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Alexandr Kolobnev (Team Katusha)
Kirchen returns to bolster strong Ardennes selection
After falling agonizingly short of victory at Amstel Gold on Sunday, Katusha confirmed another strong roster for the second of the three Ardennes Classics, Flèche Wallonne, on Wednesday. Serguei Ivanov and Alexandr Kolobnev, who both played crucial roles in the finale of Amstel, will return to lead the Russian outfit.
Flèche Wallonne will also mark the return of former race-winner Kim Kirchen, who has not raced since E3 Prijs-Harelbeke due to saddle sores. The Luxembourg rider won the event in 2008 and although unlikely to feature in the finale this year, he will lend valuable experience to his teammates.
Kolobnev, Ivanov and Kirchen will be joined by Luca Maxxanti, Serguei Klimov, Eduard Vorganov and Stijn Vandenberg for the 198-kilometre race, which finishes atop the Muur de Huy in south-east Belgium.
Both Ivanov and Kolobnev were present in the elite selection that had formed in the latter stages of Amstel Gold Race on Sunday. Although ultimately unsuccessful at the Dutch race, their visible presence there re-affirmed Katusha's status as one of the strongest squads entered in the Ardennes Classics.
Ivanov finished 12th at Amstel and Kolobnev 22nd, the latter having been swept up at the base of the Cauberg, just 600 metres before the line. Katusha sports director Serge Parsani said on Tuesday that the team will aim will maintain it's attacking style.
"We have a strong team that can do well [at Flèche]," said Parsani. "We raced well at Amstel Gold Race, where we were only missing a little bit of good luck. Tomorrow we'll try it again."