17.5km to go
There is just one recognised climb to follow – Côte de La Roche-aux-Faucons (se below) – and Richard Carapaz is in the boxseat, but can he hold off the peloton which includes some serious horsepower?
20km to go
Richard Carapaz the lone leader.
22.5km to go
Adam Yates, Richard Carapaz, Marc Hirschi, Mauri Vansevenant and David Gaudu are all in the second group on the road . . . and one of the Ineos Grenadiers riders sets off! Can Carapaz make another slice of cycling history by becoming the first Ecuadorian to win a monument?
23.7km to go
Now onto the Côte des Forges, Adam Yates joins forces with Tao Geoghegan Hart, Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma).
24km to go
The Duracell Bunny award of the day must be going to Tao Geoghegan Hart. The Ineos Grenadiers rider has attacked off the front of the peloton, forcing others to counter his move.
Going solo . . .
Loïc Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) is the last man standing, the Belgian leading by 47sec.
27km to go
Following a brief scare for Julian Alaphilippe, the world champion has regained contact with the group. This is still being pulled along by Tao Geoghegan Hart. Alejandro Valverde is in the group, as is Primoz Roglic, Maximilian Schachmann and Tadej Pogacar. Tiesj Benoot (DSM) is also here, a demanding rider I haven’t mentioned today, while Ineos Grenadiers has Adam Yates and Richard Carapaz well placed.
30km to go
The leading griup has been whittled down to four riders, their gap now down to just 35sec. Tao Geoghegan Hart is back on the front. Not too far from the penultimate climb of the day, the Côte des Forges that, you’ve guessed it, is short but very, very steep.
33km to go
Tao Geoghegan Hart is burying himself here today for his teammates. The Giro d’Italia champion more or less single-handedly pulled them all over to the Mark Donovan et al. before Adam Yates moved to the front.
34km to go
Tao Geoghegan Hart is looking really strong today, just as he did at La Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday when he towed Tom Pidcock back following a crash. Oh my, that effort from Geoghegan Hart has caused some gaps – and world champion Julian Alaphilippe is on the wrong side of a split.
35km to go
Tao Geoghegan Hart rises out of his saddle as his Ineos Grenadiers team takes over on the front of the peloton with four riders setting a fierce pace. Presumably, either Adam Yates, Richard Carapaz, or Michal Kwiatkowski are feeling strong today.
Back in the peloton . . .
. . . there has been a crash. I don’t think any of the main protagonists were caught up here, though.
Here we go . . .
The breakaway is onto the Côte de La Redoute, and almost immediately, the group starts to splinter.
37km to go
Luke Rowe has been tanking it on the front, setting a fierce pace as the team’s jostle for position. Nobody wants to be caught out when they take a right-hand turn onto the Côte de La Redoute, where the race may not be won, but it can certainly be lost.
38km to go
Not too far now from one of the critical parts in today’s race, the two-kilometer ascent of the Côte de La Redoute with an average gradient of 8.90%, but do not be fooled by ramps up to pitches of 13%. Mark Padun (Bahrain Victorious), Harm Vanhoucke (Lotto-Soudal), and Mark Donovan (DSM) remain stuck in no man’s land, the trio still trailing the breakaway by around a minute.
45km to go
Technical issues here, but hopefully, there will be no more today! Anyway, that chasing trio is now just over a minute behind the leading septet, while Deceuninck-Quick Step appears to have taken control on the front of the peloton with four or five riders at the head of the bunch.
Britain’s got talent.
Mark Donovan, who is currently in the trio of riders chasing down the breakaway, is one of the young British riders in the WorldTour right now. Here’s what we wrote about him earlier this month.
“The former runner that came to cycling late is still just 22 but has made great strides since joining his current squad from Team Wiggins in 2020. Endured a baptism of fire last year with WorldTour outings at Critérium du Dauphiné, La Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Ghent-Wevelgem before making his grand tour debut at the Vuelta a España. Managed two top-fives on uphill finishes at the Vuelta.”
50km to go
Incoming climbs . . .
53km to go
The peloton appears to have taken its collective feet off the gas, meaning the breakaway has regained a minute or so. Interesting to note that Lotto-Soudal now has a pair in the leading two groups. Presumably, the plan is to help a teammate later in the day? But who, Tim Wellens or, whisper it: is Philippe Gilbert about to rewind the clock?*
*Er, I doubt it.
58km to go
Mark Padun (Bahrain Victorious), the Ukrainian who went close to winning a stage at last year’s Giro d’Italia, bridges over to Harm Vanhoucke (Lotto-Soudal) and talented young Briton Mark Donovan (DSM) to form a chasing trio, trailing the breakaway by 2min 15sec.
