The key info:
Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) are ready for their final battle of the Spring with the 105th edition of La Doyenne but most of the peloton hints the new finale designed in Liège will open the race.
“It will be a different race”, the two-time winner of Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes and hot favorite Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) anticipates, with the new finish and challenging weather conditions.
Stage-race experts such as Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) or Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) are also ready to get in the mix and challenge the usual contenders.
A NEW FINALE FOR LA DOYENNE
The changes brought on a Monument always come along with heated debates. It’s true for cathedrals, and also for iconic races like Liège-Bastogne-Liège whose finale has been revamped this year. The new finish line is set in the heart of the city, and as a consequence there are now 15 kilometres after the last climb. Most riders share the opinion expressed by the four-time winner of La Doyenne Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team): “The race will open up earlier, with attacks in the Côte de la Redoute and even before, in the sequence Wanne -Stockeu – Haute Levée”. This perspective delights Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal): “I think the sequence Wanne – Stockeu – Haute-Levée will impact the race a lot and I absolutely don’t believe in a sprint finish.” Different kind of rider, different views for Nathan Haas (Katusha Alpecin): “If I can be up front after the last climb, then I can have a sprint. At La Flèche, I had to try and anticipate before the Mur de Huy… Here, it’s Alaphilippe who needs to drop me before the finale!” Finally, the young Maximilian Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), 5th in the Amstel Gold Race and La Flèche Wallonne, hinted that “the race may open earlier but the favorites remain the same, they’re the ones who’ll have enough strength to hold on in the climbs.”
ALAF-FUGLSANG: THEIR FINAL DUEL OF THE SPRING
Strade Bianche, Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne… And now La Doyenne? Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) have been battling it out on the classics this Spring and Liège-Bastogne-Liège offers them a final chance to settle things in this campaign. “It’s a dream race for me, one of the hardest, with a long history… It can only be beautiful to win here”, the Frenchman said on Saturday. “In the end there’s no secret, it will only be strong riders at the front and I hope to be up there. Jakob is very strong and I’ll have to fight hard to stay with him in the climbs.” Alaphilippe finished 2nd in Liège in 2015 and 4th last year. Fuglsang’s best result was 9th in 2015. But “I’ve probably never been that strong for Liège”, the Danish star said. “I’ve never actually had a big result here and I’m hoping to change it tomorrow. I feel super and the whole start of the season has been great for me.”
VAN DER BREGGEN: “IT WILL BE A DIFFERENT RACE”
Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) can only be viewed as the hot favorite for the 3rd edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes: she won the first two editions and claimed this Wednesday a historic 5th victory in a row on the Flèche Wallonne. “I’m excited”, the Dutch star said on Saturday. “It’s a beautiful race. The weather doesn’t look that good so I think it will be a different race than other editions, also with the new finish. I feel really good now so it’s always nice to have this kind of race in the right moment, when you have the best condition. I think the previous route suited me better but it’s good to have something different for us and for the fans.” The women’s peloton will start from Bastogne at 10:55 and will face five climbs over 138.5 kilometres of demanding racing.
DUMOULIN, NIBALI, YATES… GC GUYS GET IN THE MIX
Liège-Bastogne-Liège is a unique kind of race, and it shows on the startlist with Grand Tour winners like Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) taking on the challenge against the classics experts. “I hope to win! But I don’t think that’s realistic, I only came back from an altitude camp two days ago”, Dumoulin said. “I’m here with the Giro in my mind but I hope to do well in Liège.” Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), mostly known for his GC abilities (4th in the 2016 Tour de France) but also a winner of La Clasica San Sebastian, hopes to shine despite his crash on Wednesday: “I’m a little bit banged up but I managed not to break anything. The condition is there, I just need a bit of better luck. It’s a hard long race, with a lot of climbing. We’ll see what happens in the finale but I think it’s a good race for me and I hope to have good legs like I’ve had in the past couple of months.” As for Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), he is set to arrive in Liège Saturday afternoon, after finishing 3rd of the Tour of the Alps on Friday.
BARDET: “I’M FEELING MORE LIKE AN UNDERDOG”
Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) displayed his usual enthusiasm as he lines up for his seventh participation in his “favorite one-day race”. After finishing 3rd last year in Ans, the French climber wants to see what he can do with the new route: “It might change the way many riders race, we’ll have to pay more attention earlier in the race. Right now, nobody knows how and where things will play out, it’s only the first year with these changes. Myself, I’m feeling more like an underdog, because my condition is a bit uncertain.”