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Liège-Bastogne-Liège Preview

If it’s not over until the fat lady sings, then here’s La Doyenne to chant the end of the spring classics season.

With Tadej Pogačar a late non-starter, there’s contest between Julian Alaphilippe and Wout van Aert and several other contenders.

The Route: a starts, then south to Bastogne and back to Liège. It’s the return leg that’s longer as the route twists and turns through the Ardennes hills. The 2022 edition is almost identical to last year’s race and similar to 2019 and 2020 too. There’s 4,000m of vertical gain, equivalent to a Tour de France mountain stage.

La Redoute is still the big climb of the day but the times when it was the launchpad to victory are long gone, it’s still 35km from the finish. Instead look to see who is floating over, which teams have numbers over the top and other tactical points. The road goes over the plateau and along to the climb to Forges.

The Côte de La Roche-aux-Faucons is next, it’s not a classic climb only appearing in 2008 but very selective. Listed as 1.5km at 10%, this is hard enough but after a brief descent of a few seconds it starts rising again to the village of Boncelles and it’s 1.6km long with a gradient of 5.5% which isn’t steep but with all the climbing before, both cumulatively in the day and the sharp effort just before, it’s a difficult moment and where the winning move often forms. You can see this second part of the climb on the profile below.

The Finish: it’s hard to close any gaps over the top of the climb and down the tricky descent into Liège  but the flat roads in the finish can allow chasers to get back into the mix. The final kilometres are flat beside the river Meuse.

The Contenders

Tadej Pogačar is a late non-starter which blows the predictions of bloggers and rivals alike out of the water. Without him among the attackers on the final climb there might now be more space for others. His absence leaves a strong UAE team drafting in Brandon McNulty and Marc Hirschi as their best bet for the day although with more options like Diego Ulissi.

Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step) has made this the target of his spring campaign and when he takes aim at something he rarely misses. However he’s had illness and crashes to cope with and visibly hasn’t been in sizzling form: he’s good but there are doubts. If he can get to the finish he’s got a tidy sprint. Remco Evenepoel is a contender and a local too and should try in his all-or-nothing style, he could launch a raid after La Redoute. Mauri Vansevant, he of the pecking chicken pedalling style, gives the team an extra option too.

Can Wout van Aert get over the Roche-aux-Faucons climb with the best? He’ll want to stay in contact so he can clean up in the sprint, everyone one else will make a point of ensuring he’s ejected. His racing calendar’s had its interruptions but he was arguably the strongest in Paris-Roubaix last weekend and at his best he can float over the climbs. Tiesj Benoot is ill very versatile but will be a bodyguard for van Aert or fired up the road? Jonas Vingegaard ought to be another contender but was dropped early in Wednesday’s Flèche.

Bahrain come with a very strong team led by Flèche Wallonne winner Dylan Teuns but Jack Haig, previous winner Wout Poels, Mikel Landa and Matej Mohorič can all stir things up too and for Teuns to have a chance they all need to make the race as hard as possible so that Alaphilippe is cooked and van Aert is distanced. Mohorič can try another breakaway but this time he risks losing a lot of time on each climb. Update Saturday 3.00pm: Damiano Caruso is added to the team and given his form from Sicilia, an contender too.

Ineos’s best rider in Flèche Wallonne was Dani Martinez with his fifth place. But how to win Liège? He’s more of a diesel suited to a slug-fest summit finish. Michał Kwiatkowski has the better sprinting skills if he can get to Liège in a position to use them and since he’s looking sharper this spring, he’s one to watch. Tom Pidcock is having a volatile spring, one minute a contender and the next being dropped early. Carlos Rodriguez is on the up and Geraint Thomas is showing form and could round out his palmarès but is more of a team captain style rider these days.

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) came close to winning the Flèche Wallonne so the form is there. He rode the perfect climb of the Mur de Huy thanks to experience but coping with multiple climbs and the big attacks later on is going to be harder. Enric Mas is going very well but an infrequent winner at best, he’s never won a one day race.

Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) was an impressive third in the Flèche Wallonnne given it was his first go at the Mur de Huy. But how to win here?

