Tour Down Under - 2018 - Stage Six 6 Preview

Rapido Guide – Tour Down Under 2018 – Stage 5

Course:

As is tradition at the Tour Down Under, the overall victory looks set to be decided by the familiar ascent of Wilunga Hill, sending the favourites up its slopes twice in an attempt to shake out 2018’s champion from the bunch. The climb itself lasts for 3km, and though it averages a tame 5%, the steepest sections do creep just beyond 9% during the first half of the ascent. Tackling it twice after leaving McLaren Vale will be a test given the recent weather conditions and there will be little chance to hide a lack of early season form when ascending the scorching slopes near the end of the 151.5km queen stage.

Tour Down Under - 2018 - Stage Five 5 Preview

Contenders:

Richie Porte loves this climb and is the clear favourite to win once again, especially given an encouraging glimpse of his condition so early in the year. He is in a feisty mood to contest the overall victory, perhaps appreciating that such a depth of talent will require him to ride more aggressively in order to guarantee a stage win. No rider knows this climb as well as Porte, and with that in mind, it shall be tough to look beyond him for the victory.

Jay McCarthy has been promised the full backing of his team today and should be one of the main protagonists during the climb of Wilunga Hill. He has offered little during the Tour Down Under to justify serious backing, but his performance at the National Road Race Championships still seems enough to highlight him as a real challenger. Such a strong team of riders around him is an immense advantage on a day where saving every last watt of effort is crucial, keeping him fresh for one decisive attack.

Daryl Impey is enjoying some good early season form and could prove a rider well worth watching on Wilunga Hill as his condition could take bigger names by surprise. He is certainly not a pure climber, but should have enough to cling to their wheels and hope to outgun them in a reduced sprint to the finish line.

Diego Ulissi possesses a consistent record on this stage over the years, though never seems capable of converting that into an eventual victory by the finish. Once again he is a name worth considering here, but a disappointing showing up to now does little to suggest he shall steal the show on Wilunga Hill. 

Domenico Pozzovivo is very talented at coping with these climbs, looking relatively sharp right now and unlikely to think twice about taking the opportunity to open up a gap to his rivals during the final moments. We have often seen the Italian rider following all the major attacks from the big names in grand tour racing, but rarely does he ever manage to better them, making it a gamble to back Pozzovivo as the day’s winner on Stage 5

Others to consider include Luis Leon SanchezEnric MasPierre LatourTom Jelte-Slagter and Rui Costa.

Outcome:

1st Richie Porte 2nd Domenico Pozzovivo 3rd Jay McCarthy

 

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Tour Down Under - 2018 - Stage Six 6 Preview

Rapido Guide – Tour Down Under 2018 – Stage 4

Course:

A relatively short 128.2km forms Stage 4 of 2018’s Tour Down Under, leaving Norwood and racing into the newly introduced finishing town of Uraidla after some serious climbing late on in the day. An interesting stage which may prove a closer fought affair than many first thought, the focus is still likely to be upon the traditionally decisive Wilunga Hill on Stage 5 to realistically crown this year’s winner overall. Expectations are that the puncheurs are likely to demonstrate a greater impact than the pure climbers late on here and a last gasp charge to the line could decide the honours.

Tour Down Under - 2018 - Stage Four 4 Preview

Contenders:

Nathan Haas has been working hard already this week, picking up bonus seconds whenever possible and doing his utmost to steer clear of trouble by utilising his Katusha Alpecin teammates perfectly as protection. Additionally, there is enough talent around him to suggest he shall not be left alone during the crucial moments at the end of the day, potentially allowing him to lean on rivals to chase down his teammates in order to counter attack for the victory. With a quick turn of pace, Haas could capitalise from a reduced bunch kick and seize control of the race ahead of the pivotal penultimate day.

