What's Cool In Road Cycling

2016 Liege-Bastogne-Liege D1 News

After his fourth success at the Flèche Wallonne last Wednesday, Alejandro Valverde will be the clear favourite on the 102nd edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège. In his quest to equal Moreno Argentin with 4 victories on La Doyenne, the Spaniard will face fierce opposition and tough weather conditions that could totally change the usual outcome of the race, especially with the new climb added in the final part.

These last few days, a lot of the talking around Liège-Bastogne-Liège concerned the weather forecast that remains uncertain for Sunday’s classic (1 to 5C° and possibly some snow, etc). But the main point of interest mentioned by the actors and commentators of the race was the introduction, in the last kilometres of the course, of a new difficulty that could change the classical scenario with its group of favourites making it bunched on the final Côte de Ans. Indeed, with 3 kilometres to go, the riders still in contention for victory could start battling it out on the rue Naniot, a 600m uphill road on cobbles, at an average of 10,5 %. The idea that came from former two-time winner of La Doyenne, Joseph Bruyère, seduced the man in charge of the course, Jean-Michel Monin: “It took us a few years to decide to go there but I’m really excited and impatient to see what it’ll bring to the race. It’s a tiny change in terms of the course but it could really modify the finale. For it to work out well, the main favourites will have to have already attacked on the Côte de Saint-Nicolas. It’s a ‘little mount’ and it has what it takes for the attacks to occur there.”

After their fine performance on the Fleche Wallonne, the Etixx – Quick Step squad will again show up on Liège-Bastogne-Liège with not one, but two leaders, and the likes of Dan Martin and Julian Alaphilippe, third and second on Wednesday. A situation that gives the Belgian team that little extra something, as explains Martin. “Having several leaders spreads the pressure. It also means that in the last ten kilometres not too many teams will have two riders or more. With the legs we’ve shown last Wednesday, we’re pretty confident of having at least me and Julian there in the end to play our cards. But for sure the favourite is Alejandro (Valverde)”. Winner of Liège back in 2013, the Irishman knows how to beat Valverde, something that his young teammate Alpahilippe is yet to manage. “How to beat Valverde? Simply by working harder. I’ve carried on working. He proved that he was the best. I can’t have any regrets finishing behind him. Every time, it’s a new lesson and it makes me stronger”.

After capturing 8th position at the Tour of Catalunya and a long break from racing including a training camp, two-time winner of te Tour de France Chris Froome returns to competitive action on La Doyenne. Still on a flight from Nice while his team mates and rivals were presented to the crowd of Liège, the Brit naturally failed to express his objectives, leaving that to his DS, Nicolas Portal: “It’s a race he really likes. It’s according to me, the only classic that he will one day try to come and win. But right now, he’s more focused on the Tour of Romandy, an important race in his work plan before the Tour de France”. As for Sunday, Sky will be counting on Michal Kwiatkowski who already finished on the podium of Liège (3rd in 2014). ‘’He suffered from the cold because he failed to cover himself enough during the Amstel Gold Race. It immediately paralyzed him. But he then returned to Spain and came back to check the course yesterday. He feels in shape and he’s determined”. The British team will also be able to count on the likes of Dutchman Wout Poels, fourth of the Fleche Wallonne last Wednesday.

After capturing a fourth triumph at the Flèche Wallonne, Alejandro Valverde is on par for a second massive challenge: to do just as well with a fourth crown at Liège-Bastogne-Liège which would put him on level grounds with Moreno Argentin and just one win away from legendary Eddy Merckx. The weight of such a performance hasn’t however put extra pressure on the shoulders of the Spaniard who smoothly turned to this new appointment with history, as explains his Movistar DS, Jose-Luis Arrieta: “He enjoyed a quiet day on Thursday with a short ride followed by a dinner downtown with the team. Yesterday, we went on the course to check out the last 90kms. There will certainly be a lot of attacking

Since 2011, amateur cyclists have been given the opportunity to tackle the demanding course of La Doyenne on the eve of the professional race. This morning 7900 riders pinned on their bib numbers and jumped on their bikes to cover one of the three different courses on offer (76 kms, 158 kms and 271 kms). 51 different nationalities could be noticed in the pack, the strongest contingent coming from the Netherlands (38% of the peloton).

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