Søren Kragh Andersen has been targetting the Ardennes races and so far no big results. He’s always a danger rider but where can he sneak away just when others sit up for a breather? Romain Bardet has had four top-10s in this race and isn great shape from the Tour of the Alps where he’s showing some good sprinting but how to win here outright?

Benoît Cosnefroy (Ag2r Citroën) a strong rider but firmly a puncheur more than a grimpeur and this course is at the upper end of his abilities. Michael Woods (Israel) knows how to race this course well, his problem is the flat finish and being smoked in the sprint. Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ) impressed in the Ronde and can stay in the mix late into the race. Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) can make the top-10 but how to win? Michael Matthews (BikeExchange) has been fourth here but the irony of the “new” flat finish in Liège is that the Roche-aux-Faucons has become the launchpad to victory and it’s likely too steep for him. Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic) is having a good spring and in top form this race is within his reach but beating the names cited above is a big ask.

Julian Alaphilippe
Wout van Aert
Alejandro Valverde, Dylan Teuns, Kwiatkowski
Evenepoel, Hirschi, Martinez, Bardet, Pidock, Benoot
Caruso, Mohorič, Vlasov, Woods, SKA, Barguil

Weather: cloudy for the most part with the chance of a rain shower, a top temperature of 16°C and a north-easterly wind meaning a bit of a headwind from Bastogne onwards that turns into a crosswind for much of the roads from the Col du Rosier onwards.

TV: the race starts at 10.15am CEST with TV coverage from 1.30pm. It’s on RTBF for locals and VPN users, otherwise the same channel you watch the Tour de France on and/or Eurosport-GCN. La Redoute is soon after 4.00pm The finish is around 5.00pm.

Women’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège: the race starts at 8.30am and the finish is due around 12.30pm CEST, head over to Pro Cycling UK for a good preview.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • J Evans Saturday, 23 April 2022, 12:42 pm

    Very pleased to see WVA in this race. A great improvement on the old days of over-specialisation (as Gilbert showed, that was never necessary.)

    • J Evans Saturday, 23 April 2022, 1:31 pm

      WVA’s my favourite to win too – Ala. didn’t look his usual self at Fleche (neither did Pogačar – not surprised to see him out).

      As for Evenepoel, obnoxiousness aside (there have been too many instances now to simply say ‘he’s young’ – many others are), he doesn’t have the sprint so he’d have to go long. Whilst he’s done that in much smaller races – yes, against good opposition, but the opposition are not necessarily so motivated to chase in smaller races – he hasn’t yet won a big race.

      He’s a quandary: he doesn’t yet have the climbing ability to win grand tours, but if he can develop that, he has the TT ability to be very good. But if he doesn’t develop that – because I don’t think you can develop a good sprint – what kind of races is he going to win?

      With his ego seemingly excessive, to say the least, I can see him becoming the latest in a long series of riders who were over-hyped but never came to much. That GOAT gesture when he crossed the line winning a race a couple of years back is looking ever more foolish.

      With his incessant berating of other riders, he’s also unlikely to find many in the peloton who are willing to work with him in any breaks. He doesn’t seem to care about that: his ‘tactics’ seem to solely involve blowing others off his wheel – that’s not working for him now that he’s in the big races.

      • Nick Saturday, 23 April 2022, 3:29 pm

        Pogacar’s not out because of lack of form, but a family bereavement.

        • TDK Sunday, 24 April 2022, 3:15 am

          Or at least a soon-to-be-family bereavement. A real loss for the race — but the guy’s got his priorities straight.

          As for the race itself, Alaphilippe’s surely due a bit of good luck for once this spring. Though I wouldn’t mind seeing McNulty take a 40km flyer …

      • Ecky Thump Saturday, 23 April 2022, 3:31 pm

        I got the impression that Alaphilippe looked better at Flèche but choose to sit on Pogacar’s wheel.
        Normally an understandable tactic but the Slovenian just didn’t have it and Alaphilippe then found himself too far adrift on the Mur.
        Quick Step likewise looked improved and they’ll surely be as highly motivated as possible, such has been their poor Spring.
        Remco, I don’t know, but QS will have a minder for him and Alaphilippe I’d say and then look to have numbers late on in the race.
        If they can do that, I’m going for some Belgian redemption and QS payback.

  • oldDAVE Saturday, 23 April 2022, 1:14 pm

    I love that you put Geraint Thomas on there.

