25 teams have been invited to start in the 98th edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, next April 22.
The following 18 teams have been selected in compliance with International Cycling Union rules:
AG2R LA MONDIALE (FRA)
ASTANA PRO TEAM (KAZ)
BMC RACING TEAM (USA)
EUSKALTEL – EUSKADI (ESP)
GREENEDGE CYCLING TEAM (AUS)
KATUSHA TEAM (RUS)
LAMPRE – ISD (ITA)
LOTTO BELISOL TEAM (BEL)
MOVISTAR TEAM (ESP)
OMEGA PHARMA-QUICKSTEP (BEL)
RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM (NED)
SKY PRO CYCLING (GBR)
TEAM SAXO BANK (DEN)
VACANSOLEIL-DCM PRO CYCLING TEAM (NED)
Seven other teams, invited by the organisers, will make up the field for Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2012:
ACCENT JOBS – WILLEMS VERANDA’S (BEL)
PROJECT 1T4I (NED)
SAUR – SOJASUN (FRA)
TEAM EUROPCAR (FRA)
TEAM TYPE 1 – SANOFI (USA)
TOPSPORT VLAANDEREN – MERCATOR (BEL)
After triumphing last Wednesday on the Fleche Wallonne and a week ago on Dutch soil on the Amstel Gold Race, Belgian Philippe Gilbert entered the history books by claiming his home race, Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
The Omega Pharma Lotto team leader managed to cope with the pressure from his rivals and captured the win after outsprinting the Schleck brothers to the line.
The start list has been made official by race direction. Tomorrow 199 riders representing 25 teams will take off at 10:00 cet, for the 97th edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
After triumphing at the top of the Mur de Huy, all eyes will be on local hero Philippe Gilbert (OLO) who could become the first rider to win the Fleche Brabançonne, the Amstel Gold Race, the Fleche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège in a row.
Among the riders at the start will be three former winners, including two-time champion Alexandre Vinokourov (2005 – 2010), Andy SChleck (LEO) and Danilo Di Luca (KAT), as well as 7 men having already finished on the podium (Kolobnev, F. Schleck, Cunego, Voigt, Basso, Rodriguez, Gilbert).
Among those who weren’t present last Wednesday on the Fleche Wallonne, Roman Kreuzinger (AST) and Sylvain Chavanel (QST) can be added to the list of title contenders. Also back in action on the hilly roads from Liège to Bastogne and back is three-time world champion Oscar Freire (RAB).
After finishing in a disappointing 44th position last Wednesday on the Fleche Wallonne, Andy Schleck (LEO) feels a lot more confident for Liège-Bastogne-Liège, a race more suited to his racing qualities and an event he won back in 2009.
“Philippe Gilbert won the last two races in impressive fashion and honestly he is currently the best rider, but tomorrow is a special race. It isn’t the Fleche Wallonne or the Amstel Gold Race. We’re ready. The team is strong. We’ll do our best not only to beat Gilbert, but also all the others. Wednesday was Wednesday and tomorrow is tomorrow. First of all because it’s 260kms long and it’s always hilly, going up and down. Of the three Ardennes Classics, Liège is the toughest and it suits me well. Last Wednesday I suffered with hay fever. I was rather surprised because I never had that before. Now it’s behind me. I was feeling great this morning when we went on the race course. I’m ready for Sunday.”
Frustrated by the second positions of Joaquim Rodriguez at the Amstel Gold Race and the Fleche Wallonne, team Katusha is counting on Liège-Bastogne-Liège to hit back. Team director Serge Parsani has his plan to beat favourite Gilbert and put one of his boys on the highest step of the podium.
“You just have to accept when a rider is stronger than you, but Liège will be different. The Fleche Wallonne is only played on the climb up the Mur de Huy. On Liège there are several places where you can win. The strongest rider in the team is Joaquim Rodriguez. We also have two or three riders in the team who can attack, who can take off in breakaways. We’ll have to do so in order to make the Omega Pharma riders work hard and then try to isolate Gilbert. Gilbert is certainly more beatable on Liège than the Fleche Wallonne. And we would really like to see a Katusha rider win a classic.”
Consecutively a winner of the Flèche Brabançonne, the Amstel Gold Race and the Flèche Wallonne in the last two weeks, Philippe Gilbert is in full confidence before his home race: Liège-Bastogne-Liège, a Classic we dreams of winning.
“If I’m not in confidence, I don’t see who can be. I actually believe it’s great to be a favourite: I take it as recognition of my talent and it actually never played against me. Since Wednesday, we’ve based our preparation on rest and concentration. I stayed at the hotel with my team, we were rather tired the day after the Fleche because of the efforts but we rested well. Now we’re ready but that doesn’t mean we’ll win. It’s a great pleasure to ride in front of so many supporters but it doesn’t make me ride faster”.
Disappointed after his 14th spot last Wednesday on the Fleche Wallonne, Dutchman Robert Gesink doesn’t quite know if he’ll be among the favourites for Liège. He certainly be wanting to do better than his 12th and 14th places in 2008 and last year.
“I really wasn’t satisfied with my performance on the Fleche Wallonne (14th). I really wanted to do better there. But my condition is good. I really thought the Fleche was more of a race for me compared to Liège. It’s difficult to say if I’m a favourite for Sunday. Liège is really different, the last 100kms are very difficult and the decision can be made all along those 100kms. Philippe Gilbert will again be tough to bit. We’ll need to do things differently. All the teams will have to work together if we want to beat Gilbert…”
To finish the season of the Ardennes classics on a high note, Philippe Gilbert must tame the “Old Lady” (Liege-Bastogne-Liege), considered to be the most difficult and prestigious of the series.
“I don’t know my own limits”, claimed Philippe Gilbert yesterday, when attempting to analyse the consequences of his victory on the Flèche Wallonne for the perspectives it offers to his career. On Sunday, he will have an opportunity to push these boundaries even further still and to finish his campaign on the classics by an unequalled Ardennes quadruple (Flèche Brabançonne, Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege), sending all Belgian cycling fans into raptures. Each year, the “little cannibal” underlines that the Old Lady is at the top of the pile for racing success in his schedule for the cycling season. He has never shown as much clear supremacy as during the build-up to this year’s event for which he is the major favourite.
However, it is not just his appetite that has been whetted for the final event in the schedule of the spring classics. Indeed, it is a race that has left more than one collector of trophies to finally reflect on their frustration. The bitterest amongst them could be Joaquim Rodriguez, who has for some time been flirting with a triumph on one of the three major Ardennes classics. Ranked seven times in the Top 10 on the Amstel, on the Flèche or at Liege since 2008, in particular the Spaniard has finished in 2nd place four times, including twice during this week! More generally, the Spanish clan will be trying to avoid leaving empty handed, but nobody can say whether Igor Anton or Samuel Sanchez will be more efficient in challenging Gilbert. Similarly, Leopard-Trek will be counting on Andy and Frank Schleck to enhance the team’s roll of honour, which is in danger of stagnation. For the moment, it is Philippe Gilbert’s trophy cabinet that is filling up.
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)