In last year’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) was fresh off winning the Tour of Trentino and in the final part of the race the 29-year-old Italian was able to lead the peloton up the Cote de Saint-Nicolas.
But by his own admission, whilst he clearly had the endurance and stamina for the finale of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and his hard work in the bunch earned him huge cheers from on a climb known as Liège’s ‘little Italy’ because of the number of long-term Italian residents living there, Nibali said he lacked the ‘explosivity’ in his legs to make a last-minute acceleration that - ultimately - often makes the difference between a winner and a top finisher in an event like La Doyenne.
Fast forward 12 months and the Astana pro is still cautious about his chances in Liège-Bastogne-Liège despite finishing a solid 52nd in Amstel Gold last week and a promising 14th in La Flèche Wallonne.
Nibali finished 23rd in last year’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but he has a strong track record prior to that. He was second in 2012, eighth in 2011 and tenth in 2008. It’s a credit to the rider that he also finished 113th, the last rider on the Liège-Bastogne-Liège classification that year as a neo-pro, way back in 2006, when others in his position would surely have abandoned.
“I’m not sure about my condition for Liège yet. It’s going to be a difficult race, that’s for sure,” Nibali told Cyclingnews.
“I’m on a very different race program to last year when I was building towards the Giro. It wasn’t ideal because I’d just done the Giro di Trentino on the Friday and had to fly here, so what with the travel and everything, I certainly wasn’t at my top end of my form for Liège.”
“This year it’s difficult to say if it’ll be a good race for me. This year I feel good, but riders like [Alejandro] Valverde (Movistar), [Philippe] Gilbert (BMC) or [Michal] Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) surely have slightly better race condition because they’ve done a bit more racing than me this season. We’ll see.”
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