For the second time in three years, on Sunday Lotto-Belisol’s Jelle Vanendert claimed a runner’s up spot in the Amstel Gold Race - in 2012 behind Enrico Gasparotto, and this time round behind former Lotto and FDJ teammate Phillipe Gilbert (BMC).
“This confirms that my condition is as good as in 2012, I’m back to where I wanted to be,” the 29-year-old commented as he sat next to Gilbert in a post-race press conference. “I’ve had good feelings in training and racing, but I was determined not to over-do things this spring en route to the Classics.”
A broken elbow incurred in the Tour of San Luis and which was still not cured by Paris-Nice, in any case, managed to keep him on a short leash until April.
“I was confident I could do well, but I was never sure how it would finally work out. I went onto the Cauberg in tenth or twelfth position and I knew that an attack for Philippe was going to come.”
“I just hoped that we’d then get to the top of the Cauberg with about eight or ten riders in a front group and I could take advantage of the situation. In any case, I went for second behind Phil and I did OK.”
After a lacklustre Ardennes Classics campaign in 2013, where 13th was his best result, Vanendert believes that he can do well in La Flèche Wallone - “and I’d say it was a race that suits me a lot, although maybe it’s better on the Mur de Huy for lighter riders like Joaquim Rodriguez. I only hope he came through his crash OK.”
His subconscious, at least, thinks he can do even better next Sunday on home soil in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Asked about his dream last summer in which he and Gilbert claimed the top two positions in La Doyenne - which he rang Gilbert about, something the BMC rider had revealed shortly beforehand in the same press conference - Vanendert said “hm, that’s a good question. Actually, I was first.”
Whether Vanendert's gift for telling the future is as solid as his 2014 Ardennes form, though, will only be revealed next 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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