This weekend sees the final race of the first mini-competition in our season-long Fantasy Cycling competition, brought to you in association with Evans Cycles, with Liège-Bastogne-Liège determining who will walk away with a £100 voucher to spend at the bicycle retailer.
Pablo’s Peddlers’ stunning 108-point haul at Fleche Wallonne gives them a 46-point cushion at the top, which should be enough to keep the competition at bay, but given the often unpredictable way the Spring Classics campaign has unfolded, you never know.
Our man in the peloton, Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas, hasn’t been racing in the Ardennes Classics but like the rest of us he has been following the action, and has some more tips that can hopefully swing things your way on Sunday.
With victories in Amstel Gold and Flèche Wallonne, Omega Pharma Lotto’s Philippe Gilbert will start as a strong favourite in Liege, but Geraint insists that the Belgian rider isn’t invincible.
“Gilbert has definitely got some great form, but there are people out there who can beat him – look at what happened to Fabian Cancellara in the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.”
The Swiss rider had started as a strong favourite in both of those races, but was a marked man throughout, and while he made it onto the podium in both, he failed to repeat his victories of 2010.
“The race could go in a similar way to the Tour of Flanders, where Nick Nuyens won, and Paris-Roubaix, with Johan Van Summeren getting the victory – just as we saw there with Cancellara, on Sunday no-one’s going to want to tow Gilbert to the line."
So how does Geraint think the race might pan out? “We could see a series of attacks go from around 60km out. Gilbert won’t be able to follow everything, and if one gets away with some strong riders who perhaps aren’t among the favourites, it could be hard to bring it back. It will be every man for himself.”
As for the big names in the mix, Geraint singles out Joaquim Rodriguez, who will no doubt be anxious to shake off the ‘nearly man’ tag that he has acquired in these races.
“Rodriguez was second in Amstel Gold and again in Fleche Wallonne this week, and he's also been runner-up in Liege-Bastogne-Liege in the past,” says Geraint, the Spaniard’s performances perhaps making a win overdue.
“Then there’s Samuel Sanchez, third in Fleche Wallonne, and Simon Gerrans, who got on the podium at Amstel Gold. My own team, Sky, are strong, but so are Leopard Trek with the Schlecks.”
There’s a feeling among cycling fans that this has been one of the most exciting Spring Classics campaigns for many a year – perhaps the best ever – and enthusiasm for the racing isn’t confined to the spectators.
“It’s fantastic to be a part of great races,” says Geraint. “It’s what you dream about doing.”
For those of us not lucky enough to be racing bikes for a career, Fantasy Cycling represents one of the best ways of living that dream, and in making your transfers for Sunday’s race, there is no need whatsoever to plan ahead – after Liège-Bastogne-Liège finishes, you’ll have unlimited transfers to make before the season resumes with the Giro d’Italia in just over a fortnight’s time. There's already team news for the Giro here on road.cc.
As well as counting towards the season total, the Giro also has its own standalone competition, with a Fuji Altamira 3.0 bike worth £1,729 waiting for the winner. We’ll be previewing the route with Geraint in the next week or so, and he’ll also be providing us with insider tips to help you maximise your points total, so look out for that here on road.cc.
Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.