Liege Bastogne Liege is one of Cycling’s monuments – the big 5 classic races.
It has been run since 1892 and is set in the Ardennes (Wallonia), the French speaking region of Belgium. The region of Wallonia is not traditionally Belgium’s most fanatical cycling base. But, at the turn of the century Wallonia was more economically prosperous and it was in Wallonia that cycling racing first took off in Belgiums.
Liege Bastogne Liege is known as ‘La Doyenne’ of cycling races. Literally this means ‘old lady’, practically it refers to the rich history and tradition embedded in the race.
In 1990 the organisation of Liege Bastogne Liege was taken over by the Tour de France society; this was in response to poor organisation which resulted in a big pile up in 1988.
The sister race of Liege Bastogne Liege is Fleche Wallonia. This is now held on the Wednesday preceding, offering the chance for riders to complete the ‘Ardennes double’.
Winning the ‘Ardennes double’ is a rare achievement. Past double winners include:
- Eddy Merckx 1972
- Ferdi Kubler 1951 1952
- Stan Ockers 1955
- Recently, David Rebellin achieved this feat in 2004.
Great Victories in Liege Bastogne Liege
- 1971 Eddy Merckx. This was Eddy Merckx’s second victory. He broke away on the ‘Wall’ at Stavelot and gained over 4 minutes. However, approaching Fleche, Merckx tired and a single pusuiant – George Pintens caught him. Usually when a cyclist loses 4 minutes to a chaser he has no chance of winning. But, Merckx hung on desperately and in the final sprint in the velodrome managed to pit Pintens to take the victory. Merckx went on to win 3 in a row, 1971, 1972, 1973. Before coming back in 1975 to make it a record breaking 5 victories in Liege Bastogne Liege.
- 1980 Bernard Hinault. The race was run in blizzard conditions. The conditions were so bad that over 100 riders had given up after the first 40 miles. Hinault was tempted to also throw in the towel but was encouraged to keep going by a team mate, Cyrille Guimard. Hinault rode hard ‘just to keep warm’ and ended up soloing the last 50 miles to win by over 9 minutes. It is said Hinault took 3 weeks to get proper movement back into his fingers, – so cold had they become.
Route of Liege Bastogne Liege
The Course of Liege Bastogne Liege. Is based on a 95KM route from Liege to Bastogne, before returning to Liege on a longer 163Km return leg. The return leg features many difficult climbs which give the race its distinctive character. These hills include:
- Côte de la Roche-en-Ardenne (2.9KM)
- Côte de Stockeu (1.1Km – 11 degrees)
- Côte du Rosier (3.9Km
- Côte de la Redoute 2.3Km
The traditional finish was on the banks of the river Meuse. But, in 1992, this was abandoned for a hill top finish at Ans – this helps to keep the race open to non sprinters
The last 2 major climbs before the finish include:
- Côte du Sart-Tilman-Tilff 3.7km
- Côte de Saint-Nicolas (0.9km 11degrees) One of the most popular climbs coming near the finish. The top of the hill rises to a gradient of 1 in 5 (20 degrees)
The total level of climbing in Liege Bastogne Liege is estimated to be about 3,600 metres; this is equivalent to a medium stage in the Tour de France. It is a race that tends to favour a good all rounder.
Recent Winners of Liege Bastogne Liege
- 1995 Mauro Gianetti
- 1996 Pascal Richard
- 1997 Michele Bartoli
- 1998 Michele Bartoli
- 1999 Frank Vandenbroucke
- 2000 Paolo Bettini
- 2001 Oscar Camenzind
- 2002 Paolo Bettini
- 2003 Tyler Hamilton
- 2004 Davide Rebellin Gerolsteiner
- 2005 Alexandre Vinokourov T-Mobile Team
- 2006 Alejandro Valverde Caisse d’Epargne-Illes Balears
- 2007 Danilo Di Luca
Liege Bastogne Liege links
- Sporting Tours - Liege Bastogne Liege
- Images from Liege Bastogne Liege at Graham Watson.com
- Liege Bastogne Liege at wikipedia
picture from 2006 edition of race at le Tour.fr