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Liege Post-Mortem

Some thoughts and links this morning as the Belgian Classics season (thankfully) comes to a close. It's my favorite time of year, although don't ask me to back that up in July... four weekends of beautiful, unpredictable racing... and I'm freakin spent. has become both my savior and my nemesis: I spent years railing for live racing coverage, but I was on the east coast then, where we're talking 8-11am. Still, being in Seattle now means I've just got to hang on until Sage's nap time. Anyway, about those races...

Let's do this on the flip:

  • It's unusual, maybe even a bit disappointing, to see such a large crowd of riders together when Liege-Bastogne-Liege enters the final climb in Ans. My first impression was that few serious attacks were even attempted in the usual places around the Cote de Saint-Nicholas or the Sart-Tilman. In fact, watching the replay, guys were trying but just unable to make it happen.

From the recaps it sounds like there were two primary factors: CSC and lots of headwind. The latter simply meant that the riders tended to stay together. As opposed to the usual crosswinds which make everyone work hard and splinter the pack much faster, a headwind only hurts the tip of the spear, and riders have to choose between a huge effort off the front, or a relatively easy one sitting in. Add in CSC's efforts to keep the pace unusually high for most of the race, and you've got a group of world-class riders too spent to make the enormous effort required to get away.

  • When does the peloton anoint Alejandro Valverde the Boonen of the Ardennes? He hadn't won much prior to this week, so it's forgiveable if guys were willing to contest the final km in a large group that included Balaverde (green bullet)... as opposed to Boonen, where riders know what the sprint result will be and try anything to separate from him before it comes to that. Yesterday it seemed like a few guys (Sinkewicz, Boogerd) knew they didn't want a bunch sprint and did what they could. In the future, you can expect more people specifically attacking Valverde toward the end of these races. Of course, it doesn't matter much if Valverde's teammate is up the road already...