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LIÈGE -BASTOGNE-LIÈGE: An epic in the offing?

It’s been six years since Lance Armstrong last rode Liège-Bastogne-Liège, in the days when he was a little heavier and focused on the one-day classics instead of the three-week Tour. Liège-Bastogne-Liège was then his favorite event, and he delighted in the Belgian race’s frequent climbs and its challenging distance. In 1994, Armstrong placed second, trapped in a Gewiss team sandwich between winner Eugeni Berzin and third-placed Giorgio Furlan. The following year, the Texan came in sixth, after dropping off the winning break on the last hill. And in 1996, he was outfoxed in a three-up sprint

By John Wilcockson

LIÈGE -BASTOGNE-LIÈGE: An epic in the offing?

Photo:

It’s been six years since Lance Armstrong last rode Liège-Bastogne-Liège, in the days when he was a little heavier and focused on the one-day classics instead of the three-week Tour. Liège-Bastogne-Liège was then his favorite event, and he delighted in the Belgian race’s frequent climbs and its challenging distance.

In 1994, Armstrong placed second, trapped in a Gewiss team sandwich between winner Eugeni Berzin and third-placed Giorgio Furlan. The following year, the Texan came in sixth, after dropping off the winning break on the last hill. And in 1996, he was outfoxed in a three-up sprint by Swiss star Pascal Richard, with another Swiss veteran, Mauro Gianetti in third.

Armstrong could be even stronger on his return to the race this Sunday. His heightened climbing ability, combined with the incentive of helping teammate George Hincapie in his quest for World Cup points, could see the Tour de France champion put in a superlative ride. As for Hincapie, he showed great form on the hills of Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Flanders, but he has yet to show that he can sustain similar power on climbs as steep and long as those in Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

Granted, the course has failed to split the pack as much as it used to when Armstrong last rode the event. That’s because speed barriers placed on one of the hills changed the former “core” of the race — there used to be five successive climbs within 20km around the towns of Trois-Ponts and Stavelot. There are now only three. This has meant that a peloton is much bigger coming to the final 25km. And instead of the infamous La Redoute climb reducing the number of contenders from say 25 to five, a pack of 100 may be cut to only 25 –- and subsequent regrouping last year saw some 60 men together before the decisive St. Nicolas hill 7km from the finish.

Beside the Postal team duo, who will be well supported by Christian Vande Velde, the race favorites include past winners Paolo Bettini of Mapei-Quick Step (who could have great support from Cadel Evans) and Michele Bartoli (whose Fassa Bortolo team can also call on Ivan Basso and Franco Casagrande). Also in contention will be Davide Rebellin of Gerolsteiner, Dario Frigo of Tacconi, David Etxebarria of Euskaltel-Euskadi, Axel Merckx and Fred Rodriguez of Domo-Farm Frites, Mario Aerts and Rik Verbrugghe of Lotto-Adecco and Michael Boogerd of Rabobank.Editor’s note Be sure to log on to VeloNews.com on Sunday morning to follow the action on the roads from Liege to Bastogne and back with live updates from VeloNews editor Kip Mikler.

