Peter Sagan and Alejandro Valverde tipped for success
With the cobbled Classics behind us, attention now turns to the hillier races of the Ardennes Classics, a triptych of races in the south of Belgium and the Netherlands that see the one-day specialists take on the Grand Tour contenders.
The racing kicks off on Sunday, April 15 with the Amstel Gold Race, which features no fewer than 35 short, punchy climbs in the Dutch province of Limburg.
Sagan has never won this race, and neither has second-favourite Alejandro Valverde who is available at odds of 8/1 to go one better than the second place finishes he achieved in 2013 and 2015.
Former winners Philippe Gilbert and Michal Kwiatkowski are also fancied with odds of around 10/1 and 9/1 respectively, while Tim Wellens has enjoyed an excellent start to the season and is also tipped for success.
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As for La Flèche Wallonne, there is no surprise who the bookies are backing for victory, with five-time winner Valverde being the odds-on favourite to pick up a sixth victory.
Last year’s runner-up Dan Martin, third-placed finisher Dylan Teuns, and 2016 runner-up Julian Alaphilippe are picked out by the bookies as the most likely riders to end Valverde’s winning run atop the Mur de Huy, while Primož Roglič is sitting at around 14/1 after his recent victory in the Tour of the Basque Country.
The Ardennes Classics come to a close at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, which is typically the least predictable of the three races and is a stage where the GC contenders can really come to the fore.
Unsurprisingly it is again Valverde who is the favourite for victory, although at odds of 7/4, making him not as strong a favourite as he is for La Flèche Wallonne.
Behind Valverde come a large number of high-class riders, including Julian Alaphilippe (6/1), Michal Kwiatkowski (11/1), Vincenzo Nibali (16/1), Dylan Teuns (20/1), and Philippe Gilbert (20/1), all of whom are more than capable of taking victory in La Doyenne.