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On the start line at Liège-Bastogne-Liège

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The riders look at the sky to see if it going to rain

The riders look at the sky to see if it going to rain
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The Lampre-Farnese Vini team car sits outside the Liège town hall

The Lampre-Farnese Vini team car sits outside the Liège town hall
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions)

Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions)
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Almost 200km before the race? Ryder Hesjedal's Garmin computer doesn't look like it's been reset since Flèche Wallonne.

Almost 200km before the race? Ryder Hesjedal's Garmin computer doesn't look like it's been reset since Flèche Wallonne.
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Carlos Sastre was greeted by his Belgian fan club. The group presented their hero with a basket of skincare products.

Carlos Sastre was greeted by his Belgian fan club. The group presented their hero with a basket of skincare products.
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) was swarmed by the press after signing on

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) was swarmed by the press after signing on
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Stijn Devolder (Quick Step)

Stijn Devolder (Quick Step)
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Pierrick Fedrigo (Bbox Bouygues Telecom)

Pierrick Fedrigo (Bbox Bouygues Telecom)
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Alberto Contador (Astana) always attracts a crowd

Alberto Contador (Astana) always attracts a crowd
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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See you at the finish: Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions) and Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank)

See you at the finish: Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions) and Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank)
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Seven Cervélos are set-to-go

Seven Cervélos are set-to-go
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Columbia)

Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Columbia)
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Bbox Bouygues Telecom's Colnagos lined-up by the team bus

Bbox Bouygues Telecom's Colnagos lined-up by the team bus
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Tour de France Director Christian Prudhomme at the start of Liège-Bastogne-Liège

Tour de France Director Christian Prudhomme at the start of Liège-Bastogne-Liège
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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The Astana team bus deposited the team's riders right at the sign-on

The Astana team bus deposited the team's riders right at the sign-on
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Alberto Contador signs-on as his Astana teammates await their turn

Alberto Contador signs-on as his Astana teammates await their turn
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Alberto Contador isn't the only one to get a custom paint job on his team bike

Alberto Contador isn't the only one to get a custom paint job on his team bike
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Estonian Champion Rein Taaramae (Cofidis)

Estonian Champion Rein Taaramae (Cofidis)
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana)

Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana)
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Ted King (Cervélo TestTeam) strikes a pose before the start

Ted King (Cervélo TestTeam) strikes a pose before the start
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Carlos Sastre's Cervélo R3SL

Carlos Sastre's Cervélo R3SL
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Carlos Sastre knows what's important. The names of his wife and two children are ever present during races.

Carlos Sastre knows what's important. The names of his wife and two children are ever present during races.
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Peter Velits (HTC-Columbia)

Peter Velits (HTC-Columbia)
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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The HTC-Columbia team's Scott bikes

The HTC-Columbia team's Scott bikes
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) has a custom design bike

Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) has a custom design bike
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Alberto Contador has a custom decorated Specialized bike

Alberto Contador has a custom decorated Specialized bike
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto) has a special Canyon bike

Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto) has a special Canyon bike
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The Felt bikes await the Garmin-Transitions riders

The Felt bikes await the Garmin-Transitions riders
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The Omega Pharma-Lotto Canyon bikes

The Omega Pharma-Lotto Canyon bikes
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The Katusha bikes were lined-up in number order

The Katusha bikes were lined-up in number order
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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a detail of Jurgen Van Den Broeck's special Canyon bike

a detail of Jurgen Van Den Broeck's special Canyon bike
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Cyril Gautier (BBOX Bouygues Telecom) has a compact Colnago CX-1

Cyril Gautier (BBOX Bouygues Telecom) has a compact Colnago CX-1
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Laurent Jalabert was present at the start in Liege

Laurent Jalabert was present at the start in Liege
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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Cycling legend Bernard Hinault is always present at the ASO-races

Cycling legend Bernard Hinault is always present at the ASO-races
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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 Lampre and Team Sky arrived early on the Liege square

Lampre and Team Sky arrived early on the Liege square
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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The Milram team showed their latest signing to the crow in Liege.

