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The road to the Ardennes goes through Brabantse Pijl for Andy Schleck this year.
The RadioShack-Nissan-Trek superstar will race in Wednesday’s semi-classic to put in one final hard day ahead of his first major goal of the 2012 season at the Ardennes classics.
“I know that I was working good and I was feeling good, now I am just missing the racing,” Schleck told VeloNews. “(Circuit de la Sarthe) was a good test. I can tell the form is coming up. I wanted one more day of racing before the Ardennes, so I will start Brabantse Pijl.”
Health issues in the early months of 2012 have hampered Schleck’s early campaign. He abandoned Paris-Nice with a virus and then pulled out of the Volta a Catalunya last month in horrendous weather conditions.
He raced last week at the Circuit de la Sarthe, but told VeloNews.com that he wanted an additional day of hard racing in his legs ahead of the Ardennes classics, which debut with the Amstel Gold Race on April 15.
Defending champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) will be back in the saddle after a flat classics season so far. Last year, Gilbert opened his incredible Ardennes run with victory in the 194.9km race. The race loops through the low country south of Brussels, starting in Leuven and ending in Alsemberg. A finishing circuit usually sees the race-winning moves coming late in the race.
Other big names include three-time winner Oscar Freire (Katusha),Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale), Matti Breschel (Rabobank), JJ Haedo(Saxo Bank) and Thomas Voeckler (Europcar). Craig Lewis will be lining up for Champion System while SpiderTech continues with its solid European calendar.
Schleck, meanwhile, said he would race all three of the Ardennes classics, with eyes of reaching the podium in at least one. Schleck won the 2009 Liège Bastogne-Liège, and last year he and his brother Fränk both finished on the L-B-L podium alongside Gilbert.
Joining Schleck at Brabantse Pijl will be Ben King, Ben Hermans, Jesse Sergent and Joost Posthuma.
RadioShack will also be heading to the Vuelta a Castilla y León in northern Spain (April 13-15), with Andreas Klöden and Tiago Machado leading the charge.
Klöden has also been slowed by health issues in 2012, but he hopes to be hitting his stride in the three-day Spanish race.
Americans Ben King and Matthew Busche will both be racing in Spain for RadioShack-Nissan.