Liège-Bastogne-Liège teams are presented in Belgium

Gallery: Contador, Gilbert, Schlecks gather for 'La Doyenne'

The countdown to the final Classic of the spring began on Saturday afternoon as riders attended the official Liège-Bastogne-Liège team presentation.

The 25 teams in the race were called onto a stage one by one, with legendary French race announcer Daniel Mangeas reeling-off their best results and asking them for a brief comment on their chances for Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

Before going on stage in the huge marquee, the riders gather in the centre of the Palais des Princes-Eveques. The atmosphere was that of a friendly weigh-in before a prize fight, as riders and rival directeur sportifs said hello but carefully check out each others fitness and tested their confidence.

Local hero and big favourite Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma) tried to play it cool but was clearly nervous, knowing victory would change his career forever and perhaps make him the most complete Classics rider of his generation. He was mobbed by the crowds, but patiently posed for dozens of photographs and autographs.

World Champion Cadel Evans (BMC) and former Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre (Cervelo TestTeam) were also spotted by the crowd outside the presentation and swamped by requests for autographs, but managed to escape and get back to their hotels on their team buses.

Saxo Bank was one of the last teams to be presented. Andy and Fränk Schleck looked laid-back and confident, with both promising to make it a hard race for Gilbert and anyone else hoping Liège-Bastogne-Liège will finish in a sprint. We can expect them to go on the attack as early as the Côte de la Redoute, 35km from the finish, and blow the race wide open.

Alberto Contador (Astana) mingled with his former teammates, who now ride for Lance Armstrong's RadioShack, and Christian Vande Velde joined his Garmin-Transitions team, revealing he will support Canada's Ryder Hesjedal after the Canadian's second place result in the Amstel Gold Race

This year's Liège-Bastogne-Liège official start list includes more Tour de France contenders than in recent years, with Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky), Denis Menchov (Rabobank) also joining the Schlecks, Vande Velde, Evans and Contador for the 258km race.

The last Classic of the spring promises to be a real showdown between the best riders in the peloton.

There will be live coverage of all the action here on Cyclingnews on Sunday with special reports and interviews from the finish line in Ans.


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