The Ardennes Classics continue on Wednesday with UAE Team Emirates announcing a stellar line-up to take on La Fleche Wallonne and the fourth Monument of the season, Liege–Bastogne–Liege.
Spearheading the team of seven riders will be Dan Martin. The Irishman picked up victory at Liege–Bastogne–Liege in 2013, and has finished in the top 10 at La Fleche Wallonne a remarkable five times – three of those being podium finishes.
He will be supported by former world champion Rui Costa, as well as Sergio Henao – who finished second in this race in 2013 – Manuele Mori, Rory Sutherland, Tadej Pogacar and Diego Ulissi.
La Fleche Wallonne is a one-day classic for the climbers. The 195.5km route from Ans to Huy circumnavigates the suburbs of Liege, with riders facing a relentless number of climbs; 11 in total.
The majority of the climbs come in the latter part of the race and with 77km to go the peloton will need to keep something in reserve as the race organisers have added two extra climbs into the final circuit for 2019.
The winner of La Fleche Wallonne is often defined by the final climb – the Mur de Huy. The 1.3km slog hits gradients of 26 per cent at its steepest and only those with enough gas left in the tank are likely to conquer it.
Riders have three days to recover before they get set for their final test of the Classics season, Liege–Bastogne–Liege. The 256km route starting in Liege is one of the oldest bike races on the UCI WorldTour. This will be the Monument’s 105th edition having first been hosted in 1892.
Like La Fleche Wallonne, there will be 11 climbs in total, most of which come on the return leg from Bastogne to Liege. There are four climbs in particular which will be stern challenges for the peloton; The Wanne, Stockeu, Haute-Levee and the Cote de Mont-le-Soie.
The finish line for the 2019 edition has moved to the centre of Liege and, should a group emerge from the fast descent at 5km, the thousands of spectators gathered to witness the final kilometres of ‘The Old Lady’ can expect a gripping sprint finish.
Commenting ahead of the race, sporting director Joxean Fernandez Maxtin said: “We face the Ardennes Classics with a formation that offers so many possibilities to be protagonists and to fight for important results: winning is very difficult because these races are coveted and the competition is at a high level, but our team is well balanced and equipped well for our ambitions.
“Daniel Martin is a reference point for these races, he will focus on the Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. For Pogacar, this week will be an important experience, he will race without pressure and will have the chance to measure his talents in these races, while the experience of Mori and Sutherland will be important in Fleche and Liege.”
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