Richie Porte is the best climber at the race, but today will be more about staying with the pack and avoiding any significant time losses to major rivals. As ever, his goal is to produce another barn-storming ride up Wilunga Hill, but he will not refuse the opportunity to take the win today if it should arise. Entering Stage 5 as race leader would make Porte’s chances of overall victory even greater, as with less impetus to break the race up, he could simply sit on the wheels all day.

Jay McCarthy often finishes powerfully on stages such as these, and with such a strong team to support him, there is a great chance of him scoring the win on Stage 4. As one of the few contenders today who has already shown good form in 2018, his performance at the National Road Race Championships suggested he is already riding well and would be a threatening rider to allow a free ticket right into the final kilometre.

Diego Ulissi did not perform as strongly as anticipated yesterday, though still deserves a serious mention here on favourable terrain once again for the Italian. Though the last climb is a great springboard to launch his attack upon, the downhill run into town is not favourable really, but his capabilities in a reduced sprint could still deliver him victory if riding smart on the day.

A strong field of further candidates all have the potential to win in Uraidla: Rui CostaEnric MasPeter SaganTom Jelte-SlagterDaryl Impey and Peter Kennaugh.

Outcome:

1st Nathan Haas 2nd Jay McCarthy 3rd Richie Porte

Tour Down Under - 2018 - Stage Six 6 Preview

Rapido Guide – Tour Down Under 2018 – Stage 2

Course:

Today’s finale at Stirling is a familiar fixture in the design of each edition of the Tour Down Under, making its ninth appearance since 2009 and setting the scene for another uphill battle to the finish line. The stage totals 148.6km from its start in Unley and rolls throughout the day, concluding at Stirling, though the peloton will actually pass the finish line four times in total. It is generally considered that the pure sprinters shall struggle to perform by the time we see the final lap sign appear, instead favouring those riders capable of powerful uphill bursts over this drag to the line.

Tour Down Under - 2018 - Stage Two 2 Preview

Contenders:

Peter Sagan has started the season in brilliant form once again and is bound to prove unbeatable if given the go ahead to pursue the win in Stirling; team orders being upon which his chances hinge. A generous rider and team player, the world champion may instead choose to sacrifice his efforts for his fellow riders today, seeking to play a big part in the day’s outcome. He has done precisely this on this stage finish before, and with a strong team of punchy riders beside him, there are plenty of options on offer for Bora Hansgrohe on Stage 2.

Diego Ulissi is long established as a rider who flourishes on these drags to the finish line and expectation will be that the Italian shall be a contender once again here in Stirling. His support during the concluding laps of the day looks capable of keeping him fresh and well positioned when it matters most, meaning a podium is likely to be their target at the very least on Stage 2. Ulissi has a great ability to identify the best moment to sprint for the line, and with it being so early in the season, he might just catch everyone else napping.

Nikias Arndt enjoys these finales too, though is an unknown quantity right now and usually only performs best when the day has proven long or attritional at least. Regardless, he is the best option for Team Sunweb and will likely view this as a good opportunity to test the waters of 2018 at least.

Jay McCarthy will be eager to seize the chance of leadership if Sagan is happy to support the native rider, McCarthy previously performing well at his home race on these testing finishes. With such a strong group around him featuring Sagan, Peter Kennaugh, Daniel Oss and Maciej Bodnar; their is no reason to think he will be outmuscled late on. With compatriot Caleb Ewan misjudging yesterday’s finale, McCarthy could be the rider who delivers Australia’s first win at Tour Down Under 2018.

Nathan Haas could be keeping his powder dry until later in the week, but there is enough here in terms of favourable terrain, in order to lure him out into gaining further seconds on the general classification.

Davide Cimolai often performs best when given a slight drag to contest his sprint upon and is certainly flying under the radar in comparison to other specialists here. If he can find himself on the wheel of one of the major names in the final kilometre, he has the skills to spring a surprise.

Plenty of others are capable of taking a top ten placing here: Rohan DennisSimon ClarkeRui CostaAndré Greipel, Caleb Ewan and Phil Bauhaus.

