The race that leaves from Liege, travels to Bastogne, snaking along the Luxembourg border, and then back to Liege, is this Sunday. It’s the oldest of the Classics, the doyenne, as they say. Lots of really skinny guys in funny clothes will be there, pedaling as quickly as they can over the roller-coaster course. Up and down. Short and sharp. It’s sure to be very exciting.
The overwhelming favorite must be Phillipe Gilbert, winner of Brabantse Pijl, Amstel Gold and Fleche Wallone all on the trot. If there is anyone stronger on a bicycle at the moment, I don’t know his name. That all the other skinny guys will be watching Gilbert closely is, perhaps, the only thing working against his possible win. We have seen what the entire peloton can do to an uber-strong rider when they get it in their minds to make him lose (see: Cancellara, Fabian).
Other contenders include Joaquim Rodriguez, Sammy Sanchez, the brothers Schleck, Alexandre Vinokourov, Ryder Hesjedahl and perhaps Damiano Cunego. This is the Group Ride. I can’t so ALL the work for you.
L-B-L favors the strong. You must have climbing legs, but also power, as the climbs come early and often, wearing down the riders right to the finish. Guys without a sprint, like Andy Schleck, depend on getting away on one of the steep climbs that come near the end. Otherwise, this race goes to an all-rounder, someone who can survive the punishing up and down and save something for the end. Someone like Phillipe Gilbert.
This week’s Group Ride asks you not for the winner, but for the whole darn podium. Name ‘em. Win something.
Padraig and I will both appear as guests on Pavé blog’s Feed Zone Live Chat during the race, starting sometime early on Sunday. You can read their fine preview here, as well as some analysis and prediction here. I hope you’ll join us.