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"Nevertheless, I feel very confident about my own shape which has been building in the last weeks. I look forward to giving my best to obtain a good result and I'm sure we will field a strong squad on Sunday."

Photo: Tinkoff

LIÈGE - BASTOGNE - LIÈGE

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MICHAEL VALGREN

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PAWEL POLJANSKI

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RAFAL MAJKA

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ROBERT KISERLOVSKI

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ROMAN KREUZIGER

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YURY TROFIMOV

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23.04.2016 @ 11:19 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

‘La Doyenne’ – ‘The Old Lady’ – of the classics is here. The oldest of the classics, and the last of the three Ardennes Classics, Liège-Bastogne-Liège takes place in Belgium on Sunday. Regarded by many as the toughest of all the classics, Roman Kreuziger will lead Tinkoff in this testing race, having finished in the top ten in the previous two editions.
 
With a history stretching back to 1892, when it started as an amateur event, the 102nd edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège starts on Sunday in, as the name suggests, Liège, in eastern Belgium. A 253km route awaits riders, which, unlike the other Ardennes Classics, covers an out and back route, as opposed to circuits, and crosses each climb only once. Joining Kreuziger at the start on Sunday will be Yuri Trofimov, Michael Valgren, Robert Kiserlovski, Pavel Brutt, Pawel Poljanski, Ivan Rovny and Rafal Majka who returns to racing after a high-altitude team training camp in Cyprus.

"Liège-Bastogne-Liège is a tough and demanding race but one of which I'm very fond,” said Kreuziger following the team’s recon ride of the course. “The line-up this year is strong and, in particular, Alejandro Valverde has shown he is in very good form. Nevertheless, I feel very confident about my own shape which has been building in the last weeks. I look forward to giving my best to obtain a good result and I'm sure we will field a strong squad on Sunday."
 
In this year’s race there are ten climbs. The gentler climbs, such as the Col du Rosier, make up for their shallow gradient with a longer climb, while the shorter climbs rise up over an average gradient of more than 10%, such as the Côte de La Roche-aux-Faucons, which over its relatively short 1.3km length, has an average gradient of 11%. As the finish line draws closer, the climbs come closer together, with eight of the race’s ten climbs coming in the final 85km.
 
Perhaps the most iconic climb of the race is the Côte de La Redoute – a 2km climb with an average gradient of 8.9% and maximum gradient of 22%. In historic editions of the race, La Redoute was the point where the winning attacks of the day came, but in the modern race the winning moves tend to come later in the day.
 
As Sport Director, Bruno Cenghialta, noted in advance, "The Liège-Bastogne-Liège is a challenging race that requires good condition to be able to compete with the best riders in the world in a very demanding finale. In recent years, the crucial point of this race has always been the final climb of Ans and this is where we will focus our efforts. The aim is to bring our captains there, well-positioned to fight for a good result.”

Reaching Ans in strong enough condition to contest the finale is one of the biggest challenges of the race. The sheer distance covered is hard enough on its own, while each climb progressively tires the riders. The race is hard enough in good conditions, but the late April date means the weather is often unpredictable and can mean anything from rain to freezing wind or snow.
 
Cenghialta was expecting the weather to have a big impact on the outcome of the race – especially given recent forecasts. “The weather will also play an important role as the forecast calls for adverse conditions with very low temperatures and rain and our strategy will have to be adapted accordingly."
 
Roman Kreuziger will lead the team, having performed well in the other Ardennes Classics, narrowly missing top ten finishes in both, finishing 11th in Wednesday’s Flèche Wallonne and 12th in the Amstel Gold Race last Sunday. Kreuziger has finished in the top ten for the previous two years’ editions of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and so knows the route well and the challenges he and the team will face.
 
Cenghialta was already deciding on the team’s tactics in the difficult race. “Pavel Brutt and Yuri Trofimov will try to go for the early breakaway while the rest of the squad will support our captains. Roman Kreuziger is our main rider for the race with Rafal Majka as a co-leader. Majka is coming from a high-altitude training camp in Cyprus and as a result we will have to see how he feels and then decide in the race. Michael Valgren has shown his strength recently, so if he feels very strong, he might get his chance.”

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