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GENK, Belgium (VN) – Garmin-Barracuda is hoping to build on the momentum of its strong ride Sunday at the Amstel Gold Race and carry that into the remainder of the Ardennes classics.
Alex Howes and Raymond Kreder powered into Sunday’s main breakaway, and the team later put three candidates for the podium at the base of the Cauberg: Ryder Hesjedal, Thomas Dekker and Fabian Wegmann. The German, Wegmann, kicked to eighth at the line, but the team is hoping for a higher finish later this week at La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
“We had a strong performance [Sunday], and that gives us motivation for Flèche and Liège,” Garmin sport director Johnny Weltz told VeloNews. “The team is strong, and we will be even stronger as the week unfolds. Ryder is looking good, and we will have options for some good results.”
Garmin’s lineup changes slightly for Flèche, with French climber Christophe Le Mevel stepping in for the final two races of the week. Le Mevel was in the top-10 last year at Flèche and could be the team’s best option for the Mur de Huy.
Hesjedal – who comes into the spring classics season a little off peak form because he is targeting a run at the maglia rosa at the Giro d’Italia next month – said he hoped to have a strong ride Sunday at Liège.
“I had good sensations Sunday, and I hope to get better during the week,” Hesjedal told VeloNews. “Liège suits me better than Flèche, but if the legs are there, I will try on the Mur. It’s not a bad finish for me, but the climbs are longer at Liège, and there is more selection.”
One rider who seems destined for success in the Ardennes is Irish climber Daniel Martin.
Last fall he was second at the Giro di Lombardia, and he does well sprinting out of small, select groups in races with heavy selection over climbs.
He didn’t make it to the finish line at either Flèche or Liège last year, however. In his debut in 2010, he was 17th at Flèche and 58th at Liège.
“On paper, these races are ideal for me, but I still need to prove myself in these races,” Martin told VeloNews. “Until I get that first big result, nothing’s proven; but on paper, for sure, these races are great for me.”
On Sunday, Martin said he was dropped late in the race and decided not to bury himself to try to regain contact with the front group when there were already plenty of teammates at the front of the action.
“I am still learning [in] these races, and hopefully the legs get better as the week rolls on,” he said. “I think Flèche and Liège suit me better than [Amstel Gold]. We can have a try later this week. I usually have some sort of allergies this time of year, but this year, I’ve no problems.”