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78th Critérium International - 2.HC
France, March 28-29, 2009
By Peter Hymas
The 78th edition of the Critérium International, organized by Tour de France owner ASO, takes place once again in the hills of northern France near the Belgian Ardennes border on March 28-29. Ten years after winning his first Critérium International, defending champion Jens Voigt will attempt to win his fifth overall title to equal the record of France's Raymond Poulidor, the only man to claim five victories in the storied event's history. Voigt is already in esteemed company, with Jacques Anquetil the only other rider to have notched four overall wins in the two-day, three-stage race, but Voigt will face a stiff challenge from several on-form general classification contenders.
The race opens Saturday with a relatively flat, 190-kilometre stage from Monthois to Charleville-Mézières which typically ends in a bunch gallop. Team Saxo Bank may try to lay down the gauntlet from the very start in support of sprinter Juan José Haedo, recent winner of Cholet-Pays De Loire, but there's plenty of other fastmen eager to contend for the stage victory. Look for Julian Dean (Garmin-Slipstream), Mark Renshaw (Team Columbia-Highroad), Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale), Romain Feillu (Agritubel) and Jimmy Casper (Besson Chaussures-Sojasun) to provide a challenge to Haedo.
Last year, however, Rabobank's Laurens Ten Dam defied conventional wisdom on the first stage and held on for a 10 second victory, the solitary survivor of a two-man break which spent nearly the entire day off the front. Julien El Farès (Cofidis) won the opening stage of this year's Tirreno-Adriatico in a similar fashion, and based on his performance in Tirreno-Adriatico's mountain stages, the Frenchman possesses the form to be a contender for the home country in the Critérium International.
Sunday's morning stage, a hilly 98.5-kilometre trek from Les Vieilles Forges (Les Mazures) to Monthermé with nine classified climbs, has been the stomping grounds for Jens Voigt's four previous victories (he's won this stage on three previous occasions) and is tailor-made for his aggressive, attacking style of racing. Voigt was outsprinted for the stage victory last year by Simon Gerrans, but Voigt put more than 1:30 into his rivals heading into the afternoon's 8.3-kilometre time trial.
Expect a strong challenge to Voigt and Team Saxo Bank on the roads to Monthermé by a pair of his German compatriots, Astana's Andréas Klöden and Team Columbia-Highroad's Tony Martin. Both riders have the climbing form and time trial prowess to test Voigt's bid for victory this year.
Klöden finished third overall in Tirreno-Adriatico, climbing extremely well on tougher terrain, in addition to winning the event's stage five time trial. Tony Martin won the mountain classification at Paris-Nice while finishing a solid fourth place in the opening 11-kilometre time trial. Martin nearly won Critérium International's closing time trial stage in 2008, finishing seven seconds behind stage winner and teammate Edvald Boasson Hagen.
If Voigt falters, Team Saxo Bank still has other very strong cards to play for general classification in the form of the Schleck brothers, Andy and Fränk, plus Denmark's Jakob Fuglsang. Fränk Schleck and Jakob Fuglsang each rode well in Paris-Nice, with Schleck nearly winning the final stage on his way to finishing second place overall.
A pair of Frenchman, Jonathan Hivert (Skil-Shimano) and Christophe Moreau (Agritubel), each displayed good form in Paris-Nice and will attempt to win Critérium International for France, a feat which was last accomplished in 2003 by Laurent Brochard. Hivert finished second to Christian Vande Velde in stage four of Paris-Nice on his way to an 8th place overall classification while Moreau had four top-ten stage finishes to go along with his 11th place overall on general classification.
In 2008's Critérium International, Caisse d'Epargne's Luis León Sánchez finished in third place overall, 57 seconds behind Voigt. While Sanchez is not back for Caisse d'Epargne in 2009, expect 2006 Tour de France champion Oscar Pereiro to continue the squad's strong performance. Tony Martin's Belgian teammate, Maxime Monfort, finished fourth overall in 2008 while riding for Cofidis and is capable of a strong performance as well alongside Martin. Vladimir Karpets (Katusha) has had a relatively quiet spring campaign thus far, but perhaps the Russian can stamp his authority on the race this year.
The third and final stage, a flat, 8.3-kilometre time trial in Charleville-Mézières on Sunday afternoon, will provide an opportunity for the chrono specialists to contest for a stage victory while the GC contenders can perhaps shuffle classification one last time if the morning's stage hadn't created decisive time gaps. Bradley Wiggins (Garmin-Slipstream), smarting from his first stage time trial defeat in Paris-Nice by Alberto Contador, should be the man to beat in the race against the clock. Voigt's Swedish teammate, Gustav Larsson, is also a very capable time trialist, having claimed a silver medal in the Beijing Olympic time trial and a third place in the this year's Tour of California's Solvang time trial. General classification contenders Klöden, Martin or Monfort also have the potential to emerge victorious in the afternoon's finale.
