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"The Critérium International is an interesting test for the best-climbers", he confides. "Coming here is a must. It's quite impressive to see Froome and Contador are already firing on all cylinders. They'l...

Photo: Sirotti






20.03.2013 @ 14:46 Posted by Jesper Ralbjerg

Pierre Rolland will be kicking off his second set of races of the 2013 season at the Critérium International, where he will be looking to flex his muscles ahead of the Tour de France which is due to start from Corsica.


Pierre Rolland may have shied away from the limelight, but no other Tour de France Top 10 contender has got more miles in his legs since the start of the 2013 season: a total of 27 days if one counts the Tour du Gabon, the Etoile de Bessèges, the Tour of the Mediterranean and the Tour of Langkawi, where he focused on contributing to the success of his teammates Yohann Gène, Jérôme Cousin, Damien Gaudin and Bryan Coquard, the rising star of mass sprints. "I chose a large block of races to rev up my engine", explains the Team Europcar rider who hails from Orleans. "This is how I like to build up my form, with recovery periods of two or three weeks, instead of having a programme full of one-day races with loads of tiring journeys in between."

In Malaysia, he shone more for his aggressive riding than for his results (20th in the general classification). He almost managed to tip the overall balance in his favour the day after the Genting Highlands mountain stage, when he broke away under the tropical rain, but a puncture put paid to his chances a mere ten km from the end of stage seven. "In all honesty, I was expecting something more", he says, "but I just happened to come up against riders who were stronger than me on the climbs (the race was won by Colombia's Julián Arredondo ahead of Pieter Weening, the last Dutchman to win a stage in the Tour de France... in 2005). But, after 27 days of racing, what was really important was to see I didn't feel tired. I've done a really good job."


"The Critérium International is an interesting test for the best-climbers. Coming here is a must."

The Critérium International in Corsica will see him return to the peloton after a three-week break from competition. "It's a gorgeous race which I really like", he says. "The course is awesome and the Col de l'Ospedale fits me like a glove if I'm in the same condition as two years ago." He finished eighth at the top but had a puncture during the next day's time trial. In 2010, he took the polka-dot jersey home from the Isle of Beauty. "I don't know whether the opportunity to race on Corsica so often will last for long, so we'd better enjoy it", he adds. "It has a special taste to it this year because we'll be back for the Grand Start of the Tour de France. The Critérium International doesn't really use the same roads, so it's more about soaking up the atmosphere of the island than about testing the courses. At any rate, we already reconnoitred the second and third stage of the Tour during our training camp on Corsica, in December. I've got a feeling it'll be hectic. Considering the difficulty, we'll have to be in top shape from the beginning and ready to jump into the thick of it for the overall. Unlike other years, you can't just come at 90% of your top shape and aim to peak during the third week."


Pierre Rolland is not the only rider who is especially interested in Corsica this year. "The Critérium International is an interesting test for the best-climbers", he confides. "Coming here is a must. It's quite impressive to see Froome and Contador (whose first and second place at the Tour of Oman, together with their second and third place at Tirreno-Adriatico, makes them favourites to win the Critérium) are already firing on all cylinders. They'll be just as strong in July." For these two riders, rather than just testing the waters before the big event at the Tour, it looks like it will be no holds barred this weekend on Corsica.




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