Outcome:

1st Diego Ulissi 2nd Jay McCarthy 3rd Davide Cimolai

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 14 Preview

Course:

A victory of great panache by Warren Barguil secured a back to back correct prediction for Spokenforks yesterday, tightening his grip upon the polka dot jersey and managing to take France’s first Bastille Day win at Le Tour since 2005. Today’s 181.5km course from Blagnac to Rodez will be a tougher affair to predict than yesterday, rolling terrain lending itself well to the ambitions of the breakaway, though an uphill finish to the day will have caught the eyes of several punchier sprinters and their teams. The first of two Category 3 ascents, Côte du viaduc du Viaur (2.3km, avg. 7%) is followed relatively quickly by the Côte de Centrès (2.3km, avg. 7%), neither of which are likely to cause much of an issue for breakaway or bunch alike. Though uncategorised by the race manual, a following rise is then apparent en route to Bonnecombe, which could potentially prove a useful launchpad as the break begins to fracture late on. The road starts to drop back down to Rodez, while the tension ratchets up ahead of the decisive climb of Côte de Saint-Pierre, which lasts just 570m and averages a tough 9.6%. Expectations are that an elite sprint finish will crown the day’s winner, though this is the Tour de France and life rarely goes to plan.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 14 Preview

Contenders:

Greg Van Avermaet has not shown his face a great deal at this year’s race, no doubt hoping to keep himself out of trouble and in good condition ahead of today’s finish, having previously won in Rodez at the Tour de France a couple of years ago. There will be a greater amount of pressure upon the Belgium to perform now BMC’s general classification hopes have left with Richie Porte in the back of an ambulance, but also a greater degree of team support as a result. With stage wins now the team’s main agenda, everyone will be fully aware of how ideal today’s finale is for Van Avermaet and they will do their utmost to control the race especially for him.

Michael Matthews should be motivated on a day which could help him massively in the green jersey competition, as the finish will be his greatest chance of taking a victory with Marcel Kittel firmly out of the picture. His team are on a high as of yesterday’s Bastille Day victory with Warren Barguil and will be hoping to continue their success with another strong showing on Stage 14. His climbing prowess has repeatedly allowed him to showcase how much stronger he is going uphill than many of his rivals, placing him in good stead for the tests expected here. A hard day and a hard ridden finish will favour Matthews, one of the most durable riders outside of the general classification big names, possessing a brilliant uphill sprinting talent to see it off emphatically.

Philippe Gilbert fits the bill well of a potential winner for Stage 14, having the endurance required to follow the rolling attacks and sprint convincingly over the Côte de Saint-Pierre in order to distance his opposition. His greatest strength will be the support, specifically positionally speaking, of his teammates as they guide him through the concluding half of this stage. The competition will be fierce for the win today, though Gilbert has the grit to suffer the punches and emerge sharpest when it matters most.

Diego Ulissi has carved out a talent for this style of finale, so should be looking upon this with eager eyes and serious conviction to be amongst the frontrunners on the Côte de Saint-Pierre. The Italian is not at his best right now, yet should be able to contest this outcome at least, given it being towards the lower end of his toughest career victories. UAE Team Emirates have focused plenty of effort in placing Louis Meintjes well in pursuit of the white jersey, though shall be eager to take a potential stage win by switching their support to the celebrated Italian for the day.

Sonny Colbrelli will no doubt have circled this as a day to aim for since the route was first released, but would surely have liked to be sat before it in stronger condition than currently seen to be riding in. Despite this fact, Colbrelli has done well at major races when somewhat below par by simply riding smarter than his rivals, maintaining freshness for the last push to the line. With limited team support, he may end up becoming swamped by the stronger teams around him late on, so might actually prefer a tougher selection process for the finale.

