This year, France has been steadily raising its collective game in the Ardennes Classics, but while Julien Alaphilippe’s second place at Flèche Wallonne has understandably received a lot of attention, Tony Gallopin’s sixth place in Amstel Gold Race and fourth in Brabantsje Pijl sees the 26-year-old Lotto-Soudal rider slowly raising the stakes, too.
Ninth in Milan-San Remo, Gallopin has deliberately switched targets this year, skipping the cobbles to focus more on Ardennes Classics, and so far his change of goal has paid off. The 2014 Tour stage winner and leader also deliberately missed out on Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday in order to be fresher for Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the final Monument of the spring, he told reporters on Saturday.
“Doing that was a good choice, because I want to go for it at Liège-Bastogne-Liège,” Gallopin told reporters.
“I’m not really sure what kind of scenario could unfold there, but I’ll just hang on with the best and try and do as well as possible for as long as possible.
“I like Liège more than Amstel, the climbs are longer and it’s less of a nervous race. Those sustained efforts are what I’ve been working on hardest.”
Gallopin did a very long training ride mid-week on the day of Flèche Wallonne, his hardest of the build-up for the Ardennes, prior to tackling la Doyenne for the fourth time with Lotto-Soudal, where he, Jelle Vanendert and Tim Wellens will be aiming to shine.
“We will be there in the role of outsiders, able to do something collectively as well as individually,” Gallopin told Belgian daily Sudpresse.
“With three leaders, that reduces the pressure on each rider because even if you have a bad day, you know the other riders should be up there.”
Gallopin himself finished 35th in Liège in 2014, but that was at the end of a very long Classics campaign and followed rides the Tour of Flanders, E3-Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem. This time, having avoided those races, he’s feeling a lot fresher, as his Amstel result, a huge improvement on his 98th place in 2014, already shows.
“It’s true that I lack reference points for Liege, even if I’ve done it three times before. I’ve always been lacking that little bit extra to shine. This time I’ve done everything I can to be good for the finish in Ans. At 26, I’ve reached an age where I should be able to fight for a Monument. It’s up to us – me, Jelle and Tim – to try to upset the established hierarchy [in the Ardennes Classics].”