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Fleche Wallonne: anybody just out for a Wednesday ride?

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Fleche_mediumThe Walloon Arrow has a venerable history of its own, but it ain't a Monument--and it happens just four days before one. You're a hilly classics rider, and your team has you penciled in for both races. So what do you do? Go for the double, or hold something back for La Doyenne? Obviously, the parcours are different, and one might suit a particular cyclist better than the other. But let's look at some of the big names who are on the lists for both races, and see if past performance can offer any clues.

The Schlecks.

Last year, Andy clearly went for it in both races, finishing 2nd to Rebellin in Fleche Wallonne before winning Liege-Bastogne-Liege a few days later. But what's more important to him, a second LBL or a tick in the win column at FW? The obvious strategy might be to hold back at Fleche now that he knows he can win the monument--but there are other considerations. Like, LBL being Frank's goal this year (and a reasonable one, considering he was on the podium in 2007 and 2008). Andy was supposed to win Amstel instead--will he settle for Fleche and ride for his brother on Sunday? Honestly, I don't know. My gut sense is to believe he's Frank's domestique for Liege, so maybe he'll go for it on Wednesday. Opinions?

Damiano Cunego.

The Little Prince has been on the podium in both races, and claims he always rides to win. His stats tend to back that up: last year he was 3rd in FW and 7th in LBL, the year before also 3rd in FW but knocked back to 30th in LBL by heat and cramps. He'll go for it again.

Alejandro Valverde.

A bit of an enigma here. Was clearly going for both races in '07, when he was first loser in both. In '08 he won Liege, after finishing 21st in Fleche. 21st still isn't bad, but did holding back a little contribute to the win in Liege? Still, last year his stronger performance was at Fleche (7th there vs. 19th in LBL), so I'm not sure what his plans might be.

Cadel Evans.

Strong performances in both races. Two years ago was 2nd in FW, 7th in LBL. Last year 5th FW, 16th LBL. But he says he's slowly building for the Giro, so isn't going to go flat out this week. Do we believe him? He has such an honest face. If he is feeling up to it, his best results have been in the Arrow.

Philippe Gilbert.

How badly does he want the triple? Last year he was 4th at Liege, after finishing 35th at Fleche Wallonne. In '07 he finished 19th at FW and 16th at LBL (didn't do FW in '08, so no useful comparison). We know from last fall that when Phil's in form, he can win races close together--but if last year is anything to go by, he might do better to save it for Sunday. Whether he agrees (or can even find the 'off' button for his attack switch) is another matter.

Joaquim Rodriguez.

29th last year in Fleche, 2nd in Liege. 8th in both the year before. Looks like another who might have learned that holding back in Fleche might increase results at Liege. Plus, Katusha has the Ivanov-Kolobnev double to play, possibly with more success than they did at Amstel. I say J-Rod keeps his powder dry on Wednesday.