Preview: Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes

The grand finale of the Ardennes Classics is Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes. Following on from the drama of the Amstel Gold Race and La Flèche Wallonne Féminine, Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes draws the curtain on the Spring Classics season with a race that favours the climbers of the bunch. With three previous winners of the race lining up, it promises fireworks, 

Although the men’s version is considered a Monument, the women’s iteration of the race is the most youthful of the women’s Ardennes classics – 2023 will see just the seventh edition of the race take place on Sunday 23rd April across Wallonia in southern Belgium, preceding the men’s race which will take place later that day. The race will begin bright and early at 8.40 CEST, and is expected to finish around 12.30 CEST.


The Route

Even though the race mirrors the name of the men’s equivalent, it could more accurately be titled ‘Bastogne-Liège’, as it begins at around the halfway mark of the men’s route in Bastogne. 2023’s 142.8km route reflects previous editions in terms of distance but has bolstered the amount of climbing on the menu, with nine ascents compared with last year’s seven. 


Rolling out of Bastogne, the peloton face around 50km of rolling terrain as they head north before they begin the climbing in earnest, just over one third of the way into the race’s distance. Away from the short, sharp pitches of Flanders, climbing in the Ardennes is longer and tougher, and increases in intensity and frequency as the race builds to a crescendo in Liège. The bunch is likely to be gradually winnowed as the strongest riders use the climbs to launch their attacks.

The changes from last year’s route include the Côte de Stockeu, where the riders will pass by a monument to Eddy Merckx, instead of the climb into Stavelot; the Col du Maquisuard instead of the Côte de Desnie, and two new climbs – the Cornément and the Côte des Forges.

The iconic, race-defining names remain though, including the Col du Rosier, the longest of the bunch at 4.4km with an average gradient of 5.9%, the Côte de La Redoute, one to separate the contenders from the also-rans at 2km with an average pitch of 8.9%, and the  final ascent, the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons, a nasty kicker of 1.3% at 11% on average which will force the final selection, if it hasn’t already been made by then. 13km remains between there and the finish line. In 2022, Annemiek van Vleuten used the final climb to launch a solo ride to a victory which reinvigorated her season. Will she be able to do the same again this year?


Riders to Watch

Unsurprisingly given the prestige of the race, an all-star cast will take to the start line for this year’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège. With the return of the pure climbers to the peloton following a cobbled classic campaign dominated by Team SD Worx, the rest will hope the Ardennes provide a more equal playing field, as in recent days the Dutch super-team have shown that they are not infallible. They were unable to control the race at Paris-Roubaix, and were overturned midweek at De Brabantse Pijl, the race that provides a warm-up for the Ardennes classics along with a good indicator of form. In Demi Vollering they may boast the race favourite, and with a strong set of support riders the Dutchwoman will be the clear leader for the team, but they have a fight on their hands if they are to boss the race in the way they did in 2021.

Trek-Segafredo, by contrast, have multiple leadership options. Riding in the Ardennes on her return from maternity leave, Lizzie Deignan will be chomping at the bit to get her race legs back. but with her form uncertain, they are more likely to lean on Elisa Longo Borghini, and with the invaluable support of Gaia Realini and Amanda Spratt on the climbs, the American outfit will be a force to be reckoned with.

Annemiek van Vleuten knows how to win at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and will be hungry to add a third title to her already stacked palmares as she rides her final Ardennes classic. Her Movistar team boasts other options too, should the World Champion not be at her best, with German champion Liane Lippert vying for leadership and in excellent form, and Floortje Mackaij never one to write off.

FDJ-SUEZ return to arguably their strongest line-up now Marta Cavalli is back in the fold, with Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig likely to be co-leader depending on Cavalli’s form, and Grace Brown a valuable support rider and outside chance for a long-range effort.

Canyon//SRAM bring a number of strong outsiders including Kasia Niewiadoma, who always threatens on this type of course, Elise Chabbey in strong form, and Pauline Rooijakkers who showed well at last year’s Ardennes Classics.

Outside of the bigger teams, there are plenty of threats. UAE Team ADQ drew first blood in the Ardennes battle with Silvia Persico beating Demi Vollering in Brabantse, and while their team arguably lacks the depth of some of the stronger teams, Persico is clearly on great form. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (AG Insurance-Soudal QuickStep) should never be underestimated in a race that involves climbing, and with additional ascents on this year’s route the scales tip ever more in her favour. Team Jayco-Alula’s Kristen Faulkner is always a dangerous competitor, and Juliette Labous (Team DSM) could be a dark horse.

A total of 24 teams line up as we reach the concluding chapter of the 202 Spring Classics season. The final part of the race will be broadcast live beginning at 11.15 CEST. 


‘Watch the FemmesTV Coverage: Eurosport, GCN



When: Sunday 23 April

Where: Bastogne – Liège, Belgium

What: One-day Spring Classic


Riders to watch:

5 Vollering

4 Lippert, Van Vleuten, Longo Borghini, Persico, Uttrup Ludwig

3 Cavalli, Moolman Pasio, Deignan

2 Chabbey, Niewiadoma, Faulkner, Brown

1 Spratt, Labous, Realini,


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