John Degenkolb does have form for producing brilliantly strong efforts upon late rises to the line, yet is likely to be further down the pecking order in Rodez as a result of lacking form and weaker team support. The German has not been able to produce the level of performance previously seen by him at Le Tour de France, but can expect to edge closer to victory now the race is getting tougher for the more lightweight sprinters. Powerful enough to grind a huge gear over such a short climb, this is well within his capabilities on paper, though has not shown enough up until now to suggest he will take the win.

Daniel Martin has survived his collision with Richie Porte relatively well, though yesterday’s post-race walk to the team bus did showcase just how much pain and bruising the Irishman has suffered as a result of his misfortune. Surprisingly strong yesterday, his teammates have rallied round him to accelerate his recovery as best as possible when riding a grand tour and he definitely looks dangerous enough to challenge for stage honours if the race lends itself to the maillot jaune group. This short and sharp conclusion to the day is ideal for Martin to attack upon, but it is not necessarily likely he will be in a position to do precisely that. If however the battle for the yellow jersey swallows up the day’s smaller moves, then Martin is the most likely to win from such an outcome.

Tony GallopinJan BakelantsEdvald Boasson HagenBen Swift and Alberto Bettiol could all cause an upset from either a breakaway or simply bursting forth from a bunch sprint when least expected.

Outcome:

1st Michael Matthews 2nd Greg Van Avermaet 3rd Philippe Gilbert

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 8 Preview

Course:

Stage 8 sends the peloton on an 187.5km through the first barrage of Alpine climbs during this year’s Tour de France, starting in Dole and finishing atop Station des Rousses. The battle to make the day’s breakaway is expected to be a fierce one, as the bunch are likely to be happy allowing a large move to vanish up the road and decide the day’s outcome. The first recognised ascent of the day is the Category 3 Col de la Joux, lasting 6.1km with an average gradient of 4.7% and providing a chance to loosen the legs ahead of what lies ahead. A relatively long descent follows, leading to the base of the Category 2 Côte de Viry, 7.6km and with an average of 5.2%.  Th terrain remains lumpy for a time after this, before dropping down once again and beginning the ascent to the final run into Station des Rousses. The Category 1 Montée de la Combe de Laisia Les Molunes is the springboard towards the day’s finish, an 11.7km rise which sustains a draining incline between 6% – 8%, though softens after the summit into rolling terrain all the way to the finish.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 8 Preview

Contenders:

Diego Ulissi has always had a gift for making the cut for stages where his great turn of pace is capable of burying the majority of the peloton in a reduced sprint to the line. The Italian has stayed safe enough this far and will be fresh to battle it out amongst a highly competitive selection process to make the day’s breakaway. Typically speaking, Stage 8 is well within his capabilities to succeed upon, though it may come too early in the three week grand tour in order for him to really take it by the scruff of the neck. Regardless, if he does make the move early on, then it will be unlikely anyone faster than him will also be present amongst the escapees.

Stephen Cummings took a double win at the British Road Championships recently, arriving at Le Tour de France in unexpectedly strong form after recovering from a series of broken bones suffered earlier this year. The terrain lends itself perfectly to Cummings’ attributes and especially his gift for sustaining a high tempo throughout these rolling days which slowly jettison members of the breakaway late on. The final climb is bound to entice him to attack over the summit, before then settling into a time trial approach, soloing his way to the line in order to secure the stage win.

Nicolas Edet is partial to joining the break on stages which finish uphill, so will no doubt be interested to see how the opening kilometres unfold, potentially seizing upon the chance to smuggle himself within a move. A strong climber, Edet knows that a convincing performance here has the potential to deliver him more than a stage victory, as the yellow jersey itself is only just a little over four minutes beyond his reach.

Rigoberto Uran will be fully aware of how close he is to securing the maillot jaune right now, as a bold move to join the day’s breakaway would only need him to finish more than a minute ahead of Chris Froome in order to step into the leader’s jersey. It seems that Team Sky are willing to relinquish their grip and see another team shoulder the burden of protecting its prestigious status. Uran might struggle to find the freedom to escape from the start, so if the day proves harder than expected, he might be given permission to try and catch his rivals napping on the final ascent.

