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  #1  
Old 04-13-09, 23:25
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jaylew jaylew is offline
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Default Official thread: Amstel/Fleche/Leige

Some people prefer Flanders/Gent/Roubaix but for me Ardennes week is probably my favorite cycling week of the year. I love seeing GT guys going up against the week-long stage racers and the explosive climbers. At this point I don't know exactly who is racing where(those preliminary lists are never very good - I think the Amstel one still lists Horner) but some early thoughts:

Valverde and Cunego have to go in as the big favorites for the week with several others: the Schlecks(especially Frank), J Rodriguez, Rebellin, Pfannberger, Kroon, S Sanchez, Gesink... I could also see Nibali up there

Lots of question marks with riders due to injury/lack of form: Dekker, Kirchen, Friere

I think Evans might wind up on the podium somewhere but I don't know about a win.

Nuyens and Gilbert skipped Roubaix for Amstel/Ardennes, but I don't particularly like their chances. I think their best shot (along with Chavanel) would have to be at Amstel.

It's a shame DiLuca's team got left out as he's always a contender and animator in these races.

You guys know if any Giro guys are planning to have a go or are they all biding their time? Seems like I remember Basso performing ok in the past and obviously DiLuca has.

Dark horse picks or inside info? Who else loves these races?
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Old 04-14-09, 00:03
skidmark skidmark is offline
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Jaylew, I have to agree that these races are my faves. I mean, I'm growing more enamoured of the Northern classics every year, and I like the GTs, but something about Ardennes week gets me excited, I always like attacks on climbs. I dunno, cycling for me is like eating different flavours of delicious ice cream every week.

As far as picks, I think Valverde's an interesting one. Obviously, with the hammer coming down on him in a couple of weeks, he could either find extra motivation or wilt (remember 2007 in the worlds after he lobbied CAS to ride? He rode relatively anonymously and afterwards commented that all the drama and stress had gotten to him). So I dunno, but I know if I thought I was riding my last races for 2 years I'd have something to prove.

Samuel Sanchez would be a big pick for me too, but 2 days ago in cyclingnews he said something to the effect that after Pais Vasco he was going to rest and come back for his main objectives, which were the Vuelta and the Worlds. This doesn't really make ANY sense to me, but it sounds like he's not riding the Ardennes. Anyone know?

Rebellin is always, ALWAYS up there, and always animates a race/goes with the moves. Since I read this is his last year, he'll probably go out fighting.

Frank and Andy showed what they can do together last year in LBL, and I think they can perfect that 1-2 punch this year.

For 'dark horse' picks, I'd say Gesink for sure. I could see someone like Wegmann or even Kolobnev winning any of the races if he times his attack right and has the power to last. I'm extremely skeptical of Dekker or Kirchen.

Should be exciting however it plays out!
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Old 04-14-09, 04:00
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Originally Posted by skidmark View Post
As far as picks, I think Valverde's an interesting one. Obviously, with the hammer coming down on him in a couple of weeks, he could either find extra motivation or wilt (remember 2007 in the worlds after he lobbied CAS to ride? He rode relatively anonymously and afterwards commented that all the drama and stress had gotten to him). So I dunno, but I know if I thought I was riding my last races for 2 years I'd have something to prove.
He just won Klasika Primavera yesterday against a decent field so I'm guessing he'll be motivated but we'll see.
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Samuel Sanchez would be a big pick for me too, but 2 days ago in cyclingnews he said something to the effect that after Pais Vasco he was going to rest and come back for his main objectives, which were the Vuelta and the Worlds. This doesn't really make ANY sense to me, but it sounds like he's not riding the Ardennes. Anyone know?
Yeah, I read the same thing. I wonder if that means he's not specifically targeting the Ardennes or if he's not racing them at all. It would be a shame if he didn't race as he's got good form right now and he's suited to those races. Any of our Spanish members hear anything more on a Spanish Twitter site or something?
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Old 04-14-09, 08:09
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Zoncolan Zoncolan is offline
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My favourite time of the year too.
Last I heard, Sanchez will ride Amstel, though I wouldn't rate him among the top favorites.
Cunego and Valverde seem like obvious choices, but for me Scarponi and Joaquim Rodriguez have excellent chances of pulling off a big one. They both showed great form in Tirreno-Adriatico.
I doubt Rebellin will do anything in the Ardennes, seems that the age is catching up with him, maybe a podium.
Wegmann, Evans, Barredo, Kirchen, Dekker, Schleck the elder all in with a chance of a podium (don't know exactly who's riding where).
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Old 04-14-09, 09:52
Nastyy Nastyy is offline
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Does anybody know how's John Gadret doing with his knee right now? He has Top 10:s in both Fleche and L-B-L and this was the year he skipped cyclocross season to fully focus for the road races.

