Distance: @300km (3 stages)
Time Trial km: 8.3
Most wins: 5 (Poulidor)
Website: here, another LeTour.FR site.
Broadcast: Check Cyclingfans for live streams; Versus will broadcast tape-delayed coverage Sunday.
Did you know? One for you French conspiracy theorists: Crit-Int was closed to non-French riders until 1979, whereupon it was promptly won by Dutch legend Joop Zoetemelk. Sacre bleu!
If I don't sound excited about the outcome, well, there's a reason. Several actually: the cobbles, for one, and the fact that Crit-Int strikes me (from all my years as a top-ranked professional cyclist) as a place to train, where winning is a nice option if you feel inclined. Fitting then that the defending, four-time champion is Jens! Voigt, who gets more excited to ride his trainer than most guys do on race day.
[Aside: what is it with spring race names? Straight Across Flanders isn't straight, neither is the Brabant Arrow. E3 Prijs is named after the E17 Motorway. And Crit-Int is raced entirely in France. Even the Tour of Flanders is a slight exaggeration, though the initial event, at 330 km, probably covered every road in the region.]
Anyway, the course consists of a long, flat run on Saturday, and a climbers' route Sunday morning followed by a short time trial in the afternoon. Those climbs are pure Amstel-Fleche-Liege level, longer than what you'll see in Flanders but not much. With only nine of them, listed below, there's nothing that would separate out the contenders very much, but gaps arise nonetheless, thanks to an uphill finish and the Côte du Mont Malgré Tout, the beast of the lot, coming 18km from the line. To wit:
- Km 2.0 - Côte des Vieilles Forges - 1.8 km à 7.6%
- Km 13.0 - Côte du Mont Malgré Tout - 3.3 km à 8.8%
- Km 34.0 - Côte de Blossette - 1.7 km à 3.2%
- Km 39.5 - Col du Loup (D.131-D.13) - 3.7 km à 6.2%
- Km 49.0 - Côte des Perrières - 2.4 km à 4.3%
- Km 56.5 - Côte de Meillier-Fontaine - 3.8 km à 4.4%
- Km 61.0 - Côte du Bois de l'Or - 1.1 km à 7%
- Km 77.0 - Côte du Mont Malgré Tout - 3.3 km à 8.8%
- Km 98.5 - Côte de la Roche aux 7 Villages - 3.8 km à 5.4%
The closing time trial is a pretty flat 8.3km, but ITTs always create some time separation, so it may be there where the winner is decided. More likely, though, Sunday morning's stage will dictate the winner. Last year Voigt attacked about 25km out, before the penultimate climb, and was never seen again, putting 48-75 seconds into the cream of the field. That's way bigger than the gaps you could earn in the TT. But should the road race end in a stalemate, the ITT will be an amusing battle for the win. Voigt's biggest challenge, if not from within his own team (Julich, both Schlecks) could come from Alejandro Valverde, Luis Leon Sanchez, Kim Kirchen, Robert Gesink, Damiano Cunego, or maybe David Millar. I'm a little shocked Sylvain Chavanel isn't on the startlist, but whatever. Enjoy!