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Preview: Last chance for Ardennes glory in Liege

Five-star favorites

Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha)
“Purito” finally got his big win Wednesday after jetting away from everyone 350m from the top of the Mur de Huy on Wednesday. Flat at Amstel Gold due to cold, Rodríguez could suffer again Sunday under similar conditions. If he can stay warm, and has the same legs he used Wednesday, there could be no stopping him.

Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing):
“Phil-Gil” keeps getting closer: 12th at Brabantse Pijl, 6th at Amstel Gold, 3rd at Flèche. There is no one-and-a-half in cycling, so it’s all or nothing for Gilbert. A huge win Sunday, a few kilometers from his childhood home, would salvage his entire spring campaign. Ever confident, Gilbert should never be counted out.

Four-star favorites

Simon Gerrans (GreenEdge):
“Gerro” surprised everyone, even himself, with a crafty win at Milan-San Remo last month. He sat out Flèche Wallonne after a disappointing Amstel Gold Race. Gerrans is no stranger to poor weather and with a solid uphill kick, is better-suited to Liège than the Italian monument he notched in March. The big question is whether his midweek racing break freshened the Aussie’s legs or cooled them off too much.

Fränk and Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan):
Take your pick. Either one of these two could step up Sunday big-time in the classic that is ideal for their spindly climber legs. Andy won in 2009 and Fränk’s been on the podium, so they know how to perform. Neither has been on top of their game of late, but both are proud and fierce competitors. Either way, they will be in the thick of things.

Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol):
Consistency pays off in the Ardennes, and with a podium at Amstel Gold and a run at the front at Flèche, the Belgian climber should not be overlooked by the field.

Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi):
A winner at the Basque Country tour and top-10 at Amstel Gold, Sánchez will be looking to score his first major classics victory. The Olympic champion has the depth to go the distance and still pack a strong finishing punch. On great form, perhaps Sánchez peaked too early with his win in the Basque Country.

Three-star favorites

Rinaldo Nocentini, Nicholas Roche (Ag2r-La Mondiale)
Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD)
Chris Horner (RadioShack-Nissan)
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
Ryder Hesjedal, Daniel Martin (Garmin-Barracuda)
Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale)
Bauke Mollema (Rabobank)
Robert Gesink (Rabobank)
Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi)

Two-star favorites

Michael Albasini (GreenEdge)
Jerome Coppel (Saur-Sojasun)
Nicki Sorensen (Saxo Bank)
Chris-Anker Sorensen (Saxo Bank)
Julien El Fares (Team Type 1)

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