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Friday, April 21, 2023

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2022 Tour de France | 2022 Giro d'Italia

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Teams preview Liège-Bastogne-Liège

Here's the update from Team Soudal Quick-Step:

Reigning champion Remco Evenepoel will lead the Wolfpack at the season’s fourth Monument.

One year ago, Remco Evenepoel wrote history in front of his home fans, soloing to a memorable and emotional victory at “La Doyenne” after attacking on the iconic La Redoute climb, from where he started a 30km time trial that concluded with him becoming the youngest winner of the race in more than 50 years. It was a turning point in the Belgian’s career, who went on to triumph later in the season at the Vuelta a España and the World Championships, capping off the year with the prestigious Vélo d’Or.

He's gone. Remco Evenepoel has escaped in the 2022 Liège–Bastogne–Liège. Sirotti photo

“Liège–Bastogne–Liège was special last season. I came at the start without too many expectations, but we had a plan – and that was to go for the win – which we executed perfectly. For sure, the crash in the bunch that took out two of my teammates wasn’t ideal for us, but we found a way to handle that stressful moment and we remained focused on our goal. That victory was the biggest of my career at that point, a moment I’ll never forget”, said Remco, who will lead Soudal Quick-Step this Sunday.

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The World Champion will be joined for the 258.5km race that will take on ten climbs, including La Redoute and Côte de la Roche aux Faucons, by Julian Alaphilippe – a two-time podium finisher at Liège–Bastogne–Liège, who is back after the crash in De Ronde – Andrea Bagioli, Mauro Schmid, Pieter Serry, Ilan Van Wilder and Louis Vervaeke.

“Remco comes here from an altitude training camp and will be very motivated, especially as he will be present at the start as the defending champion and owner of the rainbow jersey. He can count on good teammates, who have a strong condition, and this makes us confident. We will see what role Julian will have; he knows the course and this race suits him perfectly, and the most important thing is that he can now train pain-free and be at the start. We’ll also need to see if the wind and the rain expected on Sunday can influence the race, but as we said, the confidence is there”, added sports director Geert Van Bondt.

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Here's the preview from Team Trek-Segafrdo:

On the eve of the last Spring Classic, we asked Mattias Skjelmose and Giulio Ciccone their thoughts for Sunday's race. Here's what they said about their ambitions, feelings, potential scenarios and competitors ahead of 'La Doyenne'...

Mattias Skjelmose:
"After the recon I did this morning, I’m more and more convinced that we’ll have a very hard race on Sunday. There’s also a change to the route, compared to the past editions, that really leans in the direction of having that kind of race. The presence of Pogacar also imposes the need for a different approach to the race if you want to put in him trouble, like being in the front early and acting in advance. I expect lots of riders try to go early.

"It would be nice to get another bold result. Another top ten would be nice but why not dream for the biggest result and aim for a podium finish. That’s not a lack of ambition, of course. As I have said before we always race to win, but we have to be realistic. With Pogacar, but also Evenepoel on the start line, a podium result means a lot.

"I think our recent performances as a team speak for themsevles. We have done well in these Classics, but also in previous races. We know how to race as a team and Sunday’s race, on paper, could fit our characteristics even better. Cicco and I have a leading role, we are both doing well and we have proven to be competitive in the finale but, we also have other strong riders, like Bauke and Juanpe, who can offer different opportunities and scenarios. With the utmost respect, I don’t see other teams capable of expressing collective strength like ours.

"From what we have seen, the only weak point of Pogacar is when he gets too excited and forgets to eat [laughing]. Jumbo-Visma was able to exploit this weakness last year, but I don’t think he will make the same mistake again. So unfortunately, for now, I don’t see any weak points. He is a one in a century kind of rider, I respect him a lot. He has showed, not only at the Classics, that he’s the big favorite. Evenepoel hasn’t raced for some time and he’s coming straight from an altitude camp. He’ll be strong, no doubts, but we still don’t know how strong.

"Evenepoel’s presence offers a new dynamic compared to Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne and the hope, in order to have a totally open race, is that they will try to neutralize each other. This may offer a chance to the outsiders, especially those who are in front at the right time. We know this, but so do Tadej and Remco."

Giulio Ciccone:
"I think Liège-Bastone-Liège is a race that is suited to my characteristics, especially the type of climbs in the race. I came to the Ardennes Classics in good condition and the first round at Flèche Wallonne went pretty well. It marked my return to racing after a month which focused first on recovery followed by a block of intense training in view of the Giro. It was a brutal but useful effort, a good opener and I’m confident that after my encouraging fifth place result that I can do well on Sunday.

Giulio Ciccone at the Volta a Catalonia earlier this year.

"The way the Classics have gone so far, every race prediction could be overturned. At Amstel Gold Race, we saw an attack from far out then yesterday, at Flèche, it all came down to the last climb. I think there is room on Sunday to try to make a difference early. It is worth noting that Liège has peculiarities all its own. Amstel is a continuous up and down on narrow roads, Flèche has the Mur de Huy that makes the selection whereas ‘La Doyenne’ has long climbs and a very hard finish. On paper, there is more room to invent something, to try to put the number one favorite, Pogacar, in trouble. A lot will depend on the approach he and his team take but when thinking ahead another rider deserves a mention: the defending champion Evenepoel. Tadej and Remco come to the race after different paths, the Belgian’s being more like mine while, Pogacar has the advantage of having already proven he is at the top.

"We have proven in these Classics that we have a strong and competitive team. If the race explodes early, it would be interesting for us and would also allow us to take advantage of our teamwork. Obviously, though, we will be ready for any scenario. I hope for a tough race, one that is more based on endurance skills."

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And here’s Team Jayco-AlUla’s preview:

Lawson Craddock:
“Obviously, Amstel Gold Race was a disappointing day for us, luck just didn’t seem to be on our side, but I think all in all we can come out of it with a lot of positives, we played our cards perfectly and we did exactly what we wanted to do.

"Unfortunately, the cards just didn’t fall our way, but I think the main things for us is to take that same mentality in Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday. Matteo [Sobrero] has shown he has the form, and each day is a new opportunity for us and as long as we look at it like that, one day the race will turn in our favour.”

Matteo Sobrero at last year's Tour of Romandie. Sirotti photo

Pieter Weening (Sport Director):
“Matteo was good on Sunday, he just had a little bit of bad luck, but his legs are good and on Wednesday we are going to give it another try. We have three new guys coming into the team, including Felix Engelhardt who is also in great shape, so maybe we can play our cards with him too.

"We have seen in the last couple of weeks that racing is pretty unpredictable, normally Flèche Wallonne comes down to the bottom of the Mur de Huy, but you never know when you have some riders who are not scared of throwing all their cards on the table, we could see something different.”

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