    Every race he rides I’m always waiting for the crash but hopefully he has as day like his crash free TDF win and brings home the bacon! He and Trentin (who I realise will never be in the mix to win LBL) would be my biggest feel good wins of any big race this year.

    Gutted Pog isn’t riding. Feel like there’s an alternate reality where he could have won MSR, Flanders and Liege this year but is going home with only Strada sadly. Alaphillipe or Van Aert for me tomorrow, I also think both deserve another big monument win to be honest, it’s very strange for all their talent that they both only have a single Milan San Remo to their names?

    Although really I just don’t want Remco to win!

    (There’s very few cyclists I’m not that keen on but he, along with a single Italian and American, doesn’t float my boat… although I didn’t know about Colbrelli’s unfortunate tweets till INRNG pointed them out the other day).#

    Excited to see what Turner and Sheffield can do tomorrow also.

    • Tovarishch Saturday, 23 April 2022, 3:02 pm

      Neither Turner nor Sheffield are riding.

    • Anonymous Saturday, 23 April 2022, 4:06 pm

      Did Colbrelli tweet something bad? I have always liked him as a rider, and I was sad to see his collapse in Catalunya.

      • oldDAVE Sunday, 24 April 2022, 11:59 am

        “But he does carry this reputation when others have said/done things that raise eyebrows, take last year’s Roubaix winner Sonny Colbrelli who’s taken to social media in the past to give us his thoughts on migrants and Mussolini but this “wisdom” didn’t break out much beyond Italian media.”

        I thought it was a very good point from INRNG and something I hadn’t heard.
        I guess that’s why we all come here.

        Admittedly though I can see as a sports blog sticking to the racing and avoiding the political is the ambition even if that’s tough sometimes. Anyway, back to the racing.

  • Larry T Saturday, 23 April 2022, 1:51 pm

    Hard to argue with any of your chainring rankings. I’d love to see your 5, 4 and 3 chainring picks all there at the end sprinting it out:-) Wow, was it that long ago that I saw this live? Time flies, as they say http://cycleitalia.blogspot.com/2018/04/l-b-l-2018-race.html

  • plurien Saturday, 23 April 2022, 3:38 pm

    Remco is Lefevre’s doomsday weapon. If another team starts to do too well they will get an offer to buy him.

  • David Burkett Saturday, 23 April 2022, 5:23 pm

    No Pogacar! And now, who knows how this race will go. Every conceivable outcome comes with questions. Is Alaphilippe’s form outpaced by his impulsiveness? Can Ineos take the coordinated aggressiveness it built on the flatlands into the hills? Is WvA a strongman who can not only conquer any course but also COVID? The lack of answers gives a dark horse a chance to make the improbable seem inevitable. My prediction: the race is a cautious, attritional affair as riders eliminate themselves until a late attacker jumps away and the chasers don’t break out of their conservative racing soon enough to bring him back. I’m backing Soren Kragh Anderson as the aggressive victor. But who knows?

  • gabriele Saturday, 23 April 2022, 9:30 pm

    Sadly enough, this again backs up my feelings about a generation where impressive top talents aren’t joined in the peloton by adequately deep competition. I really hope to be proven somehow wrong tomorrow, but it looks like that whoever might win will have done so against a poor field, be it because some athletes aren’t racing or others visibly lack top form (quite true both for Alaph and WVA). Surely, being able to win when not being in top shape is a plus for any champion, but that’s an actual merit if the level of competition is as high as usual, not as much if your 90% still places you well above the 110% of most rivals. Of course, there’s still the option of the winner making it a great race by putting on a show of sort, that is, racing to lose (or for the legend) as Pogacar did in Strade Bianche. Anyway, I’d be happy both with a WVA win – to foster an actual “strive for five” attitude instead of specialising à la Sagan, also stimulating potential MvdP emulation in the process – and with an Alaph’s victory because it’s long due and he deserves it anyway after all (equally true in Bardet’s case, whom I’ll be probably rooting for: grinding attack on the hard slopes, some other zero-sprinter for company, a solid defence descending). Same as WVA for Pidcock, although MvdP would care less 😛 . More than anything, I just hope that we haven’t already lost the best from such an incredible talent because of his metabolic woes (an issue more common than before among top young talents in the last decade). Valverde would be fun – the best would be him winning with a middle range attack ^__^. Speaking of long range, Evenepoel would deserve praise if he won going full gas on the flase flat over the Redoute, thus making the latter “great again”. However, the race tomorrow will be open to most for a win greater than their general talent and probably even than their daily merit, and that’s one of the things I love in cycling, so let’s just enjoy it if a less starry figure grabs his day. Cosnefroy would indeed deserve it after Amstel and Brabantse Pijl, as talented Madouas.

