Spring Classics still to come

Posted: April 6, 2014 by kirisyko in Bike, Road cycling
Tags: , , , ,

Paris-Roubaix – Sunday, 13 April

Tom Boonen

Boonen tackles an off-road section on his way to a record-equalling fourth victory in the Paris-Roubaix

Known as the Queen of the Classics or the Hell of the North, Paris-Roubaix was first raced in 1896 and this is the 112th edition.

The weather, cobbles and mud in northern France often combine to make this one of the toughest one-day races. It is 257km (159.69 miles) long and will feature 51.1km of cobbled roads, split into 28 sections, before the traditional finish in the open-air velodrome in Roubaix.

Those with Tour de France aspirations will be paying close attention, with nine of the sections – totalling 15.4km – featuring in stage five of the three-week race in July.

Britwatch: Final line-up to be confirmed.

Look out for: Tom Boonen – the Belgian is chasing a record fifth win in 10 years.

Last year’s race: Fabian Cancellara won for a third time after a classic track sprint in the Roubaix velodrome

Thomas says: “I am definitely looking forward to this one! This is one of those races I have grown up watching on the TV – you see the riders covered in dirt and it is a hard man’s sort of race. I can’t wait for it.

“The key thing in these races is actually having numbers and being strong in a team and having a few options.

“I have said since the start of the year that I am happy to ride for Ian Stannard or whoever the leader is there.

“The main thing with the Classics (in the later races) is having the numbers anyway, and having options. So as long as there are a few of us always up there in the final few km then we have a lot better chance of doing something.”

Amstel Gold – Saturday, 19 April

The first of the season’s Ardennes Classics, the race is run in the southern Netherlands province of Limburg and has been on the calendar since 1966.

Philippe Gilbert

It is a tough course of around 251km (155.96 miles) which starts in Maastricht and finishes in Valkenberg after taking in 33 climbs, which together make up more than 4,000m of climbing, with some gradients reaching 20% in places – thus it favours riders who are adept at ascending.

Britwatch: Final line-up to be confirmed.

Look out for: Philippe Gilbert – the 2010 and 2011 victor won the 2012 world road race title which finished, like the Amstel, atop the Cauberg – an 800m climb with an average gradient of 12%.

Last year’s race: Roman Kreuziger surprised even himself as he becamethe first Czech rider to win the Amstel Gold by 22 seconds from Alejandro Valverde.

Thomas says: “This race will see a completely different line-up for Team Sky. If I am involved, I will be purely riding for the team

“Maybe one of us will ride Amstel but after Roubaix most of us are having a break for a week or so, where we are completely off the bike before the build-up starts towards the Tour de France.”

La Fleche Wallonne – Wednesday, 23 April

Usually held in midweek, between the Amstel Gold and Liege-Bastogne-Liege races, La Fleche Wallone started life in 1936.

La Fleche Wallone winners

Four riders have won the race three times. Belgians Marcel Kint (1943-45) and Eddy Merckx (1967, 70, 72) and Italians Moreno Argentin (1990, 91, 94) and Davide Rebellin(2004, 07, 09)

Coinciding with the 70th anniversary of theBattle of the Bulge, this year’s race will start in the south Wallonia town of Bastogne. It will finish, as it has done since 1983, atop the Mur de Huy – an ascent which features gradients of 25%.

Britwatch: Final line-up to be confirmed.

Look out for: Carlos Betancur – the Colombian won the recent Paris-Nice stage race so is in excellent form and finished third in 2013.

Last year’s race: Spain’s Daniel Moreno had the strongest legs on the ascent of the Mur de Huy.

Team Sky’s British rider Josh Edmondson was prominent on the final climb and his efforts helped his Colombian team-mate Sergio Henao to finish second, three seconds adrift of Moreno.

Thomas says: “We are always looking to win and every race we go into we have a best plan to at least have a chance of doing that.

“Second place for Henao was great and the main drive and pressure is what we put on ourselves, so we all just want to do ourselves justice.”

Liege-Bastogne-Liege – Sunday, 27 April

The oldest of the one-day races and final Spring Classic is celebrating its 100th edition in 2014. It began in 1892, like many races of its time, to help promote a newspaper.

Britwatch: Final line-up to be confirmed.

Look out for: Alejandro Valverde – the Spaniard has been in excellent form since returning in 2012 from a doping ban and had six top-10 finishes in one-day races last year, including third at Liege-Bastogne-Liege. He has won the race twice before, in 2006 and 2008, and was second in 2007.

Last year’s race: Ireland’s Dan Martin won in 2013 after jumping clear of the field on the final bend to win by three seconds from Spanish duo Joaquim Rodriguez and Valverde.

Team Sky’s Chris Froome was the best-placed British rider in 36th, one minute and 14 seconds adrift of Martin.

Thomas says: “There are definitely certain places on the route where you know you have to be at the front, but everyone else knows that too, so there are big races into those sections.

“That is maybe something people back home don’t necessarily see. They just see the finish but a lot of work is involved to get into a position where you can win.

“The way last year went [for Team Sky in the classics] we are all keen to put that right and make amends. We are all motivated, that is for sure.

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