Team Saxo Bank Caisse d'Epargne 1 Jens Voigt (Ger) 11 Oscar Pereiro (Spa) 2 Lasse Bochman (Den) 12 Anthony Charteau (Fra) 3 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) 13 Rui Costa (Por) 4 Juan Jose Haedo (Arg) 14 Arnaud Coyot (Fra) 5 Gustav Larsson (Swe) 15 Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) 6 Andy Schleck (Lux) 16 Daniel Moreno (Spa) 7 Frank Schleck (Lux) 17 Mathieu Perget (Fra) 8 Chris Anker Sørensen (Den) 18 Nicolas Portal (Fra) Cofidis Astana 21 Fares Julien El (Fra) 32 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) 22 Jean-Eudes Demaret (Fra) 33 Alexsandr Dyachenko (Kaz) 23 Bingen Fernandez (Spa) 34 Roman Kireyev (Kaz) 24 Maryan Hary (Fra) 35 Steve Morabito (Swi) 25 Christophe Kern (Fra) 36 Daniel Navarro (Spa) 26 Damien Monier (Fra) 38 Andrey Zeits (Kaz) 27 Nico Sijmens (Bel) 28 Romain Villa (Fra) Française Des Jeux Garmin - Slipstream 41 Sandy Casar (Fra) 51 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) 42 Jérôme Coppel (Fra) 52 Julian Dean (NZl) 43 Gregorio Rémy Di (Fra) 53 Jason Donald (USA) 44 Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr) 54 Timothy Duggan (USA) 45 Sébastien Joly (Fra) 55 Christian Meier (Can) 46 Mevel Christophe Le (Fra) 56 Danny Pate (USA) 47 Guillaume Levarlet (Fra) 57 Kilian Patour (Fra) 48 Anthony Roux (Fra) 58 Thomas Peterson (USA) Team Columbia - Highroad Team Katusha 61 Michael Barry (Can) 71 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) 62 Michael Albasini (Swi) 72 Alexandre Botcharov (Rus) 63 Bert Grabsch (Ger) 73 Joan Horrach (Spa) 64 Tony Martin (Ger) 74 Evgeni Petrov (Rus) 65 Maxime Monfort (Bel) 75 Ivan Rovny (Rus) 66 Frantisek Rabon (Cze) 76 Ben Swift (GBr) 67 Mark Renshaw (Aus) AG2R La Mondiale BMC Racing Team 81 Julien Loubet (Fra) 91 Antonio Cruz (USA) 82 Aurélien Clerc (Swi) 92 Mathias Frank (Swi) 83 Hubert Dupont (Fra) 93 Thomas Frei (Swi) 84 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) 94 Martin Kohler (Swi) 85 Alexandr Pliuschin (Mda) 95 Ian Mckissick (USA) 86 Christophe Riblon (Fra) 96 Alexandre Moos (Swi) 87 Nicolas Roche (Irl) 97 Danilo Wyss (Swi) 88 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) 98 Markus Zberg (Swi) Agritubel Euskaltel - Euskadi 101 Christophe Moreau (Fra) 111 Mikel Astarloza (Spa) 102 Romain Feillu (Fra) 112 Josu Agirre (Spa) 103 Eduardo Gonzalo (Spa) 114 Koldo Fernandez (Spa) 104 Yann Huguet (Fra) 115 Andoni Lafuente (Spa) 105 Kevin Ista (Bel) 116 Juan José Oroz (Spa) 106 David Lelay (Fra) 117 Alan Perez (Spa) 107 Geoffroy Lequatre (Fra) 118 Ivan Velasco (Spa) 108 Anthony Ravard (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom Besson Chaussures - Sojasun 121 Alexandre Pichot (Fra) 131 Jimmy Casper (Fra) 122 Olivier Bonnaire (Fra) 132 Jimmy Engoulvent (Fra) 123 Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) 133 Jeremy Galland (Fra) 124 Cyril Gautier (Fra) 134 Laurent Mangel (Fra) 125 Laurent Lefevre (Fra) 135 Florian Morizot (Fra) 126 Matthieu Sprick (Fra) 136 Julien Simon (Fra) 127 Yury Trofimov (Rus) 137 Fabrice Jeandesboz (Fra) 128 Johann Tschopp (Swi) 138 Yannick Talabardon (Fra) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team Skil-Shimano 141 Clément Lhotellerie (Fra) 151 