Start List for Liege-Bastogne-Liege – As of Friday at 4:00 p.m.DOMO – FARM FRITES
001 – MUSEEUW Johan  (B);
002 – BRUYLANDTS Dave  (B);
003 – DE WOLF Steve  (B);
004 – KASHECHKIN Andrey  (Kz);
005 – KONECNY Tomas  (Cz);
006 – MERCKX Axel  (B);
007 – RODRIGUEZ Fred  (USA);
008 – TANKINK Bram  (Nl);LOTTO – ADECCO
011 – AERTS Mario  (B);
012 – BAGUET Serge  (B);
013 – BRANDT Christophe  (B);
014 – DETILLOUX Christophe  (B);
015 – MIKHAILOV Guennadi  (Rus);
016 – VAN LANCKER Kurt  (B);
017 – VAN PETEGEM Peter  (B);
018 – VERBRUGGHE Rik  (B);MAPEI – QUICK STEP
021 – FREIRE Oscar  (Sp);
022 – BETTINI Paolo  (I);
023 – DE WAELE Fabien  (B);
024 – EVANS Cadel  (Aus);
025 – GARZELLI Stefano  (I);
026 – NARDELLO Daniele  (I);
027 – NOE Andrea  (I);
028 – PAOLINI Luca  (I);TEAM COAST
031 – ZULLE Alex  (Swi);
032 – AEBERSOLD Niki  (Swi);
033 – CHANTYR Anton  (Rus);
034 – CHRISTENSEN Bekim  (Dk);
035 – GIANETTI Mauro  (Swi);
036 – HENRIX Sacha  (G);
037 – HUSER Rolf  (Swi);
038 – KORFF André  (G);COFIDIS CREDIT PAR TELEPHONE
041 – MATTAN Nico  (B);
042 – CUESTA Inigo  (Sp);
043 – FARAZIJN Peter  (B);
044 – FOFONOV Dimitri  (Kz);
045 – KIVILEV Andrei  (Kz);
046 – TESSIER Jean-Michel  (F);
047 – TRENTIN Guido  (I);
048 – VASSEUR Cédric  (F);LAMPRE – DAIKIN
051 – TONKOV Pavel  (Rus);
052 – BARBERO Sergio  (I);
053 – CODOL Massimo  (I);
054 – CORTINOVIS Alessandro  (I);
055 – GARATE Juan Manuel  (Sp);
056 – MISSAGLIA Gabriele  (I);
057 – RUMSAS Raimondas  (Lit);
058 – SCIANDRI Maximilian  (GB);RABOBANK
061 – BOOGERD Michaël  (Nl);
062 – BOVEN Jan  (Nl);
063 – DE GROOT Bram  (Nl);
064 – LEIPHEIMER Levi  (USA);
065 – LOTZ Marc  (Nl);
066 – VERHEYEN Geert  (B);
067 – ZBERG Beat  (Swi);
068 – ZBERG Markus  (Swi);TEAM TELEKOM
071 – VINOKOUROV Alexandre  (Kz);
072 – BOLTS Udo  (G);
073 – HEPPNER Jens  (G);
074 – HIEKMANN Torsten  (G);
075 – JULICH Bobby  (USA);
076 – KESSLER Matthias  (G);
077 – KLODEN Andreas  (G);
078 – YAKOVLEV Serguei  (Kz);TACCONI SPORT
081 – FRIGO Dario  (I);
082 – CALCAGNI Patrick  (Swi);
083 – DONATI Massimo  (I);
084 – LUTTENBERGER Peter  (A);
085 – MAZZOLENI Eddy  (I);
086 – SZMYD Sylvester  (Pol);
087 – ZAMPIERI Steve  (Swi);
088 – ZUCCONI Pietro  (Swi);TEAM CSC TISCALI
091 – BLAUDZUN Michaël  (Dk);
092 – ASMAKER Olivier  (F);
093 – CALVENTE Manuel  (Sp);
094 – HAMILTON Tyler  (USA);
095 – PERON Andrea  (I);
096 – PIIL Jakob  (Dk);
097 – RASMUSSEN Mickael  (Dk);
098 – SORENSEN Nicki  (Dk);US POSTAL SERVICE
101 – ARMSTRONG Lance  (USA);
102 – CLINGER David  (USA);
103 – HINCAPIE George  (USA);
104 – KJAERGAARD Steffen  (N);
105 – LANDIS Floyd  (USA);
106 – PADRNOS Pavel  (Cz);
107 – RUBIERA José Luis  (Sp);
108 – VANDEVELDE Christian  (USA);EUSKALTEL – EUSKADI
111 – ETXEBARRIA David  (Sp);
112 – ETXEBARRIA Unai  (Vz);
113 – FLORES Igor  (Sp);
114 – ISASI Inaki  (Sp);
115 – MARTINEZ Egoi  (Sp);
116 – MARTINEZ Alberto  (Sp);
117 – SANCHEZ Samuel  (Sp);
118 – SOLAUN César  (Sp);FASSA BORTOLO
121 – BARTOLI Michele  (I);
122 – BASSO Ivan  (I);
