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After 263 KM of racing and over 4700 metres of climbing, just one bike length separated Alejandro Valverde from victory at the finish line of Liège-Bastogne-Liège yesterday. The Spaniard came tantalisingly close to winning one of the toughest physical tests in cycling, only to be edged out by Simon Gerrans of ORICA-GreenEDGE in the sprint for the line.
Nevertheless, yesterday’s result capped off a fantastic week for Valverde and the Movistar Team. By piloting his Ultimate CF SLX to fourth in the Amstel Gold Race, a memorable victory on the Mur de Huy in Wednesday’s Flèche Wallonne and second place yesterday, Valverde proved to be the strongest and most consistent rider throughout the Ardennes Classics: “First, second and fourth in three Classics, there aren’t many out there who can achieve these results. […] I can’t really ask for much more.”
With eight victories to his name so far this season, Valverde is currently the most successful rider in the peloton in 2014. What’s more, he celebrated his 34th birthday on Friday. Valverde will now take a well-deserved break from racing before building up for an assault on the Tour de France in July.
Fourth for Caruso, no luck for Rodríguez
Heading into the Ardennes week, much expectation lay on the shoulders of Joaquim Rodríguez having performed exceptionally in these races over the years. Unfortunately though, this year it wasn’t to be as crashes took him out of both Amstel Gold and Flèche Wallonne. The damage sustained meant “Purito” couldn’t possibly be at his best for Liège-Bastogne-Liège, forcing him to withdraw prior to the finale.
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The baton was therefore handed to Katusha’s other uphill specialists, with Dani Moreno and Giampaolo Caruso performing exceptionally across the week. Moreno was a constant feature in the top-ten, with 9th place in all three races, meanwhile Caruso animated both Amstel Gold and Liège-Bastogne-Liège with attacking displays. The Sicilian, who normally rides in aid of others, made the most of the opportunity to ride for himself by attacking in the finale of yesterday’s race, only to be swallowed up by his pursuers within 100 metres from the line. Caruso still managed to hold on to take fourth place and with it Team Katusha’s best result of the Ardennes week.
Grand Tours just around the corner
With the 2014 Spring Classics season over, it’s now time for the Grand Tours. Up first is the Giro d’Italia, which starts on the 9th of May in Northern Ireland. We’ll be keeping you up to date with all the latest action as Nairo Quintana of Movistar Team and Rodríguez with Katusha fight it out for the pink jersey!