Saxo Bank star predicts a race of elimination on the côtes
Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) has said he will ride a defensive race and wait for a possible sprint finish at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) has warned the Belgian that he will go on the attack somewhere on the ten côtes that characterise the last major Classic of the spring.
Andy Schleck won Liège-Bastogne-Liège last year and so will start the race wearing number one. As ever, the lanky rider from Luxembourg seems unworried by the weight of expectation and pressure on his shoulders. He will race in parallel with his older brother Fränk and with strong support from the rest of the Saxo Bank team, making him a strong favourite to repeat his 2009 win.
"It's the highlight of the first part of the season. I had a really good last year, my shape is great and so I'm not scared of anyone tomorrow. We will be there with the best and hopefully can put us up on the podium," Andy said at the team presentation, less than 24 hours before the start in Liège.
Andy Schleck won with a powerful solo attack on the Côte de la Roche aux Faucons last year. Road works on the climb mean the organisers have had to find a slightly new route through the Ardennes hills, but Schleck is convinced the changes will have little effect on the race.
"It's a only a little change. I don't think it'll change the race much," he said. "This is a Classic and even on the flat they go hard and they go fast. I did the parcours yesterday but I don't see any change on the race. I might be wrong but I don't think so."
Schleck was not worried about Gilbert playing mind games with his rivals. The Omega Pharma-Lotto rider has a good sprint finish, especially after a long, hard race, but Andy is confident that Liège-Bastogne-Liège won't be decided in a sprint.
"For sure everyone will watch me but Liège is different to the two Classics before. If you are strong tomorrow, you'll be in front. There are no secrets at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. It's going to be an elimination race like always. For sure Gilbert is ready and motivated. We saw that in the Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne. This is his race but I don’t live too far from here and so I'm motivated and ready too.
"Gilbert knows that we won't wait for the sprint. If we wait for the sprint then for sure he wins it. That would be stupid. We'll try something on the way to Liège."
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