Jonathan Hivert (Fra) 142 Matteo Carrara (Ita) 152 Yukihiro Doi (Jpn) 143 Reinier Honig (Ned) 153 Simon Geschke (Ger) 144 Sergey Lagutin (Uzb) 154 Steve Houanard (Fra) 145 Marco Marcato (Ita) 155 Thierry Hupond (Fra) 146 Wouter Mol (Ned) 156 Cyril Lemoine (Fra) 147 Wouter Poels (Ned) 157 Piet Rooijakkers (Ned) 148 Bobbie Traksel (Ned) 158 Albert Timmer (Ned) Landbouwkrediet - Colnago Bretagne - Schuller 161 Dirk Bellemakers (Ned) 171 Dimitri Champion (Fra) 163 Sébastien Delfosse (Bel) 173 Nicolas Hartmann (Fra) 164 Mathieu Drouilly (Fra) 174 Lilian Jegou (Fra) 165 Benjamin Gourgue (Bel) 176 Romain Lebreton (Fra) 166 Kevin Neyrinck (Bel) 178 Yann Pivois (Fra) 168 Martial Ricci Poggi (Fra) 179 Jean-Marc Bideau (Fra) 180 Gaël Malacarne (Fra)
2008 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC 2007 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC 2006 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC 2005 Bobby Julich (USA) CSC 2004 Jens Voigt (Ger) CSC 2003 Laurent Brochard (Fra) AG2r Prévoyance 2002 Alberto Martinez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 2001 Rik Verbrugghe (Bel) Lotto-Adecco 2000 Abraham Olano (Spa) ONCE 1999 Jens Voigt (Ger) Credit Agricole 1998 Bobby Julich (USA) Cofidis 1997 Marcelino Garcia (Spa) 1996 Chris Boardman (GB) 1995 Laurent Jalabert (Fra) 1994 Giorgio Furlan (Ita) 1993 Erik Breukink (Ned) 1992 Jean-Francois Bernard (Fra) 1991 Stephen Roche (Ire) 1990 Laurent Fignon (Fra) 1989 Miguel Indurain (Spa) 1988 Erik Breukink (Ned) 1987 Sean Kelly (Ire) 1986 Urs Zimmermann (Swi) 1985 Stephen Roche (Ire) 1984 Sean Kelly (Ire) 1983 Sean Kelly (Ire) 1982 Laurent Fignon (Fra) 1981 Bernard Hinault (Fra) 1980 Michel Laurent (Fra) 1979 Joop Zoetemelk (Ned) 1978 Bernard Hinault (Fra) 1977 Jean Chassang (Fra) 1976 Patrick Beon (Fra) 1975 Jacques Esclassan (Fra) 1974 Bernard Thevenet (Fra) 1973 Jean-Pierre Danguilaume (Fra) 1972 Raymond Poulidor (Fra) 1971 Raymond Poulidor (Fra) 1970 Georges Chappe (Fra) 1969 Gilbert Bellone (Fra) 1968 Raymond Poulidor (Fra) 1967 Jacques Anquetil (Fra) 1966 Raymond Poulidor (Fra) 1965 Jacques Anquetil (Fra) 1964 Raymond Poulidor (Fra) 1963 Jacques Anquetil (Fra) 1962 Joseph Groussard (Fra) 1961 Jacques Anquetil (Fra) 1960 Jean Graczyk (Fra) 1959 André Darrigade (Fra) 1958 Roger Hassenforder (Fra) 1957 Jean Forestier (Fra) 1956 Roger Hassenforder (Fra) 1955 René Privat (Fra) 1954 Roger Hassenforder (Fra) 1953 Robert Desbats (Fra) 1952 Louison Bobet (Fra) 1951 Louison Bobet (Fra) 1950 Pierre Barbotin (Fra) 1949 Emile Idee (Fra) 1948 Camille Danguilaume (Fra) 1947 Emile Idee (Fra) 1946 Kleber Piot (Fra), Camille Danguilaume (Fra) 1945 Joseph Goutorbe (Fra) 1944 Roger Piel (Fra) 1943 Louis Gauthier (Fra), Emile Idee (Fra) 1942 Aldo Bertocco (Fra), Emile Idee (Fra) 1941 Yvon Marie (Fra), Benoit Faure (Fra) 1940 Emile Idee (Fra) 1939 André Deforge (Fra) 1938 Pierre Jaminet (Fra) 1937 Roger Lapbie, René Le Greves (Fra) 1936 Paul Chocque (Fra) 1935 René Le Greves (Fra) 1934 Roger Lapbie (Fra) 1933 André Leducq (Fra) 1932 Leon Le Calvez (Fra) 1930 Robert Brugere (Fra) 1929 Paul Le Drogo (Fra) 1928 André Leducq (Fra) 1927 Julien Moineu (Fra) Past winners by Mario Stiehl, www.world-of-cycling.com