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Ardennes Classics
« on: April 12, 2018, 08:19 »
Amstel Gold Race

Sunday, April 15th

The Ardennes Classics are about to kick off. The three prestigious one-day races held primarily in the Ardennes of Belgium and in the Dutch Limburg region, starting with the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday.

Last year the organization decided to move away from the traditional Cauberg finish, and it definitely paid off. The race was way more exciting than the years before, and so they decided to stick to it an use more or less the same parcours again:


On from the Bemelerberg to the finish a slightly different route was chosen this year, making use of smaller, more twisty roads to open the race up for late attacks.

The following teams were invited to take part in addition to the World Tour teams:
  • #roompot Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij
  • #wanty Wanty-Groupe Gobert
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  • #aquablue Aqua Blue Sport
  • #topsport Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
  • #vital Vital Concept Cycling Club
  • #nippo Nippo - Vini Fantini - Europa Ovini
The usual favorites will be on the start line on Sunday, but the new parcours also offers opportunities for different kind of riders than before, maybe even some specialists for the cobbled classics like Vanmarcke or Naesen.

After #lotto Tim Wellens' convincing win in the Brabantse Pijl yesterday (and especially after not having competed for a month) he certainly deserves a special mention. He will be a strong contender for all three races.
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    AG

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    Re: Ardennes Classics
    « Reply #1 on: April 12, 2018, 11:23 »
    last years edition of Amstel Gold was a cracker (and not just because of the winner ;) )  ... I wasnt sure about moving the finish away from the Cauberg, but I have to admit it really opened up the race, and if teams want to win with anyone other than a sprinter, they need to be aggressive.

    With Sagan coming this year, Valverde looking to give the triple one last crack, Wellens looking absolutely impeccable yesterday (and with a good team to support him), and a bunch of other riders all having a decent shot at it ... it should be a great race
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  • LukasCPH

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    Re: Ardennes Classics
    « Reply #2 on: April 13, 2018, 18:12 »
    On from the Bemelerberg to the finish a slightly different route was chosen this year, making use of smaller, more twisty roads to open the race up for late attacks.
    Am I seeing that right that the Cauberg is done with 15 km to go, and then there's only the Geulhemmerberg & Bemelerberg left, with no Cauberg in the final? :o
    I guess it might work (or not), but this definitely is a departure from 15+ years of precedence.
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    Re: Ardennes Classics
    « Reply #3 on: April 13, 2018, 21:29 »
    Am I seeing that right that the Cauberg is done with 15 km to go, and then there's only the Geulhemmerberg & Bemelerberg left, with no Cauberg in the final? :o
    I guess it might work (or not), but this definitely is a departure from 15+ years of precedence.

    yes. Same as last year :D
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    Re: Ardennes Classics
    « Reply #4 on: April 14, 2018, 08:55 »
    first star ratings:

    *be Het Nieuwsblad
    :*:*:*:*:* Valverde
    :*:*:*:* Gilbert, van Avermaet
    :*:*:* Kwiatkowski, Matthews, Wellens
    :*:* Alaphilippe, Benoot, Sagan, Teuns
    :* Impey, Valgren, Haas, Costa, Nibali

    *nl de Telegraaf
    :*:*:*:*:* Alaphilippe, Valverde
    :*:*:*:* Gilbert, Sagan, Wellens, Kwiatkowski
    :*:*:* Albasini, Matthews, van Avermaet, Izagirre
    :*:* Terpstra, Impey, Valgren, Colbrelli, Nibali, Rojas
    :* Mollema, Poels, Henao, Benoot, Haas, Ulissi, Uran, Landa

    lots of love there for Valverde
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  • t-72

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    Re: Ardennes Classics
    « Reply #5 on: April 14, 2018, 12:01 »
    yes. Same as last year :D

    I don't think it is identical, but it is very similar. I read something about an easy wide road on a descent somewhere near the finish line last year swapped for a narrow snaking descent. Now If I only could find out where I read it, and the names.... :angry
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    Re: Ardennes Classics
    « Reply #6 on: April 14, 2018, 12:06 »
    yeah, I have mentioned that above ;)

    here is a comparison of the finale from from 2017 and 2018, via @raffilpt

    2017


    2018
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  • Blackbandit222

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    Re: Ardennes Classics
    « Reply #7 on: April 15, 2018, 16:25 »
    Damn, I’m guilty of a few things.
    1. Not knowing the new Amstel finish
    2. Not having followed Valgren’s career
    3. Not being able to identity Gasparatto at his race

    That said I thought Valgren was outstanding just being in such a star studded selection,
    but then to win the same way he did in Omloop... amazing!

