The spring classics season draws to a close on Sunday with the 101st edition of Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the oldest and most prestigious of the Ardennes classics and one of the five monuments.
- This race favours the mountain goats as the climbs are steep and longer than those of the preceding two Ardennes classics.
- This year’s route is 10km shorter but the remaining undulating 253km will still ensure everyone’s legs are throbbing with pain by the time they reach those final climbs.
- It’s usually an exciting race as it throws up a variety of different scenarios each year. The first 200km will be a war of attrition starting with the trio of Wanne, Stockeu and Haut Levee climbs followed by further weeding out over the punchy Col du Rosier and the shorter Col du Maquisard.
- It’s likely a much smaller group of riders will reach the famous La Redoute, the most difficult of the final three climbs, with 35km to go, which may provoke even more attacks. Equally, the leading contenders may keep their powder dry for the Rouche-aux-Faucons (19km from the finish) and the Saint Nicolas (5km from the line).
- The finish in Ans is uphill, but nowhere near as steep as the Cauberg or Mur de Huy, which typically means riders make their move beforehand, with the notable exception of last year.
Riders to watch
Outsiders rarely win here. So who do we think might be in at the kill? Four previous winners are taking part, but last year’s champion Simon Gerrans is still recovering from an early season blighted by broken bones while 2011 victor Philippe Gilbert fell on Wednesday and doesn’t rate his chances as he’s riding with 50% of his usual power output. So my four to watch are:
Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin): The 2013 winner fell in the final straight last year and missed out on a podium place. He looks to be coming into form with two top-four finishes in the Volta a Catalunya and was in contention in the Amstel finale.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar): The undulating parcours suits the man in red-hot form (and the winner in 2006 and 2008) – to a ‘t’. He’s won five times already this season and may well do so again on Sunday after his mid-week win in Fleche Wallonne and runner-up spot in the Amstel Gold Race.
Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-Quick Step): The Amstel Gold winner dispelled the myth of the curse of the rainbow jersey and will be looking to add to his haul on a course which plays to his strengths.
Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida): The 2013 world champion was fourth at Amstel – a precursor for victory this Sunday?
Watch out also for Pierre Rolland, Domenico Pozzovivo or Vincenzo Nibali, who was both visible and strong in Fleche Wallonne, and this race suits him even better. We’ll have to wait and see what happens. Sunday is sure to be an absorbing contest.
Link: Official race website
Header image: Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2014 podium (P Perreve/ASO)