The spring classics season comes to a close this Sunday with the oldest of them all, Liege-Bastogne-Liege. La Doyenne is always one of the highlights of the season, staging as it does a battleground where puncheurs and climbers race head to head.
Whereas the preceding Ardennes classics Amstel Gold and Fleche Wallonne are ideally suited to riders with strong uphill sprints (at least, until Amstel Gold’s route change), the longer and more challenging nature of Liege’s climbs tend to force more of a selection.
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This year the race is wide open, with no single rider stamping his authority in the Ardennes as Philippe Gilbert did in 2011, and Amstel Gold and Fleche Wallonne throwing up surprise winners earlier this week, while the removal of the important Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons climb due to road works increases the chances of a large leading group making it to the finish.
As both a monument and the last classic of spring, Liege will be especially hard-fought as teams look for a win that would salvage hitherto fruitless campaigns. Team Sky, for instance, will reassess the success of their classics season if one of Chris Froome, Sergio Henao, Rigoberto Uran or Richie Porte crosses the line first on Sunday.
Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2013: The contenders
Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing)
Notwithstanding his mistimed ascent up the Mur de Huy in Wednesday’s Fleche Wallonne, Gilbert has grown stronger in recent weeks and will seek to claim his first win as world champion and replicate his 2011 triumph.
Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)
Rodriguez’s crash at Amstel Gold has hindered the Spaniard’s Ardennes campaign, but a second monument victory following last year’s Tour of Lombardy triumph looks on the cards if he can recover. If not, teammate and Wednesday’s winner Daniel Moreno will be ready to step up.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
Two-time Liege winner Valverde hasn’t won a major classic since returning from a doping ban, but has shown form this spring. With the prodigiously talented Colombian climber Nairo Quintana also set to ride, Movistar will line-up as one of the strongest teams.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)
Nibali will be looking to make amends for last year’s agonising second place, where Kazakh Maxim Iglinsky passed him in the closing stages for victory, and incidentally the two will be riding together for Astana this time round. Expect the Italian to enliven the race with ambitious attacks.
Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp)
Without a major classic to his name Martin is an outside bet, but has shown excellent form this year in placing fourth in the Fleche Wallonne and winning the Tour of Catalonia thanks to the kind of audacious move that could pay-off on Sunday. Can he become the first Irishman since Sean Kelly to win a monument?
Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2013: The climbs
Start: 0km – Liege
Km 70.0 – Côte de La Roche-en-Ardenne – 2.8 km climb to 6.2 %
Km 116.5 – Côte de Saint-Roch – 1.0 km climb to 11 %
Km 160.0 – Côte de Wanne – 2.7 km climb to 7.3 %
Km 166.5 – Côte de Stockeu (Stèle Eddy Merckx) – 1.0 km climb to 12.2 %
Km 172.5 – Côte de la Haute-Levée – 3.6 km climb to 5.7 %
Km 185.0 – Col du Rosier – 4.4 km climb to 5.9 %
Km 197.5 – Côte du Maquisard – 2.5 km climb to 5 %
Km 208.0 – Mont-Theux – 2.7 km climb to 5.9 %
Km 223.0 – Côte de La Redoute – 2.0 km climb to 8.8 %
Km 244.5 – Côte de Colonster – 2.4 km climb to 6 %
Km 256.0 – Côte de Saint-Nicolas – 1.2 km climb to 8.6 %
Finish: 257.5km – Ans
Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2013: Teams
Ag2r La Mondiale
Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2013: TV guide
Digital channel British Eurosport will be showing live coverage of Liege-Bastogne-Liege with British Eurosport and ITV4 showing edited highlights.
Sunday April 21, 13:15-16:00, LIVE Liege-Bastogne-Liege, British Eurosport
Sunday April 21, 22:30-23:30, Liege-Bastogne-Liege highlights, British Eurosport 2
Sunday April 21, 21:00-22:00, Liege-Bastogne-Liege highlights, ITV4
Maxim Iglinsky (centre) won the race in 2012
Liege-Bastogne-Liege: Recent winners
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)
2002 Paolo Bettini (Ita)
Liege-Bastogne-Liege: Last Year’s Top 10 (2012)
1. Maxim Iglinsky (Kaz) Astana in 6-43-52
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale at 21 secs
3. Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Astana at 36 secs
4. Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Europcar
5. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Barracuda
6. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank
7. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
8. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-ISD
9. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Barracuda
10. Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto-Belisol at same time