123 – BELLI Wladimir  (I);
124 – CASAGRANDE Francesco  (I);
125 – GUSTOV Volodomir  (Ukr);
126 – POZZI Oscar  (I);
127 – STANGELJ Gorazd  (Slo);
128 – VELO Marco  (I);CREDIT AGRICOLE
131 – MOREAU Christophe  (F);
132 – BESSY Frédéric  (F);
133 – HERVE C dric  (F);
134 – LE MEVEL Christophe  (F);
135 – MARTIN Ludovic  (F);
136 – MORIN Anthony  (F);
137 – POILVET Benoit  (F);IBANESTO.COM
141 – OSA Unai  (Sp);
142 – BARANOWSKI Dariusz  (Pol);
143 – BROZYNA Thomasz  (Pol);
144 – FLECHA Juan Antonio  (Sp);
145 – GIL PEREZ Koldo  (Sp);
146 – JIMENEZ SANCHEZ Eladio  (Sp);
147 – MANCEBO Francisco  (Sp);
148 – MENCHOV Denis  (Rus);PHONAK HEARING SYSTEMS
151 – SCHNIDER Daniel  (Swi);
152 – BEUCHAT Roger  (Swi);
153 – BUXHOFER Matthias  (A);
154 – DEREPAS David  (F);
155 – ELMIGER Martin  (Swi);
156 – GRABSCH Bert  (G);
157 – MOOS Alexandre  (Swi);
158 – ZUMSTEG Lukas  (Swi);ONCE – EROSKI
161 – AZEVEDO José  (P);
162 – CARUSO Giampaolo  (I);
163 – JAKSCHE Jorg  (G);
164 – PRADERA Mikel  (Sp);
165 – RODRIGUEZ Joaquim  (Sp);
166 – SERRANO Marcos  (Sp);SAECO – LONGONI SPORT
171 – DI LUCA Danilo  (I);
172 – ASTARLOA Igor  (Sp);
173 – CELESTINO Mirko  (I);
174 – CUNEGO Damiano  (I);
175 – GLOMSER Gerrit  (A);
176 – SACCHI Fabio  (I);
177 – SIMONI Gilberto  (I);
178 – SPEZIALETTI Alessandro  (I);GEROLSTEINER
181 – REBELLIN Davide  (I);
182 – CONTRINI Daniele  (I);
183 – FARESIN Gianni  (I);
184 – HASELBACHER Rene  (A);
185 – RASTELLI Ellis  (I);
186 – SCHMIDT Torsten  (G);
187 – STRAUSS Marcel  (Swi);
188 – WROLICH Peter  (A);JEAN DELATOUR
191 – BROCHARD Laurent  (F);
192 – BOUVARD Gilles  (F);
193 – DESSEL Cyril  (F);
194 – EDALEINE Christophe  (F);
195 – HALGAND Patrice  (F);
196 – LAUKKA Joona  (Fin);
197 – LEFEVRE Laurent  (F);
198 – THIBOUT Bruno  (F);KELME – COSTA BLANCA
201 – GUTIERREZ Ignacio  (Sp);
202 – LOZANO Roberto  (Sp);
203 – MUNOZ David  (Sp);
204 – NAVARETTE Leandro  (Sp);
205 – RODRIGUEZ Alexis  (Sp);
206 – USANO Julian  (Sp);
207 – VICIOSO Angel  (Sp);
208 – ZABALLA Constantino  (Sp);BONJOUR
211 – ROUS Didier  (F);
212 – BENETEAU Walter  (F);
213 – BOUYER Franck  (F);
214 – CHAVANEL Sylvain  (F);
215 – GUILBERT Charles  (F);
216 – PINEAU Jerôme  (F);
217 – SALANSON Fabrice  (F);
218 – SIMON François  (F);MERCATONE UNO
221 – PANTANI Marco  (I);
222 – BRIGNOLI Ermanno  (I);
223 – CLAVERO Daniel  (Sp);
224 – FORCONI Riccardo  (I);
225 – MAZZANTI Luca  (I);
226 – MORI Massimiliano  (I);
227 – ORTENZI Giammario  (I);
228 – SECCHIARI Francesco  (I);LANDBOUWKREDIET – COLNAGO
231 – STREEL Marc  (B);
232 – DE WAELE Bert  (B);
233 – LIEVENS Erik  (B);
234 – LOUDER Jeff  (USA);
235 – MATTOZZA Sébastien  (B);
236 – MIFUNE Masahiko  (Jpn);
237 – VAN HAECKE Michel  (B);
238 – VAN MALDERGHEM Steven  (B);PALMANS – COLLSTROP
241 – THIJS Erwin  (B);
242 – DE GROOTE Thierry  (B);
243 – HAMMOND Roger  (GB);
244 – LEUKEMANS Bjorn  (B);
245 – SCHEIRLINCKX Staf  (B);
246 – VAN DYCK Hendrik  (B);
247 – VANSEVENANT Wim  (B);
248 – WUYTS Peter  (B);