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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Saturday, April 25, 2015

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Upcoming Racing

No racing today. But tomorrow, Sunday the 25th, we've got a bicycle race lover's delight. Most importantly, the last of the Ardennes classics, Liège-Bastogne-Liège is Sunday. But we musn't forget that in Italy there is the Giro dell'Appennino and in France La Roue Tourangelle is being run.

Liège-Bastogne-Liège news

Philippe Gilbert will be at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. This just came from BMC:

Chaudfontaine, Belgium - The BMC Racing Team's roster for Liège-Bastogne-Liège will include past winner Philippe Gilbert, who is recovering from a crash Wednesday at Flèche Wallonne.

"Day-by-day, Philippe seems a little bit better," Sport Director Valerio Piva said Friday at the BMC Racing Team's pre-race press conference. "Of course this is not the best preparation and the best approach to a race like Liège. We will see in the next days and in the race what Philippe will be able to do. He is a fighter."

Gilbert, who won the Belgian WorldTour race in 2011, thanked BMC Racing Team staff for helping get him and his equipment ready for Sunday's 253-kilometer race.

"When everything is right, you don't see so much of the work they are doing," Gilbert said. "But now you really appreciate the help and the support you get. Every hard day it is getting better because we work well together. I know I will not be on my best on Sunday because I don't think it is possible. But at least I will be at the start and then we will see."

Philippe Gilbert

Phillipe Gilbert attacking in the 2015 Amstel Gold Race.

Piva said Tejay van Garderen will also enjoyed protected status. Winner of a stage of the Volta a Catalunya last month, van Garderen is making his first appearance in Liège-Bastogne-Liège since 2012.

"I feel good, I feel prepared and motivated," van Garderen said. "It was a bit of a blow to see so many crashes on Wednesday from a lot of our stronger guys, especially Philippe. I still have faith that he is going to have a good ride on Sunday. For sure we will be there in the final. When you have all of this adrenaline and when he (Gilbert) is on his home roads going by the house he grew up in, he is not even going to feel the pain. I think he will be able to push through it."

Riders: Brent Bookwalter (USA), Philippe Gilbert (BEL), Ben Hermans (BEL), Klaas Lodewyck (BEL), Joey Rosskopf (USA), Samuel Sánchez (ESP), Dylan Teuns (BEL), Tejay van Garderen (USA).

President/General Manager: Jim Ochowicz (USA)

Sport Director: Valerio Piva (ITA)

This release came from Tinkoff-Saxo:

Tinkoff-Saxo takes on La Doyenne [Liège-Bastogne-Liège] with a squad centered around team captain Roman Kreuziger, who reaches his target race poised and with a good feeling prior to the 253km monument.

Marked by an undulating route, Liège-Bastogne-Liège differs from its more explosive Ardennes counterparts by presenting the riders with longer climbs and a lengthy race finale, where endurance pays dividends. According to team leader Kreuziger, the sustained effort suits him well.

“Liège is my big goal during the Ardennes classics. I’ve been looking forward to this race, as it matches my qualities as a rider better than Amstel and Flèche. I felt pretty well in these races and my ambition is to be there in the finale on Sunday. I have trust in my teammates and I believe that we can be competitive”, says Roman Kreuziger and adds: “It’s different from Amstel and Flèche. It’s less about positioning and an explosive sprint at the end and more about simply having the legs and handling the longer climbs and distance. For sure, after 200 kilometers riders will start to drop off and it will be a fight between those who can cope with the distance”.

Roman Kreuizger will be accompanied into action by Rafal Majka, Chris Anker Sørensen, Michael Valgren, Robert Kiserlovski, Pawel Poljanski, Manuele Boaro and Bruno Pires.

Roman Kreuziger and Bauke Mollema

Roman Kreuziger leads Bauke Mollema in the 2014 Swiss Tour.

According to Tinkoff-Saxo sports director Sean Yates, Liège-Bastogne-Liège is a race of trial by elimination and the 253km route demands superior stamina, if one is to be competitive. He underlines that the squad will ride in support of Roman Kreuziger.

“For us it’s all for Roman in what concerns the leadership and then we got a good backup team to support him. Roman has targeted Liège out of the three and it’s the race that he’s psyched for after the training camp in Teide and some good performances in Amstel and Fleche. Overall as a team right now, we are maybe lacking a couple of percent to be equal to the best performing teams. But I believe that a top result for Roman in Liège is feasible”, says Sean Yates.

“Liège is a matter of timing your effort right, as you can’t go over your threshold, certainly not in a race like this. Roman is a real pro, the kind of rider that does everything in the right way, he leads by example and he’s always in the right position and allocates his energy wisely, so I know he is capable”.

The sports director notes that Tinkoff-Saxo won’t be favorites come Sunday at the start in Liège, but that the 11th place from Flèche Wallonne could likely be improved.

“We face tough competition but we want to do a proper job. Roman is a powerful rider, who produces a lot of watts but he’s also bigger than the light guys that are very capable up a climb like Mur de Huy. So the parcours and the climbs of Liège are obviously much more suited for him as the kind of rider that can keep going forever”, explains Sean Yates about this year’s, slightly altered, race with an elevation gain of more than 4000 meters.

