill finish, and it’s all within two days.

The first stage is a same one as last year - hopefully without all the crashes in the final - but the following time trial is a little bit different. It has more turns, it’s 500 meters longer and final km is the same one as on stage 1. The time differences won’t be big and even though you lose 10 seconds here, you still have a chance of getting it back on Sunday’s big mountain stage. Especially because there are 10 bonus seconds to the winner on Col de l’Ospedale.

Last year, the final stage had a tough beginning with four climbs within the first 80 km, followed by a long flat section before the final climb. This year, it’s the other way around. The first 50 km are “flat” - it’s always up and down on Corsica - and then we have five categorized climbs on the menu before Col de l’Ospedale (14,1 km / 6,2%).

Team Sky bring a very strong team to the race and there is no doubt about who the big favorite is. Chris Froome missed out on the overall win in Tirreno-Adriatico and without Alberto Contador (who is out due a flu), Froome now has the perfect opportunity to take revenge. Criterium International will also be Chris Froome’s first race after his engagement to Michelle Cound, and what better way of celebrating than an win? 

To help him achieve this, Froome can count on support from Paris-Nice winner Richie Porte and in-form Vasil Kiryienka and Kanstantin Siutsou. Youngester Joshua Edmondson (7th on the mountain stage in Volta Algarve) is also here to help Froome. I think that Team Sky will start their mountain train on stage 3 and - as usually - simply wait for the other riders to drop out the back one by one. The steepest part of Col de l’Ospedale is with 2 km to go and this would be a perfect place for Chris Froome to put in a strong attack and take time on his rivals. Pretty much like Richie Porte did in Paris-Nice.

The final stage of Criterium International ending on Col de l’Ospedale (14,1 km / 6,2%). 
Looking at the other contenders for the general classification, BMC have two riders with a good chance of a podium spot; Tejay van Garderen and last year’s winner Cadel Evans. TJ was strong in Paris-Nice (ended 4th overall) and has set Criterium International as his next target. Cadel Evans wasn’t really on top of his game in Tirreno-Adriatico but he showed in Tour of Oman that he is already very strong. BMC will probably try to get a good overall result with both TJ and Evans, but I think Evans is their best shot. Also, whoever ends up in a supporting role here, will have some goodwill for the Tour de France, when BMC have to pick a designated leader.

Update: Cadel Evans has now told that TJ is the team leader for BMC in this race. Therefore, expect TJ to take podium instead of Evans. 

Like TJ, also Andrew Talansky and Jean-Christophe Peraud did very well in Paris-Nice (ending 2nd and 3rd overall), and with a time trial and a mountain stage, both should be up there again in Criterium International. Especially Talansky will be eager to take revenge after a poor tactical decision on La Montagne de Lure cost him the chance of winning overall.

My personal outsider is Rein Taaramae. He was originally set to peak in Paris-Nice, but got sick in February and decided to work for Dani Navarro instead. Now Taaramae is showing promising shape and after his 3rd place in Cholet - Pays De Loire last Sunday, he’s now ready to take on Froome and the other favorites in Criterium International. Taaramae is strong against the clock and Col de l’Ospedale should suit him just fine too. He has Jerome Coppel to help him and I would be very surprised not see Taaramae in the overall top10 when the race is over.

Winner pick: Chris Froome
Podium pick: Cadel Evans Tejay van Garderen
Joker: Rein Taaramae

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1 comment:

  1. Buenos dias, esperamos con optimismo moderado la actuacion en la CRI del Ciclismo Colombiano y mañana, con los mejores deseos de que se muestren, la casta de todo nuestro potencial, suerte a todos, ATAPUMA, Robinson los capos, suerte y éxitos..