ORICA-GreenEDGE to tackle tough ask of LiÃ¨ge - Bastogne - LiÃ¨ge title defenceThu 23 Apr 2015
ORICA-GreenEDGE will go into Sunday’s Liège - Bastogne – Liège, the final Ardennes Classic and fourth ‘Monument’ of cycling, with multiple options in a bid to pull off a tough title defence.
The Australian outfit stood on the top step of the podium last year, courtesy of Simon Gerrans who became the first Australian to win the event in its 100year history.
Gerrans will again have a leadership role, joined by young British climber Simon Yates who acknowledged an ‘off’ day at Fleche Wallonne but carries good form from a fifth overall at the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco earlier this month.
Claiming ORICA-GreenEDGE’s third Classics podium for the season yesterday, Michael Albasini will also factor whilst the efforts of Pieter Weening to assist last year’s victory also has him poised for the pointy end of proceedings.
“To win Liège - Bastogne – Liège and retain the title, which I think is the hardest of the Classics for the climbers, is a big ask,” sport director Matt White said.
“Last year I believed we could get a big result and we did. This year due to Simon Gerrans’ preparation, he is a couple of weeks short of being at top form.”
“Are we going to be competitive? Yes, I think we can be.
“We are going to go in with multiple options for the final, but it’ll be determined in the last hour or two of the race how we change our tactics.
“We have numerous guys like Michael Albasini, Simon Yates and Simon Gerrans who will be up there.”
Colombian Esteban Chaves and Australian Simon Clarke will back up from Fleche Wallonne whilst South African Daryl Impey will return after sitting out Wednesday’s race. Former Australian champion Luke Durbridge will bring in fresh legs to complete the line up.
The Liège - Bastogne – Liège is a whopping 253km in length with the peloton to negotiate ten climbs in around six and a half hours of racing - the softest a 5% average gradient and the steepest at 11.2% on Côte de Saint-Roch, the second climb of the day.
“It’s an extra hour and a half of racing plus maybe 1,500 to 2,000 more metres of climbing,” White said of the race in relation to yesterday’s Fleche Wallonne. “It’s the most demanding one-day Classic of the lot as far as climbing is concerned.”
Last year a surprisingly big group contested the finale in Liège, but White predicts that trend will continue for Sunday.
“I think the general trend at all of the Classics is that you are seeing bigger and bigger groups closer to the finish,” White said. “The style of racing in one-day racing has changed.”
ORICA-GreenEDGE at Liège - Bastogne - Liège (26 April):