Bernard believes that Contador can fight for Liège-Bastogne-Liège
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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bernard believes that Contador can fight for Liège-Bastogne-Liège

by Conal Andrews at 8:16 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Liège-Bastogne-Liège , Flèche Wallonne
 

Alberto Contador has stressed that his primary aim of riding the Classics is to gain experience for future years and to broaden his versatility as a rider. The Spaniard nevertheless went close to the win yesterday, finishing third in Flèche Wallonne, and French cycling analyst Jean Francois Bernard believes that he can realistically chase a big result on Sunday.

“He is still progressing and despite what he said [as regards playing down his chances], I think he can also play a role in Liège-Basogne-Liège,” said the former Tour de France stage winner in l’Equipe.

“The 50 additional kilometres on the course will really shake up the peloton. We’ll be left with a group of favourites in the final 15 to 20 kilometres and Contador will clearly be with the best. He will go up against Alejandro Valverde and the Schleck brothers, who are the real disappointments of Flèche Wallonne.

“As is the case with Gilbert, who is less a [pure] climber and more an explosive rider, the big objective of these riders is now Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Without diminishing Flèche Wallonne, doing this race – even without a big result – is better than doing four hours of training alone.”

What Bernard is essentially saying is that its last-chance saloon as regards winning a Classic this spring; those who did not perform will have to give it everything in order to try to clock up a big result. Gilbert and Contador are under less pressure in that regard, given that the Belgian has already won and the Spaniard never staked his early season on these races, but both have their own motivations to dig deep on Sunday.

Gilbert is chasing the world number one slot and also has the considerable motivation of being cheered on by his home crowd, having a house very close to the race course. Contador will be smarting after being passed so close to the line. He had a considerable lead after passing Igor Anton (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and must have thought he was going to win.

Many feel that Contador went too soon, as Evans did in 2008 and 2009. Bernard doesn’t agree with this, believing that the strongest rider won.

“I don’t think that Albert Contador committed a strategic error in the final climb; maybe he should not have taken the wheel of Igor Anton 500 metres from the line, but I think it is more an indication of his current form,” he said. “He was already dominated by Igor Anton in the only mountain-top finish in the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon.

“Cadel Evans was stronger, he could use a bigger gear in the last 150 metres, which wasn’t as steep. The title of world champion and the Anglo-Saxon environment he has found at BMC has helped him gain confidence.”

Evans will of course also be aiming for the victory on Sunday. He doesn’t have to win; his spring has already been a success, but he appears to be hungrier than ever this year. What’s certain is that there will be a whole lot of big guns determined to do something on the roads of La Doyenne, and this can only make a great race even more exciting.

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