Skip to content

La Doyenne

April 22, 2011

Liège-Bastogne-Liège, la doyenne of the Monuments and the end of the Spring Classics. Depression will likely set in after its conclusion. While last year’s Giro d’Italia was phenomenal, there’s a special appeal about the Classics that I will miss. The longer storyline behind the grand tours can be fascinating, but nothing beats in the intense drama of cobblestones, poor weather, and the hills of the Belgian season.

And is there a better cyclist right now than Philippe Gilbert? Third at Milan-San Remo; first, last weekend, at Amstel Gold; first, midweek, at Flèche Wallonne; and now on the cusp of completing an unlikely trio of victories. His two wins this week have been spectacular and give every indication that he is the man on form. To add to the drama, he was born at the foot of La Redoute—the race’s iconic climb. Indeed, LBL has been Gilbert’s stated target all season.

But there are plenty of others who will contest Gilbert’s supremacy. And just as Fabian Cancellara was the prohibitive favorite at both the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix—and failed to win both—plenty of teams will be out to reel the Belgian in. Leopard-Trek’s Schleck brothers (and teammate Jakob Fuglsang) should be in contention. Katusha’s Joaquim Rodriguez has finished right behind Gilbert all week and also looks strong. Last year’s winner, Alexandre Vinokourov, also seems to be rounding into form. And with the kinds of climbing involved, any number of Spaniards—Igor Anton, Sammy Sanchez, etc.—should be in the mix. Finally, given the “surprise” winners at all three Monuments this season, a rank outsider will stay away on the break and win in splendid fashion.

I’ll be cheering for Gilbert, however. He’s very much one of the good guys. Outspoken against doping, charismatic, a natural tactician in the saddle, and hard as nails. My guess is that some of the other favorites will try to push the momentum and break early, leaving Gilbert’s teammates to carry the load of trying to recapture the escapees, thereby compromising his support at the end of the race (Gilbert is likely strong and smart enough to hold his own in this scenario). I can see Vinokourov and Ryder Hesjedal making the most of a long escape; both have the legs and the heart to really put the hammer down and go deep into the red. And that would make for a great race. Head and heart, though, say Gilbert will take it in a sprint at the end…

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: