Four days after the midweek outing at La Fleche Wallonne – won with panache by the Belgian Dylan Teuns – the last and most important of the Ardennes classics plays out on the rolling roads south of Liege. One of the oldest classics on the cycling calendar, La Doyenne – the Old Lady – is the fourth Monument of the season and the last-chance saloon for the big one-day racers ahead of the Grand Tours.
After a thrilling spring, the 108th edition of Liege-Bastogne-Liege offers talking points aplenty, not least the return to Monumental action of Tadej Pogacar following his implosion on the home straight of the Ronde van Vlaanderen. The Slovenian defending champion will hope to secure a Liege double but will face stiff competition from the world champion Julian Alaphilippe, Belgian champion Wout van Aert, the in-form Teuns, and an inspired Ineos Grenadiers classics team coming into fruition.
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WHEN IS LIEGE-BASTOGNE-LIEGE?

The so-called Old Lady, or La Doyenne, takes place on Sunday 23rd April. It’s the fourth of five Monuments in the calendar and the last major one-day race before the season’s focus shifts towards the Grand Tours. Liege-Bastogne-Liege starts at 9:15 and is expected to finish around 15:55 – both UK times.

Tadej Pocagar wins in Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

Image credit: Getty Images

IS THERE A WOMEN’S RACE?

There is – but unlike last weekend’s Paris-Roubaix, the sixth edition of Liege-Bastogne-Liege Femmes takes place on the same day as the men’s race. That means the race starts fiendishly early – at 07:35 UK time – and will be sewn up well before midday.

HOW CAN I WATCH BOTH EDITIONS?

Eurosport will be broadcasting both races on Sunday. Coverage of the women’s race runs from 10:30 to 12:00 while the men’s race coverage runs from 12:30 to 16:30 – all UK time. Subscribers can also watch the action on GCN+ and discovery+

Highlights: Pogacar claims Liege-Bastogne-Liege ahead of Alaphilippe

WHO WON LAST YEAR?

Richard Carapaz attacked inside the last 20km to open up a 30-second gap over the pack but the Ecuadorian was pegged back before the final climb after Pogacar’s UAE team led the chase through Davide Formolo. A select six-man leading group then formed on the final climb of the day to set up a fascinating finale.
Alejandro Valverde opened up the sprint early only to be pegged back by Michael Woods and Julian Alaphilippe. Then, just as it looked like the world champion was going to get some closure from his 2020 nightmare, that man Pogacar zipped past on the outside to take it on the line by a whisker. Another Frenchman, David Gaudu, took third ahead of Valverde, Woods and Pogacar’s team-mate, Marc Hirschi.
In the women’s race, world champion Anna van der Breggen put on an expert lead out for SD Worx teammate Demi Vollering, pulling hard on the front of a leading quintet for the last 10km before handing over the baton inside the final few hundred metres. European champion Annemiek van Vleuten opened the sprint up but her compatriot Vollering surged past to take the win, with Italian champion Elisa Longo Borghini settling for third.

Highlights: Vollering secures fine win at Liege–Bastogne–Liege

WHO’S RIDING ‘LA DOYENNE’ IN 2022?

Good golly, who isn’t? It’s a startlist brimming with talent and featuring five of the six previous winners, with only the 2020 champion Primoz Roglic sitting this one out. Joining the defending champion Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) at the startline will be the record four-time winner Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) of Spain, the Danish 2019 champion Jakob Fuglsang (Israel-Premier Tech), the 2018 winner Bob Jungels (Ag2R-Citroen) of Luxembourg, and the Dutch 2016 winner Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious).
Other standout names include the French world champion Julian Alaphilippe and his Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl teammate Remco Evenepoel of Belgian, Milan-San Remo winner Matej Mohoric (Bahrain Victorious) of Slovenia, Belgian champion Wout van Aert and his Danish colleague Jonas Vingegaard (both Jumbo-Visma), the Russian Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe), Spain’s Enric Mas (Movistar), and the Italian veteran Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Qazaqstan), who finished runner-up exactly a decade ago.
Ineos Grenadiers are on a roll with consecutive victories in the Amstel Gold Race, De Brabantse Pijl and Paris-Roubaix ahead of Wednesday’s La Fleche Wallonne. While they won’t be among the favourites in La Doyenne, they have a versatile team that includes British duo Tom Pidcock and Geraint Thomas, Poland’s Michal Kwiatkowski (the Amstel Gold winner who has twice finished third in Liege), and the in-form Colombian Dani Martinez, winner of the recent Itzulia Basque Country.

