Gilbert and Schleck brothers reflect on Flèche Wallonne, look forward to Liège
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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Gilbert and Schleck brothers reflect on Flèche Wallonne, look forward to Liège

by Conal Andrews at 7:35 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Liège-Bastogne-Liège , Flèche Wallonne
 

Following his win in Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race, Philippe Gilbert was touted by many as a possible winner of all three Ardennes Classics. While Gilbert underlined that the finish up the Mur de Huy was too steep to suit him, his incredible acceleration on the Cauberg on Sunday led many to take his protestations with a pinch of salt.

In the end, his caution was justified and he had to make do with sixth place. However he said afterwards that he was satisfied with his showing, particularly as he earned points towards his goal of becoming world number one.

“To finish in the top ten is a good result. To label me as favourite before the race was not accurate. I was not strong enough against the real climbers in the finale. I rode well up the Mur, but to win here I will have to develop myself more,” he told Belga.

He’ll have a better chance on Sunday as the climbs are not as steep in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The race is also 60 kilometres longer than yesterday’s Classic, meaning that the final result will be as much about endurance and overall condition as strength. Gilbert has shown he is in great shape and can head to the race knowing that he should be in the final shakeup.

“On Sunday in Liège-Bastogne-Liège I will be one of the riders to watch, but I am not the only one. You must also keep an eye on the Schleck brothers, Evans, Contador and Valverde,” he explained.

The two Saxo Bank riders were clearly in superb form yesterday but, like Gilbert, they may well have felt that the finish was a little too steep for their liking. The Mur de Huy favours smaller riders, with strong bursts of speed; Frank and Andy Schleck are primarily known for their strengths in the high mountains, even if between them they have won the Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne. It’s not that they wouldn’t have placed highly on the Mur, but rather that to actually win the race, it was necessary to gamble and go from far out.

Frank Schleck got into a promising move after the second ascent of the Mur, racing clear with Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) inside the final 30 kilometres. However the composition of the break was not ideal; also present were Bram Tankink (Rabobank) who would work, and Davide Loosli (Lampre), who couldn’t. The latter had been clear in a break since early on in the race, while Tankink had been in a chase group and stayed clear until after the top of the Mur.

Both riders had reason to be tired, but Schleck was still not impressed. “Andy did a great job for me to launch my attack and I felt strong, but I was left with bad riders in the break,” he told l’Equipe. “Bram Tankink would not take his share of responsibilities in the work. He used the presence of Robert Gesink in the peloton as an excuse. In these circumstances, it was not realistic that myself and Kreuziger could hold off the peloton until the finish line.”

They were ultimately caught before the climb up to the finish; Frank Schleck was 42nd, losing 47 seconds to Evans, while his brother was ahead of him in ninth, eleven seconds back.

The latter said afterwards that covered attacks by riders behind had worn him out. “I worked for Frank as we agreed,” he said of his tactic once that move went clear. “Logically, I ran out of juice on the final climb of the Mur.”

Andy Schleck dominated Liège-Bastogne-Liège last year, beating yesterday’s runner-up Joaquín Rodríguez by one minute and 17 seconds. He had said that he’d prefer to win Amstel this year as he hadn’t taken the race before, but with Gilbert grabbing that victory he’ll do what he can to top the podium again on Sunday. His brother Frank will also aim for the win, but both will have to contend with a very motivated Gilbert.

“Winning on Sunday is more than a goal for me, it is a true dream,” he said, thinking of what it would be like to triumph on home soil.

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