Five things we learned from Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2023

The curtain has come down on the Spring Classics. Here are our takeaways from the final instalment

Demi Vollering wins Liege 2023
(Image credit: Getty)

On Sunday, Remco Evenepoel and Demi Vollering took the spoils in the final race of the spring block, Liège-Bastogne-Liège

There, in the industrial heartlands of Belgium, rain fell on the peloton. Some wondered if the world champion might have regretted his choice of white bib shorts, but, even water-soaked, they made for a powerful image as he crossed the line solo. 

Fashion critique aside, here are five things we learned from the day's racing.  

Tadej Pogačar is fallible

Tadej Pogačar

(Image credit: Getty)

Tadej Pogačar, despite suspicions otherwise, is human after all. The two-time Tour de France champion fractured his wrist in the early stages of the race, following a  crash with EF Education-EasyPost’s Mikkel Honoré. 

Interestingly, it was the first time Pogačar has had to abandon a race due to a crash since joining UAE Team Emirates in 2019. Previous DNFs, of which there are few across his results, have been due to fatigue or illness. 

Pogačar’s crash in Liège sadly meant that his string of victories, and the possibility of an Ardennes triple, came to an abrupt end on Sunday. He’s now expected to be sidelined for the next four to six weeks, before returning to the Tour of Slovenia, his home race, which he has won the past two years' editions. 

Demi Vollering is indomitable

Demi Vollering after Liege 2023

(Image credit: Getty)

SD Worx rider Demi Vollering has been the standout performer in the Spring Classics this season, with five wins already to her name. 

Her victory in Liège, where she outkicked Elisa Longo Borghini to the line, crowned a historic Ardennes triple, making her the first rider to complete the feat since her team sports director Anna van der Breggen did so in 2017. 

When Vollering bridged across to the front of the race with 11km to go, everything looked true to the script. Longo Borghini did her best to topple the SD Worx leader, but with Vollering’s current form and confidence, second was the best the Italian could manage. 

Much of the discussion at the start of the season surrounded the Dutchwoman's team-mates Lotte Kopecky and Lorena Wiebes, and how the two might dominate the flatter events. Yet, as spring comes to a close, it's Vollering who has so far shone the brightest at SD Worx. 

EF have a real talent in Ben Healy

Ben Healy at Liege

(Image credit: Getty)

If Vollering was spring's standout performer, then Irishman Ben Healy was the surprise package. It’s a credit to the way the 22-year-old is racing that he was listed alongside Remco Evenepoel and Pogačar as one of the pre-race favourites for Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and telling that he was disappointed with fourth place. 

Still, he said: “If you had told me two weeks ago, I would’ve bitten your hand off for it." 

After Evenepoel and Tom Pidcock broke free over the Côte de La Redoute, Healy kept the faith, “dieseled away” and attacked his way into the chasing group. He’d later pay for his efforts, lacking the punch to compete in the sprint for the podium. 

A first-year WorldTour pro with EF Education-EasyPost, Healy’s next race will be the Giro d’Italia, where he’ll make his Grand Tour debut. Many are tipping him as a contender for stage wins. The Irishman, too, will fancy his chances. 

Elisa Longo Borghini is back to her best

Elisa Longo Borghini walking onto the podium at Liege 2023, where she finished second

(Image credit: Getty)

Longo Borghini’s early-season campaign was thrown into doubt when she tested positive for Covid after the Tour of Flanders. Struck down by illness, she was bed-ridden for 10 days, and forced to sit out her home Classics: Trofeo Alfredo Binda and Strade Bianche. 

The Italian returned to action at Paris-Roubaix, hoping to defend her 2022 title, but came down in a heavy crash on the cobbles and rode home for 21st place. Similar results came at Amstel Gold and Flèche Wallonne, but top 10s eluded her.  

Sunday's Liège-Bastogne-Liège, however, marked a turning point for the Trek-Segafredo rider. She rode aggressively, as she has always liked to, and narrowly missed out on glory in a two-up finish with Vollering. With the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift fast approaching, Longo Borghini is quickly returning to form. 

TV coverage disappoints

Remco Evenpoel rides behind a tv motorbike at Liege bastogne Liege

(Image credit: Getty)

For a race of the historic calibre of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, it was disappointing to see limited coverage of both the women’s and men’s races. Viewers were left in the dark for the first 100km of each event, missing the formation of the breakaway in the women’s race, and Pogačar’s critical crash in the men’s. 

Broadcasters, of course, can only show the footage they are given by the hosts. Ahead of the men’s race, organisers ASO chose to show pre-race interviews, social media clippings and an EF Education-EasyPost team briefing rather than cutting straight to the live coverage. 

Commentator Ned Boulting summed up the wait for live coverage with a witty comparison on Twitter. Referring to the women’s race, of which viewers only saw the final 46km, he wrote: “Welcome to the last 10 minutes of the FA Cup final. But first, here’s how the two teams made it to Wembley.”

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Tom Davidson
News and Features Writer

Tom joined Cycling Weekly as a news and features writer in the summer of 2022, having previously contributed as a freelancer. He is the host of The TT Podcast, which covers both the men's and women's pelotons and has featured a number of prominent British riders. 

An enthusiastic cyclist himself, Tom likes it most when the road goes uphill and actively seeks out double-figure gradients on his rides. 

He's also fluent in French and Spanish and holds a master's degree in International Journalism.