    I can’t believe the other favorites (Valverde, JA, Wellens) didn’t react to move only 2km out from the finish. 
    Not knowing the new finish I think Sagan was smart to wait but in hindsight he should of closed the gap on Roman’s wheel.
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    Re: Ardennes Classics
    « Reply #8 on: April 15, 2018, 21:58 »
    Courtesy of being completely knackered after the seasons first slightly longer bike ride (very nice spring conditions but still ice on some of the lakes around here) I actually watched the race (sorta ... fell asleep twice) and concluded it must have been one of the better ones this season (or for once I woke up to all the important moments?)

    It raised my eyebrows that of the top 3, there were 3 victories (4 at the end of the day) and one 2nd place. Is this becoming a race that is really difficult to win since only previous podiumers are in contention\?  :)

    #astana with Valgren and Fuglsang rode an excellent finale, they are becoming the best team at disrupting sprints in one day races. Valgren now seems to be one of the best riders when it comes to repeated accelrations. (Briefly remembering Bjarne Riis at Tinkoff in an interview saying this is what he is best at, but he is not as good as he is going to become yet. He may be closer now!    (#4 in WT?)



    And PS: mystery to me #bahrain Gasparotto and #mitchelton Kreuziger, do they only get one race to shine each season? It's not weak riders and teams they leave behind.
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  • M Gee

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    Re: Ardennes Classics
    « Reply #9 on: April 15, 2018, 23:32 »
    Valgren did a beautiful job, as did Fulgsang. Sagan let Valgren go - he was on the front and just watched. Kirby and whomever was with him were speculating that this might be "old-team" payback - or pay forward on the part of Sagan. I would guess Sagan was determined not to drag anybody up along with him. It was pretty obvious Sagan was playing cat and mouse - which means others were as well.

    I think Sagan should have closed it, and not been afraid to do so - as it turned out, he was the best of the rest - but only just barely. So maybe Sagan knew how much his legs had left this day, and knew he couldn't bridge AND win. I don't think he could have gapped Valverde, and if he brought him with? Who knows - Sagan knows, and he won't tell us the whole story. I'm pretty sure Sagan had the legs to change the outcome, just not necessarily in his favor.
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    Re: Ardennes Classics
    « Reply #10 on: April 16, 2018, 01:03 »
    yep I agree - Sagan couldnt close it (and still win).  Closing it would have meant that Valverde or Alaphilippe would have come over him at the end.

    He wanted someone else to close it so he had something - anything - left for the sprint.   Problem was everyone else was pretty empty as well ... so away they went.

    Great race by Valgren.  Good decisions on when to spent his efforts.
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  • L'arri

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    Re: Ardennes Classics
    « Reply #11 on: April 16, 2018, 12:36 »
    Another fail for after-you-no-after-you racing as the underdogs got away for the win. Crap day for the big names but so many top teams (#sky, #uae, #ag2r, #bmc and #sunweb) were all but absent from the results sheet.

    Not that I resent Valgren's victory, which closely resembled that of Omloop, but the young Dane will not benefit from that status for much longer now that he has twice proved he can win these big races.

    Personally I felt that he had spent too long in the wings at #astana given his very promising 2016 season, so now you would expect he deserves automatic leadership in the big one-day races given that Cort and Lutsenko haven't yet quite proven their consistency at this level.
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    M Gee

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    Re: Ardennes Classics
    « Reply #12 on: April 16, 2018, 13:16 »
    yep I agree - Sagan couldnt close it (and still win).  Closing it would have meant that Valverde or Alaphilippe would have come over him at the end.

