In 2011 it was because of his outstanding shape and three wins in a row, while it this time is because he now finally seems to be back among the favorites again.
Last year he won Brabantse Pijl, Amstel Gold Race, Fleche Wallone before he took his career’s first Liege-Bastogne-Liege victory. This year Gilbert ended 12th in Brabantse Pijl, 6th in Amstel Gold Race and 3rd in Fleche Wallone. As Gilbert points out you can’t really divide 3 with 2 in the same way as mentioned above -that would be a 1,5 place. Not the win, but very close. Actually a pretty solid guess for how Liege-Bastogne-Liege will be for Gilbert tomorrow.
I have no doubts that he will be among the best riders, but does he and the BMC team really have what it takes to control the race, follow the attacks and then beat everyone in the final? Gilbert is the favorite, yes – but I think a certain Italian rider could end up surprising quite a few.
I have picked out Nibali as favorite a couple of times already this season (Tour of Oman, Milano-San Remo and Tirreno-Adriatico) and every time he has ended in the top3 (2nd in Oman, 3rd in MSR and 1st in Tirreno), so don’t be surprised if it continues in Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
A few days ago the Liquigas riders were out training on the course and on Cote de Saint-Nicolas, a great tactical place to attack in the final, Vincenzo Nibali opened up for all engines and rode full speed to test the legs. I won’t be surprised if he does that again tomorrow when it really counts. Looking at the profile of the race and given the condition Nibali has shown this year, he shouldn’t have any problems staying with the favorites and if he gets away in the final he will be very difficult to catch again!