    Ps The 1990 curse looks like it could be shattered a little, this season… Quintana, Matthews, Pinot, Bardet found winning ways again, albeit in smaller races. Who knows…?

    • gabriele Saturday, 23 April 2022, 9:34 pm

      Speaking of long range, I just saw that’s McNulty replacing Pogi. Well well… that Redoute 😉 Or Rosier, why not dreaming big?

      • Steve Saturday, 23 April 2022, 10:20 pm

        That long ramble was very sweet Gabriele, but in case you hadn’t noticed, a new wave of viral disease has recently swept through Europe, hitting plenty who haven’t previously caught it. And though they might not die, they still feel it. I mean normals, like many of my nearest and dearest, not freakish athletes, though they get it too. LBL ran under the Nazis ffs, this is nothing for them.
        I hope your child is thriving. And dad is well

        • gabriele Saturday, 23 April 2022, 10:44 pm

          Not at all a big factor, in this case (or others – at least within top-level cycling, actually, unless we count in, if anything, those supposed covid negatives in Pa-Ni which some journos thought to be *really* covert covid cases… but I’ll leave it to amateur detectives).

          The point is that if for whatever reason 2-3 of that handful of stars aren’t racing (no recent covid positive for them I think) and a couple are down on form (one of them because of covid indeed, but it could have been easily any flu), suddenly the field looks very much downscaled… so much that WVA is still among the very top favs *despite covid*.

          • gabriele Saturday, 23 April 2022, 11:50 pm

            To make my point a little clearer, just have a look at women’s cycling. Last year we had the WWT dominated by the 3 superhuman Dutch Vs (Vos, van Vleuten, van der Breggen), plus a fourth orange V in Vollering, and you can add in Longo Borghini and Deignan. Now Deignan is on a temporary leave and AvdB retired, plus Vos looked good but not great until now. And yet, besides the above you still have Kopecky, Balsamo, Cavalli, who were all already there in the mix doing good in 2021, and then usual long-term top competitors in Ludwig, Niewiadoma, Moolman, Mavi García, Blaak, and emerging forces like Chabbey, then again Lippert, or Bastianelli, Grace Brown, Wiebes and so on and on; if, as natural, the likes of Spratt or Van Dijk start to decline, you can look forward to the Consonni, Fisher-Black, Vas, Norsgaard etc. And feel assured I’m forgetting several names, no doubt.

            Most of the above will be on the start line in Liège…

          • gabriele Saturday, 23 April 2022, 11:53 pm

            Of course, being a woman was indeed a factor that reduced the risk of suffering serious covid (although I’m not sure about long covid)…

            Just joking. Is covid the new doping?, like, if you need to explain anything, here it is a ready-made passepartout.

          • plurien Sunday, 24 April 2022, 11:33 am

            Dear Gabriele. One wonders what superhuman feat it would take to make you happy. Racing has changed. Even Bradley Wiggins says he doesn’t understand it any more. Race speeds are higher (excepting possibly some freak times up certain marquee climbs), nutrition, core fitness, recovery is more understood. Technology and equipment has moved to a higher level. The main thing that has changed is the inability of any single team to boss a race and the apparent absence of any domineering talent who also uses it to bully or intimidate the pack.
            You can use all the above to infer, ‘It must be doping’ and I’d accept it could be, but the way 19 yr-olds can win classics -and are allowed to- indicates we finally have dumped the massive negative influence that doping; who gets it and who controls it; has gone, leaving just speed, power, racing skill, endurance and all the other things that racing is meant to be about.
            The teams have changed their approach to accept that riders don’t have to be on top form every race and there’s always flexibility to go with how a race has developed; in the successful teams, at least.
            No doubt a lot of teams are having trouble dealing with unpredictable bouts of illness, which creates opportunities for other teams and calls on the lower-ranked riders to step up.
            None of the difficulties have brought a lower quality of racing.
            If it’s harder to know in advance who will win a race, and how the winning moves will go down, we should all celebrate and enjoy the racing so much more.

