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Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Nissan)
At the start of the final spring classic
The final classic of the spring, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, began in Belgium this morning. It was your typical Belgian race startline, packed with adoring fans in stretched team kits from the mid-90s, and young kids calling out to riders’ names in brave attempts to attract stray bidons and caps.
Daniel Mangeas' voice trickled through the announcement speakers as riders braved the chilly but dry conditions on their way to the sign on, aware that Liege is the final curtain call before attention shifts to the stage races of May, and the Giro d’Italia.
But a closer look outside the team buses gave an insight into a far more interesting side to the sport. With the Classics beginning to wind down a number of teams and riders have begun discussing plans for next year and a number of agents were present in Liege, having kept far lower profiles earlier in the season.
Folded arms and pursed lips were the norm as initial stages of haggling filled the air. One team director was slightly more abrupt, raising a finger in the direction of an opposing team before telling Cyclingnews, ‘I think they’ll be after my rider, they need him.”
Cycling, a rich and every changing sport of dynamics, never stands still, and while racing will almost certainly dominate tomorrow’s headlines, there was much more at stake at this morning’s start in Liege.