Corsica became a temporary home for this event in 2010 in what was widely regarded as a series of test events for the first ever visit of the Tour de France in 2013. It would be a mistake however to see this race as a test event! It's one of the classics and the 85th edition will be held in Corsica on the 26 and 27 March 2016.
The Critérium International was formerly a three day road race designed as a mini Tour de France - a sprint stage, a time trial and a mountain stage - an all round test. The modern format remains similar in terms of the test but it's squeezed into two days with the first of those being a 'split stage' - a 90km road race in the morning followed by a 7km individual time trial in the afternoon. Sunday sees a 172km stage culminating on the climb to Ospedale. The big difference this year is that Sunday's third stage takes a different route to Ospedale with considerably more climbing, as it takes in the iconic Col de Bavella. This is a truly magnificent Corsican climb.
Porto-Vecchio in the south of Corsica remains the race start as per the last six years. Historically the race has attracted the big names and recent winners in Corsica include: in 2012 the Australian, Cadel Evans who won the Tour de France in 2011; Chris Froome won in 2013 and went on to win the Tour that year; in 2014 the victor was Jean-Christophe Péraud and again in 2015.
On what is an exceptionally busy period in the UCI calendar a number of the well known teams such as Sky, BMC, Movistar and Etixx are committed elsewhere but the the Criterium remains an exciting race to follow and especially so this year with the inclusion of Bavella.
Eurosport has live coverage on Sunday for the third stage and finishing climb up to Ospedale from 1315 BST/1415 CET.
The ride out from Porto-Vecchio to the Col de l'Ospedale at 965m and back through Levie is not only a great way to experience part of the Critérium route but also a great tour of the Alta Rocca region.
© M.Lund 2013-17