The Milram team showed their latest signing to the crow in Liege.
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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Robert Gesink (Rabobank) rides to the start

Robert Gesink (Rabobank) rides to the start
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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Cadel Evans (BMC) is ready to race

Cadel Evans (BMC) is ready to race
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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Francesco Ginanni (Androni Giocattoli) didn't have a shave this morning

Francesco Ginanni (Androni Giocattoli) didn't have a shave this morning
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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The Francaise des Jeux team manager Marc Madiot

The Francaise des Jeux team manager Marc Madiot
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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Rein Taaramae showing off a track stand

Rein Taaramae showing off a track stand
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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Jens Voigt just asked the sports director whether he was allowed to attack already through the radio...funny, not?

Jens Voigt just asked the sports director whether he was allowed to attack already through the radio...funny, not?
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank) gets ready to race

Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank) gets ready to race
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) signs on

Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) signs on
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) is likely to go on the attack

Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) is likely to go on the attack
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone)

Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone)
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Oscar Freire (Rabobank) waves to the crowd

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) waves to the crowd
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Steve Cummings (Team Sky) signs on

Steve Cummings (Team Sky) signs on
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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He is...Ted King (Cervelo TestTeam)

He is...Ted King (Cervelo TestTeam)
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas-Doimo)

Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas-Doimo)
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Cadel Evans (BMC) fastens his helmet

Cadel Evans (BMC) fastens his helmet
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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They're off!

They're off!
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Cofidis are riding Liège-Bastogne-Liège

Cofidis are riding Liège-Bastogne-Liège
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Serguei Ivanov (Katusha) smiles before the start

Serguei Ivanov (Katusha) smiles before the start
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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From here there are 'only' 258km to race

From here there are 'only' 258km to race
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo) lines up

Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo) lines up
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo) talks to his fan club that traveled from Italy to cheer him on

Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo) talks to his fan club that traveled from Italy to cheer him on
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) smiles before the start

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) smiles before the start
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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A special Philippe Gilbert fan

A special Philippe Gilbert fan
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions) was ready for another aggressive race

Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions) was ready for another aggressive race
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The Cervelo TestTeam have all black S3 bikes for Liège-Bastogne-Liège

The Cervelo TestTeam have all black S3 bikes for Liège-Bastogne-Liège
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Nicolas Roche (Ag2r-La Mondiale) roll out from the start

Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Nicolas Roche (Ag2r-La Mondiale) roll out from the start
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)

The centre of Liège was loaded with team buses on Sunday morning as the peloton gathered for the start of the 2010 Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The 258 kilometre event marks the last race in the month-long series of spring Classics, and as the oldest and toughest event of all, it is revered in the professional peloton and attracts some of the biggest stage race and one-day specialists.

After a week of clear blue skies there were a few drops of rain at the start in Liège as the last of the teams signed-on outside Liège's town hall. Alberto Contador's Astana teammates wasted no time with the protocol as their team bus deposited the riders at the foot of the sign-on stage. In contrast, Cadel Evans' BMC Racing Team missed arrived too late at the sign-on podium and all the riders are likely to receive a minor fine from race organiser, Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO).

Last year, Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) claimed a solo victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, after launching a powerful attack on the Côte de la Roche aux Faucons. Schleck and his brother Fränk have promised another day of attacks on the côtes that distinguish the race, including the legendary Côte de la Redoute and the final Côte Saint-Nicholas.

While both the Schlecks are counted amongst the favourites, Amstel Gold Race winner and local hero Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) has assumed the mantle of outright favourite here in Liege. The Belgian was again greeted with enthusiastic cheers by his many fans, but appeared nervous as he lined up on the start line. Former winner Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) looked relaxed, as he p to add to his 2006 and 2008 titles at the race.

Valverde's former teammate Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) finished second last year, 1:17 behind a solo Andy Schleck and will be hoping he has the form to go one better this season. The USA's Chris Horner (RadioShack) and Canadian Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions) will carry North American hopes. They will be trying to be the first North American to win 'La Doyenne' since Tyler Hamilton in 2003.