|Phil a Favourite?|
The Spaniard has looked good all season and said himself at the start of the Ardennes that his main aim would be Liege-Bastogne-Liege as the course suits him more favourably. If there has been a hint of any power struggle between himself and Colombian team-mate Nairo Quintana then I doubt we will see any of that here. Movistar enter the race with one leader and one leader only - Valverde and if he isn't everybodies favourite rider then he is one of the race favourites.
Always up there in the Ardennes, J-Rod suffered a thigh-strain in the Amstel Gold race and although he raced Fleche Wallone he counted himself out of any contention as he raced to find fitness in time for Liege. Like Gilbert it's his last hope for any Classics success but the course doesn't finish with the super-steep ramp he prefers. That said there is plenty of tough climbing and if one of the climbs towards the end forces a selection he is likely to be part of it.
Sky's classics season has been more miss than hit though Sergio Henao did finish second at Fleche Wallone but the focus here is likely to be on Chris Froome. More of a Grand Tour rider this kind of route does suit some of Froome's climbing and sprinting credentials. The main worry is what kind of form Froome will be in, we havn't seen anything of him since Corsica so perhaps he will be off the pace somewhat.
Yes, he was racing in Italy today, winning the Giro del Trentino ahead of Wiggins in fact but he will be on the start line on Sunday. Recovery from Trentino may be an issue and the logistics involved in getting him to the race will not help matters but he's clearly in form and Nibbles has unfinished business with this race - he rode away solo last year only to be caught shortly before the end by eventual winner Maxim Iglinsky and the pain on Nibalis face was all to clear to see - both physical and emotional.
He's been in the press alot recently talking of his 'tiredness' and he has had a busy start to the year. He took a week long break and decided he was fit to ride Fleche Wallonne mid-week but on the day couldn't find the legs or the rhythm and called it quits on the final climb rolling in well down the order. He's hoping to find his race-pace again in time for Sunday but whether he will find the form to beat those who come here with a season long purpose is yet to be seen.
|Struggling for form?|
If Alberto Contador is struggling then look no further than team-mate Roman Kreuziger - he looked a picture of physical perfection riding away to victory on the Cauberg in last Sundays Amstel Gold race and if he's carried that form through the week there is nothing to say he can't do it again.
Similarly if Joaquim Rodriguez is still suffering with Injury on the day then team-mate and Fleche Wallone winner Dani Moreno will be Katusha's man of choice if he's there in the closing kilometres. He made the Mur de Huy look ridiculously easy on Wednesday and clearly has good legs.
Much like Kwiatkowski I tipped Martin to do well in Fleche Wallone and he finished 4th. The Ardennes is his favourite week of riding and he thrives on tough, tough stages and one day races. One thing that might not be in his favour is the finish - he's a fan of the real leg-breaking gradients into the finish line and Liege lacks one but if he makes the final selection he doesn't have a bad sprint on him either.
|Grand Tour season is just|
around the corner
It's the last Spring classic of the year and there are plenty of teams and riders who had high hopes but haven't performed literally forcing them to try and get something out of Liege if only to please eager sponsors. The race itself is one of my Favourites and usually provides plenty of attacking riding and drama. Take the time to watch the race and say farewell to the classics but don't let it get you down - the passing of Liege-Bastogne-Liege means that the Giro d'Italia is only just around the corner and soon we will be well and truly into Grand Tour season.
For a full race preview of this Sundays Liege-Bastogne-Liege with details of the route, the climbs and the history head over to Inner Ring for the usual in depth analysis. A full startlist can be found Here.