Before I go on to talk about Liege I feel I have to congratulate Anna Van Der Breggen for her record breaking 5th win of Flèche Wallonne. It takes a champion to repeat a victory in such a prestigious event but 5 times in a row deserves a bow!
Now onto Liege Baston Liege- my favourite ardenne classic suiting me down to the ground with undulations all day and with an attritional nature to the race there are never many riders fighting for the victory come the finish. I surprised myself last year and managed to be in fighting position along side my team mate Sabriena Stultiens racing for top 10 after a small group escaped. Sabriena was 6th & myself 12th. Coming from the track background I found the shorter steeper climbs suited me being able to power over them without going to deep into the red.
I personally loved this race as it was a real mix of everything in one bike race: Narrow roads, wide roads, short climbs, longer climbs, shallow and steep. There is also so much support from fans on the road side, especially on the famous climbs such as la redote which is generally where the race really kicks off. You get people who have camped in caravans the night before with flags out ready to cheer both the men and women. The support meant so much to me as a rider and hearing the screams almost gave you extra power to push harder over the parts that really hurt the most. La Redote is only 1.7km in length and 9.5% average but narrow causing the peloton to line out with sections up to 17% meaning gaps and chasing if you found yourself caught out. After this part of the race it becomes relentless with attacks coming thick and fast until the finish of the race. It is crucial to remain focused and in a good position to react and pick the best moments to attack.
What I’ve loved about this season so far is that there have been some unknown names shining through with consistent outstanding results. For Liège I want to add a wild card prediction into the mix & my pick after the past 2 races is Demi Vollenring riding for Parkhotel Valkenburg. She was 7th in Amstel gold race finishing on the same time as Marianne Vos who was 3rd. More recently a super impressive 5th in flèche only 16 seconds behind winner Anna Van Der Breggen – one to look out for this season for sure!!
This year is the 3rd edition of the race for women with a total of 138km and a different finish with new grounds for the women this year now finishing in Liege like the men.
My predictions for this year are –
- Marianne Vos
- Annika Langvad
- Annemiek van Vleuten