Although the race is decided amongst the main protagonists in the final run into Liège, a strong team is needed in order for the captains to preserve energy.

“We are kind of on the up as a team. We had some bad luck Wednesday, which put a few of our guys out of the race. A guy like Valgren has showed that he can be there after 250k, Kiserlovski is well and Chris Anker has been a strong and very valuable support. Rafal had his mechanical in Flèche and his form is a bit uncertain but I think that the lack of pressure will help him at Liège to go further and hopefully he can be a wildcard, since he got nothing to lose”, adds Sean Yates.

For Rafal Majka, Liège-Bastogne-Liège will revolve around supporting the team objectives, he says. “I want to do well in Liège and I will do my best to support Roman. For sure, he’s in good shape and he’s both the team leader and road captain on Sunday, since he knows this race really well. We will try to win the race with him but it’s never easy especially not in Liège, which is one of the hardest classics”, says Rafal Majka before adding: “I didn’t feel super strong in Flèche Wallonne but then I also had a mechanical at a very bad time. I hope that my legs respond well on Sunday and that I can help Roman for as long as possible”.

Race details

Sky's line-up for L-B-L:

Team Sky has confirmed its rider line-up for Liège-Bastogne-Liège [26 April]: Philip Deignan, Nathan Earle, Sergio Henao, Vasil Kiryienka, Lars-Petter Nordhaug, Danny Pate, Nicholas Roche and Kanstantsin Siutsou.

Giant-Alpecin rider quotes for Liège-Bastogne-Liège:

This Sunday's Liège-Bastogne-Liège, which concludes the Ardennes campaign, features the famous climbs of La Redoute and Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons.

Team Giant-Alpecin can look back on a successful classics campaign, with two victories, as the team aims for its first top-10 finish this season in an Ardennes classic. With the 26th place of Tom Dumoulin (NED) in last Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race and another 26th place for Warren Barguil (FRA) in Wednesday’s La Flèche Wallonne, this objective seems within reach.

To support Dumoulin and Barguil, the team will look to a strong Georg Preidler (AUT), who has been on a good run in recent Ardennes races, as well as the experienced Simon Geschke (GER), who will make his comeback after recovering from a fractured collarbone.

The lineup is completed by Lawson Craddock (USA), Caleb Fairly (USA), Johannes Fröhlinger (GER) and Thierry Hupond (FRA).

Tom Dumoulin (NED): “My performance in the Amstel Gold Race was a disappointment for me. I really felt good in the days leading up to the race, but my legs weren’t as good as I hoped during the race. As planned, I didn’t start in Flèche-Wallonne in order to fully focus on Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège. I was a little tired last week, but I was fit enough to complete a good training ride on Wednesday and I hope to be in good shape for Sunday.

“The weather forecast predicts a little rain for Sunday, which may result in a more open and unpredictable race. The crucial phase will probably start at the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons, and the race will be decided on the Saint Nicolas during the final 10 km.” 

Tom Dumoulin leads in the 2015 People's Choice Classic

Tom Dumoulin takes the lead in the 2015 People's Choice Classic in Australia.

Warren Barguil (FRA): “I hope we can continue the good performance that we’ve shown as a team during the first two Ardennes classics. During the Amstel Gold Race I was missing some intensity but I was still able to assist Tom [Dumoulin].

"In Flèche Wallonne my teammates really made it easy for me, but sadly my legs weren’t good enough in the finale. I hope they will be better on Sunday. On Sunday I expect a hard race, with La Redoute as the starting point of an important section. Many of the riders will look at the team of top favorite Valverde (ESP) to control the race. This makes it easier for us, and as a team we will not have to take the initiative.” 

Aike Visbeek (NED): “It is obvious that we will continue to aim for a good result with Dumoulin and Barguil. I am very happy to have Simon Geschke back on board, as his experience in these kinds of races is very valuable for us. I expect a difficult race. From the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons on, the race will break loose and we will try to join one of the attacks that will take place there.

“Both Dumoulin and Barguil will aim for the finale, and then we will see who has the better legs. Georg Preidler (AUT) is doing very well, and I hope he will be able to support the guys until the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons. Today we had a good recon of the final 90 km, including all the critical climbs.” 

Here's what Lotto-Soudal has to report on L-B-L:

The day after tomorrow, Sunday 26th April, it’s the third of the Ardennes classics: Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The victory of La Doyenne is contested for the 101st time. At half past ten the WorldTour peloton starts in Liège for a race of 253 kilometres with ten climbs. There’s an uphill finish in Ans. The Lotto Soudal team has three leaders: Tony Gallopin, Jelle Vanendert and Tim Wellens. Jelle was tenth in 2012. All three of them give their thoughts on the last part of the Ardennes triptych.