Also interesting to see what Pineau can do. He has good results in there races in the past and propably has lifted his level since joining Quick Step.

But gotta go with Cunego for the win in Amstel, Rebellin in Fleche and F.Schleck in L-B-L.
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Old 04-14-09, 09:52
bianchigirl bianchigirl is offline
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The Ardennes week is certainly interesting in that we see riders who might be considered GT contenders riding - and those uphill finishes are brilliant - as opposed to the increasingly specialised 'hard men' of Flanders.

Both weeks are great, full of history and drama and luck and chance - they can make and break reputations, create heroes and villains, enhance the myths and legends of those great races.

I love the lot of them - for me there's far more truth in a Classic than in a GT. There are no second chances at P-R or L-B-L - you need great legs and a superior tactical brain, to be able to think for yourself rather than wait for instructions from the team car. If you miss the winning move you can't come back and try and get in the right break tomorrow. It's the all or nothingness of these great races that got me hooked. The Classics are real racing.
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Old 04-14-09, 12:41
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Originally Posted by bianchigirl View Post
The Ardennes week is certainly interesting in that we see riders who might be considered GT contenders riding - and those uphill finishes are brilliant - as opposed to the increasingly specialised 'hard men' of Flanders.

Both weeks are great, full of history and drama and luck and chance - they can make and break reputations, create heroes and villains, enhance the myths and legends of those great races.

I love the lot of them - for me there's far more truth in a Classic than in a GT. There are no second chances at P-R or L-B-L - you need great legs and a superior tactical brain, to be able to think for yourself rather than wait for instructions from the team car. If you miss the winning move you can't come back and try and get in the right break tomorrow. It's the all or nothingness of these great races that got me hooked. The Classics are real racing.
I agree, but unfortunately the race developments in Fleche/Liege are most of the time very boring in comparison to RvV or PR. It's always about waiting, never taking risks. I think it has to do with the nature of these GC guys: always measuring every ounce of energy they're going to spent because they might need it the next stage.
Although these uphill finishes are spectacular (and the strongest always wins), they also contribute to a boring race: the guys with great legs can always "wait" until that moment to make a move.

I might seem a little biased as i live on the track of the tour of flanders but i'm not. Living in the nation having the best classics track record in history, it hurts not having a serious contender anymore for the Amstel/Fleche/Liege. And it hurts even more that most of the Belgian riders already end their spring classics campaign after the Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen. Right now only 2 riders focus on the Ardennes: P. Gilbert and J. Vanden Broeck. And most likely they'll provide Evans with bidons.

The last 2 weeks were big fun. And once again we were king of our own region. But unfortunatly cycling is more than eating cobblestones for 2 weeks. Realizing that after the minds have been purified from the beer, hits really hard.
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Old 04-14-09, 18:29
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jaylew jaylew is offline
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Originally Posted by il_fiammingo View Post
I agree, but unfortunately the race developments in Fleche/Liege are most of the time very boring in comparison to RvV or PR. It's always about waiting, never taking risks. I think it has to do with the nature of these GC guys: always measuring every ounce of energy they're going to spent because they might need it the next stage.
Although these uphill finishes are spectacular (and the strongest always wins), they also contribute to a boring race: the guys with great legs can always "wait" until that moment to make a move.
Yeah, that can happen sometimes, particularly at Fleche, with everyone waiting until the Mur, but wow, what a finish that is! It probably won't help matters that two riders always always willing to be agressive and break things up, Di Luca and particularly Bettini, won't be there this year.
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Right now only 2 riders focus on the Ardennes: P. Gilbert and J. Vanden Broeck. And most likely they'll provide Evans with bidons.
Yeah, doesn't seem like many of the Belgian riders of late like to climb. Who else? Monfort, Devolder...?
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Old 04-14-09, 19:03
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Also interesting to see what Pineau can do. He has good results in there races in the past and propably has lifted his level since joining Quick Step.
Good call.

Some other dark horses I like are Gerrans, Wegmann and Pfannberger.
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  #10  
Old 04-14-09, 19:27
Jasper Jasper is offline
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Yeah, doesn't seem like many of the Belgian riders of late like to climb. Who else? Monfort, Devolder...?
I think Seeldraeyers can do well in these classics in a few years, when he's matured more and gained a bit more power. Francis De Greef is a very promising climber and overall GC rider as well, but he'll need a few more years as well before he'll be able to really shine in this type of one day races. Jelle Vanendert maybe, I think he already made top 10 in the fleche 2 years ago? But he was never able to repeat that result, mostly because of injuries. And of course there's Jan Bakelants for the not so distant future. He won L-B-L for espoirs last year, as well as the Tour de l'avenir. Supposedly he's one of Belgium's biggest talents, and especially suited for the more hilly (stage) races.
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