Liège–Bastogne–Liège, cycling’s oldest Monument, is ready for another episode, its 102nd, which is due to take place on Sunday, April 24th, on a course regarded by many as one of the toughest in recent memory.
First held in 1892, the 253-km long “La Doyenne” will start from Liège and will see the riders travel to Bastogne, before hitting its second section, a more nuanced and extremely difficult one, as it includes a total of ten categorized climbs. The race is expected to turn nervous on Côte de Wanne, which precedes Côte de la Haute-Levée (3.6 km-long, 5.6%), but it won’t be only until the emblematic Côte de La Redoute that the real action will begin.
After taking a second place in his Fleche and Liege debuts last season, Julian Alaphilippe is hoping to go a step higher on the podium tomorrow.
The Frenchman’s fans weren’t sure of his form ahead of the Ardennes as he was only coming back to racing after mononucleosis. But he was amazing in helping Petr Vakoc win Brabantse Pijl before taking sixth and second in Amstel and Fleche.
“Liège will be a very different race, much longer and harder with a very different finale and very different weather, too. We haven’t really decided on what the tactics will be though, we’ll decide closer to the time,” the 23 year old Frenchman told Cyclingnews when asked about Etixx-QuickStep’s tactics with himself and Dan Martin. “What’s clear is we can’t base our entire race around Valverde. I want to give the best of myself without thinking too much about his strategy.”
Alaphilippe hasn’t ruled out attacking early, but is likely to leave that to Martin as the Frenchman has a superior sprint, especially at the end of a long day.
He says he is enjoying having Martin on the team as a co-leaders, saying he gets on very well with the 2013 Liege winner.
“Dan has a very similar range of talents to me, he’s a punchy attacker like me, but he can make a sustained effort when he’s racing in a way that I can’t, and which may well work better in Liège. So we’ll just try to get the best result possible for the team.”
Alaphilippe isn’t keen on the predicted weather for Sunday, but says his skills as a former cyclocrosser may help him stay upright and expend less energy.
“I dont’ think anybody likes the idea of racing when it’s five degrees above freezing and snowing, even if it is Liège-Bastogne-Liège.” When it was pointed out that it would not be so bad for him because he was a former cyclo-cross rider and out in all kinds of unfavorable weather, he retorted somewhat tartly that “yes, but a cyclo-cross race lasts one hour, not five like Liège. There’s no comparison.”
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