60km to go
The breakaway has crested the Col du Rosier but lost around 1min 30sec on the chasing peloton.
63km to go
Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal), a teammate in the breakaway, moves to the front and appears to be riding hard. Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers) responds with a handful of others before Alex Aranburu (Astana-Premier Tech) counter-attacks off the front. Interesting to note that neither Deceuninck-Quick Step, Jumbo-Visma, or the UAE Team Emirates really responded.
64.5km to go
At 4.4km, the Col du Rosier is the longest climb in today’s race, and the breakaway riders are just under 2.5km from the summit. Meanwhile, the peloton is on the lower part of the climb, and Niklas Eg (Trek-Segafredo) briefly turns on the front before Rubén Fernández (Cofidis) takes over. It will surprise nobody to learn that Deceuninck-Quick Step has a posse tucked in just behind.
Pogacar has a mechanical!
One of the pre-race favorites Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates), who was third here last year, has had an issue with his bike and was forced to stop. The young Slovenian and reigning Tour de France champion wasted little time in getting back to the business of riding his bike but will be burning a few matches here as he chases around on.
66km to go
Alpecin-Fenix has, I think, shown themselves near the front of the peloton for the first time today.
70km to go
Despite that flurry of attacks off the front of the peloton, the breakaway’s advantage is holding around the four-minute Mark. One gets the feeling that these attacks are more exploratory than anything else. Testing their rivals’ resolve.
72km to go
The attacks are starting to come in waves. Greg Van Avermaet (Ag2r-Citroën) is the latest to rise out of his saddle and press down on those cranks, and he is followed by another Belgian Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto-Soudal).
74km to go
Another minor attack from an Astana-Premier Tech rider was closed down quickly by Philippe Gilbert (Lotto-Soudal), a former winner here.
75km to go
The climbs are coming thick and fast now. Next up for the peloton is the Côte de la Haute-Levée – 2.2km long at a gradient of 7.50% – and several riders are starting to labor. Enric Mas (Movistar) and Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) were just spotted falling out of the back.
79km to go
The peloton is onto Eddy Merckx’s favorite climb – that’s the Côte de Stockeu between you and me – with the entire width of the road being filled out with riders from the big teams. Groupama-FDJ, Ineos Grenadiers, Deceuninck-Quick Step, and BikeExchange are all represented. Interesting to note that the Michael above Matthews was positioned up near the front, the Aussie gaining himself plenty of sliding room – when a rider, particularly a sprinter, starts the climb at the show then drifts back through the bunch with the aim of not falling out of the back before they reach the summit. This is a very clever way of saving energy in tough races like this.
81.5km to go
Hello, what’s this? Luis León Sánchez has just moved to the peloton’s front, taking Astana-Premier Tech teammate Omar Fraile. Ineos Grenadiers, powered by Luke Rowe, respond.
The peloton is not too far away from the wall-like Côte de Stockeu that is just 1,000 meters in length but with an average gradient of 12.50%, is going to hurt. It will also, one assumes, cause some splits in the big group that trails the breakaway by 4min 25sec.
90km to go
Somewhere in here is Michael Matthews, who, with his fast finish,h may fancy his chances today. The Australian would certainly stand a chance with the new-look finish to Liège-Bastogne-Liège – ok, relatively new – since the line was moved from Ans back to Liège.
As you can see from the finale to the race, if a rider can get over the Côte de La Roche-aux-Faucons, the final climb of the day (below), and go to the line with the leaders, then he stands a decent chance.
The downhill section suits a late attack from a rider in the style of Matej Mohoric (fourth here last year) or your Marc Hirschi’s (UAE Team Emirates) of the world, though one suspects those names would not be allowed the space for such an attack.
95km to go
Over the top of the Côte de Mont le Soie goes the breakaway riders, with one or two of them opting to remove their arm warmers. The peloton, currently led by Deceuninck-Quick Step rider Pieter Serry, has just started the 1.7km climb with an average gradient of 7.90%.
Under 100km to go
It looks like a lovely day out in the Ardennes, not too dissimilar to the weather we are having in much of Britain: clear blues skies with a light breeze. Not too hot, but not too cold – perfect for cycling.
It will surprise few to discover that Deceuninck-Quick Step, Movistar, Bora-Hansgrohe, and Israel Start-up Nation all have domestics up near the front of the peloton, setting a nice tempo while ensuring the breakaway does not gain too much time on them.
