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Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2024

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Conquering the Ardennes: Liège-Bastogne-Liège - The Ultimate Cycling Test

In the heart of the picturesque Ardennes region of Belgium, where lush forests meet quaint villages, lies the battleground for one of cycling's most grueling challenges – Liège-Bastogne-Liège, affectionately known as "La Doyenne" or "the old woman" in French. As the final showdown of the spring classics, this venerable race, dating back to 1892, is a test of endurance, strategy, and sheer willpower.

Taking place annually in late April, Liège-Bastogne-Liège marks the culmination of the Ardennes Classics trilogy, following in the tire tracks of the Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne. But make no mistake, this is no leisurely Sunday ride. With a course that spans over 250 kilometers of undulating terrain, including the notorious climbs of the Ardennes hills, this race separates the contenders from the pretenders.

The journey from Liège to Bastogne and back is not for the faint of heart. Riders must navigate winding roads, tackle bone-rattling ascents, and endure unpredictable weather conditions that can turn from sunshine to snowfall in the blink of an eye. The Côte de la Redoute, with its punishing gradients reaching up to 20%, stands as a symbol of the relentless challenges that await, often appearing after 200 kilometers of grueling racing.

The annals of Liège-Bastogne-Liège are filled with tales of triumph and tribulation, none more legendary than Bernard Hinault's epic solo breakaway in 1980, amidst a blizzard that thinned the field to a mere handful of finishers. Such is the nature of this race – where only the strongest and most resilient dare to dream of victory.

Over the years, Liège-Bastogne-Liège has witnessed a changing of the guard, from the dominance of Belgian riders in its infancy to a more international flair in recent times. Names like Primož Roglič, Tadej Pogačar, and Remco Evenepoel have etched their place in history, adding their names to the illustrious list of champions.

Among them stands Eddy Merckx, the undisputed king of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, with an unparalleled five victories to his name. His legacy looms large over the peloton, a testament to the enduring allure of this monumental race.

As the cycling world braces for another edition of La Doyenne, all eyes are on the contenders. Remco Evenepoel, the young Belgian prodigy, may be sidelined this year due to injury, but the likes of Tadej Pogačar and Mathieu van der Poel are ready to seize the opportunity.

For Pogačar, redemption beckons after a heartbreaking crash in last year's race denied him a shot at victory. The Ardennes Classics set is within his grasp, but standing in his way are the unforgiving roads of Liège, where every pedal stroke is a battle against the elements and oneself.

In a sport defined by its moments of glory and agony, Liège-Bastogne-Liège stands as a true test of champions. As riders prepare to toe the line in Liège, they do so knowing that they are not just racing against each other, but against history itself. For in the Ardennes, legends are born and greatness is forged on the unforgiving roads of La Doyenne.

Source: Global Cycling Network, Rouleur

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