The Selection Process: Liege-Bastogne-Liege

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On Sunday we’ll once again wave hello to the Old Lady of the calendar, now back in her usual springtime slot. The frustrating thing about Liege is that it promises so much but can fail to deliver any big moments. I’ve heard riders comment on how hard the race is, far harder than its meagre profile may suggest. The peloton will be climbing and descending all day with no pause for a chat. At 260km in length, that’s always going to sting. Thankfully the current generation of riders are beginning to bring back a buzz to the race, with elite GC riders showing an increasing interest in the classics.

That brings us neatly to Primoz Roglic (4/1) and Tadej Pogacar (5/1). The Slovenians head the market and you could happily split your kitty for the race on both and have a serious chance at healthy returns. They’re both good value, which you won’t be able to say very often this season. I suspect they may shorten by Sunday morning.

Tadej Pogacar – along with his seriously strong UAE team – missed La Fleche Wallonne on Wednesday due to COVID-19 protocols. Since 2000, just one Liege winner skipped La Fleche (Alexandre Vinokourov, 2010) but obviously Pogacar had no choice in the matter! It shouldn’t affect the young Slovenian too much. If he was in good shape at the start of the week, he still will be… and now he’ll be twice as hungry.

Behind them in the betting we have Julian “I’m not feeling good” Alaphilippe, who – despite not feeling good – chased down Roglic in a phenomenal battle at the top of the Huy on Wednesday… even though he wasn’t feeling good. If he is truly short of his best form, Liege is a far harder test of strength. But does anybody believe him? At 11/2, he is another superstar who offers some value!

Nobody on the startlist stands a chance of beating those three riders if they turn the final left-hand turn alongside them and begin the long drag to the finish line.

And the winner is… Tadej Pogacar 5/1

Nothing particularly entertaining about this selection but 5/1 for the best climber in the race is far too attractive to ignore, and his team are more than capable of marshalling the peloton. I’ll be interested to see if the team is 100% behind Pogacar as last year’s runner-up Marc Hirschi is the faster of the two in a sprint for the line. You can add to that pair with the 2019 runner-up Davide Formolo, and possibly another podium finisher in Rui Costa! I think Pogacar will be one of the first riders to attack inside the last 5km. He could win solo, if only by a few seconds.

Look out for… Jack Haig (300/1), Joao Almeida (40/1) & Patrick Konrad (150/1)

Welcome to the best part of any selection process; the weird picks. I’ll start by reiterating that for anybody to win other than the big three, there’s going to have to be a split in the bunch inside the last 20km. However, there is a very real chance of that happening, especially this year. In the last three editions there has been an increasingly random element which has helped break up the Liege formula we had grown (very) familiar with. I’m very excited by Jack Haig at 300/1. The Australian is now at Bahrain-Victorious and is arguably the strongest climber on in the team this weekend. Matej Mohoric and Dylan Teuns are far more explosive, but it was Haig who was their best placed rider on the Huy. I expect Bahrain to make any decisive late break; let’s just hope it’s Haig who sneaks away. Joao Almeida (40/1) is not yet confirmed for Sunday, but the Portuguese rider is a former U23 Liege champion and has a chance of using magnetic teammate Alaphilippe to his advantage and launching a similar move to that of Bob Jungels three years ago. Lastly there’s Patrick Konrad at 150/1. The Austrian is yet to win a one-day race but nearly always enjoys Ardennes week. Be brave Patrick!

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