As it stands
As you may expect there is a decent sized breakaway that comprises seven riders – Sergey Chernetskiy (Gazprom-RusVelo), Laurens Huys (Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles), Tomasz Marczynski (Lotto-Soudal), Mathijs Paasschens (Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles), Lorenzo Rota (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), Aaron Van Poucke (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and Loïc Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) – with that septet holding a 6min 22sec lead.
However, despite that advantage and ‘just’ 105 kilometers of racing to go, there is still an awful lot of climbing for these riders to do. In fact, there are still nine of those 11 recognized climbs to tackle, so there is still plenty of time for the favorites to rein that breakaway back in or for their legs to fall off once the road ramps up high into the double digits.
Vollering leads home Dutch one-two in Liège
Demi Vollering (SD Worx) won the women’s race after outsprinting Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) and Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) at the end of 140.9km race from Bastogne to Liège.
Having worked on behalf of teammate Anna van der Breggen at the midweek Flèche Wallonne, the world champion produced a selfless ride for her Dutch compatriot as she set a fierce tempo on the front of a five-woman group in the finale of the fiercely contested race.
Having gone onto the final climb of the day, the viciously steep Côte de La Roche-aux-Faucons (see profile below), Van der Breggen pressed on, causing a split in the sizeable group. While Van Vleuten and Longo Borghini were able to follow, Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon-Sram) and Vollering regained contact shortly afterward.
Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope), however, lost contact with the main protagonists and were unable to regain contact, thanks mainly to the enormous effort put in by Van der Breggen, who will retire from racing at the end of the season to become a directeur sportif.
Van Vleuten was the first to open up their sprint, but in the end, there was only ever going to be one winner, and Vollering overhauled her as the line neared to land the biggest win of her career. “Anna did such a good job, and the whole team, that I could finish it… that’s awesome,” an emotional Vollering told television reporters afterward. “I am really grateful that they [her SD Worx team] did it for me, and it is such a fantastic team, thanks to the whole team.
“It was really hard on the climbs. At one moment, we were gone with this group, then Vos came back, and it is better to not sprint with her, of course, so I was thrilled that it did break again. Anna did a lead-out the last 10 kilometers or something; it was awesome. “This is a race I really like; two years ago, I was third here in my first pro year, and now already I won; it is a dream coming true.”
And welcome to our live rolling blog from Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the third monument of the season following the postponement of Paris-Roubaix and the last WorldTour race of the spring classics campaign.
Liège-Bastogne-Liège is a lumpy affair featuring numerous horribly steep climbs deep in the heart of the Belgian Ardennes. While the race may lack some of the romance of the cobbled classics – particularly the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix – it is widely regarded as one of the most challenging one-day races in the WorldTour.
Although there are just 11 recognised climbs — Côte de la Roche en Ardenne, Côte de Saint-Roch, Côte de Mont le Soie, Côte de Wanne, Côte de Stockeu, Côte de la Haute-Levée, Col du Rosier, Côte de Desnié, Côte de La Redoute, Côte des Forges and Côte de La Roche-aux-Faucons — the route offers riders few opportunities to recover between the short, but vicious, climbs that pepper the course.
Within the final 36 kilometers of the 259.1km route, three nasty little climbs — Côte de La Redoute, Côte des Forges and Côte de La Roche-aux-Faucons — all with average gradients of around eight percent or more that will test the riders and end the hopes of those not strong enough to stay within distance of the key protagonists.
Unlike Flèche Wallonne, the midweek race where the winner is almost exclusively decided upon the final ascent of the Mur de Huy, Liège-Bastogne-Liège does at least have some jeopardy involved, making it a fascinating spectacle. In fact, last year’s race where Primoz Roglic pipped the new world champion Julian Alaphilippe to victory as the Frenchman prematurely counted his chickens was, arguably, the best one-day race of 2020. Which is saying something.
Watching brief . . .
The women’s race, the 140.9-kilometer run from Bastogne to Liège, got underway at 7.50 am (BST), while the men’s race started at 10.15 am.
Those lucky enough to have subscriptions can watch the action on Eurosport or GCN Race Pass. If you cannot watch the race on TV or on your smartphone, you can follow the step here – bookmark this page and return at around 1 pm to follow the stage with us.
Riders to watch out for
The good news for cycling fans is that almost all of the big names will be racing today, though unfortunately for fans of British riders, man-of-the-moment Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) was forced to pull out on the eve of the race. Having crashed around 28km from the finish of Flèche Wallonne, the 21-year-old did remarkably well to chase back on with help from teammate Tao Geoghegan Hart and, in fact, managed to take sixth. However, having sustained a few bumps and bruises, it was decided to give today’s race a swerve.
