Alaphilippe's grand finale
April 25 th 2019 - 16:41
- Next Sunday, the 105th edition of Liège–Bastogne–Liège will bring down the curtain on a spring classics campaign in which team Deceuninck–Quick-Step and its leader Julian Alaphilippe have consistently trounced the opposition. After taking the Flèche Wallonne for the second time, Alaphilippe is the odds-on favourite to win the Old Lady, a race still missing from his collection.
- The runner-up on the Mur de Huy, Jakob Fuglsang, is also a serious contender, but there are many other riders in with a shout, including Michael Matthews, Alejandro Valverde, Romain Bardet, Michał Kwiatkowski, Vincenzo Nibali, Tom Dumoulin and Greg Van Avermaet.
The Old Lady marks the end of the spring classics campaign. Its place as the grand finale of this part of the season only makes victory in the centre of Liège more prestigious and desirable. It could also encapsulate all the battles that have taken place on the roads of France, Belgium, Spain and Italy, where the riders who will animate the race on Sunday have already racked up victories and top placings. Among them are the two champions who stole the show on the Mur de Huy yesterday, Julian Alaphilippe and Jakob Fuglsang, who are leading the charge in the Ardennes for the most prolific teams of the 2019 season so far: Deceuninck–Quick-Step with 25 victories and Astana with 22. By taking his second win in the Flèche Wallonne, the Frenchman who has been dominating the classics season has consolidated his position as the odds-on favourite, but his victory was narrow enough to spark speculation that fatigue is starting to set in, as Alaphilippe himself is ready to admit: "I'm starting to feel tired, I've spent a lot since the start of the season". Despite losing to his nemesis several times (Tirreno–Adriatico, Strade Bianche and Flèche Wallonne), Jakob Fuglsang has closer than ever before to winning a top-flight classic… and the peculiarities of the Old Lady could well play into his hands in a new showdown with "Alaf".
However, Alaphilippe and Fuglsang will not be facing a two-man duel, but a pitched battle featuring even more contenders than on the Chemin des Chapelles in Huy. Among the men who showed no real signs of weakness, several riders could go on the attack on Côte de la Redoute, on La Roche-aux-Faucons and in the streets of the Ardent City, including young German rider Maximilian Schachmann (5th in Huy), stepping up to the plate after his leader Peter Sagan decided not to take part, as well as Michael Matthews (8th), Enrico Gasparotto (10th), world champion Alejandro Valverde (11th), who has still got an ace or two up his sleeve, Romain Bardet (13th), Dylan Teuns (14th), Michał Kwiatkowski (16th) and former winner Wout Poels (22nd). Others sat out the Flèche Wallonne to save themselves for Liège, including Vincenzo Nibali, as cunning as ever, as well as Tom Dumoulin, Greg Van Avermaet and Lilian Calmejane. They all share the same dream: to conquer the Old Lady.
25 teams, main contenders
Mitchelton–Scott: Yates (GBR) and Albasini (CHE)
Bahrain–Merida: Nibali (ITA) and Teuns (BEL)
Deceuninck–Quick-Step: Alaphilippe (FRA), Gilbert (BEL) and Mas (ESP)
Lotto–Soudal: Vanendert, Wellens and Lambrecht (BEL)
Sport Vlaanderen–Baloise: Van Gestel (BEL)
Wanty–Groupe Gobert: G. Martin (FRA) and Eiking (NOR)
Wallonie Bruxelles: Jules (FRA)
Ag2r–La Mondiale: Bardet, Cosnefroy and Vuillermoz (FRA)
Groupama–FDJ: Gaudu, Molard and Madouas (FRA)
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits: Simon (FRA) and J. Herrada (ESP)
Total Direct Énergie: Calmejane, Hivert and Grellier (FRA)
Arkéa–Samsic: Gesbert and Ledanois (FRA)
Vital Concept–B&B Hotels: Vichot and Gautier (FRA)
Team Sunweb: Dumoulin (NLD) and Matthews (AUS)
Bora–Hansgrohe: Schachmann (DEU)
Astana Pro Team: Fuglsang (DNK) and Lutsenko (KAZ)
Jumbo–Visma: Gesink and Tolhoek (NLD)
CCC Team: Van Avermaet (BEL) and Ten Dam (NLD)
Team Dimension Data: Valgren (DEN), Gasparotto (ITA) and Slagter (NED)
Movistar Team: Valverde, Landa (ESP) and Quintana (COL)
Katusha-Alpecin: Zakarin (RUS)
United Arab Emirates
UAE Team Emirates: Martin (IRL) and Ulissi (ITA)
Team Sky: Kwiatkowski (POL), Poels (NED) and De la Cruz (ESP)
EF Education First: Martínez (COL) and Woods (CAN)
Trek–Segafredo: Gogl (AUS) and Felline (ITA)