28/04/19 - 09:25
Road race - Men
Liège - Bastogne - Liège • Stage1

Road race - Men

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Third in the Amstel Gold Race, second in La Fleche Wallonne… it was only logical that the in-form Fuglang would cap his Ardennes Fortnight with a win in La Doyenne. Thanks for joining me today - and see you soon for the Giro d'Italia!


Here's the top 10 today.


Here's the moment Fuglsang's hopes almost went up in smoke...


The Dane kisses his wedding ring and punches the air as he crosses the line for the biggest win of his career. Davide Formolo (Bora-Hansgrohe) takes second place at 28 seconds, while behind it's the Italian's team-mate Max Schachmann who wins the sprint for third place at around 1:05.


Victory for Jakob Fuglsang of Astana!


Under the flamme rouge goes Fuglsang and the win is his provided he can stay upright.


The Yates chase group is one minute down so they're riding for third place...


Woods has been caught by the chase group while Formolo is now 30 seconds down on the lone leader.


Still 25 seconds now for our lone leader who rides into Liege as the sun comes out.


OH NO! Jakob Fuglsang almost hits the deck! He takes a terrible line through a wet forest and his back wheel skids terribly - but somehow the Dane manages to keep his cool and stay on the bike. Phew, that was close...


No one deserves this win - should he win - more than Fuglsang. Second in Strade Bianche, 3rd in Amstel Gold, 2nd in La Fleche Wallonne... is he finally going to win a major classic?


Fuglsang has 25 seconds on Formolo with Woods another 5 seconds back. Schachmann and Nibali have joined the other chasers so we have six men then riding about 45 seconds back, then it's the Alaphilippe-Poels group.


But ahead of that Alaphilippe group is a four-man move that features Gaudu, Teuns, Mikel Landa and Adam Yates. They are 35 seconds down on Fuglsang.


Alaphilippe is not to be ruled out: he's in a 10-man chase group that also includes the likes of Schachmann and Wout Poels.


Fuglsang has now dropped Formolo and so the Dane is our lone leader - but he has his work cut out because the chasers will regroup on the run into Liege, and Bora seem to have at least three riders in the frame.


Fuglsang, who has been so strong this season, puts in a dig and takes Formolo with him, but Woods has popped.


The climb proper is over but after a short descent the road now rises again steadily. Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Merida) and David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) are trying to bridge over.


Fuglsang, Woods and Formolo have a good gap now. But there's a strong chase group with Schachmann, Nibali, Bardet, Alaphilippe, Gaudu and some others...


But it's all over for Wellens and the break as the front runners zip by led by Michael Woods and Fuglsang. It looks like Alaphilippe is in trouble... Davide Formolo follows but Nibali and Bardet let the gap open.


Wellens attacks! The big Belgian makes his move...


We're onto the last climb, the Cote de la Roche-aux-Faucons (1.3km at 11%). The break has about 15 seconds still.


Ion Izagirre overcooks a bend and rides into the spectators after leading the Astana-pronged peloton. He didn't go down but he'll struggle to get back into the fray now.


It's started to rain again!


Contract is made so we now have four riders out ahead with about 15 seconds to play with. Astana are leading the chase for their man Jakob Fuglsang.


ATTACK: Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) makes his move and takes Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) with him. So we have two riders chasing down the two leaders Konrad and Kangert on this fast descent.


Kangert and then Konrad go over the top before joining forces. There's a bit of activity behind with Ilnur Zakarin, it looks like, putting in a dig.


Julian Alaphilippe is right on the back of the peloton, which is odd. He must have dropped back to the team car but that was odd because he's really vulnerable now if any attacks come in.


There's an attack from the pack by Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe). Astana have two men now on the front as Kangert's lead is reduced to 15 seconds. And at the back, Philippe Gilbert has been dropped...


Kangert is on the Cote des Forges (1.3km at 7.7%) with a 30-second gap.


