25 teams have been invited to start in the 97th edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège next April 24. Above all, they will be expected to liven up the race on the 11 climbs dotted about the 257.5 km route.
The last two winners of La Doyenne, Alexander Vinokourov and Andy Schleck, will have to use their stamina and their tactical instinct if they want to take a repeat victory. Many candidates who narrowly missed out on the win in previous years will be ready to seize their chance: Joaquin Rodríguez, Damiano Cunego, Alexandr Kolobnev, Philippe Gilbert, Jens Voigt, Fränk Schleck and Ivan Basso will all be there.
Main contenders (as of 3rd March)
AG2R La Mondiale : Roche (Irl), Gadret (Fra) ; BMC Racing Team : Evans (Aus), Kroon (Hol) ; Euskaltel-Euskadi : S.Sanchez (Esp) ; HTC-HighRoad : Martin (All), Van Garderen (Usa) ; Katusha Team : Rodriguez (Esp), Kolobnev, Ivanov (Rus) ; Landbouwkrediet : Dewaele (Bel) ; Lampre-ISD : Cunego (Ita) ; Liquigas-Cannondale : Basso (Ita) ; Team Leopard-Trek : A.Schleck, F.Schleck (Lux) ; Movistar Team : Intxausti (Esp) ; Omega Pharma-Lotto : Gilbert, Van den Broeck, Aerts (Bel) ; Pro Team Astana : Vinokourov (Kaz) ; Quick Step Cycling Team : Devenyns (Bel) ; Rabobank Cycling Team : Gesink (Hol), LL.Sanchez (Esp); Saxo Bank Sungard : N.Sorensen (Dan) ; Sky Procycling : Gerrans (Aus) ; Team Garmin-Cervélo : Hesjedal (Can), Le Mével (Fra), Vande Velde (Usa) ; Team RadioShack : Brajkovic (Slo) ; Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team : Hoogerland (Bel) ; Cofidis, le crédit en ligne : Moncoutié (Fra) ; FDJ : Fédrigo, Casar (Fra) ; TopSport Vlaanderen - Mercator : Baugnies (Bel) ; Saur-Sojasun : Coppel, Hivert (Fra) ; Skil-Shimano : Geschke (All) ; Veranda’s Willems Accent : Scheirlinckx (Bel)
© Presse Sports
In preparation for the 97th edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, race organisers made a final series of inspections which allowed them to green-light the demanding 257.5 km long parcours awaiting the riders next Sunday, April 24.
One of the eleven climbs tackled by the riders will be the Haute-Levée, which was left out of the 2010 edition. The renowned climb is back this year thanks to the efforts of the municipality of Stavelot, which completed the road works necessary to accommodate the peloton. Located right in the middle of the succession of the Wanne, Stockeu, Haute-Levée and Rosier climbs, this 3.6 km long ascent with an average gradient of 5.6% may very well play a decisive role in breaking up the head of the field.
The 198 km long Flèche Wallonne will give the best punchers their chance to show their form a few days before. Changes introduced in 2010 have been kept for the 75th edition and, with only 30 kilometres separating the last two climbs of the Mur de Huy, the finale is sure to be even more eventful than before. Likewise, ladies racing in the 14th edition of the Women’s Flèche Wallonne will be facing the same course as last year, with two climbs up the Mur de Huy and a total race length of 109.5 km.
© Presse Sports
With the end of the Merckx era, five-times winner of Liège-Bastogne-Liège and record holder in the category, the Belgian riders have obviously lost control over the most beautiful of Belgian Classics, with “only” five wins in 34 years: Joseph Bruyère (1976, 1978), Eric Van Lancker (1990), Dirk De Wolf (1992) and Franck Vandenbroucke (1999).
Since the victory of the latter, the podium has never been climbed by a local rider. This negative trend could as well be stopped this year by Philippe Gilbert (OLO), who has never been as credible as this year in the role of favourite to win the race of his dreams. A typical rider of Classics since this victories in Paris-Tours and the Tour of Lombardy at the end of the 2009 season, “Phil” as the entire Belgian population calls him, has gained even more credibility by winning the Amstel Gold Race last Sunday. His nature, allowing him to never feel stressed or panic-stricken, as well as his current shape should allow the Belgian rider born near Liège to aim at more than the fourth place achieved in Liège in 2009.
