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Official thread: Amstel/Fleche/Leige

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Official thread: Amstel/Fleche/Leige

13 Apr 2009 23:25

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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14 Apr 2009 00:03

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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14 Apr 2009 04:00

skidmark wrote: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.
skidmark wrote: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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14 Apr 2009 08:09

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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14 Apr 2009 09:52

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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14 Apr 2009 09:52

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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14 Apr 2009 12:41

bianchigirl wrote: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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14 Apr 2009 18:29

il_fiammingo wrote: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.
il_fiammingo wrote: 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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14 Apr 2009 19:03

Nastyy wrote: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.
"You have to like the stones, yeah?" - Peter Van Petegem
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14 Apr 2009 19:27

jaylew wrote:
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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14 Apr 2009 20:13

jaylew wrote:Yeah, doesn't seem like many of the Belgian riders of late like to climb. Who else? Monfort, Devolder...?

We finally see some talents in Belgium again.
Jurgen Van Den Broeck (7th in Italy), Maxime Monfort (11th in Spain 2007, 5th País Vasco), Stijn Devolder (4th in Suisse, 11th in Spain 2006), Kevin Seeldraeyers (7th place and white jersey in Paris-Nice)

And like Jasper says: Bakelants & De Greef, big talents for the future.

As for Gilbert: he's no climber, but strong enough to compete in the amstel.
Even Museeuw & Van Petegem had some top 10 places in this race.
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14 Apr 2009 21:10

Museeuw and Van Petegems'top 10 places in the Gold Race were usually when the race finished on the flat though, in Maastricht. It had a more 'flandrien' character back then. Since the finish on the Cauberg, that has changed. The final is brutal with the Kruisberg, Eyserbosweg, Fromberg, Keuteberg and Cauberg in quick succession. I live 50km away from Valkenburg and I know the region pretty well.
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14 Apr 2009 21:23

True, but Schumacher was no real climber too (but also not known for his fair play).

I'm really hoping for Gilbert next sunday, I like him, and his way of cycling.
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14 Apr 2009 23:55

I'll be interested to see if Jens Voigt is in Saxo Bank's lineup for the Ardennes classics. He's said before that L-B-L is "the most beautiful race", and this year is probably his last chance to win it-- though in my mind he already won it, the year Vinokourov sucked wheel on Voigt's 50-km breakaway and pipped him in the sprint. I think that was when Jean-Marie LeBlanc ignored Vino and gave Voigt the big hug at the end of the race. My guess is that Voigt will ride it this year, and that he'll try to take off with about 70 to go. Hope he succeeds!
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16 Apr 2009 01:24

Rabobank announced its AGR team.

Robert Gesink, Oscar Freire, Joost Posthuma, Stef Clement, Paul Martens, Nick Nuyens, Bram Tankink en Pieter Weening.

Originally Moerenhout was supposed to be in the line-up, but he declined as he had fallen ill. Clement replaces him.

Skil Shimano has the following roster:

Koen de Kort, Floris Goesinnen, Roy Curvers, Piet Rooijakkers, Albert Timmer, Theo Eltink, Steve Houanard en Thierry Hupond.

However, Roy Curvers crashed in the Scheldeprijs, so he might be replaced by Tom Veelers in case his injuries prove to be too serious.

Saxobank will start with

Jakob Fuglsang, Karsten Kroon, Fränk Schleck, Chris Anker Sørensen, Alexandr Kolobnev, Gustav Larsson, Andy Schleck, Nicki Sørensen.
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16 Apr 2009 06:53

Bala Verde wrote:Rabobank announced its AGR team.

Robert Gesink, Oscar Freire, Joost Posthuma, Stef Clement, Paul Martens, Nick Nuyens, Bram Tankink en Pieter Weening.



Nuyens better play an active role in the AGR. He's been quite disappointing so far this year.
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Milram's day

16 Apr 2009 07:16

Guys this time it might be Milram ruling again. Remember at Milan San Remo (they had the best placements) and look their roster for Amstel. I don't think any of them will win, but Wegman is my pick for top 5 and any other of them can be among top 20. Plus they are hungry for good results - they have only one win so far.
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16 Apr 2009 13:35

Kim Kirchen is out.

He stated that the AG race is too dangerous, and that he is not fully recovered from his injuries. He is doing the Fleche and LBL though.
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16 Apr 2009 19:47

And Cadel Evans is in. With ambition even, as Mark Sergeant stated his form is good and the hilly finale should suit him very well, especially the finish on the Cauberg.
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16 Apr 2009 20:17

Jasper wrote:And Cadel Evans is in. With ambition even, as Mark Sergeant stated his form is good and the hilly finale should suit him very well, especially the finish on the Cauberg.


I like watching Cadel in these races as he rides with more aggression and fire than at a GT and will attack from time to time. Wouldn't be surprised to see a podium for him somewhere.

Ironically, Valverde who I am a big fan of, almost never attacks in these races(well, until the very, very end) because he knows almost no one can take him in a uphill sprint when he is going well.

I see him having a go at Amstel since it's the only one of the three he hasn't won and because his TdF participation is now very much in question.
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