It's all over for the break with the exception of the Estonian Kangert, the former Astana man, who will be our unlikely lone leader going onto the penultimate climb.


The pace has increased in the pack and the break will soon be caught. Kangert still has 22 seconds as the race hits an urban ramp ahead of the penultimate climb but his fellow escapees will soon be reabsorbed, despite the best efforts of De Marchi and Caruso.


Kangert still holds a small lead over the other escapees as he zips down the descent and bunny hops a roundabout. He really doesn't suit the psychedelic EF Education First Rapha kit - a bit like your dad wearing a Global Hypercolour t-shirt - but he won't care.


Annemiek Van Vleuten beat Floortje Mackaij and Demi Vollering to give the peloton a distinctly Dutch flavour.


A reminder that earlier, this happened...


Over the top goes Kangert, who has a small gap over six of the remaining escapees. They have 30 seconds now over the Enric Mas-led main pack.


Julian Alaphilippe has come to the front of the pack to perhaps prepare for an attack. Ahead, Tanel Kangert has ridden clear of the break and has a small gap. The break is losing riders - both Movistar riders (Anacona and Verona) have gone - as has the Ardennes specialist Albasini.


The break is now on the Cote de la Redoute - otherwise known as the Campervan Climb. It's 2km at 8.9% and has 100 PHILs grafittied on it by some mad Japanese fan in homage to Phil Gil.


Vakoc has peeled off the front after his shift and now it's Dries Devenyns driving the pace for QuickStep, who have managed to reduce the lead to 35 seconds going onto the climb.


The slender advantage is still around the 45-second mark as the break hurtle to the foot of the iconic La Redoute climb.


QuickStep have Petr Vakoc and Enric Mas doing tempo on the front of this slimmed-down peloton. The gap is 42 seconds.


Bike change for the Spaniard from Sky who will rejoin the other nine leaders. The gap is 30 seconds still for the break. And much of the wet weather gear is coming off now.


Mechanical problem for David de la Cruz, who is stuck in the small ring and having to pedal a crazy cadence to keep up. His place in the break is at stake here.


We're onto the fourth-last climb - the Col du Maquisard (2.5km at 5%).


It was a big mistake from QuickStep not to get a rider in that move. They had both Gilbert and Mas in the earlier, larger move but neither managed to get in the counter attack, and it's now the Belgian team who lead the chase in the main pack some 35 seconds in arrears.


We now have 10 riders out ahead: Tanel Kangert (EF Education First), Benoît Cosnefroy (AG2R-La Mondiale), Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Merida), Michael Albasini (Mitchelton-Scott), David De La Cruz (Team Sky), Omar Fraile (Astana), Bjorg Lambrecht (Lotto Soudal), Winner Anacona and Carlos Verona (Movistar) and Alessandro De Marchi (CCC Team).


Kangert and Fraile went over the top with a small gap over a chasing group.


Kangert and Fraile have kicked clear on the Rosier to open up a small gap.


Here's who's in the new break: Philippe Gilbert and Enric Mas (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Simon Clarke, Lawson Craddock and Tanel Kangert (EF Education First), Benoît Cosnefroy (AG2R-La Mondiale), Vincenzo Nibali, Damiano Caruso and Antonio Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Max Schachmann and Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Hansgrohe), Michael Albasini and Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott), David De La Cruz (Team Sky), Omar Fraile and Gorka Izagirre (Astana), Winer Anacona and Carlos Verona (Movistar), Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis), Sergio Heano and Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates), Greg Van Avermaet and Alessandro De Marchi (CCC Team), Dmitrii Strakhov and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha Alpecin), Laurens De Plus (Jumbo Visma), Toms Skujins and Nicola Conci (Trek-Segafredo).


We're quickly onto the next climb, the Col du Rosier (4.4km at 5.9%).


It's still Greg Van Avermaet in his golden helmet who is trying to force a move. He's driving this large move of around 20-odd riders who have a small gap over the pack. They have swept up the last escapee, Julian Bernard, while further behind the peloton is all snaked out.


