The hundredth edition of Liege-Bastogne-Liege brought joy for some, despair for others and significant portents of things to come as the opening chapter of the season comes to a close and the Grand Tours beckon.
A reminder that sport can be as cruel as real life was delivered with brutal clarity to Daniel Martin and those cheering for him as he slipped to the ground in the final corner, just 300 metres before completing what appeared to be the formality of a second consecutive victory at La Doyenne. Simon Gerrans claimed a second Monument without having made any attempt to ride clear, but instead having found himself perfectly positioned for the finale. Does professional sport offer any reward for courage?
If the Birmingham-born nephew of Stephen Roche can take anything from the race’s disastrous denouement, however, it is the evidence that his victory at La Doyenne – and elsewhere in 2013 – was no fluke. With significant form evident from a podium at La Fleche Wallonne as well as from his performance at Liege, what can Martin achieve at a Giro d’Italia that begins on home soil?
The Spring Classics are composed of three constituent parts – Milan-San Remo, the Northern Classics, and Ardennes Week – and with the period concluded, it’s easy to decide which offered the greatest excitement. While La Primavera and the cobbled Classics offered an almost unbroken run of exciting races, the hilly Classics were largely tactical affairs, each decided in the final two kilometres. Are changes needed to the parcours?
Team Sky is in no one’s estimation a Classics team, but having failed to deliver in the one-day races of spring, will it now be harder to mount at challenge at the Grand Tours of summer? Dave Brailsford’s squad can afford no more dress rehearsals, starting tomorrow and the Tour de Romandie. Will Chris Froome’s last-minute withdrawal from Liege leave him with insufficient miles in his legs to defend his title in Switzerland?
And with the Giro d’Italia less than a fortnight away, what might the men of the Ardennes bring to the Italian national tour? While some of the big name contenders chose to hone their form elsewhere, many of those expected to ignite the climbs of the Dolomites gave early indications of good form at Liege – none more than Dan Martin. What might be learned from La Doyenne for the Giro?
Read on for our five observations on the 2014 Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and add your own in the RCUK Forum.