Daniel Martin should be the man to beat if the day is determined by an elite group of big name riders, though the general classification focused teams are unlikely to want the task of chasing the breakaway down with such a testing day awaiting them on Sunday. Regardless, the Irishman is clearly enjoying some brilliant form currently and would be bitterly disappointed to see it go to waste if crossing the line in Paris without a stage win to his name.

Serge Pauwels may fancy a day in the break on Stage 8, as Team Dimension-Data turn their attention away from the sprint stages to the mountains for the first time at this year’s tour. The Belgian rider has a strong record for performing well in breaks at major races, though often comes unstuck due to his lack of speed in a head to head charge for the line; something which may deter him from chancing his arm on the road to Station de Rousses. A strong climber, he will look to simply ride his rivals off his wheel during the final ascent of Montée de la Combe de Laisia Les Molunes.

Pierre Latour will need to come to terms with being the greatest hope of a French tour winner in the foreseeable future, so a stage victory and the likelihood of taking the maillot jaune would only serve to apply even greater pressure. The terrain does play to his strengths reasonably well, though may not be tough enough to truly lure him out to join the moves on Stage 8. He sits less than 70 seconds back on Chris Froome at the moment, which could prove a great temptation to try a swashbuckling move late in the day if everything comes back together on Montée de la Combe de Laisia Les Molunes.

Gianluca Brambilla should be in the minds of many for stage honours, despite not showing a great deal of form to catch the eye during the season thus form. He possesses a potent blend of climbing skill and sprinting talent, lending himself perfectly to the rigours of Stage 8 today. Should he manage to be part of a race winning move, few will wish to work him in order to arrive at Station des Rousses with the Italian firmly placed upon their wheel.

Others to watch out for include Fabio FellineAlessandro De MarchiWarren Barguil and Alexis Vuillermoz.

Outcome:

1st Pierre Latour 2nd Rigoberto Uran 3rd Gianluca Brambilla

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 3 Preview

Course:

Though this is earmarked as another day for a bunch sprint to decide the outcome, Stage 3’s 212.5km journey from Verviers to Longwy offers a far greater number of rolling roads than yesterday and finishes with an uphill battle to the line at Côte des Religieuses. Rather than simply seeing the fastest riders in the race lay claim to stage honours, we can expect the puncheurs and those fond of classics style finales to also show their faces during the final moments. There shall be a heated battled for position as the peloton turns onto the final climb of Côte des Religieuses, opening with an incline of 8.2%, meaning there is a chance of getting stuck behind fatigued riders sliding out the back. At 1.6km in length, it manages to reach a maximum gradient of 11%, though the last 500m are considerably easier at 3% – 4%.

Le Tour de France 2017 Stage 3 Preview

Contenders:

Michael Matthews has established himself as a consistent performer upon these difficult uphill stage finishes in recent years and even won a similar challenge earlier this season at Tour de Suisse. He climbs far better than a typical sprinter and has the ability to still produce a blistering acceleration after having hauled himself up a late climb such as today’s. Support from teammate Nikias Arndt could prove decisive, as the opportunity to conserve any ounce of energy for the deciding sprint will be a great advantage for the Australian.

Peter Sagan could open his account early at this year’s race with a stage win in Longwy and will be considered the man to beat by fans and riders alike. Though he has always been quick in a kick to the line, it is these attritional conclusions which he has improved upon immensely and now finds himself a true specialist at winning upon. Sagan is brilliant at positioning himself without the guidance of others, though may finally have support in the closing moments of a stage in the shape of Jay McCarthy. Regardless, the reigning world champion will not worry if isolated and shall be confident of finding the gap required to surge forth in order to take the win.

