Team Sky leader improving as Giro d'Italia nears
Team Sky's Thomas Löfkvist may not have finished on the podium in La Flèche Wallonne, but a gutsy attack from a late-race breakaway gave him confidence of his increasing form ahead of next month's Giro d'Italia.
Several teams tried to anticipate the final showdown on the Mur de Huy by attacking over the top of the penultimate passage of the climb with 30km to go.
Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) was the first accelerate away and he was joined by Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha), Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad) and Löfkvist.
The classy Swede did not ride the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday but looked strong and quickly went clear alone as the other riders, and the remnants of the early break, faded and cracked on the rolling terrain.
Löfkvist was joined by Vasil Kiryienka and the two worked together, holding a 20 second advantage for 10 kilometres. The pair were caught some eight kilometres from the finish, after the Cote d'Ereffe cut into their lead and Omega Pharma-Lotto worked to control the race and set up Philippe Gilbert.
"It was good at the start but then after the short descent we turned right and we just kind of split up," Löfkvist said as he rolled to the Team Sky bus after finishing 84th, at 2:13.
"I looked behind and I was alone and so I decided I had better go. I saw Kiryienka coming up and we worked well together, he rode really strong. But then they came with momentum from behind. It's hard to stay away in that situation. They didn’t let us get any gap and they were riding really hard."
Löfkvist has had a quiet early season as he built the foundation of his form towards the Giro d'Italia, where he will be team leader for Sky. He finished tenth at Tirreno-Adriatico and more recently was 72nd at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco. However his ride at Flèche Wallonne boosted his morale for Liège - Bastogne - Liège and the rapidly approaching Giro.
"I'm pleased with this performance," he said. "I showed that I've got the legs to be up here. I felt good during the day and so it's good for my morale."
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