Valverde aiming to make history in Liege

The 105th episode of Liege-Bastogne-Liege unfolds on Sunday 28th April with 256km and 11 sharp climbs awaiting. ‘La Doyenne’ is the last of the Ardennes Classics, the fourth of the season’s five Monuments and the oldest, first taking place in 1892.

This year sees the finish return to the centre of Liege after 27 years in the suburb of Ans. Before then, the race begins with a relatively flat opening effort to the Cote de La Roche-en-Ardenne. After around 121km, the riders ‘enjoy’ a taste of what’s to come with the Cote de Saint-Roch, which measures 1km at 11.2%.

But it’s with 100km to go that real pain grips. Within 12km the riders face Cote de Wanne (2.7km at 7.4%), Cote de Stockeu (1km at 12.5%) and Cote de Haute-Levee (3.1km at 7.9%). There’s little time for a breather before, with 50km to go, the Col du Rosier, which is the longest climb of the day – 4.4km at 5.9%.

This year the brutal Cote de Saint-Nicolas has been removed from the finale, making the still debilitating Cote de la Roche-aux-Faucons (1.3km at 11%) the last climb. This is one for the strongmen who can produce a string of powerful, punchy efforts but retain enough in the tank for a final sprint.


That profile fits Philippe Gilbert perfectly. The Belgian’s won here before and, after recently winning his fifth Monument in Roubaix , can he make it number six in Liege?

Movistar Team is led by Alejandro Valverde, who’s looking for a record-equalling fifth victory in Liege. The King of the Ardennes last won here in 2017 when the 39-year-old outsprinted Dan Martin ascending the Cote de Saint-Nicolas.

On that memorable April day, Team Sky’s Michal Kwiatkowski finished third. The 28-year-old Pole returns this year looking to go two better. With third at this year’s Milan-San Remo and third overall at Paris-Nice, the form is there.

Romain Bardet is the man leading AG2R La Mondiale’s Ardennes charge. The 28-year-old’s always called Liege his favourite one-day race and so it proved in 2018 with his first-ever Monument podium (third). 2019 could be the year he becomes the first Frenchman to win this race since Bernard Hinault in 1980?