On the starting line, though, is the aforementioned defending champion Roglic (Jumbo-Visma). He has a solid-looking team riding in support of him while Alaphilippe leads Deceuninck-Quick Step. Alongside the world champion is a supreme young talent who goes by the name of Mauri Vansevenant. Although just 21, like Pidcock, the Belgian rider from Ostend looks like a real star and appears at home in the hilly Ardennes.
Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar, who finished third here last year, is broadly expected to be leading the UAE Team Emirates line-up, though only because his new teammate Marc Hirschi who was second in Liège in 2020, has yet to exhibit the form that made the young Swiss one of the hottest properties around.
Jakob Fuglsang, who landed his first monument at Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2019, is in action today, the Dane. However, he may be overshadowed by Spanish teammate Alex Aranburu who has secured a series of impressive results, including a stage at Itzulia Basque Country and seventh at Milan-Sanremo before narrowly missing out on top-10 finishes at Amstel Gold and Flèche Wallonne.
Wout Poels, another former winner, is here with Bahrain Victorious teammates Matej Mohoric (fourth in 2020) and Dylan Teuns while the aging, and quite possibly past it, Philippe Gilbert will be in action with fellow Belgian and Lotto-Soudal teammate Tim Wellens.
Speaking of veterans, the four-time winner Alejandro Valverde celebrates his 41st birthday on Sunday and honors the occasion by pinning on the number 41 to the back of his Movistar jersey. Having finished third at Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday, one suspects the Spaniard is not simply turning up for the birthday cake; he will want something to wash it down with.
There is a stack more who could do something given the right circumstances. Young Frenchman David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) arrives in good form, while Benoît Cosnefroy (Ag2rCitroën) has been threatening for some time but has not managed to. Yet.
Michael Woods is another perennial favorite for these races featuring steep and spicy climbs. One suspects his Israel Start-up Nation team will be throwing their total weight behind the Canadian in the absence of Dan Martin. Esteban Chaves (BikeExchange), Maximilian Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), and Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic) all certainly have it within themselves to challenge.
For those keen on looking out for the Britons, Simon Carr (EF Education-Nippo) is worth watching, as is Ben Tulett (Alpecin-Fenix), who, at the age of 19 years and 242 days, is the youngest rider at this year’s race and having finished 12th at Flèche Wallonne is clearly a man for the steep stuff. Oh, he’s also a cyclo-cross rider. Of course, he is. Mark Donovan (DSM) was 54th at Flèche Wallonne, James Knox (Deceuninck-Quick Step) looked good there.
Following the withdrawal from Pidcock their starting line-up, Ineos Grenadiers has three British riders with Adam Yates expected to be handed freedom to chase his own ambitions, while Giro d’Italia champion Tao Geoghegan Hart – coincidentally the 26-year-old sealed that excellent maglia rosa six months ago today – is, I understand, very fond of racing the Ardennes. The ever-reliable Luke Rowe will, one assumes, be on-road captain-domestique duties.
Confirmed starting list
Benoît Cosnefroy (Fra), Tony Gallopin (Fra), Dorian Godon (Fra) Ben O’Connor (Aus), Aurélien Paret-Peintre (Fra), Michael Schär (Swi), Greg Van Avermaet (Bel).
Astana-Premier Tech (Kaz)
Alex Aranburu (Spa), Stefan de Bod (SA), Omar Fraile (Spa), Jakob Fuglsang (Den), Hugo Houle (Can), Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz), Luis León Sánchez (Spa).
Bahrain Victorious (Born)
Eros Capecchi (Ita), Jack Haig (Aus), Heinrich Haussler (Aus), Matej Mohoric (Slo), Domen Novak (Slo), Mark Padun (Ukr), Wout Poels (Hol), Dylan Teuns (Bel).
BikeExchange (Aus): Brent Bookwalter (US), Esteban Chaves (Col), Lucas Hamilton (Aus), Christopher Juul-Jensen (Den), Tanel Kangert (Est), Michael Matthews (Aus), Mikel Nieve (Spa).
Cesare Benedetti (Ita), Matteo Fabbro (Ita), Wilco Kelderman (Hol), Patrick Konrad (Aut), Maximilian Schachmann (Ger), Ide Schelling (Hol, neo-pro), Andreas Schillinger (Ger).
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits (Fra)
Fernando Barceló (Spa), Rubén Fernández (Spa), Simon Geschke (Ger), Jesús Herrada (Spa), Guillaume Martin (Fra), Anthony Perez (Fra), Rémy Rochas (Fra).
