Liège-Bastogne-Liège closes out the Spring Classics. It also comes as the last race in a micro-season known as the Ardennes Classics, which consists of three race: Flèche Wallonne, the Amstel Gold Race, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Of the three, Liège is the hardest, over 250km in length and with as much climbing as a hard Tour de France mountain stage. A worthy end to the spring season.
The course has changed for 2019.
The final three climbs of the 2019 edition of the race are the Cote de la Redoute (2km at 8.9%), the Cote des Forges (1.3km at 7.8%) and the Cote de la Roche-aux-Faucons (1.3km at 11%). Cote de Saint-Nicolas is out, and there’s no uphill finish at Ans. Instead, the finish has been moved to Liege.
The final climb peaks 12km from the finish line. From there riders will cover 5km of flat road, a 3km descent, and four more kilometers of flat road. This change to the route could drastically change the outcome of the race.
The Liège-Bastogne-Liège course is 256km long.
Riders will set out from Liege, head south to Bastogne, then head back north towards the finish in Liege. Getting to Bastogne is relatively easy, it’s a 102.5 kilometer trip with just one designated climb. From there things get pretty rough.
There are a total of 11 categorized climbs.
That’s right, after riding all the way to Bastogne, riders get to turn around and power over 10 categorized climbs. Nine of the 11 climbs come in the last 100km. Tired legs, meet a very hard and hilly conclusion to the Spring Classics season.
The climbs are all relatively short, none of them are more than 5km long and most are under two. But they are punchy and they add up, all told riders will have to get over 4,000m of climbing.
A Little Background
This is the 105th edition of the Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
The Liege-Bastogne-Liege was first run in 1892. Dubbed “La Doyenne” (The Old Lady) it is the oldest of cycling’s five Monuments. Usually coming as the last of the spring classics, it is held annually in late April. It is considered one of the most arduous one-day cycling events in the world because of its length and demanding course.
In 2017, a women’s version of Liège–Bastogne–Liège was inaugurated and added to the UCI Women’s World Tour.
Eddy Merckx has the most wins with five. Valverde has four.
Merckx won ‘La Doyenne’ in 1969, 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1975. Next on the list is Moreno Argentin with four. And tied for the second spot is current world champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). Valverde won the race in 2006, 2008, 2015 and 2017. Could he pull off number five?
The Race & Who to Watch
Liege-Bastogne-Liege brings all the Grand Tour contenders to the yard.
The Spring Classics don’t see a lot of Grand Tour contender love. Liege-Bastogne-Liege, however, is an outlier. For 2019, we’ll see Nairo Quintana, Vincenzo Nibali, Enric Mas, Tom Dumoulin, Romain Bardet, Adam Yates and Geraint Thomas on course. None of them are favorites, but the big boys will be out warming up their legs.
You Won’t See Mathieu van der Poel.
If his team were invited, he’d be an easy favorite for the race. His Amstel Gold win was nothing short of stunning, but lo and behold he won’t be there Sunday.
Julian Alaphilippe has the form.
Milan-San Remo, Strade Bianche, Fleche Wallonne just this Wednesday. All told he has eight wins for the year already. The Frenchman has the form, another win Sunday would hardly be surprising.
Jungels could defend.
Defending champion Bob Jungels has also had a pretty strong spring. Last year he attacked with 18km to go to the finish.
Jakob Fuglsang stops playing second fiddle.
Second at Strade Bianche (behind Alaphilippe), third at Amstel Gold Race (behind Alaphilippe), second at Fleche Wallonne (behind Alaphilippe). That’s a lot of near misses. All behind one guy.
He is clearly strong enough to be in position Sunday, but he’ll have to find a way to separate himself from Alaphilippe.
Alejandro Valverde looks for five.
39-year-old Valverde won four times at Ans. Can he win with the new run in to the finish? Maybe, his form hasn’t been 100% so far this year, but I wouldn’t put a revival past him.
How to Watch
NBC Sports Gold will have coverage in the US. Eurosport will serve up the race to most everyone else.