    • Larry T Sunday, 24 April 2022, 9:06 am

      “Sadly enough, this again backs up my feelings about a generation where impressive top talents aren’t joined in the peloton by adequately deep competition.”
      No matter what anyone argues this will come back to your definition of “adequately deep competition” and “a generation” which at best will be moving targets positioned to shoot down those who point to the current pandemic, with effects we probably won’t fully understand for years, as an explanation. But maybe you could describe a generation where there WAS “adequately deep competition” (not women, that’s totally different) in contrast?

      • gabriele Sunday, 24 April 2022, 12:05 pm

        Easier done… than said! Good try, sorting out a scientific definition isn’t easy, but empirical cases might work. I could easily go back to the 70s but let’s just just focus on some more recent years around 2010. You could say grosso modo that a generational shift is when the great majority of once frequent winners retire or aren’t simply top contenders anymore. Nibali, Froome, Contador, Boonen, Cancellara, Gilbert if you get what I mean… yes, Valverde is still there, I know. When I speak of field depth I mean that besides those very exceptional names you still have a more than decent number of athletes who are solid enough and consistently up there so that they collect a handful (at least) of podia through GTs, Worlds and Monuments. I mean, the “second line” contenders were the likes of Purito Rodríguez, Andy Schleck, Cadel Evans, Vinokourov, and then Quintana, Dumoulin, Ballan, Pozzato, Urán, S. Sánchez, Cunego, Menchov, Basso, Rebellin, even Di Luca… (and the list could go further on).

        The Colbrelli, Van Baarle, Politt, Lampaert, Bettiol, Masnada, Vlasov, Bennett, Schachmann, Formolo, Tao, Hindley, Keldermann, S. Yates, Caruso, Porte, Kruijswijk, Thomas, Hugh Carthy, Superman López, although I might like a lot of them as athletes, just don’t look bound to collect the same sheer quantity of top performances through the years.

        It’s not just that “the past was always better”, of course. Even leaving aside doping issues, Armstrong only had one serious contender, Ullrich, plus raising Basso and Vinokourov for a couple of seasons only. The likes of Escartín (now designing Vuelta courses), Beloki, Rumsas, Klöden or even Mayo weren’t frankly solid enough to consider them proven top forces. Same goes for the Giro during those same years… only you have to doubt who the top dogs actually were besides (perhaps) Cunego or Simoni. The Garzelli, Casagrande, Savoldelli, Caucchioli, Honchar, Osa, Rujano etc. might be good riders but if they really had to win more if they had that much quality. At the same time, during those same years, the Classics presented a hugely deep field in terms of quality.

        One can hide behind definitions, but I think it isn’t that hard to see that the Vuelta 2005-2017 had a depth of field that wasn’t really there before and hasn’t stood in more recent seasons.

        All the above doesn’t mean that when there’s field depth an underdog can’t win or make a podium (plenty of examples): as I said, it’s more about “let’s leave aside the very top dogs and let’s check the usual podiumers, then let’s see how solid they are, that is, if they can consistently collect a decent series of top performances”.

        Disclaimer: of course, just noticing the situation doesn’t need to take away anything from the enjoyment of cycling races, as I already stated above. Races can be even more entertaining, sometimes, be it because top dogs try something legendary as Pogacar and van der Poel have done, or because the competition is simply less controlled.

        • plurien Monday, 25 April 2022, 10:38 am

          Those are all fair, and a very long list of examples! You may have compressed many years into one, as if all riders were always present and on form.
          You must acknowledge that instead of riders taking many seasons, perhaps winning an u23 jersey here and there ( Schleck is in white for the famous duel), they now come straight in and win the whole thing. There’s no bullying like there was, and the dodgy doctors are gone (we have to believe) because really you can’t do that to an 18 yr-o.
          The racing is a lot better for being open and without the old certainties ( Vinokourov bartering to get a win at LBL…) are gone as riders really tear it up.
          Plus, of course, you cannot bring back any of the riders on your list; if they weren’t caught doping, they simply could not work out what is going on before getting dropped out the back.