So many riders have made it across to this move off the front of the pack and Greg Van Avermaet smells the danger and ups the tempo in a bid to have a shake out. Meanwhile, off the back Romain Bardet stops to change his bike.


We're hearing that Enrico Gasparotto (Dimension Data) has also withdrawn - following the likes of Martin, Valverde, Felline and Gesink.


There's a flurry of activity now on the Haute Levee as around 15 riders go clear of the pack, including former winner Philippe Gilbert. It looks like Greg Van Avermaet has jumped across, too. This could be interesting.


The Stockeu is a real drag... even over the top it continues to rise and then it becomes the Cote de la Haute-Levee (3.6km at 5.6%). The peloton is really strung out but the general slowing in pace means that Bernard now has 1:45 to play with out ahead.


Bad news for Dutch fans: Robert Gesink is out of the race after a crash - and let's hope that doesn't rule him out of the Giro d'Italia in a fortnight.


Calmejane and Pasqualon will soon be caught by the pack, who trail the leader by 1:20.


We're onto the Cote de Stockeu (1km at 12.5%) which is the climb dedicated to Eddy Merckx. Bernard, who isn't wearing gloves but has full leg-warmers and rain cape, still leads the two ahead of Molly and Paaschens (of Wallonie-Bruxelles) and Ludvigsson of Groupama-FDJ.


Women's LBL: Annemiek Van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) has soloed to glory after attacking on the Redoute. Floortje Mackaij (Team Sunweb) kicked clear of the chasers to take second place while Demi Vollering (Parkhotel Valkenburg) won the sprint for third.


Julien Bernard once again crests the climb in pole position. The Trek rider is still out ahead of the fragmenting break and it's one of the Wallonie-Bruxelles riders in pursuit.


The break is falling apart on the Cote de Wanne but the peloton is taking things fairly leisurely behind. This will give the second part of the pack a chance to fight back on.


Women's LBL: Annemiek van Vleuten has this one in the bag - the Dutch rider has two minutes to play with entering the final couple of kilometres, with around 15 riders behind battling it out for second place.


The trilogy of the Côte de Wanne, Côte de Stockeu and Côte de la Haute-Levée is underway.


Mechanical for one of the Izagirre brothers, who had a problem with his chain and then is stuck in the wrong gear at the start of the Cote de Wanne.


The rain is once again driving down as the riders enter the Ardennes forest. Bernard has about 20 seconds over his fellow escapees and 1:10 over the pack. It looks utterly miserable out there. I think I'd prefer to be running the London marathon than riding this...


Someone tell Julian Bernard that there isn't a polka dot jersey on offer today... The Frenchman darts clear of the break to crest the summit of the climb in pole position with a small gap over his fellow escapees.


There has been a split in the peloton with a second group rolling along around 30 seconds behind the main pack, who trail the leaders by only 1:30.


The break hits the Côte de Mont-le-Soie (1.7km at 7.9%) with a reduced lead of 2:15.


VALVERDE ABANDONS! That's the second former winner to throw in the towel. The four-time champion got in his team car with 105km remaining while I was just grabbing my lunch.


The weather is still absolutely foul out there which is why the average pace is well below the lowest expected schedule today. Deceuninck-QuickStep have now come to the front to lead the chase and they're being helped by Team Sky on their last race in the pro peloton. As a result the gap has tumbled to 3:20 for the eight leaders.


In one of the more unlikely stories you'll hear today...


Back with the men and the gap drops below the five-minute mark.


Women's LBL: 28km - Van Vleuten now has 35 seconds over the nine chasers with a second group including Marianne Vos another 10 seconds back.


Women's LBL: 31km - Annemiek van Vleuten went over the top of La Redoute with a 25-second gap over nine chasers.


The gap is coming down fast now. Just 5:35 at the latest check for the eight leaders, with the third climb coming up in about 15km.