'Oh what a finale!' - Watch the narrow finish to the men's Amstel Gold that Kwiatkowski edged

Runner-up in both Amstel Gold and De Brabantse Pijl, Benoit Cosnerfroy leads the charge for Ag2R-Citroen, while fellow Frenchmen Valentin Madouas, third in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, Guillaume Martin and Warren Barguil spearhead the respective pushes from Groupama-FDJ, Cofidis and Arkea-Samsic.
Riding alongside Mohoric and Poels at Bahrain Victorious is Spain’s Mikel Landa and the versatile Belgian Dylan Teuns, who showed his class with an emphatic victory ahead of Valverde and Vlasov on the Mur de Huy to win La Fleche Wallonne on Wednesday.

'What a finale!' - Teuns holds off Valverde in thrilling finish

Fifth last year, the Canadian Michael Woods will join Fuglsang at Israel-Premier Tech, while the 2011 winner Philippe Gilbert will ride his last ever Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Joining the Belgian veteran at Lotto Soudal will be his compatriot Tim Wellens.
Fourth in 2017, Australia’s Michael Matthews lines up for BikeExchange-Jayco, while the always aggressive Dane Soren Kragh Andersen makes his first appearance in Liege in five years for Team DSM. Three times in the top 10, Dutch veteran Bauke Mollema will feature for Trek-Segafredo alongside Italian duo Gianluca Brambilla and Giulio Ciccone.
Italy’s Alberto Bettiol will be hoping to complete a career first Liege-Bastogne-Liege after five DNFs, a stat which suggests EF Education-EasyPost may put their eggs in the basket of veteran Colombian Rigoberto Uran instead. Meanwhile, one of the team’s former Colombian stars, Sergio Higuita, is set to lead Bora-Hansgrohe’s charge alongside Dutchman Wilco Kelderman and the aforementioned Russian whippet Vlasov, who is showing some steady form.

‘A slap in the face... you would think it’s the Oscars!’ – Pogacar lights up Flanders

Defending champion Pogacar enters with by far the strongest team, with UAE Team Emirates boasting a luxury of lieutenants who could all push for an individual win themselves in different circumstances. These include the Italian Diego Ulissi, the Swiss army knife Marc Hirschi – who was runner-up in 2020 – and New Zealand’s George Bennett, set to ride his first Monument outside Il Lombardia.
Onto the women’s race now. And with the two-time champion Anna van der Breggen retired and the 2020 winner Lizzie Deignan on sabbatical, the only two previous winners taking to the start will be the Dutch pair Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) and Demi Vollering (SD Worx).
Victory in Paris-Roubaix will make Italy’s Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) one of the pre-race favourites and it remains to be seen what condition Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) is in after the Dutch veteran missed the Hell of the North with Covid. Fourth last year, Poland’s Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon-Sram) will be in the mix alongside Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig of FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine – although it's the cheery Dane's teammate Marta Cavalli who's perhaps the bigger threat after the Italian added a victory in La Fleche Wallonne to her earlier Amstel Gold success.

'Absolutely phenomenal performance' Cavalli claims Fleche Wallonne with stunning sprint finish

Trek has power in numbers with Ellen van Dijk and Lucinda Brand both offering options should Longo Borghini falter, ditto Ashleigh Moolman Pasio at SD Worx in the event of a Vollering off-day. Canyon-Sram also have Switzerland's Elise Chabbey to consider, while Spain's Mavi Garcia is also in good nick.

