With its unique features, the Critérium International promotes old-fashioned cycling - from the day when racers set numerous and close time limits and competed all season long on a variety of terrains, thus offering the public an event-filled saga. Like decathletes in stadiums, these champions are called upon to demonstrate excellence on the roads in a three-act show. Performance, Critérium style, requires as much consistency as it does power. This is why the event still honours all-round rouleurs.
The Critérium International’s winners’ list also illustrates, in the form of a nearly comprehensive list of the cycling legend, the vigour required to stand out in this sport. Bobet, Anquetil, Poulidor, Thévenet, Zoetemelk, Hinault, Fignon, Kelly, Roche, Indurain, and Jalabert have mastered it: the start-of-season triptych race provides an opportunity to take a first review of the strengths present among the world elite. For the seventh time in a row, the Critérium is taking place around Charleville-Mézières on the roads of the Ardennes region of France, which lend themselves perfectly to the spirit of the event. The first leg, between Asfeld and Charleville-Mézières, has traditionally been reserved for sprinters, but the 2006 edition showed that breakaway attempts are still possible. The hill stage, the difficulties of which correspond to attackers as well as to climbers, promises a radical selection. The verdict is then given on the town’s streets, after a short and technical time trial.