Ardennes Week – welcome respite for the perineums of the peloton
Barse pain subsides and thigh pain increases as we roll off the cobbles and up the short, steep climbs which characterise the Ardennes Classics.
The Belgians may name their races after motorways which have since changed their name or towns which the race doesn’t actually visit, but the Dutch name their major day race after a beer. The Amstel Gold Race takes place this Sunday and is the first of three races which are generally considered to constitute Ardennes Week.
Amstel Gold doesn’t actually take place in the Ardennes, but it’s not far away and features the same sort of terrain. La Fleche Wallonne follows on Wednesday and then Liege-Bastogne-Liege is the big one, rounding things off next Sunday.
Fabian Cancellara disappears, as would Tom Boonen if he hadn’t already departed injured – they’re too big for these hills. Peter Sagan remains and he’s joined by Philippe Gilbert, the World Champion, who won all three Ardennes races in 2011.
Other than that, expect to see some of the stage racers, particularly the light, punchy ones like Joaquim Rodriguez and Alejandro Valverde.
Wiggins is supposedly targeting Liege-Bastogne-Liege as well and it’ll be interesting to see how he goes. Considering his success, he doesn’t actually tend to cross the line first all that often. He wins time trials and he erodes his competition in stage races but winning a race on the day isn’t something he’s really mastered.
My prediction is that he’ll finish in the front group trailing more powerful riders who boast similar levels of endurance. That said, Wiggins is pretty much defined by his ability to up his game. Game-upmanship may seem highly unlikely after his 2012 season, but it’ll be fun to watch him try.
UK viewers can catch Liege-Bastogne-Liege highlights on ITV4 at 9pm on Sunday 21st April. The other races are live on Eurosport, if you’ve got that.