WHAT ARE THE ROUTES IN 2022?

The men’s race is 257.1km long and features 10 categorised climbs and numerous lumps and bumps (for a total elevation gain of 4,500 metres) as the riders go on an anti-clockwise loop south of Liege. With the exception of the Cote de La Roche-en-Ardenne, all of the climbs come on the homeward leg once the race returns north after passing through Bastogne after the opening 100 kilometres.
After the Cote de Saint-Roch, Cote de Mont-le-Soie, Cote de Wanne, Cote de Stockeu and Cote de Haute-Levee comes the longest climb of the day, the Col du Rosier, which is 4.4km long at 5.9%, followed by the leg-sapping Cote de Desnie ahead of the decisive final climb combination.
A slight tweak to the course this year brings the penultimate climb, the Cote de la Redoute (2km at 8.9%) six kilometres closer to the finish. This is followed by a 16km run to the foot of the final climb, the Cote de la Roche-aux-Faucons (1.3km at 11%), which had proved to be the pivotal moment in recent years. After a short decent, it’s followed almost instantaneously by another uncategorised lump that rises for one kilometre at 6% before the downhill ride towards Liege and the flat home straight.
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The women’s race could just as well be called Bastogne-Liege Femmes for it runs pretty much along an identical course to the men’s route just without the southward preamble from Liege to the roundabout at Bastogne. The 142.1km route features the same seven climbs as the northward leg of the men’s race, most notably the decisive Redoute/Roche-aux-Faucons combo at the end of what usually proves to be an explosive and selective race.
In 2019 and 2020 the key moves came on La Redoute – and the placing of the penultimate climb closer to the finish will perhaps encourage more attacks here rather than on the Cote de la Roche-aux-Faucons. As in the men’s race, the final categorised climb is immediately followed by that final six-percent test before the fast and technical descent towards Liege. Both races conclude with a flat 2km run through the city and towards the finish.
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WHO’S GOING TO WIN?

Seldom have we seen Tadej Pogacar make such a hash of things as badly as in the Tour of Flanders finale – and the Slovenian will be eager to make amends before his focus switches to securing a third successive yellow jersey in Paris. Pog has the uphill armoury and right team to inflict damage upon the peloton in the Ardennes, although he was found out on the Mur de Huy his return in La Fleche Wallonne midweek.
It will be fascinating to see how things pan out should he arrive at the finish alongside Julian Alaphilippe, who has twice come so close to winning this race – denied by Slovenians (and his own shortcomings) on both occasions. As for Wout van Aert, the Belgian was desperately unlucky at Roubaix, but you sense that – after a long classics campaign and that Covid positive – he’ll be working for Jonas Vinegaard here. In any case, a Belgian win for Dylan Teuns would seem more likely given the form of the Bahrain Victorious rider.
A victory for Remco Evenepoel, meanwhile, would silence his doubters and give Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl the tonic they need after a disastrous spring campaign. But there remains huge question marks over his ability to win big one-day races like this. Pogacar, Teuns and the impressive Aleksandr Vlasov to make up the podium – but not necessarily in that order.
In the women’s race, before Cavalli's midweek win it was shaping up to be an enthralling two-way battle between Dutch stars Demi Vollering and Annemiek van Vleuten, with a third Dutch V hoping to get in on the act in Marianne Vos. But Cavalli has proved herself to be the rider to beat on these hilly roads in and around the Ardennes while Elisa Longo-Borghini can never be doscounted.
But surely, after three runner-up spots in Strade Bianche, De Ronde and La Fleche, plus fourth in Amstel Gold, it's time for Van Vleuten to catch a break and return to winning ways for the first time since Omloop back in February?

Watch: Alaphilippe's incredible error hands victory to Roglic on the line

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