Critérium International opener to include summit finish

In another significant change of format for Critérium International this year, race organiser Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) today unveiled a mountainous course for the first of the event's three stages.

The ASO had already broken with tradition when it announced in December that the 79th edition of the famed two-day, three-stage race would be held on the Mediterranean island of Corsica – the first time in nine years the event will take place outside the Ardennes region of northern France.

Today's course announcement marks a further shift for the race, with its opening 175.5-kilometre stage to include a summit finish at the Col de l’Ospedale. Normally a flatter stage, the 2010 Critérium peloton will instead roll out of Porto-Vecchio on Saturday, March 27 and face up to the Col de Parmentile and Col de Bacinu before the 15-kilometre, 7 percent climb to the finish at l'Ospedale.

The race will return to relative normality on Sunday, March 28 as the peloton races a 75-kilometre circuit race in the morning and a 7.7-kilometre individual time trial in the afternoon. Both stages will start and finish in Porto-Vecchio.

The inclusion of significant mountains to the course is likely to have a significant impact on the outcome of the race, with the race now far more open to climbers able to defend a lead from the opening stage. German Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank) has won the past three editions of the race, largely through strong time trial performances on the final stage that would defend or wipe out small time gaps built up on the first two stages.

ASO announced today that both Lance Armstrong (RadioShack) and Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) will participate in the 2010 edition of the race.

The Critérium International's move to Corsica for 2010 is likely a means to measure the island's ability to host major cycling events. Corsican officials are reportedly keen to host the Tour de France's Grand Depart in 2013.

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