No Flemish races for Gilbert this year as he goes all or nothing for the Ardennes. The last two years have seen him come up empty handed so Gilbert has restructured his training to try and peak for La Doyenne. His wins in Brabantse Pijl and Amstel Gold Race were a welcome confirmation that the form is coming. If he does manage to hit the heights of 2011, Gilbert will be unstoppable.
Valverde will want to treat himself to a birthday present on April 27th. He turns 34 two days before the race and will look to add a 3rd title after winning in 2006 and 2008. Almost always in the finale, Valverde was 3rd last year and has started 2014 in serious form. Definitely a top favourite for this year’s La Doyenne.
The 27 year old Irishman is the current champion after Garmin dominated the finale of last year’s race. Martin is not afraid of taking up responsibility when necessary and is lethal when he gets a sniff of victory. Quiet so far in 2014 compared to 2013, it remains to be seen if he will go all in for Liege or if the Giro start in Ireland is dominating his thoughts.
Almost 35 now, Rodriguez’ main focus will be to win the Giro so that he can end his career with a grand tour win after numerous podiums. It’s not only the grand tours where Rodriguez has been bridesmaid however and has twice finished second in Liege in 2011 and 2013. He was ambushed by Martin on the final rise to the finish line last year and will look to put that right in 2014 to boost his confidence and palmares before the Giro begins.
Climbing, sprinting, time trialing – the 23-year old Polish rider seems to have everything. He’s already been winning regularly this year with 2 stages and the overall in the Volta ao Algarve as well as an impressive victory in Strade Bianche. He possesses the punchy style necessary to win in the Ardennes and should be an active player from La Redoute to the finish.
The young Colombian was powerful but inexperienced last year and finished 4th. The maturity is coming however and he has already added Paris-Nice to his palmares this year, winning 2 stages along the way. Explosive like most Columbians, Betancur also posseses the raw power needed in the closing kilometres of La Doyenne.
Update: Betancur has problems with his knees and decided early in the morning that it was better not to start.
The Italian finished 5th last year and was also top 10 in 2012. Teaming up with Enrico Gasparotto, the ageing Italian (34) could use Astana’s strength in numbers to his benefit.
Amstel Gold Race winner in 2012, 3rd in Liege and another top 10 last year, Gasparotto is built to compete in the Ardennes. May need to ride in service of Scarponi but having two cards to play will suit Astana.
4th in 2011, Amstel Gold winner last year, the Czech rider is improving each season. After winning Amstel, Liege is the natural next step for Kreuziger. He may not have a stand out skill that beats the others but is very dogged and is not afraid to take risks in the run in.
The World Champion is still waiting for a victory in his rainbow stripes. The terrain is similar to the World Championship route but the climbs are a bit steeper. 9th last year, possesses a decent sprint….not to be ruled out.
The young Dutchman is in fine form, winning two stages in Paris-Nice. Very much an outsider for victory but has proved himself against strong riders already and the terrain suits his riding style perfectly.
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