The Schleck brothers and Radioshack-Nissan-Trek teammate, Maxime Monfort, have grabbed an opportunity for a sneak preview of this year’s first stage of the Tour de France.
Preparing for Sunday’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege race, the last of this season’s spring Classics, the trio check the parcours for the 2012 Tour’s Liège to Seraing stage.
They rode the last 30km of stage one, reporting that it will be suited to explosive finishers. Andy Shleck described the ride around Liege, where the prologue stage of this year’s Tour will also be held, as “a very useful recon”.
“At three kilometers from the finish there is a steep climb starting on cobblestones. As the roads are large just before that, we will arrive there with a big group, but then it will split. It will be too hard for the pure sprinters. For the explosive climbers like Joaquim Rodriguez it will be hard, too, as the last kilometer is flat. I’m glad I saw what is waiting for us on July 1st.”
With his tongue firmly in his cheek, he added: “I expect a victory here for a rider like Philippe Gilbert or Alejandro Valverde. Or… a Schleck.”
The Luxembourg siblings, respected climbers and podium finishers in last year’s Tour De France, are not known for their sprinting prowess. On Sunday, they will try to erase the memory of last year’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege where Philippe Gilbert sprinted clear of the three-man breakaway he had formed with the brothers less then a kilometres from the finish.
Both Andy and Frank have made a low key start to the 2012 season, with Andy injuring his hand in a fall in last week’s Brabanste Pijl. Fortunately for his team, the injury did not rule out another of it’s leaders.
Schleck’s teammate, Fabian Cancellara, who crashed heavily at the Tour of Flanders, breaking his collarbone in four places, is not expected to return to racing until next month, possibly at the Tour of Romandie.