But the favourite of the crowds and bookmakers has not always reached the highest step of the podium of the “Doyenne” of the Classics. Philippe Gilbert will have to control a group of riders with an impressive record, including among others the title holder Andy Schleck (SAX), who likes to create some confusion by predicting the victory of his brother Franck. The leader of the Omega Lotto squad will also have to keep an eye on other fearsome riders such as Cadel Evans (BMC), who just won the Flèche Wallonne, but also other riders who perform well in the Belgian hills, the Alps and the Pyrenees like Damiano Cunego (LAM), Joaquin Rodriguez (KAT), Alejandro Valverde (GCE) or Igor Anton (EUS). Eventually, Gilbert also knows that Contador (AST) will be present and ready to attack as he has already proved to be in good shape with his third place on the Flèche Wallonne this week.
25 TEAMS, MAIN CONTENDERS
Team Milram (MRM): Wegmann, Knees (Ger)
Omega Pharma-Lotto (OLO): Gilbert (Bel), Péraud (Fra)
Quick Step (QST): Barredo (Sp), Pineau (Fra)
Landbouwkrediet (LAN): De Waele (Bel)
Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator (TSV): Armee (Bel)
Team Saxo Bank (SAX): A.Schleck, F.Schleck (Lux)
Caisse d’Epargne (GCE): Valverde (Sp), Moreau (Fra)
Euskaltel - Euskadi (EUS): Anton, Martinez (Sp)
BMC Racing Team (BMC): Evans (Aus)
Garmin-Transitions (GRM): Hesjedal (Can)
Team HTC-Columbia (THR): T.Martin (All), Monfort (Bel)
Team RadioShack (RSH): Klöden (All), Horner (Usa)
Team Sky (SKY): Gerrans (Aus), Lövqvist (Swe)
AG2R La Mondiale (ALM): Champion (Fra), Roche (Irl)
Bbox Bouygues Telecom (BBO): Fédrigo, Rolland (Fra)
Cofidis, le Crédit en ligne (COF): Moncoutié, Moinard (Fra)
Française des Jeux (FDJ): Le Mével, Vaugrenard (Fra)
Acqua & Sapone (ASA): Masciarelli (Ita)
Androni Giocattoli (AND): Bertogliati (Swi)
Lampre-Farnese Vini (LAM): Cunego (Ita), Loosli (Swi)
Liquigas-Doimo (LIQ): Pellizotti (Ita), Kreuziger (Rtc)
Astana (AST): Contador, Pereiro (Sp)
Rabobank (RAB): Gesink (Hol), Freire (Sp)
Katusha Team (KAT): Ivanov, Kolobnev (Rus), Rodriguez (Sp)
Cervélo Test Team (CTT): Sastre (Sp), Tondo (Sp)
The Ardennes Classics’ week reaches its peak with Liège-Bastogne-Liège, where the most resilient of all attackers will be judged on their ability to line up a long list of brutal climbs.
The basic principle of a war of attrition is embodied and will be expressed in its most obvious definition on the Doyenne of the Classics, i.e. the huge energy to be spent by riders will have to be calculated and some of it saved for the race finish. Respecting this “save-your-energy-for-the-end” concept the organisers of the 2010 edition – that will be held on April 25th – are offering a revised route taking into account some road works that are making it impossible e.g. to ride the Haute-Levée up or down. Hence, the reconnaissance teams have replaced the Haute-Levée and Vecquée climbs by similarly tough climbs called the “Col du Maquisard” and “Mont-Theux”. The two new climbs will be barring the riders’ way both 60km and 55km ahead of the finish line, making the finale even more intense. Some inspiration for the most daring riders undoubtedly...
25 teams have been selected for the 96th Flèche Wallonne, which will take place on Sunday 25th of April.
Team Milram (MRM)
Omega Pharma-Lotto (OLO)
Quick Step (QST)
Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator (TSV)
Team Saxo Bank (SAX)
Caisse d’Epargne (GCE)
Euskaltel - Euskadi (EUS)
BMC Racing Team (BMC)
Team HTC-Columbia (THR)
Team RadioShack (RSH)
Team Sky (SKY)
AG2R La Mondiale (ALM)
Bbox Bouygues Telecom (BBO)
Cofidis, le Crédit en ligne (COF)
Française des Jeux (FDJ)
Acqua & Sapone (ASA)
Androni Giocattoli (AND)
Lampre-Farnese Vini (LAM)
Katusha Team (KAT)
Cervelo Test Team (CTT)