          • gabriele Monday, 25 April 2022, 12:08 pm

            That’s the idea of “a generation”, or the concept of “around 2010”. And I did just the same with the counter-examples from the present or from the Armstrong years. Because that’s precisely the point with “field depth”: of course, it’s in the nature of cycling not having always all the contenders in perfect form (as a sport, it tends to stress the context-based competition aspect rather than the absolute performance one); but that’s precisely why if the top of the field grants a certain depth, even beyond the most exceptional figures, you’ll tend to get a range of solid and consistent winners anyway (ok, let’s finally go back to the 70s: Gimondi and De Vlaeminck are still among the *all-time* most prolific quality winners *even if* Merckx was taking a huge lot of the available races for himself).

            I hope that, say, Bettiol will rack up some more Monument victories or podia at least in the next 5-6 seasons, as did Ballan after winning his Flanders at 28 (Bettiol’s current age). But I have the distinct feeling that, at present, it’s not the same level of rider: and Ballan had had his handful of heavy top-10s before winning.

            A very *different* example. Terpstra, Kristoff or Van Avermaet, who looked like they were the potential “next generation” very top riders in those races, ended up with a palmarés more akin to supporting actors: but who were the lead roles? So on the cobbles (and at Sanremo) we had a transition generation with a great upper middle class but no absolute peaks (Sagan’s is a peculiar story, indeed), while now it’s the other way around.

            I’ll take this opportunity to stress that these are short-term phenomena (a “generation” here is a “sporting generation”, as roughly defined above, that is, 8-10 years *at most*, and often even less, especially if – as it’s natural – lesser talents get “compressed” between the longue durée of the Boonen or Gilbert and the emergence of early class as we’re now seeing). Even now, things might change very rapidly: new talents appearing or consolidating, for example.

            This is not meant as a criticism of sort to the cycling we’re presently looking at: it’s just things as they are, and I believe that it depends much more on pure chance rather than on obscure doping plots or personal relationships within the peloton (all that might be playing a role, of course, as well as – and I find it more decisive – rider training and “surveillance” based on GPS data; but perhaps it also works the other way around: it’s hard to go on bullying a rider whose talent crushes yours… even if somebody like Lance also achieved that).

            In my commentaries here I highlighted several time that such a situation can bring along more entertainment and more occasions for interesting stories.
            The point, again, is that cycling is strongly context-based: the merit for a rider lies also in being able to make the most of the situation he or she faces, not only in terms of, say, weather, tactical race situation and so on, but even in terms of daily startlist and the likes.
            I’m hugely happy that Gilbert could get his long deserved cobble victories, and he made it when he, quite probably, wasn’t anymore on the peak of his athletic potential. But he could take advantage of an historical situation which slightly opened the door… and he duly slipped in, after having bet hard on that option, of course (both in terms of preparation and during the race itself), not by pure chance.

    • oldDAVE Sunday, 24 April 2022, 12:16 pm

      I actually don’t agree with this Gabriele – very glad you wrote it and happy to read.

      But this new generation for me has been a breath of fresh air, to see them light up races earlier than ever before and bring new energy to races that had been quite tired for a while has been one of the joys of my cycling fandom. Now having them compete with old talents (Kwiato) plus even newer talents (Sheffield) is pretty mouthwatering.

      I also feel from my general (not expert level) overview of cycling history, that grand champions who win regularly in the various disciplines of cycling is a regular occurrence so there’s not actually a huge difference currently?

      At the same time, I would even go as far to say the recent uplift in Uber-talents (Pog, WVA, MvDP, Ala, Rog) has actually created more competition in races and even more excitement – the group that went over the Poggio at MSR all felt capable of winning still in a variety of ways and forced a pretty adventurous attack to finally take the win, and even the finale of LBL 2021 & 2020, the final groups (despite being familiar) was genuinely nail biting both times as you had a decent spread of riders who could win rather than a lone attacker or a wait till the final uphill sprint of previous years. I feel I’ve been given fantastic bang for my buck in almost all one day races since the emergence of the big five.

      And that’s not even mentioning the five’s willingness to race beyond their specialities, something we’ve rarely seen in the last 30 years.

