La Doyenne, the old lady of the Monuments... and probably the most reliably great race of the year. No one race will always be the most exciting day each year, but Liège-Bastogne-Liège is consistently among the very best, and this year promises to be no exception.
Sure, riders -- not history or hills -- are what make a race, but Liège-Bastogne-Liège is the sole Monument favoring the climbing class, who double as (most of) the sport's greatest luminaries. So as much if not more so than even fellow April Monuments Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders, Liège-Bastogne-Liège will always be a top priority of Cycling's modern legends. One look at the list of podium finishers will tell you that la Doyenne does not favor anyone but the true favorites.
Its origin in 1892 makes it four years older than Paris-Roubaix, and just as distinctive. The Parcours is a model out-and-back course which chooses the mellow route to Bastogne and the hellish route coming back. No convoluted circuits, no repeated climbs, and not many changes from year to year... besides the move of the finish to Ans in the suburbs of Liège.
After a comfy 95km ride to Bastogne, the race hits the many Côtes, or "coasts," a reference to how much fun it is to sled down these slopes in winter. The list of Côtes:
- Km 57.5, Côte de Ny (1.8 km, 5.7%)
- Km 83, Côte de la Roche-en-Ardenne (2.8 km, 4.9%)
- Km 129, Côte de Saint Roch (0.9 km, 12%)
- Km 173, Côte de Wanne (3.1 km, 6.1%)
- Km 179.5, Côte de Stockeu (1.1 km, 10.5%)
- Km 185, Côte de la Haute-Levée (3.4 km, 6%)
- Km 197.5, Côte du Rosier (4.0 km, 5.9%)
- Km 210, Côte de la Vecquée (3.1 km, 5.9%)
- Km 227.5, Côte de la Redoute (2.1 km, 8.4%)
- Km 233, Côte de Sprimont (1.4 km, 4.7%)
- Km 248, Côte du Sart-Tilman - Tilff (3.6 km, 5.3%)
- Km 256.5, Côte de Saint-Nicolas (1.0 km, 11.1%)
Now, twelve climbs is far fewer than Amstel Gold (31), the Tour of Flanders (19), and on par with E3 Prijs. But what makes Liège-Bastogne-Liège the legend it is is quality, not quantity: six climbs in excess of 3km... a distance topped by only one climb at Fleche Wallonne and IIRC none of Amstel's rapid-fire hills. Many of L-B-L's climbs include long sections of double-digit grades as well, meaning that at last we should be able to stop including Oscar Freire among the favorites.
The race is another ASO acquisition, so go there for your official website. Wikipedia has the usual writeup, and Cycling News is first to put out a generic preview. Pez, meanwhile, is out on the course testing half the hills in today's article and the closing climbs tomorrow.
The forecast takes on greater significance than usual, as it calls for continued unseasonably hot weather (77 degrees)... but maybe showers on Sunday, which would restore some normalcy. OTOH, the favorites are predominantly Italians and Spaniards, so the sun won't scuttle the peloton like it did at Paris-Roubaix.
Coverage on Cycling.TV starts allegedly at 4:45am Pacific/7:45 Eastern, and if you are even remotely familiar with this site, you know we'll be live then. Enjoy!