The spring Classics draw to a close with Sunday?s Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the last chance for some of the teams that are currently empty-handed to grab a share of the spoils.

CSC, Quick Step, Rabobank, Lampre and High Road have shared the six Classics from Milan to Huy so far.

The most notable teams that have yet to strike gold are Gerolsteiner, Silence-Lotto and Caisse d?Epargne. They will look to Davide Rebellin, Cadel Evans and Alejandro Valverde respectively to correct that pm Sunday.

Italian riders have always fared well in this corner of Belgium, an area where thousands of Italian came after the Second World War to work in the mines. Italians have won five of the past ten editions, although defending champion Danilo Di Luca and his LPR Brakes team have not been invited.

Paolo Bettini yearns to win in Liège again but he?s had a terrible spring, so the Italian hopes rest with Damiano Cunego, who has built himself into the outstanding favourite.

And with a course that subjects the riders to as much climbing as a stiff Tour de France mountain stage, it is not a race that offers much in the way of fortune. You don?t get lucky here, you have to have the best legs, the smartest tactics and, possibly, the fastest sprint finish.

Below we pick the ten men most likely to do the business?

See our pictorial climb-by-climb breakdown of the run-in from Bastogne to Liège

Côtes and cols between Bastogne and Liège


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2007 Danilo Di Luca (Italy)

2006 Alejandro Valverde (Spain)

2005 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kazakhstan)

2004 Davide Rebellin (Italy)

2003 Tyler Hamilton (USA)

2002 Paolo Bettini (Italy)

2001 Oscar Camenzind (Switzerland)

2000 Paolo Bettini (Italy)

1999 Frank Vandenbroucke (Belgium)

1998 Michele Bartoli (Italy)

Er, not this year son. Defending champion Danilo Di Luca and his allegedly child-like hormone levels will be elsewhere this Sunday.

1 Damiano Cunego

Italy / Lampre

Past five years at Liège-Bastogne-Liège (2003-2007): ? / ? / 9th / 3rd / 7th

This week?s results: Amstel 1st; Flèche Wallonne 3rd odds to win: 5.50

CW?s verdict: The hot favourite now, after his Amstel win and third on Wednesday. Hasn?t been outside the top ten in his three previous rides here and he?s in better form this week than ever before. Cue hundreds of ‘Little Prince Crowned King’ headlines.

2 Cadel Evans

Australia / Silence-Lotto

Past five years: ? / ? / 5th / 80th / 36th

This week?s results: Amstel DNS; Flèche Wallonne 2nd odds to win: 11.00

CW?s verdict: Evans wants to add some big wins to his palmares this year. He has his sights firmly fixed on the Tour de France and the Olympics but he won?t turn down the chance to become the first Australian winner here. Showed he?s strong and, to be fair, the very steep Mur de Huy is not quite his forté. Here, he will fit right in and could be dangerous. He certainly knows how to follow a move!

3 Alejandro Valverde

Spain / Caisse d?Epargne

Past five years: ? / ? / 34th / 1st / 2nd

This week?s results: Amstel 3rd; Flèche Wallonne 21st odds to win: 6.50

CW?s verdict: Just as Tom Boonen suffers the weight of expectation on the cobbles, Valverde is the man everyone watches this week. Defeat and everyone is up in arms, victory and it?s greeted with a shrug of the shoulders because Valverde is ?supposed to win?. Has been quiet this week but will be acutely aware he needs a big result.

4 Davide Rebellin

Italy / Gerolsteiner

Past five years: 13th / 1st / 11th / ? / 5th

This week?s results: Amstel 4th; Flèche Wallonne 6th odds to win: 8.00

CW?s verdict: Good enough to be nailed on for the top ten. Good enough to win? We?re not convinced. His brain will get him into the right moves but there are faster, younger legs to contend with.