The final climb today - in both the men's and women's races...


Women's LBL: Just two more climbs to go now as the women enter the business end of the race. Things a bit more precarious for the two leaders ahead of La Redoute and the Cote de la Roche-aux-Faucons. 35km remaining.


Two climbs down, nine to go...


After three hours of racing, the average speed is 37.9kph and the eight early attackers still have a lead of 7mins.


Women's LBL: The two leaders - Kirchmann and Novolodskaya - have increased their gap to 1'05" over the reduced peloton ahead of the infamous climb of La Redoute.


The eight leaders make light work of the punchy Cote de Saint-Roch (1km at 11.2%). Their gap is up to eight minutes again. It was Frenchman Julien Bernard who crested the summit in pole position.


Well, one of our four former winners won't feature in the finale today: Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) has called it a day in the feed zone. The Irishman has been struggling with a bug.


The gap has crept back above the seven-minute mark for the eight leaders, whose stand-out rider is Lilian Calmejane of Total-Direct Energie. They're approaching the second of 11 climbs. The leaders have passed through the first feed zone.


And then there's the opportunists like Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates), Davide Formolo (Bora-Hansgrohe), Simon Clarke (EF Education First), Wout Poels (Team Sky) and Michael Valgren (Dimension Data) who are worth mentioning.


Powerhouse riders in the vein of Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb), Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida) and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) could try to pile the pressure on during the final descent before riding clear on the flat.


Other fast finishers who could profit include Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb), Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team), Michael Kwiatkowski (Team Sky), Philippe Gilbert (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and four-time champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).


The flatter approach to the line could have played into the hands of one rider who really needs a win: the Slovakian former world champion Peter Sagan has not stood atop a podium since January and was set to make his debut in La Doyenne. But poor form has seen the 29-year-old pull out, opening the doors instead to team-mate Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe).


Be that as it may, the new finish could well hinder the punchy riders such as Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates), Michael Woods (EF Education First) and Romain Bardet (Ag2R-La Mondiale).


But it's worth mentioning that Alaphilippe is exhausted after a heft Ardennes programme and, already, quite a long spring season. Meanwhile, the experienced Fuglsang has never won a major classic...


Who are the favourites? Given their form, all eyes will be on Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) but it may not be as clear cut as that: both riders are fatigued after a hefty Ardennes programme, and this is a Monument which everyone wants to win. QuickStep have notched 25 wins to the Astana's 22: although the shoe could be on the other foot had Fuglsang got the better of Alaphilippe in Strade Bianche, Amstel Gold and last Wednesday's Flèche. In each of those races, Alaphilippe and Fuglsang found themselves going shoulder to shoulder in the finale, with the Frenchman taking the spoils in Siena and Huy, while both of them had their pockets picked by Mathieu van der Poel at Berg en Terblijt.


Milano-Sanremo has a reputation for being a slow-building race but the same can be said of La Doyenne. I mean, nothing really happens on that first leg to Bastogne - there's rarely a fierce fight to make the break because, well, making the break is complete folly when you have such a succession of climbs peppering the final half of the race. We're three hours in almost but nothing has really happened - and nor will it happen until we hit the trilogy of the Wanne-Stockeu-Haute Levee coming up in about 60km. Then it will get feisty - although, in all likelihood, it may not be until the Cote de la Redoute, the third-last climb with 38km remaining, that the decisive moves come in.


Some more predictions for you today...


Women's LBL: They're around half way through and a reduced peloton of around 70 riders trail two escapees by 40 seconds. The leaders are Leah Kirchmann (Team Sunweb) and Maria Novolodskaya of Cogeas Mettler Look. 69km remaining.


Women's LBL: There's a high-profile withdrawal as Ashleigh Moolman Pasio calls it a day at the feedzone.


Back to the race and the eight-man break are riding through Bastogne with a lead of 6:30 over the peloton.


