So near and so far. Second-year pro Bjorg Lambrecht (Lotto Soudal) made another big step up the unofficial pro cycling hierarchy on Wednesday as he clinched a fourth place at Fleche Wallonne, hot on the heels of sixth place in Amstel Gold and fifth place in Brabantse Pijl.
And it could have been better if Lambrecht, still only 22, had not run out of legs on the final third of the Mur de Huy. But his fourth place, two seconds behind third-placed Diego Ullissi (UAE) after he began closing the gap - and this despite his ebbing strength - bodes more than well for the future.
A silver medallist in the U23 road race at the UCI World Championships last year in Innsbruck, Lambrecht is not just about Classics either. A winner of a stage of the Tour des Fjords, he already took a second place in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco this spring, and his 'pocket rocket' build - he weighs in at just 56 kilos and is 168cm tall - makes him a natural on most kinds of climbs.
At Flèche, as he told journalists afterwards, he had attacked on the second assault of the Mur de Huy more as a way of avoiding having to spend more time fighting for position in a ragged, fraught peloton than anything else.
"I didn't like the way the bunch was getting so nervous, and it was really windy, so I opted to give it a try," he explained. "So I attacked to stay safe and save energy.
"Then when I got to the final climb of the Mur, I wanted to go full gas from bottom to top, but after the steepest part [in the middle - ed.] I had to stay in the saddle and recover for the moment.
"Then I tried to attack in the last 150 metres, and I must have got past seven or eight riders. I knew it was a little bit too far out, but I don't think it would have made a big difference, it didn't change anything."
As for Liege-Bastogne-Liège, and finishing off his Ardennes Classics campaign as well as possible, Lambrecht is not counting on any particular result.
"I hope to be able to show people that I'm there in the final, not just ride round," he said.
"In any case, though, I think that Flèche was the finish that suits my physique the best. So on Sunday, which is 260 kilometres and a flat finish, as well as long climbs, it may not be so easy."
However, after three very solid Ardennes results so far, on very different kinds of parcours, Lambrecht can have every reason to be hopeful of a fourth.
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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