5 Kim Kirchen

Luxembourg / High Road

Past five years: 40th / 42nd / 19th / ? / 10th

This week?s results: Amstel 20th; Flèche Wallonne 1st odds to win: 12.00

CW?s verdict: Straight after winning Flèche Wallonne, Kirchen played down talk of doing the double in Liège. It?s a longer, more difficult race, he reasoned. He?s not wrong but he was being a little disingenuous about his own abilities. We can?t see him winning it, but he?ll be right there to the end.

6 Frank Schleck

Luxembourg / CSC

Past five years: ? / 77th / 63rd / 7th / 3rd

This week?s results: Amstel 2nd; Flèche Wallonne 78th odds to win: 8.00

CW?s verdict: We?re assuming Schleck was taking it easy, saving his legs for Liège, when he rolled round Flèche Wallonne and finished minutes down. Was good at Amstel Gold but needs to be super good here. He hasn?t shown that yet this year.

7 Paolo Bettini

Italy / Quick Step

Past five years: ? / 22nd / 4th / 2nd / 4th

This week?s results: Amstel ? Flèche Wallonne ? odds to win: 12.00

CW?s verdict: Looked a bit of a podgy pudding at Milan-San Remo. Didn?t ride the Tour of Flanders ? despite stating during the winter that it was a big target. Did the Tour of the Basque Country, crashed, cracked a rib, missed Amstel Gold and Flèche Wallonne. Rode the Giro del Trentino instead. Got through in steady style. Surely can?t be a major factor here, given the racing he?s had? But Quick Step are desperate for someone who can lead because Giovanni Visconti hasn?t stepped up yet, although Efimkin tried on Wednesday.

8 Thomas Dekker

Netherlands / Rabobank

Past five years: ? / ? / ? / 20th / 34th

This week?s results: Amstel 5th; Flèche Wallonne 5th odds to win: 14.00

CW?s verdict: There?s a glass ceiling above Dekker?s head, preventing him cracking into the top three. It?ll be the same story here, at best.

9 Joaquin Rodriguez

Spain / Caisse d?Epargne

Past five years: ? / 70th / 25th / 12th / 75th

This week?s results: Amstel 8th; Flèche Wallonne 8th odds to win: 22.00

CW?s verdict: Of all the team?s Second-In-Command, Caisse d?Epargne?s is the best. CSC have Kroon, Rabobank have Gesink, Gerolsteiner have Schumacher but none is going to win here. Rodriguez will back up Valverde but could even win it himself.

10 Christian Pfannberger

Austria / Barloworld

Past five years: ? / ? / ? / ? / ?

This week?s results: Amstel 6th; Flèche Wallonne 9th odds to win: 40.00

CW?s verdict: Form is a wonderful thing. Sixth at Amstel Gold put him on the radar, another great ride at Flèche Wallonne means we can?t ignore him any longer. If he does another top ten ride here, the big teams will be waving the chequebooks in his direction.


Karsten Kroon (CSC) ? it hasn?t been a great spring. Support for Schleck but can offer nothing more.

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) ? not the same man he was 12 months ago.

Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) ? does this guy run on Duracell batteries or something? It?s almost two months since he won Het Volk and he?s still trying to get in breaks and make things happen. Fair play to him, but he?s stretched himself so thin this spring.

Robert Gesink (Rabobank) ? the race is probably a bit too long for him to stay in contention to the end. Next year perhaps.

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) ? definitely has the stamina, as a battle-hardened Classics campaigner. Can cope with the climbs too, as long as it?s not way too aggressive. If there is a big group at the finish, and he?s in it, he could win it.

Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) ? deserves a prize for that gutsy effort on Wednesday. Could make the top ten but to do so would need to settle back into more conservative ways.

Maxime Montfort (Cofidis) ? local boy who showed his face at Flèche Wallonne. May do so again.

Jerome Pineau (Bouygues Telecom) ? outside bet for the top five after a superb week.


Steve Cummings and Chris Froome for Barloworld and David Millar for Slipstream are on the start sheet, as is Dan Martin, who rides for Ireland but is a former British junior champion. Ed Clancy is on the reserve list for Landbouwkrediet.