Liege isn't a race for outsiders you will say. Only the biggest names can win a race like La Doyenne. Lots of people can win little shit races but this race is the hardest of the hard ones. There will be no surprises in Ans, this one is for the superstars etc. etc. . Horse pucky I say. This is totally the year for an upset winner and I will even offer three names that can make it happen..
Sure you may laugh now but just you wait until tomorrow and we will see who has the last laugh. (OK everyone who has seen my VDS-team knows who will do the laughing but humor me.)
The Invisible Man: Benoit Vaugrenard
Every once in a while you will look at the top 10 of a bikerace and find a frenchman that you never noticed and you can't quite figure out how he snuck in there. More often than not that guy is FdJ's Benoit Vaugrenard, a strong timetrialer who has gradually become more and more of a factor (as FdJ:ers go) in races over the last few years . This year he has looked like a real contender many times and I imagine he has been a little disappointed in his Ardennes-campaign so far. Having targeted these races a 28:th place in Amstel is probably not what he hoped for? L-B-L however is the race that probably suits him best by far so it could be that he has simply seen Amstel and Fléche as prologues for the big target. Expect him to be there or thereabouts tomorrow.
The Estonian Enforcer: Rein Taaramae
What we are talking about here is a guy who has virtually never had a result in a one-day-race. Almost all his racing has been in stage races up to this point and when he has raced the oneday-races he has been quite anonymous. Liege is however a bit of an oddity. It' s clearly the monument that is best suited to the Grand Tour riders. Back in 2003 Tyler Hamilton won the race and much like Taaramae he had little or no pedigree in oneday races before that win. What he did have besides the ability to ride the hilly parcourse was the willingness to attack and the power to stay away. Taaramae has all that and he's proven that he is an über-aggressive racer who isn't afraid to take chances and turn himself inside out going for the win.
The Great French Hope: Pierrick Fedrigo
One of these days a frenchman is going to win one of the Monuments of cycling again. Last one to do it was Laurent Jalabert 1997 in Lombardia and that feels an awful long time ago. The one guy who has all the weapons to make it happen is BBOX star Pierrick Fedrigo, a smart rider with a very useful sprint in smaller groups. In a year where the course looks a little gentler than previous years, conditions might just be perfect for the rouleurs like Fedrigo to sneak into the finale and outfox the big favorites. While one previously would have thought of a race like L-B-L being a size too large for Fedrigo this is no longer true. He was capable of being around for the finish of San Sebastian last fall and in winning the Criterium International a few weeks ago he showed that he has reached a new level. Le Nez de Marmande is not to be underrated these days. You may be forgiven for doing so but if Gilbert, Valverde and the Schlecks do it tomorrow Fedrigo might just steal the race tomorrow.