Both the Ardennes week and the Spring Classics as a whole come to an end this Sunday (April 27) with Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the oldest and one of the most prestigious of them all.
Following the hundredth edition of the Tour de France, Liege-Bastogne-Liege celebrates its own, comparatively low-key centenary this year. Nicknamed ‘La Doyenne’, the race is in fact the oldest in the World Tour having debuted back in 1892, but fell behind the Tour following a 13-year hiatus between 1895 and 1907.
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To mark the anniversary, the organisers have altered the route slightly to include some of the race’s most iconic climbs. Most notably, the Côte des Forges, which used to play a decisive part in the race’s outcome back in the 1980s, returns.
At 31.5kms from the finish, the Côte des Forges is the second of four major climbs that make up the race’s endgame.
Immediately preceding it, after a leg-sapping 216.5kms of racing, is the Côte de La Redoute, which features a difficult enough balance of length (2kms), gradient (8.8%) and proximity to the finish (44.5kms) to encourage attacks and show up anyone who is short on form.
Côte de la Roche aux Faucons is reinstated as the penultimate climb having been left out due to maintenance last year. Since its introduction in 2008, the steep slopes of the Roche aux Faucons (which average nearly 10%) have played a vital role in the race, and it was here that Andy Schleck launched his race-winning move in 2009.
Last up (excluding the small incline at the finish line) is the Côte de Saint-Nicolas which, at just 5.5kms from the finish, inevitably plays host to several last ditch attacks.
Its total of 10 summits isn’t nearly as many as the 34 of Amstel Gold, but the added difficulty and length of these climbs – as well as its longer distance – make this the most difficult of all the Ardennes classics, and probably the hardest classic on the calendar besides Paris-Roubaix.
The characteristics of these climbs mean that the race is not only contested by riders who have already shown form in Amstel Gold and Fleche Wallonne, but also by those more associated with grand tours. As such, Liege-Bastogne-Liege is one of the year’s most hotly contested classics, with riders of all shapes and attributes fancying their chances.
On one hand there are Grand Tour specialists who see it as their best chance of attaining a monument, while for puncheurs who specialise in the Ardennes classics, this is race most highly valued. The great and the good including Jacques Anquetil, Roger de Vlaeminck, Eddy Merckx (a record five times), Bernard Hinault (twice), Sean Kelly (twice) and Paolo Bettini (twice) have all won here; who will join the illustrious roll-call this year?
When: Sunday, April 27
Rank: UCI World Tour
Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2014: Climbs
70km – Côte de La Roche-en-Ardenne – 2.8 km, 6.2 %
123km – Côte de Saint-Roch – 1.0 km, 11 %
167km – Côte de Wanne – 2.7 km,7.3 %
173.5km– Côte de Stockeu (Stèle Eddy Merckx) – 1.0 km, 12.2 %
179km – Côte de la Haute-Levée – 3.6 km, 5.7 %
201km – Col de Vecquee – 3.1km, 6.9%
197.5km – Côte du Maquisard – 2.5 km, 5 %
218.5km – Côte de La Redoute – 2.0 km, 8.8 %
231.5km – Côte des Forges 0.7km, 9.2%
243.5km – Côte de la Rouche-aux-Faucons 1.5km, 9.9%
257.5km – Côte de Saint-Nicolas – 1.2 km, 8.6 %
Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2014: Teams
BMC Racing Team
Trek Factory Racing
Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2014: TV Guide
Liege-Bastogne-Liege will be shown live by digital and satellite channel British Eurosport
Sunday April 27, 13:00-16:00, Liege-Bastogne-Liege LIVE, British Eurosport
Sunday April 26, 17:00-18:00, Liege-Bastogne-Liege Highlights, British Eurosport
Liege-Bastogne-Liege: Recent Winners
2013: Dan Martin (Irl)
2012: Maxim Iglinsky (Kaz)
2011: Philippe Gilbert (Bel)
2010: Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz)
2009: Andy Schleck (Lux)
2008: Alejandro Valverde (Spa)
2007: Danilo Di Luca (Ita)
2006: Alejandro Valverde (Spa)
2005: Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz)
2004: Davide Rebellin (Ita)
2003: Tyler Hamilton (USA)
Liege-Bastogne-Liege: Last Year’s Top 10 (2013)
1. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Sharp in 6-38-07
2. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 3 secs
3. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 9 secs
4. Carlos Betancur (Col) Ag2r La Mondiale
5. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida at same time
6. Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Astana at 18 secs
7. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing
8. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp
9. Rui Costa (Por) Movistar
10. Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge at same time
We pick out the likely contenders for Sunday's Liege-Bastogne-Liege
19-year-old Matej Mohoric will face 262.9 kilometres of racing on Sunday as part of Cannondale's line-up
Tao Geoghegan Hart only second British rider to appear on under-23 Liege podium in race's history
Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2013: Daniel Martin comes out on top after Garmin-Sharp play out the perfect tactical race