Astana and RadioShack teams sending strong lineups to Criterium International
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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Astana and RadioShack teams sending strong lineups to Criterium International

by Shane Stokes at 11:20 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Critérium International
Riders will join competitive field in Corsican event

Alexandre VinokourovThe Astana and RadioShack teams have sent some of their strongest riders to Corsica for the Criterium International, which begins tomorrow with a 198 kilometre stage from Porto-Vecchio to the top of the Col de l’Ospedale.

The race is run by Tour de France organisers ASO and while it is no longer the case that teams must ride well in the hope of landing a place in July’s event, it is still a very prestigious one to win.

It has been won in the past by some of cycling’s top champions, including Jacques Anquetil, Bernhard Hinault, Sean Kelly, Miguel Indurain, Stephen Roche, Joop Zoetemelk and Laurent Fignon, making it a very relevant event. Jens Voigt holds the record with five victories, and Pierrick Fédrigo took a surprise win last year.

Astana leader Alexandre Vinokourov will have the backing of the other riders on the Kazakh team, and will hope for a better showing than in Paris-Nice. He finished a solid 11th in the time trial and said afterwards that was a sign his condition was improving. He then made it into the break on the final day. However he slipped backwards from the escape group and then withdrew from that race, complaining afterwards that the cold and wet conditions had paralysed his muscles.

Better weather can be expected in Corsica, and he will be determined to boost his morale with a strong showing.

Rémy Di Gregorio will also be a big focus, with the Frenchman having taken a brilliant stage victory on day seven of Paris-Nice. He jumped away 13 kilometres from the end of the stage to Biot/Sophia Antipolis and impressively held off a hard-chasing group behind.

Team Manager, Giuseppe Martinelli believes both will go well. “Our strengths will be Alexandre Vinokourov and Rémy Di Gregorio, who showed he’s in good shape in Paris-Nice,” he predicted. “Unfortunately Robert Kiserlovski won’t take part of the race as he is still recovering form his crash in Paris-Nice. He would have been a strong rider for Criterium.”

Kiserlovski was riding well in Paris-Nice, sitting 17th overall heading into the penultimate stage, but crashed, skidded along the wet ground and ended up under a parked van. Fortunately he wasn’t too badly hurt, but he withdrew from the event.

Vinokourov and Di Gregorio will be backed by Dmitriy Fofonov, Fredrik Kessiakoff, Roman Kireyev, Sergey Renev and Gorazd Stangelj.

Like Gregorio, another stage winner from Paris-Nice will be chasing a similarly big result in ASO’s three day race. Andreas Klöden beat Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) to win into Vernoux-en-Vivarais, and ended up second overall in the race. His form is good and he’ll try to go a place higher this weekend.

Klöden will be backed by Tiago Machado, Nélson Oliveira, Sérgio Paulinho, Yaroslav Popovych, Bjørn Selander, Matthew Busche and Ben King.

Meanwhile Robbie McEwen will be one of the American ProTeam’s protected riders in Gent-Wevelgem in Belgium on Sunday. The Australian sprinter will be joined by another rapid finisher, Robbie Hunter, as well as Fumiyuki Beppu, Michal Kwiatkowski, Geoffroy Lequatre, Dmitriy Muravyev, Gregory Rast and Sébastien Rosseler,

Astana will also send a team to that race. Allan Davis will be protected if he feels good on the day, and is joined by Assan Bazayev, Simon Clarke, Maxim Gourov, Andriy Grivko, Maxim Iglinskiy, Mirco Lorenzetto and Tomas Vaitkus.

That squad will also ride Saturday’s E3 Prijs Vlaanderen – Harelbeke, and all bar Iglinskiy will compete in the Driedaagse de Panne, beginning Tuesday. He will be replaced by his brother Valentin.

“We will count on Grivko, who finished second in the Driedaagse de Panne last season, Vaitkus, and Davis for these races,” said Martinelli.



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