Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) hopes to put an end to the run of Danilo Di Luca in the hilly classics by successfully defending his title in this Sunday's 91st Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Last year, L-B-L served as the crowning race of Rebellin's season, as he became the first rider to win the Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege in the same year. According to his director sportif Christian Henn, Rebellin was "incredibly cool" in the finale, where he was with Michael Boogerd and Alexandre Vinokourov, capitalising on Boogerd's willingness to chase down Vino on the final uphill into Ans and comfortably beating him in the sprint.
"The race is certainly one of the hardest, because the climbs are tougher and longer than in the other classics," said Christian Henn. It gets hard after the turnaround point in Bastogne at kilometre 107, and the riders have to tackle nine climbs (out of a total of 12) in the last 90 km. Key climbs include the Côte de Stockeu (1.1 km at 11.6%). Côte de la Redoute (2.3 km at 7.4%) and the Côte de Saint-Nicolas (0.9 km at 11%), which is just five kilometres before the finish. "If you aren't there on La Redoute, it's too late," said Henn, who doesn't want to see Rebellin at the front until that climb, which falls at 35 km to go.
"Davide is going well," said Henn. "He has done nothing wrong so far. And his form is constantly going up, which is shown by his results." Rebellin was fourth in the Amstel and third in La Flèche, and he hopes to get to the top step of the podium once again in Liege.
Gerolsteiner's lineup: Davide Rebellin, Marcus Fothen, Andrea Moletta, Ronny Scholz, Marco Serpellini, Beat Zberg, Markus Zberg, Fabian Wegmann