|Local name(s)||Liège–Bastogne–Liège (French)|
|Nickname(s)||La Doyenne ("the oldest")|
|Competition||UCI World Tour|
|Organiser||Amaury Sport Organisation|
|Editions||99 (as of 2013)|
|First winner||Léon Houa (BEL)|
|Most wins||Eddy Merckx (BEL) (5 wins)|
|Most recent||Daniel Martin (IRL)|
Liège–Bastogne–Liège, often called La Doyenne ("the oldest"), is one of the five 'Monuments' of the European professional road cycling calendar. It is run in the Ardennes region of Belgium, from Liège to Bastogne and back.
Liège–Bastogne–Liège was part of the UCI Road World Cup and is part of the Belgian Ardennes Classics series, which includes La Flèche Wallonne. Both are organised by Amaury Sport Organisation. At one time, Flèche Wallonne and Liège–Bastogne–Liège were run on successive days as Le Weekend Ardennais. Only seven riders have won both races in the same year: the Swiss Ferdi Kübler twice (in 1951 and 1952), Belgians Stan Ockers (1955) and Eddy Merckx (1972), Italians Moreno Argentin (1991) and Davide Rebellin, the Spaniard Alejandro Valverde (2006) and finally Philippe Gilbert in 2011 as part of a quadruple victory with the Amstel Gold Race and the Brabantse Pijl.
Liège–Bastogne–Liège began in 1892 to publicise the newspaper L'Expresse It is because the paper was published in French that the route stayed in the southern, French-speaking half of Belgium. Its equivalent in the Dutch-speaking north is the Tour of Flanders.
The first race was for amateurs, from Spa to Bastogne and back. It was won by Leon Houa, who also won the first race for professionals in 1894. The turn point was the train station in Bastogne, chosen because of its convenience for race officials.
Thirty-three riders started the first race, which was run by the Liège cycling union and the Pesant Club Liègois. Just 17 finished, all of whom were Belgian. Houa, who came from Liège, won by 22 minutes, after 11 hours on the road. The second man, Léon Lhoest, came in 22 minutes after him, and the third, Louis Rasquinet, at 44 minutes. Riders were still arriving for another five hours.
Houa won again the next year, this time by half an hour. He won again in 1894, by seven minutes. The 1894 race was for professionals, and the speed rose from 23.3 km/h (14.5 mph) to 25 km/h (16 mph). The winner of the first Tour de France, Maurice Garin, came in fourth. The race was then not run for 14 years, after which it was sometimes open only to amateurs and semi-professionals.
In 1909 the winner, Eugène Charlier, was disqualified, because he changed bicycles. The winner became Victor Fastre. Two riders shared the 1957 race. Germain Derijcke was first over the line, but because he crossed a closed rail crossing, the second-place rider, Frans Schoubben, was promoted to first as well. Derijcke was not disqualified, because he had won by three minutes advantage; judges felt he had not gained that much time from illegally crossing the railway.
Until 1991 the race finished in Liege city centre, with a flat run in to the finish. From 1992 the finish moved to the suburb of Ans, on the northern side of the city. The Côte de Saint Nicolas was added to the final kilometres, along with a final climb to the finish in Ans.
The British magazine Cycling Weekly said: "In purely physical terms, this is probably the toughest classic: the climbs are long, most of them are pretty steep as well, and they come up with depressing frequency in the final kilometers.
Moreno Argentin said:
- Riders who win at Liège are what we call fondisti - men with a superior level of stamina. [The climb of] La Redoute is like the Mur de Huy in that it has to be tackled at pace, from the front of the peloton. The gradient is about 14 or 15 per cent, and it comes after 220 or 230 kilometers, so you don't have to be a genius to work out how tough it is. I remember that we used to go up with a maximum of 39 x 21 - it's not quite as steep as the Mur de Huy. A lot of riders mistakenly think you should attack on the hardest part, but in reality you hurt people on the slightly flatter section that comes after this.
