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Preview: The Not Jens! Invite (Criterium International)


To everything (turn, turn, turn)

There is a season (turn, turn, turn)

And a time to every purpose, under heaven

...and you know the rest of that song.

I just felt that I needed to say something about the Jens! Invite turning into, of all things, a bike race, sans Jens! In other news this bike race is no longer in the Ardennes but in Corsica, presumably to see if the island could serve in the future for a Grand Depart for the Tour de France. Honestly I don't see why Corsica wouldn't be okay; maybe someone in the comments could explain it to me. 

But wait! Those two things (no Jens! and riding on an island) not the only things that are different. For instance there is this which Phil H noted in a fan post a week ago: Col_medium

Yes! A real mountain! And the first real mountain top finish of the year! Yeah, we had Mende climb and that was cool, but everyone was freezing their butts off and besides that was a little short at three km to call it a real mountain top finish. 

But her at the Not Jens! Invite we got this Col de l'Ospedale, 14.2 km of moderate steepness to end the 1st stage, a stage that has four other climbs, two of which are 10 km each.

Plus there is the hugely hyped matchup of two of the biggest names in cycling, meeting for the first time this year. I am talking of course of Alberto Contador and Cadel Evans.

Ha ha! Yes, Lance will be there too, but since I am writing this I get to choose the two riders who I am most looking forward to seeing.

More on the jump.

Bert and Cadel. This is a good first matchup for them and its good that the mountain stage comes before the TT so neither will be defending on the road and both should be trying to get as much separation from the other before that time trial on Sunday. We'll get to see them really dig into each other.

What's that you say? There's another racer I am deliberately omitting and in that omission you read that I think he's pants? Okay, you got me. But I think Sammy Sanchez will be ready to dish and if Cadel and Bert are looking at each other like Boonen and Fabian in Belgium there's plenty of room for Samu to ride away with the victory and defend in the time trial.

This isn't just a three person race. In fact there are other dark horse riders here: Mick Rogers for one, who is bringing quite a nice bunch of Columbia riders: Monfort, and P. Velits, and both TT specialists, Grabsch and Rabon. Speaking of Rabon it will be interesting to see how well he hangs on stage one since he did hang with the goats at Murcia and took the title. In a year where there's ben a handful of young upstarts, Rabon might be making a statement that he's more than just a chronoman.  Keep an eye on him with me.

Then you got Lovkvist and Gerrans of Sky and you are now thinking that this race has a nice group of climbers, any of whom have the chops to defend at the time trial if they can slip away the day before. Yep stage one will be tasty. Oh yes! There's also Vino and we'll see how he defines the word "support" as in the sentence, "Vino supported Bert by attacking on the final climb to bring the pack back together and erase the gap Bert had opened up." He he.

And that's about it, other than Lance is riding too and Versus will be playing that angle hard as is their right. What? I hadn't mentioned Lance before? Oops! But I guess you already knew that. Can he hang on Saturday? Will his form be, "better than ever," as we heard a lot of in the winter or will it be, "not the best," as we've heard lately, post-Murcia? Or will the mountain stage not be hard enough to separate the men from the goats?


To sum up, you got your basic Jens! Invite but:

- No Jens!

- Not in the Ardennes

- In Corsica

- Mountain stage really has mountains and is first on Saturday

- Sunday has a short sprinter stage in the morning and the TT in the afternoon.

- A bunch of good climby guys will be here: those not in Catalunya.

Oh and for those who get Versus and who have a priority on the cobbles races: Versus will be airing an hour and a half on both Saturday and Sunday starting at 11:30, Pacific so you can watch a decent amount of the opening stage without losing out on E3. (There wil be live coverage of this race too over the intertubes).

And now, over to Chris and Majope with mucho cobbles writing today...