Sky's final team is quite a strong one: Poels is there as co-leader with Poland's Michal Kwiatkowski. David de la Cruz, Eddie Dunbar, Michal Golas, Salvatore Puccio and Tour of the Alps double stage winner Tao Geoghegan Hart make up the rest of the seven-man team. Can they end on a high?


After 9 years in the pro-peloton, today marks Team Sky's final foray in pro-cycling. Yes, the team will continue under their new sponsor as Team INEOS but it will be the last we see of the black jerseys and Sky logo. As of Monday 2 May, as the Tour de Yorkshire, Sky will be no more as INEOS takes its bow. During the last nine years, Sky have notched six Tour de France titles, one Vuelta and one Giro. They also won their only Monument here at Liege-Bastogne-Liege through Dutchman Wout Poels in 2016.


Woman's race update: Lizzie Deignan picked up a mechanical ahead of the last climb but has almost managed to rejoin the main pack.


NEW FINISH: There's been a shake up with the finish returning to the centre of Liège for the first time in 27 years in an agreement that will run until 2024. The shake-up means the finale switches away from the hilltop showdown at Ans and back to the centre of Liège on the wide Boulevard d'Avroy. This will no doubt alter the dynamic of the finale and perhaps play into the hands of the fast finishers – although less elevation towards the finish does not necessarily imply a bunch sprint scenario.


With the race entering its final decisive 40km, the riders face the infamous Cote de la Redoute (2km at 8.9%), followed by the Côte des Forges and, then, the final climb, the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons (1.3km at 11%), which tops out 15km from the finish. Put that in your pipe and smoke it!


The Côte de Saint-Roch in Houffalize (1km at 11.2%) is the first real amuse-bouche for what's in store, before the riders hit the third climb, the Côte de Mont-le-Soie, which kicks off the relentless succession of peaks towards the finish. The climbs then come thick and fast with the Côte de Wanne (2.7km at 7.4%), the Koppenberg-esque Côte de Stockeu (1km at 12.5%) and Côte de Haute-Levée (3.1km at 7%) before the longest climb of the day, the Col du Rosier (4.4km at 5.9%).


Let's take a closer look at today's route... With roughly 4,500m of vertical ascent over 256km Liège-Bastogne-Liège is a tactical and brutish war of attrition through the punchy hills of the Ardennes. A total of 11 sharp climbs over persistently undulating roads pepper the course, most notably in the final 95km which throw a succession of nine ascents at a pack which becomes gradually whittled down by this bottomless onslaught. The ride south to Bastogne is easy enough, with just the one leg-stretcher – the Côte de La Roche-en-Ardenne (just completed) – before the riders swing back north on the fearsome return leg.


1/11 climbs done! And the status of play is that our eight-man break - Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Tobias Ludvigsson (Groupama-FDJ), Andrea Pasqualon (Wanty-Gobert), Lilian Calmejane (Total Direct Énergie), Jérémy Maison (Arkéa-Samsic) Kevin Deltombe (Sport Vlaanderen Baloise), Kenny Molly (Wallonie Bruxelles) and Mathijs Paaschens (Wallonie Bruxelles) - have crested the summit of the Côte de La Roche-en-Ardenne with a lead of to 6'45". They're making their way to Bastogne where the race will head back north to Liege via 10 more climbs.


The eight leaders are about to hit the Côte de La Roche-en-Ardenne (2.8km at 6.2%) with their gap now below seven minutes.


On Valverde, the world champion apparently swallowed a bee with 50km remaining in the Fleche Wallonne which stung him inside his throat. The Movistar man didn't blame his uncharacteristically poor performance on the Mur de Huy on the bee directly, but I'd wager that it couldn't have helped...


Jungels may not be there today but we have four former winners in the peloton: Alejandro Valverde (2006, 2008, 2015, 2017), Philippe Gilbert (2011), Dan Martin (2013) and Wout Poels (2016). Spanish veteran Valverde needs just one more victory to draw level with Eddy Merkcx at the top of the all-time winners' charts – although given his patchy form (only 11th on the Mur de Huy!) this is probably unlikely.