Deceuninck-Quick Step (Bel)
Julian Alaphilippe (Fra), Joao Almeida (Por), Dries Devenyns (Bel), Mikkel Frolich Honore (Den), James Knox (GB), Pieter Serry (Bel), Mauri Vansevenant (Bel, neo-pro).
Nikias Arndt (Ger), Tiesj Benoot (Bel), Mark Donovan (GB, neo-pro), Chris Hamilton (Aus), Andreas Leknessund (Nor, neo-pro), Martijn Tusveld (Hol), Kevin Vermaerke (US).
EF Education-Nippo (US)
Jonathan Caicedo (Ecu), Simon Carr (GB, neo-pro), Lawson Craddock (US), Sergio Higuita (Col), Alex Howes (US), Hideto Nakane (Jpn), Michael Valgren (Den).
Bruno Armirail (Fra), William Bonnet (Fra), David Gaudu (Fra), Mathieu Ladagnous (Fra), Valentin Madouas (Fra), Rudy Molard (Fra), Romain Seigle (Fra).
Ineos Grenadiers (GB)
Richard Carapaz (Ecu), Eddie Dunbar (Irl), Tao Geoghegan Hart (GB), Michal Golas (Pol), Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol), Luke Rowe (GB), Adam Yates (GB).
Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux (Bel)
Jan Bakelants (Bel), Ludwig De Winter (Bel), Quinten Hermans (Bel, neo-pro), Maurits Lammertink (Hol), Lorenzo Rota (Ita), Kevin Van Melsen (Bel), Loïc Vliegen (Bel).
Israel Start-up Nation (Isr)
Guillaume Boivin (Can), Omer Goldstein (Isr), Reto Hollenstein (Swi), Daryl Impey (SA), Krists Neilands (Lat), Guy Sagiv (Isr), Michael Woods (Can).
Robert Gesink (Hol), Lennard Hofstede (Hol), Paul Martens (Ger), Sam Oomen (Hol), Christoph Pfingsten (Ger), Primoz Roglic (Slo), Jonas Vingegaard (Den).
Philippe Gilbert (Bel), Sébastien Grignard (Bel, neo-pro), Tomasz Marczynski (Pol), Sylvain Moniquet (Bel, neo-pro), Tosh Van der Sande (Bel), Harm Vanhoucke (Bel), Tim Wellens (Bel).
Jorge Arcas (Spa), Matteo Jorgenson (US, neo-pro), Lluís Mas (Spa), Enric Mas (Spa), Gonzalo Serrano (Spa), Alejandro Valverde (Spa), Carlos Verona (Spa).
Sander Armée (Bel), Fabio Aru (Ita), Sean Bennett (US), Simon Clarke (Aus), Sergio Henao (Col), Robert Power (Aus), Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita).
Julien Bernard (Fra), Nicola Conci (Ita), Niklas Eg (Den), Alexander Kamp (Den), Bauke Mollema (Hol), Michel Ries (Lux, neo-pro), Toms Skujins (Lat).
UAE Team Emirates (UAE)
Rui Costa (Por), David de la Cruz (Spa), Davide Formolo (Ita), Marc Hirschi (Swi), Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor), Brandon McNulty (US), Tadej Pogacar (Slo).
Jimmy Janssens (Bel), Xandro Meurisse (Bel), Kristian Sbaragli (Ita), Ben Tulett (GB), Otto Vergaerde (Bel), Louis Vervaeke (Bel), Philipp Walsleben (Ger).
Warren Barguil (Fra), Thibault Guernalec (Fra), Kévin Ledanois (Fra), Lukasz Owsian (Pol), Laurent Pichon (Fra), Alan Riou (Fra), Diego Rosa (Ita).
Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles (Bel)
Laurens Huys (Bel), Rémy Mertz (Bel), Kenny Molly (Bel), Mathijs Paasschens (Hol), Joel Suter (Swi), Jelle Vanendert (Bel), Luc Wirtgen (Lux).
Sergey Chernetskiy (Rus), Roman Kreuziger (Cze), Petr Rikunov (Rus), Evgeny Shalunov (Rus), Dmitry Strakhov (Rus), Simone Velasco (Ita), Ilnur Zakarin (Rus).
Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise (Bel)
Ruben Apers (Bel), Alex Colman (Bel), Rune Herregodts (Bel), Julian Mertens (Bel), Thomas Sprengers (Bel), Aaron Van Poucke (Bel), Aaron Verwilst (Bel).
Total Direct Énergie (Fra)
Mathieu Burgaudeau (Fra), Fabien Doubey (Fra), Valentin Ferron (Fra), Marlon Gaillard (Fra), Fabien Grellier (Fra), Pierre Latour (Fra), Julien Simon (Fra).