    He wanted someone else to close it so he had something - anything - left for the sprint.   Problem was everyone else was pretty empty as well ... so away they went.

    Great race by Valgren.  Good decisions on when to spent his efforts.

    I notice Bora's DS (Zemke) was putting some blame on the rest of the team for not having somebody up there to support Peter at the end. Pressure time in the team bus. If they HAD managed that, AND if they then played their cards as smartly as Astana did, things might have changed. But thats a big 'what-if'. 
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  • Servais Knavendish

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    Re: Ardennes Classics
    « Reply #13 on: April 16, 2018, 15:29 »
    Another fail for after-you-no-after-you racing as the underdogs got away for the win. Crap day for the big names but so many top teams (#sky, #uae, #ag2r, #bmc and #sunweb) were all but absent from the results sheet.


    Yes well put

    Credit to Valgren and his podium colleagues but as a viewer, (and were it not for some tangled logistics potentially a roadside watcher) yesterday I thought it really stank.  Yet another race where the star turns neutralized themselves so as to mitigate the risk of a competitor winning.  I get that Sagan probably mentally played the odds; and having done so he was characteristically 'tooting' on his bidon as Carlton likes to term it, as the breakaway sprinted for the line; and still beat the rest!!

    But the peloton is missing a death or glory; forlorn hope kind of guy who will never just ride in; regardless of the situation and will always value a few wins over a hat full of unremarkable top 10's in illustrious company.  Or perhaps the enmity between certain riders is just so acute at the moment that they are paralysed by fear of creating opportunities for the others to succeeed. 

    Whatever  - I don't go to gigs to see the support band stay on stage in lieu of the headliners...
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  • LukasCPH

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    Re: Ardennes Classics
    « Reply #14 on: April 16, 2018, 18:08 »
    yes. Same as last year :D
    Apparently I didn't watch AGR last year, then. :)
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    Re: Ardennes Classics
    « Reply #15 on: April 17, 2018, 07:43 »
    time to move over to the next one...

    La Flèche Wallonne

    Wednesday, April 18th

    There's not really much to say though. There are some new climbs in the first half (including the Redoute), likely to tire the legs a bit more, but everything but a big sprint up the Mur in the end would still be a huge surprise.


    #cofidis Cofidis, #delko Delko Marseille Provence KTM, #topsport Sport Vlaanderen–Baloise, #fortuneo Fortuneo–Samsic, #vital Vital Concept Cycling Club, #wallonie WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic and #wanty Wanty–Groupe Gobert were invited to fill up the field.
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    Re: Ardennes Classics
    « Reply #16 on: April 17, 2018, 08:12 »
    Consistently decent weather has arrived at last, as it often does for the Ardennes week, with the occasional exception of a wet and snowy LBL.

    I always struggle to get excited about FW, especially when there's nobody to touch Valverde right now in an explosive uphill sprint. The introduction of the Côte de Cherave was good but, notwithstanding tradition, contractual commitments and the tight calendar slot, I do feel that the parcours of this race needs a bigger shake-up because it is still too easy for a concert of strong teams to control it.

    Yet ASO seems to be satisfied with the role of what is essentially a 2km race, as an apéritif that automatically generates the talking points for Sunday but not much else besides.

    This is reflected in the latest changes, which front load the race but aren't likely to change the situation in the finale. Meanwhile the region surely offers far more possibilities than are being considered. Huy is literally surrounded by short, difficult climbs and technical descents.
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    Re: Ardennes Classics
    « Reply #17 on: April 17, 2018, 09:02 »
    sounds like the type of weather that will result in a lot of "pollen flight" excuses?
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    Re: Ardennes Classics
    « Reply #18 on: April 17, 2018, 10:36 »
    Lots of strong riders once again looking to watch on as Valverde wins the sprint ahead of them ....
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    Re: Ardennes Classics
    « Reply #19 on: April 17, 2018, 14:21 »
    sounds like the type of weather that will result in a lot of "pollen flight" excuses?

    Still a bit early for that, I think, although I have had slightly itchy eyes after the last couple of rides, so you never know.
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  • Caruut

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    Re: Ardennes Classics
    « Reply #20 on: April 17, 2018, 17:01 »
    Consistently decent weather has arrived at last, as it often does for the Ardennes week, with the occasional exception of a wet and snowy LBL.