The gap continues to come down ahead of the first climb, which is coming right up. 7:35 now for our eight leaders.


Here's how that man Jungels won the race last year after his swashbuckling solo attack.

Video - WATCH: Jungels wins after incredible ride


It's the Belgian outfits Deceuninck-QuickStep and Lotto Soudal who pull on the front of the pack, their alliance having successfully whittled down the lead from well over 10 minutes to eight minutes. Deceuninck may not have their defending champion Jungels in the mix today, but they have the pre-race favourite Juilan Alaphilippe as well as former winner Philippe Gilbert - both of whom have one Monument each this season. As for Lotto Soudal, their man Tiesj Benoot is still out following his Roubaix crash but they have Tim Wellens, Jelle Vanendert and Bjorg Lambrecht as options.


The gap has come down now to 8:50 for the eight leaders who are around 25km away from the first of today's climbs, the Cote de la Roche-en-Ardenne.


Some of the possible winners today... Note: Bob Jungels not defending his crown today so I'll switch him out for Simon Clarke of EF Education First instead.


The weather may be wet and rather grim but it's a far cry from the snow that blighted the 1980 edition of La Doyenne when a certain Badger soloed to his second Doyenne crown. In the second of our Re-Cycle series, Felix Lowe looks back at the freezing 1980 edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège in which Bernard Hinault braved blizzards and snow to win by almost 10 minutes from a field of just 21 finishers.


Over 10 minutes now for the eight leaders, who are: Lilian Calmejane (Total Direct Énergie), Kenny Molly (Wallonie Bruxelles), Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Tobias Ludvigsson (Groupama-FDJ), Andrea Pasqualon (Wanty-Gobert), Jérémy Maison (Arkéa-Samsic) Kevin Deltombe (Sport Vlaanderen Baloise) and Mathijs Paaschens (Wallonie Bruxelles).


The gap balloons to nine minutes now for our eight leaders.


Six become eight as Calmejane and Molly make it over to the leaders. Their gap has now risen above six minutes. It's interesting to see Calmejane make his move so early and perhaps suggests that he doesn't think he has the legs to be a factor against the favourites today. This is his fourth Liege-Bastogne-Liege and he's yet to crack the top 50 so that's fair enough. But on paper the 26-year-old should go well in this kind of race because he had a big engine and he knows how to climb.


Not sure why Fabio Felline threw in the towel - there's been no update as yet from his Trek-Segafredo team.


Kevin Deltombe (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and Mathijs Paasschens (Wallonie-Bruxelles) have managed to join the leaders so we have six riders out ahead now with the gap continuing to grow. Two minutes is the latest advantage with Frenchman Calmejane still trying to bridge over with Kenny Molly (Wallonie Bruxelles).


The gap stretches to about one minute but we have multiple attempts to bridge over. Frenchman Lilian Calmejane (Total Direct Énergie) is one of the riders trying to counter.


The four escapees are: Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Tobias Ludvigsson (Groupama-FDJ), Andrea Pasqualon (Wanty-Gobert) and Jérémy Maison (Arkéa-Samsic). They have half a minute to play with. There's a rider trying to bridge over - it's Dries Van Gestel (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise).


A flurry of attacks come from the outset with a handful of riders opening a gap.


They're off! The 105th edition of the Old Lady is under way...


And here were the riders as they rolled out of Liege in the wet-weather gear at the start of this pretty grim edition of La Doyenne...


It's a wet day in Belgium but it looks like it will possibly dry out later this afternoon for the finish.


Here's what's in store for the riders today with nine of the 11 climbs coming in a frantic final 95km back to Liege.

Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2019 route profile

Hello and welcome to live coverage of the 105th edition of Liege-Bastogne-Liege - the fourth of five monuments of the season, the climax of Ardennes Fortnight and the last major one-day classic before the Grand Tour season kicks in.