- Liège is a race of trial by elimination, where it's very unlikely that a breakaway can go clear and decide the race before the final 100 km [62 mi]. You need to be strong and at the same time clever and calculating — in this sense it's a complete test of a cyclist's ability.
The race has been affected by tough weather. In 1919, 1957 and 1980 there was snow. In 1980 snow fell from the start, leading commentators to call it 'Neige-Bastogne-Neige' (Snow-Bastogne-Snow') . Bernard Hinault attacked with 80 km (50 mi) to go and finished nearly 10 minutes ahead.
The 1980 race
A cold wind that blew across Belgium brought snow flakes and then a heavy fall within moments of the race starting. A feature published by the British magazine, Procycling in 2000, described the infamous race:
- Riders struggled on, with hands to faces to keep a view of the road. The race was an anonymous mass of plastic jackets and windcheaters. Spectators stood in goggles like upmarket snowmen, red-faced in the bitterness. Within the hour some teams had barely a man left on the road. They pulled out two dozen at a time, men like Gibi Baronchelli and Giuseppe Saronni, Lucien Van Impe and Jean-René Bernaudeau.
Bernard Hinault, the winner, was one of few to finish the course. It took three weeks for proper movement to return to two fingers of his right hand.
The race follows a straightforward 95 km (59 mi) route from Liège to Bastogne, and a winding 163 km (101 mi) route back to Liège. The second half contains most of the climbs, such as the Stockeu, Haute-Levée, La Redoute, and Saint-Nicolas before finishing in the northern Liège suburb of Ans. The many hills give opportunities to attack, and the race often rewards aggressive riders such as Michele Bartoli and Paolo Bettini.
|57.7||Côte de Ny'||1.8 km||5.7%|
|82.0||Côte de la Roche-en-Ardenne||2.8 km||4.9%|
|128.0||Côte de Saint-Roch||0.8 km||12.0%|
|172.0||Côte de Wanne||2.7 km||7.0%|
|178.5||Côte de Stockeu||1.1 km||10.5%|
|184.0||Côte de la Haute-Levée||3.4 km||6.0%|
|196.5||Côte du Rosier||4.0 km||5.9%|
|209.0||Côte de la Vecquée||3.1 km||5.9%|
|226.5||Côte de la Redoute||2.1 km||8.4%|
|241.5||Côte de la Roche aux Faucons||1.5 km||9.9%|
|255.5||Côte de Saint-Nicolas||1.0 km||11.1%|
Winners by nationality
|# of victories||Country|
Riders that managed to win the race more than once. Still active are in italic.
|5||Eddy Merckx||Belgium||1969, 1971-1973, 1975|
|4||Moreno Argentin||Italy||1985-1987, 1991|
|Alfons Schepers||Belgium||1929, 1931, 1935|
|Fred De Bruyne||Belgium||1956, 1958-1959|
|Richard Depoorter||Belgium||1943, 1947|
|Prosper Depredomme||Belgium||1946, 1950|
|Joseph Bruyère||Belgium||1976, 1978|
|Seán Kelly||Ireland||1984, 1989|
|Paolo Bettini||Italy||2000, 2002|
|Alexandre Vinokourov||Kazakhstan||2005, 2010|
|Alejandro Valverde||Spain||2006, 2008|
- Cycling Weekly, UK, 13 March 1993
- Cycling Weekly, UK, 7 March 1992
- The title "monument" has no official significance; it is often used by the French daily, L'Équipe, to indicate a race's unchanging place on the calendar but the term has become more widespread because of television commentaries, especially in the USA
- Cycling Weekly, UK, 13 April 2002
- "Liège-Bastogne-Liège". Bike Race Info. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
- "Liège-Bastogne-Liège's cold memories". Cyclingnews.com. Retrieved 2008-04-24.
- Procycling, UK, May 2000
- Procycling, UK, March 2001
- "Liège — Bastogne — Liège: The route 2009". letour.com. Retrieved 19 July 2009.
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