    I always struggle to get excited about FW, especially when there's nobody to touch Valverde right now in an explosive uphill sprint. The introduction of the Côte de Cherave was good but, notwithstanding tradition, contractual commitments and the tight calendar slot, I do feel that the parcours of this race needs a bigger shake-up because it is still too easy for a concert of strong teams to control it.

    Yet ASO seems to be satisfied with the role of what is essentially a 2km race, as an apéritif that automatically generates the talking points for Sunday but not much else besides.

    This is reflected in the latest changes, which front load the race but aren't likely to change the situation in the finale. Meanwhile the region surely offers far more possibilities than are being considered. Huy is literally surrounded by short, difficult climbs and technical descents.

    Agree entirely. I don't know the geography as well as you (or, indeed, at all), but that slight dead zone after the penultimate ascent of Mur de Huy looks like the killer to me; if you go then, you've got a good 12-15km before another difficulty of note. If that could be a little more challenging, a group of three or four might have a chance to cause some difficulty but as is they have very little to work with. Either that or a little plateau after the Mur to liven up the tactics some.

    I notice that the race has lost about 5-6km from last year too. Perhaps the theory is that FW will only keep its prestige field (and thus WT status?) for as long as it doesn't interfere with Liege, and so ASO look to ensure that the likes of Valverde can be confident of a (relatively) easy uphill sprint, rather than taxing, chaotic small-group racing.
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  • Francois the Postman

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    Re: Ardennes Classics
    « Reply #21 on: April 17, 2018, 23:51 »
    I wouldn't mind seeing FW shake up its parcours a bit either.

    Just like the Cauberg for Amstel Gold, the Mur de Huy seems to have become both the reason d'etre for FW, and the curse that stops the race from becoming more than that. If you deem it to be too holy to touch.

    It might be a bit early to give a definite verdict about the Amstel Gold change, but I like what I have seen over the last couple of years. A couple of years back, the race organizers finally decided to tackle "the Cauberg finale" themselves. It might go down the books as one of the braver climbs of that hill, as changing its status within the race involved tinkering with the expectations of old curmudgeons like me, and pray it works out fine. Which it has. If I was them, I would be pretty chuffed with the racing we have seen since then.

    I'd argue that FW has actually far more options than the AG organizers to do something interesting, as it is surrounded by a far more interesting landscape than the Cauberg has to offer. By the time the Ardennes reach Valkenburg, its creator evidently had pretty much given up on doing fancy stuff with intricate typography, and hoped no-one would object too much about the last minute submission for the remaining blank canvas to the sea.

    If you can call a pancake flat sand stretch typography.

    However, because God is a cyclist at heart, he did have one final flurrish up his sleeve after wrapping up mountains, which was the inclusion of wind. One of the more weathered bits of the Dead Sea Scrolls did unveil, in its more complete creation myth passages, that wind was created solely for the purpose of 'waaiers'. Why it was left out of the Bible as it has been handed down by the last batch of copy-editors remains a mystery, but that was probably done by the same incompetent bunch who never got that a more suitable Hebrew to English translation for Rock is Cobble, and God, like all true Flandriens, was obsessed with Rocks, breaking Rocks, enduring Rocks, trial by Rock. But, even more infuriatingly, that it wasn't Moses, but Moser who came down from the mountains. And that -no- they were not commandments, it was a devine 10-point training plan for winning Paris-Roubaix. Don't get me started on that!
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    Re: Ardennes Classics
    « Reply #22 on: April 18, 2018, 07:04 »
    personally I think it is possible to race this current parcours - the thing is, that too many teams are willing to do the donkey work for Movistar, still thinking that a sprint is their best chance. Guys like Martin, Alaphilippe, Teuns and so on have all mentioned that they think they can take it up with Valverde on the Mur. They can't though.

