After a week’s build-up with Amstel Gold and Flèche Wallonne, the main event arrived as the riders lined up for the start of Liège-Bastogne-Liège. All were well wrapped up against the elements as the temperature had taken a significant nosedive since they reconnoitred the finale of the course on Friday.
Philippe Gilbert (BMC) was the most anticipated arrival of the day and a huge cheer among the spectators in the Place de Saint-Lambert signalled that the Ardennes-native was nearby. The 2011 champion is still suffering from his crash at Flèche Wallonne earlier in the week, but will lead BMC today. Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) is another former champion hoping to push through the after-effects of a crash on Wednesday and pull out a good result.
There was a large group of Polish fans who had stationed themselves right in front of the podium, chanting for Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep). The decibel levels rose when the world champion finally made his arrival, decked in his new Oakley jawbreakers. His teammate Julian Alaphilippe was a sought-after man, following his midweek result.
Race favourite, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) looked calm and relaxed at the start as he chatted with teammate Nairo Quintana. Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) has twice finished on the podium at Liège. He arrives at the race after a disappointing Ardennes campaign thus far and is looking to turn his fortunes around.
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