Greg Van Avermaet is the thorn in the side of Peter Sagan on days like these, as the Belgian has risen to become one of the few riders who can consistently put the Slovakian to the sword in a head to head contest. His form might not be sparkling right now, and he does have eyes on stages later in the race as well, but his talent for uphill sprints makes him a real contender despite this. If the weather makes it a more attritional day, then Avermaet’s chances will improve further still; as the closer Stage 3 gets to becoming a Belgian classic, the more likely it is that he will take the stage.

John Degenkolb surprisingly missed out on a top ten placing on yesterday’s stage, but could be saving his efforts specifically to challenge for the win atop Côte des Religieuses. He recently finished behind Michael Matthews and Peter Sagan at the Tour de Suisse on a similar finale, suggesting that his form could be better than expected at Le Tour de France. Degenkolb can produce huge amounts of power to get over these inclines, though could come unstuck if the sprint is ignited from further out than expected, leaving him with nothing else to call upon once the inclines soften towards the line.

Phillipe Gilbert is capable of producing a potent display of aggressive riding on Stage 3’s final climb, arriving at Le Tour off the back of one of his most successful Spring campaigns for sometime. The former world champion will be able to utilise his dominance upon Amstel Gold’s Cauberg to help gauge his efforts today and can lean upon an extremely talented group of teammates to set him up for grand tour glory.

Sonny Colbrelli seems one of the most difficult riders to gauge form of, often producing eye catching results out of thin air at major races, then seemingly unable to reproduce it on days tailored to his abilities. The Italian rider should be interested in this finish, though much like John Degenkolb, could discover that it leaves him short of the pace required in the last 500m to secure victory.

Other names who have the potential to steal the show are Diego Ulissi, Michael AlbasiniZdeněk ŠtybarEdvald Boasson Hagen and Arthur Vichot.

Outcome:

1st Michael Matthews 2nd Peter Sagan 3rd Greg Van Avermaet

Liége - Bastogne - Liége Race Preview 2017

Liège–Bastogne–Liège – Race Preview 2017

Course:

The week of classics racing in the Ardennes reaches its crescendo with the year’s fourth monument of the season, Liége – Bastogne – Liége; the penultimate chance to win a monument until the Giro di Lombardia in late September. Known as La Doyenne or ‘The Old Lady’, the race’s 103rd edition since its founding in 1892 totals 258km from Liege and back again to the suburb of Ans. A predominantly tame opening half will do little to worry the bunch, allowing the day’s futile breakaway to obtain their time on TV for the sponsors, before being drawn back in by the peloton during the much harder second half of the race. Once the riders begin to turn back towards the fringes of Liége, where the finish line in Ans awaits them, they shall hit a gruelling sequence of nine climbs intended to send plenty of riders out the back door. The introduction of a short cobbled section towards last year’s finish has been removed, which should mean that the familiar triumvirate of Côte de La Redoute, Côte de La Roche-aux-Faucons and Côte de Saint-Nicolas shall be the officially recognised battleground as they bear down upon Ans. However, as we have seen previously, it is the unclassified rising road into the finishing straight which has become a key springboard for remaining riders to make their move for the win. The rise lasts for almost 1.5km and hits a gradient of 10%, a challenge which will feel more like a mountain after more than 250km worth of racing.

There are many critics of The Old Lady, labelling it as a race where nothing much really happens for the most part, but in an era of teams throttling the life out of stage racing and several monuments, La Doyenne remains a contest few would wish to stake their savings on predicting.

Liége - Bastogne - Liége Race Preview 2017

Contenders:

Alejandro Valverde has once again entered the week of the Ardennes classics in the type of form which surely leaves some rivals pondering if it is even worth them showing up to contest these races. The Spaniard is in imperious form so far in 2017, the peloton all too aware of this fact when reaching the Mur de Huy during Wednesday’s La Flèche Wallonne, left to simply watch Valverde sail uphill to yet another victory. His Movistar team will seek to control the bulk of the day’s racing once again, confident that their team-leader will be able to follow the most important moves late on solo, finally putting his rivals to the sword with his customary burst of pace.