      Personally as a Grand Tour fan rather than a one day race fan, it often feels like a golden age for one day races, with the big five often joined(and beaten!) by a Van Baarle, Hirschi, Asgreen etc. To me the quality of the field is stronger now than at any point since 2005 when I started watching. I think you might have rose tinted glasses for a previous time and missing the magic of the current moment!

      My only two perennial complaint about cycling is the terrible calendar organisation making for cycling as a sport to compete with better organised competitions (Football, F1) despite being a better sport and the lack of diversity.

      • Larry T Sunday, 24 April 2022, 1:33 pm

        oldDave – https://theouterline.com/
        Just in case you don’t read their stuff. Your complaint instantly made me think of the email they send me each week.

      • Joe90 Sunday, 24 April 2022, 5:57 pm

        Gabriele, et al:
        Thanks for the fascinating, polite and well written conversation about today’s field vs those of the past. Not sure who I agree with but I found all opinions thought provoking.

      • gabriele Sunday, 24 April 2022, 6:03 pm

        I guess I wasn’t being so clear, or I was simply giving for granted as a previous assumption what I’ve been enthusiastically writing for months re: Pogacar, the Vans, Alaph etc.
        Check my 12:05 commentary right now just above yours (which may change in the while…) to get a better perspective on what I’m actually defending. I suppose it wasn’t there to read when you posted yours.

  • Tomski Saturday, 23 April 2022, 10:16 pm

    The Bahrain lineup looks very strong!

    And because intermarche are having a dream classics an each way bet on Pozzovivo.

  • gabriele Saturday, 23 April 2022, 10:54 pm

    I’d also add that LBL once easily a favourite or so for Classics lovers is going through a decade or so of decline, and slowly the process ended up hitting negatively the starting list, too. ASO tried to shake things up changing the course but that was probably too little, too late, until now at least.

    • Irungo txuletak Sunday, 24 April 2022, 10:21 am

      I agree: I also find that lbl is on a decline compared to years before. According to me, the route change is positive (no more arrival in the post industrials suburbs), but I feel there is still missing something in the last k’s.

    • The Inner Ring Sunday, 24 April 2022, 1:28 pm

      It gets a good startlist and a mix of riders coming off the other classics and the stage racers but it’s lacked a bit of action. It seems to be all about the Roche-aux-Faucons and the false flat over the top but if riders/teams can make moves before – perhaps they have to in order to get rid of van Aert? – then it could be lively.

    • Larry T Sunday, 24 April 2022, 1:49 pm

      “I’d also add that LBL once easily a favourite or so for Classics lovers is going through a decade or so of decline.” By what metrics? And before you start beating on me for always asking for proof of your claims, you could just put IMHO on them so we could all know that’s your opinion and need not be backed up with any data.

      • gabriele Sunday, 24 April 2022, 5:55 pm

        There are several metrics, Larry, and as you like to say about Google, “let me procyclingstats that for you”… if you’re so much in a hurry (no, I won’t).
        But we already had this debate. And other debates were held here about the utility – and irony – of using the “IMHO” label.
        Just assume that obviously enough this is *not* a peer-reviewed academic journal, although I’ll concede it may look akin sometimes – so pretty much everything down here is an opinion by commenters.
        As I also already stated before, in such a context usual readers might become aware about other commenters’ habits, especially long term ones who don’t go anon, so you could simply weigh how informed is an opinion by yourself.
        Metrics apart (essentially, podium/top-10 quality and startlist quality) I’ll give you a couple of hints: the debate about Liège’s formula isn’t novel neither did it exist on these pages only; and, ASO doesn’t go course shifting for the fun of it (as instead does RCS with Lombardia…).

  • Gelato4bahamontes Saturday, 23 April 2022, 11:58 pm

    Valverde, Gilbert and nibali one last time in the ardennes.

  • 150 Watts Sunday, 24 April 2022, 6:04 am

    +1 for WvA with McNulty as the roughie.