    Someone who may have the guts it takes to go for it, could be Wellens I guess. Or Molard, who looks super strong at the moment. Also an Izagirre brother could be a potential candidate. Those teams also have a back-up option for the sprint (Vanendert, Gaudu, Gasparotto) in case it fails
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    Re: Ardennes Classics
    « Reply #23 on: April 18, 2018, 07:46 »
    the star ratings for today:

    *be Het Nieuwsblad
    :*:*:*:*:* Valverde
    :*:*:*:* Alaphilippe, Kwiatkowski
    :*:*:* Teuns, Fuglsang, Henao
    :*:* Wellens, Bardet, Martin, Uran
    :* Benoot, de Tier, Barguil, Vuillermoz, Nibali

    *fr l'Équipe
    :*:*:*:*:* Valverde
    :*:*:*:* Alaphilippe
    :*:*:* Teuns, Gilbert
    :*:* Wellens, Fuglsang, Kreuziger
    :* Albasini, Kwiatkowski, Gaudu, Molard, Henao, Barguil, Martin, I. Izagirre

    a bit of a discrepancy between the ratings for Kwiatkowski there. I'd tend to agree with l'Équipe (certainly not in the case of Gilbert though)
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  • AG

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    Re: Ardennes Classics
    « Reply #24 on: April 18, 2018, 08:46 »
    yeah - to be honest if I had to do a star rating I would give it

    :* :* :* :* :*  Valverde

    :* :* Alaphilippe, Albasini, Fuglsang, Kruzeiger, Wellens  (only because they might go early)

    :* Gilbert  (because as a former winner he deserves 1)  :D
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  • Servais Knavendish

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    Re: Ardennes Classics
    « Reply #25 on: April 18, 2018, 08:48 »

    a bit of a discrepancy between the ratings for Kwiatkowski there...

    Wow - I didn't even realize Sky had started racing yet this year, thought having the spring off was some new Marginal Gain... :lol
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  • L'arri

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    Re: Ardennes Classics
    « Reply #26 on: April 18, 2018, 19:58 »
    Well, I think that FW was as good as it could be and that was very good, thanks mostly to the maturity and daring of Vincenzo Nibali, who ignored the script and a very strong #movistar selection.

    The threat of this group, which also included future star Max Schachmann of #quickstep and an improving Tanel Kangert of #astana, prompted Arrieta to burn up all but Landa, who unselfishly exchanged his protected status for the workmanlike task of chasing down the escapees.

    Nibali's breakaway hovered at around 45 seconds over the penultimate ascent of the Mur de Huy but stretched its lead to a minute before the chase got itself organised.

    Now I have a terrible soft spot for #lotto but I was peeed at them for wasting Benoot on the front while ultimately serving a now isolated Valverde. In the end, the effort was probably worth Vanendert's podium place, but it did look like playing with fire at the time.

    So yes, we still ended up with a sprint on the Mur de Huy yet again, but it came after an action-packed race and a toughened up parcours that never once followed flat roads. And yes, the bar was set pretty low already, but what we saw was the best edition for some years, because for once that sprint had not been a foregone conclusion.

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  • t-72

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    Re: Ardennes Classics
    « Reply #27 on: April 18, 2018, 20:59 »
    If you can call a pancake flat sand stretch typography.
    The Netherlands,  explained as a spelling mistake.  :lol
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  • t-72

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    Re: Ardennes Classics
    « Reply #28 on: April 18, 2018, 21:06 »
    Well, I think that FW was as good as it could be and that was very good, thanks mostly to the maturity and daring of Vincenzo Nibali, who ignored the script and a very strong #movistar selection.

    I think Nibali's script for the FW is just this. He has done this before, although attacking later and not able to open up such a convincing gap at any time. I can't remember him trying to win from the bunch. He's got a different job than Valverde.

    However -  this year's TdF might easily see these two older gentlemen in a  hard battle for podium. There are few that match their allround skills, and Froome might not get to the starting line. Talking about that, I think the last time I saw Nibali on the attack here, was 2014   :boom
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    Re: Ardennes Classics
    « Reply #29 on: April 18, 2018, 21:27 »
    it was a surprisingly good race indeed :cool - too bad Quickstep chased down their own man though. And Lotto certainly backed the wrong horse, with Jelle's 1km leadout ending in 3rd
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