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Liège-Bastogne-Liège: Côte-o-mania

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While we wait for those Expert People to show up... Chris is somewhere in a car on the East Coast. Really, I didn't know they drove cars on the East Coast, I thought that was a Cali thing. Apparently, they do. Chris has the expert picks for our final race in the Temporary Experts Series. And yes, we are currently trying to think of a new game for the Giro d'Italia. Because games are fun.

Wondering about the course for Liège-Bastogne-Liège? Short answer: it's hilly. The climbs are similar to the Amstel Gold Race, though a bit longer, generally. The Real Action typically goes down on the final four: Côte de la Redoute (2.1 km, avg. 8.4%), Côte de la Roche aux Faucons (1.5 km, avg. 9.9%), Côte de la Saint Nicolas (1.0 km, avg. 11.1%), and the final climb to the finish line at Ans. Want to know more? Allow me to send you to my 2009 preview over at Steephill. The Côte de la Roche aux Faucons is a popular spot for the long attack. Andy Schleck escaped and won solo from this climb in 2009.

There's no reason that Philippe Gilbert can't win this race, the way he has the last two Ardennes races. Except for the small detail that no one has done The Triple since Davide Rebellin. Of course, no one had done the Fall Double either in recent years, and Gilbert managed that one with aplomb. Can a bike racer have aplomb? I'm not so sure. Panache, maybe, though the word, it is so, well, used. Merckx says that Gilbert is better than Merckx, and he should know since he is, in fact, Merckx. Who am I to argue?

The final climb to Ans suits Gilbert's characteristics to perfection. It may be that the only way to beat the Belgian classics talent is to go from a long way out, like Schleck did in 2009. Gilbert's Omega-Lotto team has proven adept at keeping the escapes under control. I can't say I have any good advice on this one. Pedal hard? Have fun storming the castle?

Liège-Bastogne-Liège is always one of my favorite races of the year. The line-up of climbs from La Redoute to the finish makes for hard racing and typically, a good number of attacks as the race splits and reforms over each successive côte. I'd love to see a surprise winner, but it's rare to see an outsider win a monument, especially one as difficult as Liège. The roads are narrow, so positioning is key. The climbs are steep, so good legs are a must. I may not always like the winner in Ans, but it's rare to think that the strongest rider did not win when we come to the end of the day.

Got picks? Prognostications? Snark? Feel free to share.