Alaphilippe and Dan Martin will lead Etixx-QuickStep at La Flèche Wallonne
Etixx-Quickstep will go into La Flèche Wallonne with two riders who have finished on the podium in the past two years: Julian Alaphilippe, who was second last year, and Dan Martin, who was second in 2014 when he was riding for Garmin-Sharp.
Alaphilippe will be hoping to recapture or better the run he had in last year’s Ardennes Classics, when he was seventh in the Amstel Gold Race and then finished second in both Flèche and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Alaphilippe appears to be on form again for the Ardennes, warming up with eighth place at Brabantse Pijl and then coming in sixth Sunday in Amstel last Sunday.
Martin’s season so far has focused on stage races, The Irishman has taken stage wins at Volta a Valencia in February and at Volta a Catalunya, where he was third overall, last month.
Brabantse Pijl winner Petr Vakoc will provide another option for Etixx-QuickStep, which will see also Gianluca Brambilla, David De La Cruz, Laurens De Plus, Bob Jungels and Pieter Serry line up at the start line in Marche-en-Femenne on Wednesday.
Etixx-QuickStep for La Flèche Wallonne: Julian Alaphilippe, Gianluca Brambilla, David De La Cruz Melgarejo, Laurens De Plus, Bob Jungels, Daniel Martin, Pieter Serry, Petr Vakoc.
Felline out with skull fracture
Italian Fabio Felline will be out for two or three months because of a fracture to the base of his skull, Trek-Segafredo announced today on Twitter. The 26-year-old crashed during the neutral section of the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday.
Tom-Jelte Slagter takes the reins at Cannondale for Flèche and Liege-Bastogne-Liege
Based on his experience in the Ardennes Classics, Tom-Jelte Slagter will lead Cannondale Pro Cycling this week at La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, where he finished sixth in 2014.
The team is also looking to Alex Howes, Lawson Craddock and Simon Clark to do some damage in the Wednesday and Sunday races. The rest of the relatively young roster for both races includes Nathan Brown, Ben King, Toms Skujins and Michael Woods.
“I think the race has changed — it’s quite hard. It’ll be interesting for us,” said sport director Johnny Weltz. “We have a lot of young guns there. We just need to see how to get the best out of it.”
Slagter was 14th in Milan-San Remo, ninth in Brabantse Pijl and 60th in Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race.
“I like this area, specifically the climbs,” Slagter said. “I did these roads and climbs when I was younger for training and some races in juniors and u23s. I found out I liked these type of races the most. This is what I’m training for — to be good in these races. They’re WorldTour and important for the team.
“We have a good team here to do good results,” Slagter said. “The two are very different races. Both of very hard. Liège is a classic length, 260k, but if I look to Flèche, that finish climb, that suits me well.”
Howes featured in the main breakaway during the Amstel Gold Race, eventually succumbing to the chase before Enrico Gasparotto soled to his second victory there. Craddock most recently finished ninth in the Tour of the Basque Country.
“Liège is like racing on old battle grounds,” Howes said. “World War II tanks around. It’s a legitimate classic. It’s hard racing. I think in a lot of ways it’s probably harder than Roubaix.”
Cannondale Pro Cycling for La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège: Nathan Brown, Simon Clarke, Lawson Craddock, Alex Howes, Ben King, Toms Skujins, Tom-Jelte Slagter, Michael Woods.
Dimension Data sending climbers to animate La Flèche Wallonne
Serge Pauwels and Steve Cummings will lead Dimension Data at Wednesday’s La Flèche Wallonne, where the African WorldTour team intends to animate the race and set up one of their own for the win when the race ends at the top of Mur de Huy.
Pauwels and Cummings, who has already won stages at Tirreno-Adriatico and Pais Vasco this season, will be joined in the race by Natnael Berhane, Daniel Teklehaimanot, Jacques Janse van Rensburg, Youcef Reguigui, Omar Fraile and Igor Anton.
Berhane said he has competed in the race before and is looking forward to going back.
“The Mur is a really tough climb and you must have good legs and be in a good position to do well,” he said. “We have a strong team and we will ride for the strongest rider on the day. We must deliver him to a good position for the Mur otherwise you don't really have a chance. In some years, the riders walk up the Mur and then there is no way through so it is important to start in the front.”
MTN-Qhubeka for La Flèche Wallonne: Serge Pauwels, Steve Cummings, Natnael Berhane, Daniel Teklehaimanot, Jacques Janse van Rensburg, Youcef Reguigui, Omar Fraile, Igor Anton.