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The BMC Teammachine of the American GC hopeful
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National theme bike for Tour's lone Japanese rider
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) in the points jersey at Pais Vasco
Spaniard leads Movistar in Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège
Alejandro Valverde will lead the eight-man Movistar team for the Ardennes Classics, starting with the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday. His teammates will include Imanol Erviti, John Gadret, Beñat Intxausti, Ion Izagirre, Jesús Herrada, Gorka Izagirre and Iván Gutiérrez.
The 78th Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday, April 23 and the 100th edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday, April 27 will be the next stops for Valverde, who in tackling some of his biggest goals of the season, is confident about his chances.
"It's always an important week for me, because I like these races very much and they suit me well," said the Spaniard. "That's why I'm always happy to start the Ardennes trio. I won't say I'm coming here to see how I'm doing and trying to finish up-front. As I'm feeling right now, the only goal is winning. We know it's much easier said than done - I was also doing well last year, I was always at the front but couldn't win any of the three. These are prestigious races where you have to fight against the best, but we're aiming the highest here."
"They always ask me about which would I choose from the three if I could win just one, but I won't do that because I like all three much," said Valverde. "It's true that the Amstel has always been hard to get for me - I got second and third there - but I'm still in love with Liège. I will give my 100% in all three."
"Differences between them? The Amstel is the most crazy. Many turns, narrow roads... you always have to keep the front. If you spend the race at the back, pace changes kill you. Flèche is decided into the final climb, and Liège is a race where physical condition counts a lot, côtes becoming real, long climbs - it's a race of resistance. In all of them, experience is crucial, and I have it: to know where the race is won or lost, which are the dangerous sections, in which places you mustn't waste energy..."
Valverde named a few of the men he considers his rivals for the race: Joaquim Rodriguez, Michel Kwiatkowski, Damiano Cunego, Simon Gerrans, Vicenzo Nibali, Roman Kreuziger and Philippe Gilbert.