Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) may be everybody’s favourite for Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but the Spanish veteran is adamant that with a podium finish in Amstel Gold Race and a victory in Flèche Wallonne, the pressure on him to take a victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège is considerably lower than for his rivals.
“I don’t have that kind of stress considering what I’ve already done this week,” Valverde told Cyclingnews. “So the pressure on them is a lot higher, not on me.”
Third in 2013, second in 2014, a third Liège-Bastogne-Liège victory seems on the cards for Valverde, who celebrated his 35th birthday on Saturday. But as a rider as experienced as Valverde knows, two and two don’t always make four in cycling.
“Well, we’ll see,” he responded cautiously to the idea that mathematical logic indicates he should win. “This is a very hard, complicated race and even if I’m the favourite, it’s never easy to win here.”
Movistar checked out the last 65 kilometres of the route on Friday, including the two climbs, the Rosier and Maquisard, re-introduced between the Haut Levee and la Redoute.
“They’ve changed it a bit, it’s not a huge change,” Valverde said. “So we’ll just have to see how things go tomorrow.”
If Valverde remains one Liège’s most consistent finishers, the showery or overcast weather forecast for Sunday could change the development of the race dramatically, he believes. “Rain makes it a lot harder, and you have to be even more alert than usual,” he said. “In any case, I wouldn’t be so sure it’s going to rain.”
Even if the pressure is off, Valverde remains as ambitious as ever when it comes to Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Ardennes race he always says suits him the best. On Friday, during the training ride, Valverde rode up La Redoute at full pelt, with Nairo Quintana the only teammate able to follow him all the way up the climb. His rivals will be hoping for a rather different outcome on Sunday.
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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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