Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the oldest Monument of all of them, returns on Sunday to conclude the spring Classics season with its 108th version and the fourth since La Doyenne deserted the hilltop end in Ans for a flat run within the metropolis centre.
The previous two editions of the race have seen the end contested by an elite five-man group, two dramatic sprints to the road after over six-and-a-half-hours of racing. Final yr’s high two finishers, Tadej Pogačar (UAE Crew Emirates) and Julian Alaphilippe (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl), return to headline the 2022 race, whereas Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) strains up for his race debut to finish a triumvirate of superstars heading up the beginning listing.
257 kilometres of near-non-stop climbing and hills lie between them and glory because the riders head south by way of the Ardennes to Bastogne earlier than turning again round to face an much more difficult run again to Liège.
Climbs such because the Côte de Saint-Roch (1km at 9.9 per cent), Côte de Wanne (3.5km at 5 per cent), Côte de Stockeu (1km at 12.8 per cent), Col du Rosier (4.4km at 5.7 per cent), Côte de La Redoute (2km at 8.6 per cent) are all packed into the second half of the race, although with the final of them coming 30km from the road, it is more likely to be the ultimate one-two punch that proves decisive.
The Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons (1.3km at 10.5 per cent) and Boncelles (1.2km at 6.3 per cent) are available fast succession at 13km and 10km to go. In every of the three editions because the route change, the Roche-aux-Faucons has offered the launchpad for the successful transfer, from Jakob Fuglsang’s solo in 2019 to Alaphilippe and Michael Woods forcing the decisive splits that introduced a small group dwelling within the final two editions.
With 4.500 metres of elevation, the toughness of the route could be in comparison with a Grand Tour stage (the most important day of the 2022 Tour de France, stage 11, options 4,692 metres of climbing), solely unfold throughout an infinite succession of quick climbs. Which means that solely the strongest prevail on the finish, and why the trio of Pogačar, Alaphilippe, and Van Aert are the highest males to look at on Sunday.
Pogačar is the main identify on the beginning listing, having gained the race in that small group final yr, and having began his 2022 season as a successful machine. His seven victories rank greater than any sprinter to this point, although he hasn’t taken one since Tirreno-Adriatico final month.
On the Mur de Huy on Wednesday, he was among the many strongest earlier than fading because the gradients bit, however his twelfth place at La Flèche Wallonne isn’t any indication of a fade in kind forward of Sunday, he reassured the press afterwards.
Alaphilippe fared higher in Huy, although his fourth place may nonetheless be seen as one thing of a disappointment, provided that he had gained the previous three editions – 2018, 2019, and 2021 – that he had began.
The world champion will as soon as once more be tasked with saving QuickStep’s spring on Sunday, with the workforce not stepped on a Classics podium since Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. A fifth place in 2020 (after he had celebrated first, completed second, after which been relegated) and second final yr exhibits he has mastered this new course and figures to be proper up there as soon as extra.
For Van Aert, plainly something is feasible following his second place at Paris-Roubaix. The race marked his return from a Covid-19 an infection and no racing in over two weeks. The all-rounder hasn’t taken on the problem of Liège earlier than, however as with the 2 superstars listed above, he has proven again and again that he can grasp any terrain put earlier than him.
Marc Hirschi, Marc Soler (UAE Crew Emirates), Remco Evenepoel, Mauri Vansevenant (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl), Tiesj Benoot, Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) make up a bunch of top-quality assist squads for the large trio, with a number of of these riders – Hirschi, Evenepoel, and Benoot specifically – respectable bets to make an affect very late into the race and even the ultimate.
The workforce of the spring, Ineos Grenadiers, include Amstel Gold Race winner Michał Kwiatkowski heading up a powerful choice of riders. The squad will look to utilise power in numbers with Geraint Thomas, Dani Martínez (fifth at Flèche), Carlos Rodríguez, and Tom Pidcock. The massive query mark, nonetheless, lies with the latter, who surprisingly deserted midweek after being dropped from the peloton on the primary of the three circuits over the Mur de Huy.
Bahrain Victorious are one other super-team lining up in Liège, boasting Flèche winner Dylan Teuns, Milan-San Remo champion Matej Mohorič, and 2016 Liège winner Wout Poels amongst their quantity. Mikel Landa and Jack Haig additionally make up the workforce’s begin listing, although all eyes will likely be on the duo of Teuns and Mohorič on Sunday.
The person Teuns beat on the Mur de Huy can be racing. Alejandro Valverde heads up Movistar as he takes on La Doyenne for one final time, in search of a fifth victory in Liège to equal the all-time file of Eddy Merckx. He’ll flip 42 the day after the race, however his podiums at Flèche and Strade Bianche have proven that age has barely slowed him down, and he is actually among the many high contenders for Sunday.
Philippe Gilbert (Lotto Soudal) is one other veteran taking one final stab on the Monument, and one other former winner lining up at the beginning, although the Walloon would not determine to be a significant favorite 11 years on from his victory on the race.
The identical could be stated of fellow veteran Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Qazaqstan) in addition to 2018 and 2019 winners Bob Jungels (AG2R Citroën) and Jakob Fuglsang (Israel-Premier Tech), who have not confirmed any latest kind to recommend they are going to be among the many greatest on Sunday, although Fuglsang’s teammate Michael Woods will likely be in competition.
Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) has accomplished simply that, inserting third on his Flèche debut, the newest standout lead to his most constant begin to a season but. He’ll even be making his Liège debut and may depend on the likes of Sergio Higuita and Jai Hindley to assist him out throughout the race.
Lastly, we come to Benoît Cosnefroy, who leads AG2R Citroën. The Frenchman has been in wonderful kind this spring, not too long ago taking second place at Amstel Gold Race and Brabantse Pijl. He is nonetheless trying to find that one main breakthrough spring win and has all the precise attributes for achievement in Liège.