For the second year running Liège-Bastogne-Liège will be Chris Froome’s (Sky) first - and quite possibly only - one-day race this side of the Tour de France and is also Richie Porte’s first one-day race since the Australian nationals in January
Neither Froome nor Porte could be present at Saturday afternoon’s team presentation in Liège due to late flights into Belgium, Sky director Nicolas Portal explained. But the Frenchman was upbeat about Froome’s chances in a race which the Briton first took part in back in 2008 for Barloworld, finishing in 86th place. Since then he has added a 45th place in 2009, 138th in 2010 and 36th place in 2013.
“We’ll also be seeing what David [Lopez] can do,” Portal told Cyclingnews. “Froomey and Richie have been in Tenerife” - training at altitude - “and they are both feeling very motivated about doing well in this race. The new harder finale is good, too, for all of them.”
“There are a lot of favourites who will be waiting until the Cote de Saint-Nicolas because they’ve got a very fast finish, like (Alejandro) Valverde (Movistar) and (Joaquim) Rodriguez (Katusha).”
“For Richie, Froome and riders like (Vincenzo) Nibali (Astana), just as he did two years ago, it may be better to try to make a move from further out, like maybe 20 kilometres to go.” - as happened last year when Rui Costa, Alberto Contador, Rigoberto Urán and Ryder Hesjedal all tried to split the race apart on the Col de Colonster.
Although the Cote de Roche-aux-Faucons, which replaces the Colonster, is one key point in the finale, Portal also points out that the Cote des Forges, the other climb making a return to the last part of the race route, has its own challenges, too.
“Forges isn’t hard in itself, but we reach it after a very fast descent and it comes after a really sharp 180 degree turn, so riders will be accelerating up it from a near standstill. If you’re in the first 25 or 30 riders you’re OK, but further back it’ll be much more difficult. It might be too early to make an attack, but we shall see.”
After a quieter start to 2014 for Froome compared to his spectacular first half of the 2013 season, Portal says that his condition “is really good, really good. It’s true that we’re looking more towards (doing well in) Romandie, but he likes Liège-Bastogne-Liège a lot, and so does Richie.”
“It’s always a little bit difficult after a long time in training camp to adapt to race speed and the sudden changes of pace, particularly if that race is as nervous as Classics tend to be. But whatever happens, in (the Tour of) Romandie, we’re going for the win with Froome.” - as was the case, too, in 2013.
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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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