With last year’s breakthrough star Benoît Cosnefroy lacking form and Bob Jungels missing the campaign due to a head injury, Ag2r Citroën will be disappointed with how their week went. Greg van Avermaet put in some spirited attacks and Aurelien Paret-Peintre rode solidly, but they failed to register a top fifteen finish.
Astana Premier Tech 3/10
Now 36 years old, Jakob Fuglsang’s spell as a top-rate Ardennes Classics contender may be coming to an end. He wasn’t too far from making the final selection at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but didn’t quite have the legs on Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons and had to settle for twelfth; the team’s best finish aside from the ever-consistent Alex Aranburu’s eleventh at Amstel Gold.
Bahrain Victorious 6/10
As is often the case with Bahrain-Victorious, the team had lots of solid performers providing plenty of strength-in-depth, but no one star to rally behind. Sonny Colbrelli, Jack Haig, Mark Padun, Wout Poels and Dylan Teuns all made an impression with either notable attacks or reasonably high finishes, but Matej Mohorič was their best performer with top tens at both Amstel Gold and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
Esteban Chaves and Michael Matthews made for a complimentary pairing, with the latter attacking on the climbs and the former holding out for sprints. While it was delightful to watch a rejuvenated Chaves perform well, Matthews must be growing increasingly frustrated by his long run without a major Classic win — although fourth at Amstel Gold should be recognised as a good result for him.
After making such a great start at Amstel Gold, where Max Schachmann finished third following a strong attack earlier from youngster Ide Schelling, Bora-Hansgrohe might have hoped for more from the following two Ardennes Classics. But Schachmann continues to show what a great talent he is, by being the only man able to go with Wout van Aert and Tom Pidcock at Amstel Gold.
Where would Cofidis be without Guillaume Martin? The Frenchman has for a couple of years now been the team’s standout performer and rode consistently to register two sixteenth-place and one fifteenth-place finish. Not exactly earth-shattering, but decent for a team struggling at the bottom of the WorldTour.
Deceuninck – Quick-Step 9/10
Julian Alaphilippe put together the best run-on Ardennes Classics results of his career so far, the highlight being a third career victory at Flèche-Wallonne. He was again oh-so-close to landing the one he really wants, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but unlike last year won’t have to lament his own folly. Elsewhere in the team, 21-year-old Mauri Vansevenant looks set to become a star.
Without their departed star Marc Hirschi, DSM were nowhere near as prominent as they were at last year’s Ardennes Classics. Tiesj Benoot rode well at Liège-Bastogne-Liège though to finish seventh, while the team’s emphasis on young talent continues to bear fruit as German Marco Brenner finished 24th at Flèche Wallonne at the tender age of eighteen.
EF Education-Nippo 2/10
A team that once starred in the Ardennes Classics with the likes of Dan Martin and Michael Woods is no longer built for such races. Sergio Higuita tried admirably but is better suited to longer and bigger climbs, while the form that saw Michael Valgren win Amstel Gold back in 2018 continues to elude him.
Third place at Liège-Bastogne-Liège made David Gaudu the revelation of the week. Although we’ve known about the 24-year-old’s talent for a while now, and was clearly in form having taken seventh at Fleche-Wallonne, he was nevertheless the surprise man in the final selection at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He could be a top contender in the Ardennes Classics for years to come.
Ineos Grenadiers 7/10
What a rollercoaster week this was for Ineos Grenadiers. First, Pidcock’s Amstel Gold runner-up finish in one of the closest-ever photo finishes; then the disappointment at seeing him crash at Flèche-Wallonne, then missing Liège-Bastogne-Liège; before finally the excitement at tearing the race up on La Redoute at Liège, only for all their riders to fade away in the finale.
Although their performance in the latter suggests they still haven’t cracked the formula for distributing their efforts in the Classics the same way they have for Grand Tours, they can still be pleased with being one of the week’s main protagonists, and Pidcock was really impressive.
Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Materiaux 5/10
Rising to WorldTour level has proven to be a very difficult experience for this Belgian team, but they made the most of their limited resources to concentrate on animating breakaways in the Ardennes. Loic Vliegen was their star, getting into the day’s break in all three races, and being the last man to survive from them at both Amstel Gold and Liege-Bastogne-Liege — a sterling effort that resulted in him brought to a standstill by cramp in the latter.
Israel Start-Up Nation 7/10
Although star puncheur Dan Martin chose not to ride the Ardennes Classics for the first time in his career, Michael Woods stepped up to deliver what was arguably the best Ardennes campaign of his career. The Canadian sprinted for fourth on the Mur de Huy and was the first rider to the top of Côte de la Roche-Aux-Faucons at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but needed more of a gap in order not to succumb to the others’ superior sprints.
Furthering Jumbo-Visma’s case to now be considered the best team in the world across all disciplines, Wout van Aert added Amstel Gold to his ever-growing palmarès, while Primož Roglič almost held on to win Flèche Wallonne. Roglič’s lack of legs at Liège-Bastogne-Liège was the only disappointment.
This Ardennes week drew a sharp contrast to ten years ago, when Philippe Gilbert became only the second man in history to win all three races. This year, Gilbert was hampered by a crash suffered in training, while co-leader Tim Wellens produced the kind of early attacks that indicated he didn’t back himself to match the favourites on the key climbs.
There’s just no stopping Alejandro Valverde, who achieved three top-five finishes in what was his best Ardennes campaign since 2017. He’d have dearly liked what would have been a record-equalling fifth Liège-Bastogne-Liège victory on his 41st birthday, but Movistar will be grateful that their stalwart continues to deliver while the rest of the squad struggles.
Unfortunately, Qhubeka-Assos did little of note this week. Simon Clarke was part of a promising escape group that went clear early on at Amstel Gold, but apart from that, we saw little of their white jerseys.
The absence of Giulio Ciccone and the injured Vincenzo Nibali meant that of the three Trek-Segafredo riders who impressed so much in the Italian Classics last summer, only Bauke Mollema was present. The Dutchman did pretty well, finishing eighth at Liège-Bastogne-Liège and eleventh at Flèche Wallonne, but the team could have used more cards to play.
UAE Team Emirates 9/10
After the frustration of missing out at Flèche Wallonne due to a Covid positive, UAE Team Emirates returned with a vengeance at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, where Davide Formolo and Marc Hirschi rode superbly on the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons, and helped set Tadej Pogačar up the victory. That the victory was such a team effort was a promising sign that the team is beginning to provide the support a rider of Pogačar’s stature demands.