Sanchez ready for Ardennes battle
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sanchez ready for Ardennes battle

by Jered Gruber at 12:54 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Liège-Bastogne-Liège , Flèche Wallonne

In the second surge of dominance we've seen in the Classics this spring following Fabian Cancellara's legendary performance on the cobbles, Philippe Gilbert has made it hard to recall that other people even have a chance the rest of the week.

Philippe Gilbert has made it clear that he wants big wins this week and the #1 spot on the UCI rankings before he's done with his spring campaign at the end of the month. He's focused fully on the final two legs of the Ardennes Triptych and then the Tour de Romandie, then he'll take a hard-earned break.

There are two riders from one specific Spanish team, Caisse d'Epargne, who could provide a significant barrier to success for the Flying Walloon - one rider in particular, is the only rider standing between him and the UCI top spot: Luis Leon Sanchez.

Sanchez (along with Valverde) was not able to race on Sunday due to the impossibility of getting to Maastricht in time for the race courtesy of the big, bad volcano from Iceland. Valverde and Sanchez have arrived in the Ardennes, and they're ready for battle.

Sanchez was philosophical about his plight, but hopeful of his chances this week: "It's a shame not to have been able to compete in the Amstel Gold Race, but at least now we are here in Liege, and we have to focus on Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, two of the most beautiful days of racing on the world calendar."

The travel to Liege was difficult, but Sanchez and Valverde appear to have managed the extended car trip with as few interruptions as possible. "On Sunday, we managed a long day of training before we got in the car. Now, we are looking forward to tomorrow and the chance to race."

Even with a relatively pain-free car ride and a solid ride on Tuesday in the Ardennes, Sanchez admits that he'll be starting with a few question marks.

"The first hour of the race will be very important, because it will give some indications on how we've recovered. I hope everything goes well. I'll go with the intention of staying in the front to contest the race with my teammate, Alejandro Valverde."

Like any good favorite, Sanchez is quick to point to other riders as the favorites, namely those that factored highly on Sunday at the Amstel Gold Race.

"It will not be easy because of riders like Gilbert, Cunego, the Schleck Brothers, and others who were already going well at the Amstel Gold Race. They are the favorites and already have the pace and rhythm of Holland's classic in their legs. We'll be there, racing hard on a new course that promises to be very nervous and selective."

The UCI leader will start on Wednesday as a definite favorite. Unlike some stage race hopes, Sanchez has hinted at a lot of promise in the one day classics with his aggressive, explosive style. He has yet to score a big one day win, but his form of 2010 indicates a strong possibility that the plethora of results he has amassed in stage races will transfer to a Classic in short order.

Sanchez will head an immensely powerful group of Spaniards on Wednesday, all fresh from a long trip: Alejandro Valverde, Alberto Contador, Igor Anton, and of course the UCI leader, Luis Leon Sanchez, will all take the line Wednesday morning with legitimate claims to contender status.


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