Liege-Bastogne-Liege Preview

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04/23/2006| 0 comments
by Gerald Churchill

Liege-Bastogne-Liege Preview

Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the oldest of the classics and one of the most coveted, is much like the Amstel Gold Race.

Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the oldest of the classics and one of the most coveted, is much like the Amstel Gold Race. Both races are ridden on hilly courses with the sting in the tail. In the case of <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /?>
La Doyenne , the riders will face 12 climbs, nine of which they will ascend in the second half of the race. The climbing will start at 57.7 km on the Cote de Ny?. After that, the riders will ascend the Cote de
la Roche-en -Ardenne at 82.5 km . The suffering, however, is reserved for the second half of the race. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /?>

 

At 171 km , the riders will confront the Cote de Wanne. Six km later, they will ascend the Cote de Stockeu, and at 183 km , they will face the Cote de
la Haute Levee. The tough climbs in rapid succession will begin to break up the field and create a lead group composed of the heads of state and the lieutenants. The field will ascend the Cote du Rosier ( 195.5 km ) and the Cote de
la Vecquee ( 208 km ) without much additional damage being done to the field, but rapid climbs of the Cote de
la Redoute and the Cote de Sprimont should whittle down the lead group to the men who will decide the race. The decisive moves will be made on the
Cotes de Sart Tilman and Saint Nicolas, and the winner will arrive alone or in a small group.

 

Who will the winner be? Two names stick out: Frank Schleck (CSC) and Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d?Epargne). Schleck won the Amstel Gold Race three days before finishing fourth at
La Fleche Wallonne. He has raced well all spring. Valverde is coming off of victory at
La Fleche Wallonne and a stage win at the Tour of the Basque Country. These two are the men to expect to lead the pack into
Liege.

 


Several other riders are reasonable bets if Schleck and Valverde falter. Among these are Alexander Vinokourov (Liberty Seguros), Paolo Bettini (Quick Step), Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel), and Steffen Wesemann (T-Mobile). Defending champion Vinokourov has ridden consistently if not brilliantly all spring, and the defending champion can never be categorically ruled out.

 

This spring, Bettini has shown flashes of form, finishing 12 th at the Amstel Gold Race and ninth at
La Fleche Wallonne. Moreover, the Olympic champion won

La Doyenne in 2002. He does not, however, seem to have the form to win the 2006 edition of the race.

 

Sanchez has good form. He won two stages of the Tour of the Basque Country, and he was the runner-up at
La Fleche Wallonne. If the chips fall the Spaniard?s way, he could win.

 

Wesemann is a man to be respected in any classic. His overall strength allows him to stay in a race and his victory at the 2004 Tour of Flanders proves that he can do more than finish. As is the case with Sanchez, he can win if the right set of circumstances arises.

 

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