Riders speak at Liège-Bastogne-Liège team presentation
Rodríguez, Kwiatkowski and Slagter talk about their chances
The centre of Liège prepared for Sunday's 100th edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège with a teams' presentation at the Palais des Princes-Eveques.
Squads were presented one-by-one and with less than 24 hours until the fourth Monument of the year tensions and excitement were rising. Defending champion Dan Martin took time earlier in the day to pen his thoughts on what he loves about the Ardennes Classics but Cyclingnews was on hand to round up quotes from riders and team directors and ask them about their chances and tomorrow's race.
Tune in Sunday at 10:00 CET for complete live coverage from the race.
Tom Jelte Slagter (Garmin Sharp)
"I did this race last year. It's a great race, I love the climbs and I'm looking forward to it. My form is good but we've such a strong team in general with Dan (Martin) a leader who can win this race. So we'll ride to that. We'll see how my form is in the race but we've a strong team for every part of the race.
"After the Ardennes I'll take a short break and then I'll start again in Bayern. I hope to be in the Tour de France selection. I'm not doing the Giro."
Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep)
"This will be my third Liège-Bastogne-Liège and I'd like to do well. I've recovered well after Fleche-Wallonne and the last few days have been really good on the bike. I'm looking forward to tomorrow.
"I rode the final 65km of the race yesterday and you always see these sections where it might be good to attack but at the end of the day you'll be coming into the finale and it's only going to be the strongest riders who survive. You have to be ready all the time and you've got to figure out who has the power in their legs.
"As for favourites, you just have to look at the line up. There are so many riders who can do well and I think there are so many names to watch. I did well in Amstel and Fleche, I'm in that group of favourites but I need to have a really good Sunday."
Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE)
"I feel more or less recovered after Fleche so we'll see about strategy tomorrow. What's clear is that we have one leader and that's Simon Gerrans. We will all try and position him well and set him up for the finale. This Liège is made for real climbers, especially with the new climbs in the route so my role might come earlier in the race.
We have some good climbers here and plans could change if I feel super good."
Steve Cummings (BMC)
“I’m doing ok, but I’m quite tired so I’ve got a week off after Liège. I had some stomach problems so I couldn’t do Fleche Wallonne as I was supposed to, though I did do Brabantse Pijl the week before, instead I ended up lying in bed for two days trying to get better.
“We haven’t really discussed the plan yet for Liège, but it’s pretty clear it’s all for Philippe [Gilbert], I may well be doing the work in the first part of the race. You go as long as you can go. If the other guys can see you digging in, it kind of lifts the team a bit, like [team-mate] Micky Schär did early on in Amstel, and the whole squad was good in the final.
“Having that Amstel win doesn’t really change the pressure, but that’s normal, we’re a big team and we have to learn to live with that.”
Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)
“I’m ok now, we’ll see what happens, but I’m feeling pretty rough on the climbs still. Maybe when I’m warmer from the race itself I’ll be able to get through better. I am feeling tired, after a week like this and to be honest maybe if I go on feeling like this I’m almost going to forget Liège and try and concentrate on doing well in the Giro d’Italia. I will just have to try and recover the maximum for the Giro and hope that I can get better in time for it. I’m not worried, because I know nothing is broken and it’s all muscular, but it still doesn’t stop bothering me.”
Philippe Mauduit (Tinkoff-Saxo sports director)
“The plan is always complicated because (Tinkoff-Saxo leader Roman) Kreuziger is in good shape but he’s not the top favourite of the race. Despite that we’re going to give him his chance but we’ve seen in the two previous Ardennes Classics there are riders who are really racing on another level, but I’m sure that the favourites like (Dani) Moreno (Katusha), Valverde (Movistar), (Joaquim) Rodriguez (Katusha), (Chris) Froome (Sky), Philippe Gilbert (BMC) who have real chances of winning will try to get their teams to work hard for them and they will try and control the course as much as possible. It’s probably the Roche-aux-Faucons where the race will be decided, and the big question is whether Roman is able to play his cards there. Well, we’ll find out tomorrow afternoon.”
Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana team manager)
“This year sees the return of the Col de Vecquée to the route, the climb where Vinokourov attacked with Jens Voigt to win the 2005 Liège-Bastogne-Liège.”
“It’s not a col which is going to destroy the field, but after 200 or 225 kilometres that can certainly hurt your legs. I can’t say if it’ll see a race-winning attack, when I went away with Voigt there we were hoping that it would be more of a group of breakaways, not just two.”
“With guys like (Alejandro) Valverde and (Philippe) Gilbert in the race, you can’t just sit there and wait for the finish, you have to try and catch them off their guard, attack them earlier than they expected. That’s what guys like (Jakob) Fuglsang (Astana) could do, plus there’s (2012 Amstel winner Enrico and Astana rider) Gasparotto, too, who was strong in Amstel last week. And with (Vincenzo) Nibali, well, we’ll just have to see. He’s in good shape, but we’ll see if it’s good enough for the finale.”
Valerio Piva (BMC sports director)
“There’s no additional pressure for Philippe after not winning Flèche Wallonne. Lots of riders are in the same situation and he’s got Amstel in the bag already. The pressure is exactly the same.”
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, 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. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The Independent, The Guardian, ProCycling, The Express and Reuters.