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Critérium International
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2002 Critérium International
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Competitive Cyclist

72nd Critérium International - 2.1

France, March 29-30, 2003

2002 Results    Preview    Stages & Results    Map     Past winners

Critérium International preview

By Chris Henry

Defending champ
Photo: © AFP
Click for larger image

It's a big weekend all around, as April and the height of the classics season sits around the corner. While the weekend's racing in Belgium- the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen on Saturday and Sunday's Brabantse Pijl- will provide a last tune up for the protagonists of the Flemish classics, the Critérium International in France will give a similar warm up for the races of the Ardennes hills. The Critérium International also gives an early hint at the form of a number of riders with grand tour ambitions in the coming months.

The race opens with a 187.5 km road race, beginning and ending around Charleville-Mézières. The stage is designed for the sprinters with a relatively flat parcours and time bonuses on offer. Three intermediate sprints will provide the fast men with crucial seconds (3, 2, and 1), while the first three riders over the finish line will receive bonuses of 10, 6, and 4 seconds, respectively.

In stage 2 the advantage swings to the climbers, with nine climbs over a short but challenging 98.5 km circuit. The stage includes an uphill finish to Monthermé, won last year by Cofidis' David Moncoutié. Time gaps aren't always significant, however, and in the same afternoon the peloton will face the final test: an 8.3 km time trial through the streets of Charleville-Mézières. Last year's race came down to the wire in the time trial, as Euskaltel's Alberto Martinez edged out Lance Armstrong by less than one second.

The Critérium International is designed as a race to suit an all-rounder, a mini stage race compressed into one weekend. For several teams, the race will be particularly important as it provides another opportunity to impress the organisers, the Société du Tour de France.

Phonak is one such team, eager to earn its first ever invite to the Tour. Having just signed Swiss Alex Zülle, the team will be looking for a strong performance. "Alex hasn't raced for nearly a month, but he's been training hard," Phonak directeur sportif Jacques Michaud told AFP. "He's competitive."

Principal contenders include Paris-Nice winner Alexandre Vinokourov (Telekom), Crédit Agricole's Jens Voigt, a former winner (1999) and winner of last year's time trial stage, defending champion Martinez, and another former winner, Rik Verbrugghe (2001), who will be looking to give his Lotto-Domo team some much-needed spring success. Team CSC leader Tyler Hamilton, who returned to competition with some strong results at Paris-Nice, is another rider capable of shining both in the hills and against the clock. The list of contenders is long entering this intense weekend of racing.

Past winners

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