**** Michal Kwiatkowski As I mentioned on the AGR thread prior to the start of that race, Kwiatkowski had missed his E3 defence in order to make the start line in the best possible condition for this, his major aim of the season.
And indeed as suggested on this forum it proved to be the case that his 12/1 price for LBL pre-AGR was a good starting point to build a position on him as he turned in a very strong ride to finish 2nd to race winner Gilbert, after looking the winner for-all-money when making his sprint for the line from a long way out. Only really faltered because the headwind had given Gilbert the slipstream slingshot he used to full effect in coming past Kwiatkowski within sight of the line.
A reminder that he has shown both his strength and sprinting power so far this season by winning the modern classic of Strade Bianche, and claiming his first monument by winning MSR in a sprint from Sagan -- as tipped on this forum and going off as a 33/1 shot.
Confirmed his sharp condition after finishing in 7th-place last start in LFW, when not ideally suited by the circuit given the finishing climb of Huy.
As mentioned, he went from 12/1 prior to AGR into as low as 6/1 with PP after the conclusion of that race, but was as high as 15/2 with some for a brief period before a steady flow of money arrived across the boards and he leapfrogged Dan Martin to become the outright second favourite, returning into 6/1 best with various. Most of the E/W value is now gone. W/O terms advised at that price.
Has only had average results here in the past two years, going 36th and 21st, however he does have that impressive 3rd in 2014 behind Valverde and winner Gerrans, the year he also won Strade Bianche, earlier in the season.
Looks ideally suited this time out, and has a superb team devoted to his service. Expect a commanding performance from a rider who is serious, tough and in peak condition. Hard nut to crack. Top pick.
* Adam Yates The 24yo from GBR riding for ORS first came to prominence as an exciting future WT prospect in 2015, by winning San Sebastian (ESP classic over 220kms, which in some ways is similar to LBL) in somewhat controversial circumstances. Then confirmed it was no fluke performance when six weeks later he finished in 2nd-place to winner Wellens in the GP Montreal.
Finsihed in 56th-place here last year, however his lead-in was interrupted with DNFs in AGR and LFW, and it is worth remembering that in 2013 he finished in 12th-place in the Espoirs (Under-23) race of LBL, which admittedly did not have as much climbing.
Did not win a race in 2016, however he did win the YC in the TdF and finished in 4th-place on GC.
Returned to winning ways this season when winning a GP race in ITA, albeit at PCT level but nevertheless at 200kms. Then hung tough to claim the podium in select company in stage 3 of Catalunya when climbing into La Molina, only being beaten by Valverde and Dan Martin. Finished 4th on GC, there.
Unsurprising move by the Books when opening him up at 33/1 with various, however he is being underestimated a little when drifting-out to 40/1 best with various, presently. This is on account of not getting a start in the Ardennes, however he is race fit since coming out of Catalunya, goes well fresh, and DS Matt White is going for a multi-pronged strategy in using the depth of the squad to be throughout the race, meaning that there is no one leader in the team and tactics will be dictated by riders' race sensations.
Exciting proposition for the podium who may come into calculations with some luck. Looks suited. Worthy of close consideration.
I am sticking with the imperious Alejandro Valverde as mentioned on last week's AGR thread. As expected the 9/4 dried up after his romp in the Fleche on Wednesday - I can hardly remember a one day race being won so impressively . All we need now is a warm day and decent luck in running.
SP I have a nice each way saver on Kwia thanks to you - may the best man win.
I am sticking with the imperious Alejandro Valverde as mentioned on last week's AGR thread. As expected the 9/4 dried up after his romp in the Fleche on Wednesday - I can hardly remember a one day race being won so impressively . All we need now is a
I thought that Valverde's AGR ride was a step backward for him in terms of his Ardennes campaign, however he came out in LFW and blew them all away, and he is now a major factor, now doubt about it. Moreover, given his strike-rate here, he is the deserving short-priced favourite. I am certainly worried about him, but if we get a bruising encounter between Kwiatkowski and Valverde in the finale, and Kwiatkowski comes second, then I'll still be pretty happy, I think. Hopefully the best man will win and no mechanicals/crashes decide the outcome, it should be a mighty-fine race. Valverde is the one to beat, so interesting to observe the tactics employed by rival teams. Good luck Raggetty.
Was too hoping the riders would get decent conditions after last year's weather theatrics, but it looks like whilst it'll remain dry it will be bitterly cold on a bike, but at least not much wind about.
BCLL -- Just thought that GVA was looking like he was ready for the spelling yard in AGR, he hasn't ridden LBL since 2013 and it's not a race you can just parachute into after a long spring campaign and expect a top result. Since he has this season now histrorically-dominated Jan Raas on the cobbles, it is interesting to observe that the Dutch rider never did well here. I probably wouldn't look at GVA again until Bergen where the GP circuit is likely to suit his style now. I would take Wellens, Bardet and even Ulissi over him, here. Teuns is BMC's man here, in any case. 17th last year, and a top ride to podium last start in LFW. He is deserving of the protected role, and am looking closely to add him, actually.
Dumoulin a good fit, though. Goes well fresh and was impressive in Strade Bianche earlier in the season, I thought. I would probably take some of that action if he had had a start in the Ardennes and if there wasn't some doubt over his role after Barguil's impressive 6th on the Huy last start in LFW. Incidentally, Geschke a scratching for SUN. Good luck.
I thought that Valverde's AGR ride was a step backward for him in terms of his Ardennes campaign, however he came out in LFW and blew them all away, and he is now a major factor, now doubt about it. Moreover, given his strike-rate here, he is the des