|Lance Armstrong 1996|
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
First edition held in 1936. Part of the Ardennes Classics, along with Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Back in the day the two races were ran in consecutive days. Now the race is organised by (of course) Amaury Sport Organisation.
Most wins were achieved by Marcel Kint, Eddie Merckx, Moreno Argentin and Davide Rebellin (3 each). We have (among others) Laurent Jalabert and Bernard Hinault with two wins. The mighty Lance Armstrong also won this race back in 1996. Last three winners are Philippe Gilbert, Cadel Evans and Davide Rebellin. Only Gilbert is in the 2012 race, trying to defend his crown. Another past winner in the mix is 2006 champion Alejandro 'Piti' Valverde.
Here is the link to the official route map. It's a 194 km course spiced with 10 climbs. The riders are going to tackle the infamous Mur de Huy three times. The third time around the top of Mur de Huy will mean victory ! This climb is only 1.3 km long. But it comes after 192.7 km of riding, after 9 other climbs, it's a very narrow road and it has an average gradient of 9,3% with a maximum of 26% (!) Nothing short of hiting a wall.
First order of business: Philippe Gilbert (BMC) will not be able to defend his title. That leaves only a few riders able to conquer Mur de Huy. The Spanish contingent with Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) and Igor Anton (Euskaltel), the Italians with Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) and Enrico Gasparotto (Astana, Amstel Gold Race 2012 winner) and the belgians with Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Belisol, 2nd in Amstel Gold Race 2012).
Other contenders include Chris Horner (RNT), Rigoberto Uran (Sky) and Bauke Mollema (Rabobank). I will keep an eye out for my dark horse Romain Bardet (AG2R): the guy had an amazing Amstel Gold Race, seems strong and eager. My podium pick looks something like this: Vanendert, Gasparotto, Rodriguez.
Live coverage -> here's a great link.