HTC-Highroad cannot afford to wait passively for the finale on the Muur de Huy, taking no recognised puncheurs to La Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday. Instead, the American team will look to animate the race before the Muur and have given themselves a number of options by taking a diverse team to the 'Walloon Arrow'.
"We've got a strong squad of all-rounders, but we haven't really got a rider to make the all-out, uphill acceleration on the Muur that so often makes a difference in this race," explained HTC-Highroad sports director Valerio Piva.
"We’ll adapt our strategy and we'll be looking for breaks from much further out."
"Each of the climbs earlier on offers a great opportunity for moves to form, and we'll want our riders to make the most of them."
With this in mind, HTC will hope for riders like, Tony Martin, Marco Pinotti or even Belarusian Kanstantin Siutsov to drive the key breaks and prevent the racing coming together for the scaling of ‘the Wall’. Martin’s pedigree in the time trial and his recent stellar form in winning Paris-Nice, could mean that even a solo move is a possibility.
Swiss rider Michael Albasini, who is a former top ten finisher in the race, will be the teams protected rider if the inevitable occurs, and a number of riders arrive at the finale together. The former national champion is a good chance but will likely to need a bit of good fortune to get past the more fancied riders.
"Michael has good form but he was very unlucky at Amstel, he punctured just before there was a big crash in the last hour and the road got blocked," continued the HTC sports director.
"He got back on again and managed to get back to the main group, but at that point in the race you always pay a high price for any extra effort - and he couldn't quite stay up there at the end."
"Hopefully though, Wednesday's race will have a different outcome."
HTC-Highroad for Fleche Wallonne: Michael Albasini (Swi); Caleb Fairly (USA); Patrick Gretsch (Ger), Craig Lewis (USA); Tony Martin (Ger); Marco Pinotti (Ita); Kanstantsin Sivtsov (Byl); Tejay Van Garderen (USA).
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