Preview: Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes

Written by: Juliana Reis
Posted 1 month ago

This Sunday, the Ardennes Classics season wraps up with the prestigious Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes, a race beloved by cycling fans. Known as the oldest classic in women’s cycling, it boasts a rich history and is famed for its tough course through the Ardennes. Riders will face a challenging 142.8-kilometer route from Bastogne to Liège, taking on nine demanding climbs that are characteristic of the region. This event not only tests endurance but also celebrates the spirit and determination of the competitors.

The 8th edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes will take place this Sunday, April 21, a 1.WWT race, with 24 teams, nine Continentals will align with the fifteen Women’s WorldTour Teams. Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes will take place after the men’s race, comprehending the 147.6 km race corresponding to the second part of the course of their male counterparts. The final 45 km is also the same as the fourth stage of the forthcoming Tour de France for women.

Riders will navigate the iconic climbs and undulating roads of the Ardennes, each pedal stroke bringing them closer to glory. With a rich history dating back to its inception in 2017, Liege-Bastogne-Liege Femmes has evolved into a major event in the cycling calendar.

It will be an exciting race as top contenders fight for victory, this Sunday promises an electrifying display of talent, where every twist and turn of the road holds the promise of triumph for those bold enough to seize it. As the Women’s WorldTour Spring Classics draw to a close, they signal the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. This transition starts with La Vuelta Femenina in May, marking the commencement of a fresh wave of competitive cycling events.

 

You can follow the race from the start at 13:35 CET right through to the expected finish around 17:45 CET with our live tracking and live updates in our ProCycling Women App on Android or iPhone!

What happened last year?

Last year, Demi Vollering (Team SD Worx – Protime) made history when she not only claimed her second Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes, but conquered the  Ardennes Classics triple crown after winning the Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne in 2023.

The crowd waiting in the finish line in Liège saw Vollering out-sprint Elisa Longo Borghini, where her SD Worx teammate Marlen Reusser crossed the line in third place completing the podium.

The race settled down with 75 km to go when 5 riders attacked and a strong group was formed with Marlen Reusser (SD Worx), Amanda Spratt (Trek-Segafredo), Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon//Sram), Esmée Peperkamp (Team DSM) and Anna Henderson (Jumbo-Visma) that open a gap of 20” on the ascent.

Niewiadoma suffered a puncture with 50km to go and was caught by the peloton, while the 4 units had a 30-second lead. At La Redoute, Reusser went solo with 35 km to go, one minute ahead of the peloton. At the front of the group, Movistar’s Annemiek van Vleuten and Liane Lippert try to respond, but their rivals match their accelerations while Reusser keeps pushing at the front.

Into the last 15 km,  Reusser faced the final ascent of the day, Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons (1.3km at 11%) with a lead of 40 seconds. But Trek-Segafredo reacted and six riders went over the top together. Longo Borghini and Vollering drop their rivals, the duo enter the last 5km with a gap of 23’’ to their chasers. The victory would be fought out in a sprint between the two, where Vollering was the strongest, And that’s how the story went.

 

The Parcours

After leaving Bastogne, the peloton will quickly reach Houffalize and face the first challenge: the Cote de Saint-Roch, which was not part of the course in 2023. What follows is more typical, with a sequence of four hills spanning 25 kilometers, starting with the Cote de Wanne and followed by the famous Cote de Stockeu, Cote de la Haute-Levée, and finally the Col du Rosier. This year, the Cote de Desnié replaces the Col du Maquisard, leading up to a challenging finale.

The race is likely to be decided from the Cote de La Redoute, with it’s 1.6 km at 9.5%, which connects to the Cote de Cornémont. After the Cote des Forges, which is often not decisive, the remaining competitors will battle it out at Cote de la Roche-aux-Faucons (1.2 km at 11%) or, as often happens, in its extension, with the peak located about ten kilometers from the finish. A fast descent into Liège followed by a short flat stretch to the finish line offers little opportunity for regrouping.

The nine climbs:

 

 

The Favorites

The Dutch thrive in Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes. In it’s inaugural year in 2017 and it’s following year, Anna van der Breggen won ‘La Doyenne’, where her compatriot Anemic van Vleuten was victorious in 2019. The Dutch streak was broken by Lizzie Deignan who won the prestigious race in 2020. However, the following years were pray to Demi Vollering, Annemiek van Vleuten in 2021 and 2022 where Vollering took her second win in Liege last year.

Demi Vollering

The Dutchwoman from Team SD Worx – Protime, won the 3 races of Ardennes classics last year but is dry this year. She’ll be aiming for the victory and will try to defend her last years’ title, as the parcours suits her well. Her outstanding performance throughout 2023 has raised expectations for her continued success. A victory at La Flèche Wallonne Femmes would solidify her position and would be a kick-off for the victories in the races ahead. Her second place in la Fléche Wallonne secures her form but she wants to be on the highest place on the podium in Liege.

Lotte Kopecky, also from Team SD Worx – Protime, can be a great help for Vollering but also a potential winner,  after ending in third last year, may try to ride to the victory and make the fourth winning of the season. Her supporting role at La Fléche Wallonne was mentally good for the World Champion and she will be back on fire this Sunday.

Katarzyna Niewiadoma

The Polish rider from Canyon//SRAM Racing, just won this year’s edition of Fleché Wallone last Wednesday under very difficult weather conditions, this win was very welcome after 1770 days without a victory. The experienced rider always does well in LBL but never hit the top spot. Her win in Huy proved to herself how important is to wait for the right time for an attack. She is one of the riders to watch this Sunday as well. Her strong team sees Soraya Paladin, Richard Bauernfeind and Elis Chabbey securing Kasia to the La Redoute, where she has to perform her own solo.

Elisa Longo Borghini

As winner of the Tour the Flanders the Italian champion demonstrated strong performances throughout the Classics season, and maybe after the win for Lidl-Trek in the Ardennes Classics as they arrive in Bastogne with a strong line up. Her teammate Gaia Realini struggled with the cold weather in Huy but will be keen to perform well in La Doyenne as well. And don’t rule out Shirin van Anrooij, the young rider aso proved to climb with the best and might be option two for Lidl Trek.

Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio

The South African rider always proms well in the Ardennes. Having started 14 times in la Fléche Wallonne, the AG Insurance – Soudal Team Quickstep rider finished 10 times in the top 10! ”When Moolman goes, you go” is a common tip from Race Directors in their rider briefings. Will she be able to stand her ground on the La Redoute and sprint for victory?

 

Juliette Labous

The French rider of Team DSM-firmenich PostNL is performing well this year but haven’s secured a podium finish just yet. Was 7th last Wednesday and is the dark horse of this edition of Liege- Bastogne Liege. The always smiling rider does thrive on longer and harder climbs but still manages to finish top 10 in these races. They might have a different plan.

Our final mention is Mareille Meijering of Team Movistar. The 29 year old Dutch rider in Spanish service wasn’t among the best in the Classic races but is a good climber and is capable of throwing a punch or two with her two wheels and kick up some sand in the engines of the other teams.

 

The Weather

Expect cloudy skies to add a strategic twist to an exciting race day. This forecast is perfect for racers and fans, providing cool temperatures for peak athlete performance and comfortable conditions for spectators. The weather forecast for Liège-Bastogne-Liège on April 21 is a cloudy sky, with temperatures between 3°C and 9°C, and winds at 16 km/h.

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