ORICA-GreenEDGE Aim for Podium at FlÃ¨che WallonneTue 16 Apr 2013
Michael Albasini stormed up the Mur de Huy and onto the Flèche Wallonne podium last year. This year, Albasini shares a leadership role with Simon Clarke. Simon Gerrans, third at Amstel Gold race last Sunday, is resting up ahead of Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The team that supported Gerrans’ podium remains largely intact for Wednesday’s race.
“We have plenty of confidence coming into Flèche,” said Albasini. “We rode great as a team at Amstel Gold, and we were able to stick to our plan well. Things are looking good for us for the next two Ardennes races.”
The men’s race features 12 rated climbs, most of which are packed into the second half of the 205 kilometre route. The Mur de Huy is the star of the show and the scene of the most decisive action. The route includes three passages up the Mur. The final ascent of the Mur is the race’s uphill finish.
“The finish for Flèche Wallonne is what makes this race special,” said Sport Director Laurenzo Lapage. “It’s made for only a select group of explosive riders. A lot of guys will try to escape before the uphill finish because they realise if they come to the last climb with a specialist, it’s almost impossible to win.”
Even for ‘a specialist’ like Albasini, the uphill finish is brutal.
“The final time up the Mur is a real killer,” he said. “It’s a bit over one kilometre long, but it’s really steep with a maximum gradient of 26 percent.”
Lapage hopes both Albasini and Clarke will make it the base of the Mur de Huy with the race leaders. He expects the team to fully commit themselves to this task.
“I want Alba [Albasini] and Clarke to start that last climb in a good position,” explained Lapage. “Pieter [Weening] will be saved for the late action, and Wes [Wesley Sulzberger], [Michael] Matthews, Travis [Meyer] and Christian [Meier] will cover moves during the second part of the race. Michael Hepburn is coming in for Gerro [Simon Gerrans], and he plays an important role in protecting our two leaders.”
“The team understands that it will be very important to stick to the plan we develop,” added Lapage. “Other teams have noticed that we are strong, so they will not make it easy for us. Because our condition is good, our confidence is great. We have several cards to play at the moment.”
Albasini shares Lapage’s confidence.
“At the end of the day, we know how to ride as a team,” Albasini said. “We showed that at Basque when we won two stages, and we showed that at Amstel to put Gerro on the podium. No matter how the race unfolds, I’m confident of our ability to feature in the finish.”
ORICA-GreenEDGE for Flèche Wallonne: