Brochard Wins Criterium International
Ag2r have continued a pretty successful early season, with bandana-wearing leader Laurent Brochard taking overall victory at this year’s Critйrium International. This follows on from great wins already by Jaan Kirsipuu, and Mikel Astarloza who won the Jacobs Creek Tour Down Under.
And as this is yet another Sociйtй du Tour de France presentation, they’ll have been hoping Jean-Marie Leblanc was watching closely as they got the better of their rivals for a wildcard invitation to the Tour.
1997 World champion Brochard stormed into the lead with a terrific attacking performance to win the morning’s short but tough 98.5km romp over the climbs to Montherme, escaping 15 km from home.
An early break featuring Fofonov (Cofidis), Charteau (Brioches La Boulangиre) and Poilvet (Crйdit Agricole) gained over 3 minutes, before they were hauled in and the attacking began in earnest. Brochard took 4 men with him, and finished far enough ahead of the main GC favorites, and TT specialists to suggest he’d hang on for the overall win.
And he did just that, comfortably enough, placing 3rd in the 8.3 km test around Charleville Mйziиres in the afternoon. There was a timely stage win from 1999 champion Jens Voight, and a handy performance from Tyler Hamilton, which lifted him to 6th on final classification.
But even although this was a short race, it provided the sort of delight, anguish and hope you’d associate with the Grand Tours. Last year’s winner Jose Alberto Martinez lost his chance of defending his title when a puncture at the end of the TT cost him around 20 seconds, leaving him in despair at 8th overall.
David Millar was left frustrated, too. A crash in stage 2 (which also felled Moreau and Mancebo) meant he couldn’t start the afternoon TT. No chance for him to test his form in his specialist discipline.
Ag2r’s performance also won them the Team Classification, and Brochard snagged another jersey for his impressive collection by taking out the Points competition. Best climber was one of today’s stage 2 breakaways, Benoit Poilvet.
Stage 2 Results Les Mazures – Montherme, 98.5 km
1 Laurent Brochard (Fra) AG2r Prйvoyance 2.28.34 (39.8 km/h)
2 Francisco Perez Sanchez (Spa) Milaneza-MSS + 0.10
3 David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis, Le Crйdit par Tйlйphone + 0.13
4 Patrik Sinkewitz (Ger) Quick.Step-Davitamon + 0.17
5 Jose Alberto Martinez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi same
Stage 3 Results Charleville Mйziиres ITT, 8.3 km
1 Jens Voigt (Ger) Crйdit Agricole 10.14 (48.7 km/h)
2 Andrйas Klцden (Ger) Team Telekom + 0.04
3 Laurent Brochard (Fra) AG2r Prйvoyance + 0.05
4 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Brioches La Boulangиre + 0.06
5 Tyler Hamilton (USA) Team CSC + 0.08
72nd Critйrium International (UCI 2.1)
1 Laurent Brochard (Fra) AG2r Prйvoyance 7.09.40 (41.1 km/h)
2 Jens Voigt (Ger) Crйdit Agricole + 0.22
3 David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis, Le Crйdit par Tйlйphone + 0.23
4 Andrйas Klцden (Ger) Team Telekom + 0.24
5 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Brioches La Boulangиre + 0.28