Four-time Liège-Bastogne-Liège winner Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was his usual optimistic self at Saturday's race presentation, but the reigning world champion recognised he was uncertain of his current condition.
Valverde confirmed he had suffered an unusual setback during Flèche Wallonne, where the five times winner of the mid-week Ardennes Classic swallowed a bee, which then stung him, during the last part of the race.
The Spanish veteran emphasised the incident, at some 50 kilometres from the finish, was not an explanation for his below-expectations performance, where he finished eleventh. However, he said it had been a frightening experience – and in the final hour of a race, surely even more so.
"I thought it had come out but it stung me here," Valverde told a small group of reporters, pointing to his neck. "So I was pretty scared, to be honest.
"I’ve swallowed insects before whilst riding, but I've managed to cough them up. They've never stayed inside before. Fortunately, I'm not allergic but it was frightening. I thought the string would turn into some kind of inflammation. For 20 minutes, I was really worried.
"I don't like to make excuses, but it might have had an effect, or it might not."
Valverde's uncertainty about his condition means that he will start Liège-Bastogne-Liège less convinced he can have an impact on the race. On top of that, there has been a major change in the finish, which moves from Ans to a flat finish in the city centre.
"Let’s see what happens, Amstel and Flèche I wasn’t at my best and tomorrow [Sunday] is a bit of an unknown. I'm not going badly, but I'm maybe not in such good shape as I'd like."
He was equally non-commital about the new course, saying "the last part of it is much less difficult, San Nicolas was tougher, and now a lot more riders can win. It's OK, it's a change. And I don’t know yet if it's better or worse for me. Tomorrow, we’ll find out."
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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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