Dan Martin is still smarting from his crash in the final corner of 2014’s edition, appearing on course to defend his 2013 title and no doubt believes there to be a great deal of unfinished business with Liége – Bastogne – Liége. He was once again unable to beat Valverde at La Flèche Wallonne, though did suffer from undesirable positioning when his longterm classics rival finally attacked for the line. Martin will want to make the final kilometres as hard as possible, hoping to blunt the speed of faster finishing rivals, most likely doing so by attacking on the final rise into Ans as he did in 2014 before crashing. His buildup to 2017 has been one of his most impressive in his career, but unfortunately for the Irishman, Valverde’s has been equally eye catching.

Sergio Henao‘s progress at the Ardennes classics has been hampered over the years by unfortunate injury and all the hassle surrounding his native blood values, but the Colombian rider finally looks en route to success in 2017. The Sky rider worked hard for teammate Michal Kwiatkowski during Amstel Gold and followed it up with a convincing fourth place atop the Mur de Huy at La Flèche Wallonne. He looks strong enough to follow all the right moves and possesses a faster sprint at the end of a race like this than many would expect.

Michal Kwiatkowski is the other option for Team Sky and forms a seriously strong two man attack alongside Henao for the British outfit at Liége – Bastogne – Liége. The former World Champion has one of the fastest sprint finishes for a race like this after Alejandro Valverde, however, it seems that his growing penchant for late attacks is the method which the Polish rider is most likely to utilise in order to secure his second monument victory of 2017.

Greg Van Avermaet will be eager to eke out every last watt of his incredible Spring form, lining up at La Doyenne with serious ambitions of challenging for the win. His consistency during the cobbled classics has been extremely impressive, but this contest is an entirely different affair altogether for the Belgian and it seems unlikely that this year’s Paris – Roubaix winner will also be champion of Liége – Bastogne – Liége. With nothing to lose and no real pressure upon his shoulders, Avermaet is a very dangerous rider in relation to the hopes of day’s bigger favourites and will demand the respect of typical Liége contenders; as the Belgian will punish anyone who gifts him too much freedom.

Michael Albasini has always performed well at one day races, yet at the age of 36, still lacks the palmarés to demonstrate his talents for these gruelling events. The Swiss rider was one of the few to benefit from the introduction of the short cobbled sector of Côte de la Rue Naniot during last year’s race, utilising it effectively to really put his rivals under the hammer and thus making Albasini one of the few riders to truly miss the sector this year. His strength this year should assure him of being in the mix once again, but it often feels a struggle to back Albasini over more successful riders when it matters most in a major race.

Warren Barguil continues to improve at the Ardennes and secured himself sixth place during Wednesday’s edition of La Flèche Wallonne despite a far from ideal run into the Mur de Huy. The combative Frenchman may be more synonymous with grand tour mountain stages, yet he also finished sixth at last year’s running of Liége – Bastogne – Liége, suggesting he does favour these longs days in the saddle with plenty of climbing. He appears to be the best bet for Team Sunweb, as Michael Matthews has not really displayed enough convincing form to suggest he can take the win in Ans.

Romain Bardet spoke recently of his love for this race and its importance to lithe limbed climbing specialists like himself; La Doyenne being their best hope of a monument victory. Bardet is an aggressive rider who appears to relish the intensity of these single day races, finishing second in 2011’s U23 edition of Liége and now possessing four top 15 finishes as a senior rider; two of which being top ten placings. Bardet’s best hopes of victory will come from attacking either on the final uphill section into Ans or going much earlier during the sequence of Côte de La Redoute, Côte de La Roche-aux-Faucons and Côte de Saint-Nicolas. 

Other riders deserving of attention during the year’s fourth monument are Rui Costa, Alex HowesDylan TeunsTosh Van Der SandeSamuel SanchezJakob FuglsangEnrico GasparottoDiego UlissiRigoberto Uran and Tom Jelte-Slagter.

Outcome:

1st Romain Bardet 2nd Sergio Henao 3rd Dan Martin