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Team Sky shows up in Belgium with other key assets. “Our number one rider will be Sergio Henao who is currently at a great level," explains Sports Director Nicolas Portal. "He gets along really well with Richie and both ride...

Photo: Lloyd Images / Muscat Municipality

ALBERTO CONTADOR

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FLECHE WALLONNE

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JOAQUIM RODRIGUEZ OLIVER

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PHILIPPE GILBERT

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RICHIE PORTE

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17.04.2013 @ 08:10 Posted by Jesper Ralbjerg

After crashing out of the Amstel Gold Race last Sunday and injuring his left thigh, Joaquím Rodriguez (Katusha) will be at the start of the Fleche Wallonne, ready to defend his crown.

 

The Spaniard, however, will have to wait and see how he feels during the race to really hope and triumph for the second year running. “Joaquím will be at the start”, explained Katusha Directeur Sportif Valerio Piva. “We were rather concerned after the crash but after an x-ray yesterday, the doctors noticed that nothing was broken. It’s obviously good for his morale because he has nothing too serious to worry about. However, he still has a big bruise and ideally he would need to rest to recover but he is the title holder and the Flèche is one of his main goals. We’ll have to see how he feels after the first 100 km, if he doesn’t suffer too much, because he also hopes to do well at Liège-Bastogne-Liège next Sunday.”

 

Contador not yet at his best

Alberto Contador (Team Saxo-Tinkoff) travels to Belgium with measured ambitions. While the Flèche Wallonne can’t be considered as one of the main objectives of his season, the Spaniard could, however, be a man to watch in the closing stages of the race, as pointed out by his Saxo-Tinkoff Directeur Sportif, Philippe Mauduit: “He is far from being at 100% at the moment. But he remains an outstanding champion who can enter the Top 10 of any race whether he’s in shape or not. We saw that recently at the Vuelta al País Vasco.” In 2010, Contador did indeed finish third at the Flèche Wallonne but his preparation calendar has been totally re-scheduled since then. “This year, he is far from his peak at this period in time because we’ve allowed him to focus on the Tour de France. It’s a comfort and extra security to push his peak shape to later.”

 

Not a duel between Sagan and Gilbert

For his last day of preparation before the Flèche Wallonne, a race that he conquered the year of his Ardennes Grand Slam in 2011, Philippe Gilbert (BMC) enjoyed a half rest day. “He simply rode his bike for 1h 10 behind the car but we didn’t go up the Mur de Huy. It’s a climb that he knows perfectly well and he’ll have the opportunity to climb it twice during the race,” explained BMC Directeur Sportif, John Lelangue, who also mentioned the presence of Peter Sagan (Cannondale) at the Belgian race. Will the Slovakian be Gilbert’s main rival? “No. We never ride a race against someone in particular. He will be one competitor among others, but we won’t be more focused on him than on Valverde, Rodriguez, Albasini, Vanendert or others. There are around ten men who can be considered as specialists of the Mur de Huy.”

 

First taste of the FLèche for Porte

After winning Paris-Nice, the Criterium International time-trial and capturing second spot of the recent Vuelta al País Vasco, Richie Porte (Sky) will take on the Flèche Wallonne for the very first time. The Aussie could be one of the surprises of the race explains his Sky Directeur Sportif Nicolas Portal. “Richie returned sick from País Vasco like many other riders, and was able to rest at home. He comes to the Flèche Wallonne to do his best and will be one of the protected riders in the team. It’ll be his first experience which obviously isn’t great but we were able to check out the last 70 km of the course yesterday”. Team Sky shows up in Belgium with other key assets. “Our number one rider will be Sergio Henao who is currently at a great level. He gets along really well with Richie and both riders combine well together although they don’t have the same style. Sergio is more explosive and the Mur de Huy could suit him well. We can also count on Rigoberto Uran who will be our third strong man.”

 

Starting at 14.30 you can follow the action from Flèche Wallone live here on Cyclingquotes.com

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