  • Ecky Thump Sunday, 24 April 2022, 4:40 pm

    🇧🇪 🇧🇪 🇧🇪
    Superb

    • Gelato4bahamontes Sunday, 24 April 2022, 4:49 pm

      As you predicted, redemption for qs. (even though their bad luck continued losing ala. Hope he’s OK)

    • Eskerrik Asko Sunday, 24 April 2022, 5:15 pm

      !976 Previous Belgian 1-2-3
      2011 Previous Belgian win OR podium!
      I find it remarkable that there has been two years without a Belgian in Top 20 – and several years with only one Belgian in the Top 10 8Gilbert, Vanendert, Teuns, Benoot).

      PS La Redoute is great again 🙂

      • gabriele Sunday, 24 April 2022, 6:14 pm

        “Speaking of long range…” ^__^
        Maybe it was not Bartoli vs. VDB but it was very emotional all the same for old cycling 90ers. And for all the fans, I’d hope, including Evenepoelhaters.

  • HPster Sunday, 24 April 2022, 5:12 pm

    Long range and for “the legend” – Gabrielle should be happy 😃

    • gabriele Sunday, 24 April 2022, 5:43 pm

      Yes, I am! Thank you so much, Remco 😀
      By the way, people answering me above make me feel I didn’t express myself that well, but I think no further commentary is really needed.
      It’s utter fun that I previously found myself a number of time “defending” the feats of MdvP or Pogacar, now people think I don’t like them…
      No doubt that the greatest riders around are actually great; what’s a little lacking, for now, is field depth. And I think that today’s race also made that manifest. Not only in terms of final top-10 quality but also in how other teams raced.
      As I said, thanks again Remco, because sometimes only a single rider is needed to make a race worth viewing and remembering, not many more.

  • gabriele Monday, 25 April 2022, 2:18 pm

    The oldest (classics) race on the calendar is probably Milano-Torino, Larry! ^__^ La Doyenne is the oldest among Monuments.
    And I’d add that your point is slightly nonsense, since the race has been managed by what’s now called ASO since 1990, so its history depended on different institutions.

    Not only that, but there’s plenty of races who were doing great and were long-lasting top classics, in every sense of the word, until they… just stopped doing so.

    The Paris-Brussels, just one year “younger” than the Liège, is now considered a “sprinters semi-classic” (albeit Remco “made it great again” last year) but once was one of the top fixtures in the calendar.
    Remco also made “great again” last Coppa Bernocchi (as did Nibali in 2015 😀 ). We’re speaking of a race established in 1919, barely suspended because of WWII (it lost just a single edition!), which is nevertheless nowadays merely a 1.1 event.
    The above mentioned Milano-Torino also had its serious woes, for example when it was suspended for 3 or 4 editions (!) around 2010.
    These races are at least still alive, but I could name others, also very important, which just disappeared in recent years as the Giro del Lazio (created in the 30s) or the Zürich-Metzgete (est. 1914) and so on and on.
    Hence, no – bad news, having lasted for more than a century doesn’t 100% grant you any ticket for a brilliant future.

    Of course, this isn’t going to happen soon to Liège, but if it doesn’t happen it’s precisely because organisers: 1) *do notice* 2) *act*.
    Which they actually started doing with several more or less successful attempts in recent years, and which is precisely what has allowed the Monuments to survive. Did Roubaix always had pavé? What about Flanders final circuit? Sometimes changing is necessary to keep a sort of standing race identity alive: Sanremo’s case is especially known.

    I really can’t see the point in defending an “Everything is fine. Everything will be fine” attitude.
    By the way, change is there, like it or not, so what’s the problem in observing that a race can have a more brilliant period, then a lacklustre one, then shine again and so on? Lesa maestà or what?

    PS You might have also noticed that I didn’t suggest any recipe to make Liège better – although I believe there’s nothing wrong with that, either.

    • gabriele Monday, 25 April 2022, 2:22 pm

      Hummm, this was a reply to a comment that has since been removed, I think? Or I’ve lost track of it.

      • Eskerrik Asko Monday, 25 April 2022, 3:09 pm

        I read Larry T’s comment, wrote a reply, chose not to send it, went fot a short spin, thought about it, formulated a new reply (that wasn’t just opinionated baloney in large letters like the one I didn’t send) in my mind, but when I came home, Larry’s comment was gone…but if he cancelled it, it was entirely in is right to do so.
        PS I believe a comment that was but a thinly disguised comment on Larry as a person has been removed. Which I appreciate.