Tony Gallopin: “Of course I will aim for the best possible result on Sunday. It would be fantastic to do better than my sixth place in the Amstel. The shape is good, I did everything I could to be top in this period of the year. The fact that I could sprint with the first last Sunday gives me confidence. I deliberately skipped the Flèche Wallonne because that race suits me least. This week I specifically prepared myself for Liège-Bastogne-Liège by taking enough rest and do one long training.

“Although the Amstel and La Doyenne have their specific features, the favourites are the same. Liège-Bastogne-Liège is a race that actually should suit me even better, with a more relaxed first part of the race and longer but less explosive climbs than the Amstel. Also the finish is more my cup of tea. I hope for a lot of action in the last 50 kilometres. We are with three to play a part in the final.”

Tony Gallopin

Tony Gallopin in this year's Amstel Gold Race.

Jelle Vanendert: “My thigh still feels a bit stiff after the crash on Wednesday, but luckily I am a cyclist and not a runner. I undergo treatments to stimulate the blood circulation to optimize the feeling in that thigh. I’ll see how I react on the recon, but actually I don’t expect any problems for Sunday. It’s not good physically and mentally to crash in two races that you had marked, certainly because I am convinced I would have played a role.

“If the weather gets worse, I expect an elimination race. On the Wanne, Stockeu and Haute-Levée a first selection will be made. Mostly the situation stabilizes on the Rosier and Maquisard to get into the finale on La Redoute and definitely on the Roche-aux-Faucons. A smaller group is an advantage I think, because there can be a battle then. As long as the strongest teams have many riders, they can save the day for their leaders. If the race is closed, it’s more difficult.

“With our team we can react on different situations; attack, join others who attack, wait until Ans. When a small group gets away the composition in terms of teams is decisive. If the race is made hard, we might get rid of riders like Gerrans, which would be an advantage for Tony, who is fast at the finish line. Kwiatkowski wins the sprint in the Amstel, Tony can do that as well if the situation is good.”

Tim Wellens: “Before the Ardennes classics I said I would be disappointed if I didn’t get a top ten place in one of the three races. It didn’t happen in the Amstel or Flèche Wallonne, so now only Sunday is left. I will consider my classics spring to be unsuccessful if I don’t set a high result in Liège. I am really motivated. La Doyenne is a monument, a mythic race, the longest and toughest of the three. On paper there are only eleven climbs, but those are all pretty long, with many altitude metres and lots of hilly parts which aren’t regarded as an official climb. In theory those longer climbs should suit me.

“I hope it will be wet. That way the peloton gets reduced and a breakaway has more chance to stay in front. Wednesday I deliberately did an all-or-nothing attempt because I wanted to win and I knew it would be very difficult for me to be better than someone like Alejandro Valverde on the Mur de Huy. I’m still convinced that if I had riders with me we would have had a chance. For Sunday we’ll have to analyze again what the possibilities are to get the best chance to win. In Liège the finish is a bit less specific than in the Amstel or Flèche Wallonne. The past has shown that it’s possible  to go to the finish solo or with a small group.”

Team Selection Lotto Soudal: Sander Armée, Bart De Clercq, Tony Gallopin, Tosh Van der Sande, Dennis Vanendert, Jelle Vanendert, Louis Vervaeke and Tim Wellens.

Sports directors: Herman Frison and Bart Leysen.

Tour of Romandie Starts Tuesday, April 28

LottoNL-Jumbo sent this note about their plans for the Swiss race:

Team LottoNL-Jumbo wants to make a flying start in the Tour de Romandie, which begins with a 19-kilometre team time trial on Tuesday.

“We have quite a nice team for the time trial,” Sports Director Erik Dekker said. “Everyone is motivated and together, we want to achieve a good result. We want to shine together!”

Robert Gesink is looking forward to the six-day Swiss stage race just as much as his DS. “It feels good to be back in the peloton again,” Gesink said. “Romandie is the next race in the route that we have mapped out for me. It’s a beautiful race that fits well in my build-up. “I’ll see how it goes and work hard on my shape. I’ll be very happy to have six days of racing at the highest level in my legs without suffering knee problems. And who knows, maybe there will be opportunities.”

Robert Gesink

Robert Gesink riding the 2014 Vuelta a Espana in the colors of his old team. I don't have any 2015 photos of Gesink yet.

Dekker watched how Gesink rode to 25th place in La Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday. The Dutchman’s successful comeback did not surprise Dekker. “No, Robert is a too good rider for it to be otherwise,” Dekker said. “In Romandie, we’re just hoping that Robert can make the next step. We have to keep seeing things in perspective. Robert needs a good week of racing where his level will hopefully improve from the first to the last day.”

Dekker has a special mission for sprinter Tom Van Asbroeck. “All stages are tough, so it could be that at the end of the week, Tom won’t have his chance to sprint. But for Tom, looking ahead to a possible Vuelta a España start, it’s important to gain experience racing in the mountains.”

Team line-up: Tom van Asbroeck, Brian Bulgac, Laurens ten Dam, Jos van Emden, Rick Flens, Robert Gesink, Bert-Jan Lindeman & Maarten Tjallingii.

Sports Directors: Erik Dekker & Ken Vanmarcke

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