This past weekend saw the Critérium International happenon the island of Corsica. With most of the media concentrating on the first showdown of the year between rivals Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong, it was France’s Pierrick Fedrigo (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) who took the top spot on the podium after the 3 stages. Both Contador and Armstrong were not at their best but its early days and we will have to wait to see how they progress towards July.
France’s Pierrick Fedrigo (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) won stage 1 finishing 15sec ahead of Armstrong’s Portuguese team-mate Tiago Machado, while Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez was third.
Double Tour de France champion Alberto Contador endured a painful start to the Criterium International on Saturday when he suffered an allergy attack during the opening stage
The Spaniard, whose potential duel with former teammate Lance Armstrong drew extra media attention to the event, finished the first stage in 22nd place, 1:21 behind France’s BBox rider Pierrick Fedrigo.
“Alberto had no feelings three kilometers from the finish because of his allergy problem. It was nothing to do with his legs, he had difficulty breathing,” explained Yvon Sanquer, the sporting director of Contador’s Astana team.
The Spaniard had been expected to mount a challenge in the dying stages of the opening 175.5km run, but the allergy prevented him from being a contender in the final climb, the Col de l’Ospedale.
“We will see how he recovers (before Sunday’s time trial). He is a little disappointed because it’s never easy when you prepare things correctly and you have ambitions to find yourself in a difficulty like this,” added Sanquer.
“We will have to look at this peacefully.”
Armstrong finished in 50th place after the opening stage, 5:01 behind Fredrigo.
“We knew that Lance was not at his top form,” said RadioShack team director Alain Gallopin.
“It was a technical and tactical climb with the wind,” said Armstrong. “There were a lot of surprises but RadioShack can be very happy with the riders we have up front.”
Speaking about his teammate Armstrong added “I am happy for Tiago and it’s a good result for the team.” He also said: “I have not had a lot of racing behind me. I’m not disappointed, it’s only March. If we had still been talking about my physical condition in July, then I would be disappointed.”
Sky’s Russell Downing won the 75 kilometer second stage of the Criterium International.
The 31-year-old Team Sky rider, the British road race champion in 2005, was followed across the line by Michael Albasini with race leader Pierrick Fedrigo of France in third. Fedrigo continues to lead the overall standings.
France’s Pierrick Fedrigo (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) won the Critérium International on Sunday after Briton David Millar (Garmin-Transitions) took the third and final stage, a 7.7km time trial.
The 31-year-old Fedrigo, who won Saturday’s first stage, topped the overall standings by 14 seconds. Australia’s Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia), third in the time trial, finished second overall with Portugal’s Tiago Machado (Team RadioShack) rounding out the podium in third.
This was the first win of the season for Fedrigo, who has two Tour de France stage victories to his name.
Tour de France champion Alberto Contador (Astana) took second in the race against the clock through the streets of Porto Vecchio, two seconds behind Millar.
Astana team director Yvon Sanquer conceded that the overall result was disappointing, blaming allergies for Contador’s performance. The Spaniard finished 15th overall at 1:08.
“It’s a pity that Alberto wasn’t at 100 percent to try and do something in the final stage,” he said. “However, one shouldn’t over-dramatize. It just shows that he is human after all. He was ambitious but there were lots of others who also wanted to win. There was also another priority and that was his health. It wasn’t a total waste of time racing here.”
Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong (Team RadioShack), who had admitted before the start that he was not in the form to make much of an impression in Corsica, was never in contention after finishing 50th in the first stage. He crossed 15th in the finale, 19 seconds behind Millar, and finished 47th overall at 5:05.
Alain Gallopin, one of the team directors at Armstrong’s RadioShack team, took satisfaction from Contador’s uncomfortable day in the saddle on Saturday.
“The fact that Lance wasn’t up among the leaders isn’t a surprise for us,” said Gallopin. “The chief memory to take out of this race is the failure of Contador, which no one could possibly have predicted.”
Armstrong, too, had a bad day in the mountains on Saturday, finishing nearly five minutes down on the stage winner. But Gallopin was unconcerned.
“We didn’t think he would be so far behind in Saturday’s mountain stage,” said Gallopin. “Once he saw he couldn’t go with the leaders, he eased up. If he had finished two minutes or four minutes off the winner, it wouldn’t have changed anything. Lance knows very well what it takes to be ready for the Tour. Lance will turn up at the start of the Tour in his best form. He needs to do several stages in the mountains, timed ones in order to get a proper idea of where he is.”
Images courtesy Graham Watson