Dimension Data's Roman Kreuziger will race Wednesday's Flèche Wallonne hoping that he can improve on the fourth place he took at last year's race, and hoping, too, that his team's fortunes soon change.
The Czech rider will lead the African WorldTour team with Enrico Gasparotto and Michael Valgren, with all three riders left disappointed with their performances at last weekend's Amstel Gold Race, where they had made up the entire podium in 2018, with Valgren having won from Kreuziger and Gasparotto 12 months ago before they all joined Dimension Data for this season.
On Sunday, Kreuziger was the team's highest-placed finisher at Amstel in 18th place, with Gasparotto and Valgren taking 41st and 52nd, respectively.
Kreuziger now heads to Flèche on Wednesday searching for a podium place at the Belgian one-day race – the second of the three Ardennes Classics – which takes the riders over the famous Mur de Huy climb twice before a third ascent up to the finish.
Course changes also mean that there are now nine difficult climbs – including the Côte de Cherave and the Côte d'Ereffe – in the final 77km of the 195.5km race, ensuring that this year's Flèche will be a tougher race than ever.
Kreuziger and his teammates will be up against the might of Deceuninck-QuickStep, who field last year's winner Julian Alaphilippe, and Movistar's Alejandro Valverde, who's still looking for a sixth Flèche title, having been pipped to the line by Alaphilippe last year.
Other danger men include UAE Team Emirates' Dan Martin and last year's third-place finisher Jelle Vanendert of Lotto Soudal, while Kreuziger also names EF Education First's Michael Woods as one to watch.
"Flèche Wallonne is a race that suits just a handful of riders in the peloton," said Kreuziger on his team's website. "Julian Alaphilippe, Dan Martin, Alejandro Valverde and Michael Woods are your main contenders, and then there is another group of punchy climbers that can do well.
"Enrico Gasparotto and I are in that punchy climber group," he continued. "Three times up the Huy will make you really feel it in the legs, and the addition of the other climbs before the finish will ensure there is lactic acid in the legs before the finish up the Mur de Huy.
"I'm really looking forward to this, as the harder finale suits me. Last year I was fourth, and in the past I was top 10 a couple of times, too," added Kreuziger, referring to what has in fact been just one other top-10 finish, with eighth in 2014, but also 11th place in both 2015 and 2016.
"We saw that Michael Valgren is getting better and better, so hopefully he and the rest of the team can bring me and 'Gaspa' to a good position, and then we can finish it off with some good results and points for the team," he said.
Dimension Data have just two wins so far this season, thanks to Edvald Boasson Hagen's time trial stage win at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and Giacomo Nizzolo's stage win at the Tour of Oman, which both came in February.
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