The biggest talking points ahead of Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes - Preview

Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) claims the 2022 edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes
Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) claims the 2022 edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

As is tradition, Liège-Bastogne-Liège will mark the third and final instalment of the Ardennes Classics when it is held in Belgium on April 23, following on from thrilling editions of Amstel Gold Race and La Flèche Wallonne which were both won by Demi Vollering (SD Worx).

The one-day race also concludes the Spring Classics season and opens the door to the late-spring and summer stage racing season that will kick off at the revamped seven-day La Vuelta Femenina on May 1.

Liège-Bastogne-Liège made its debut on the women's calendar in 2017 won by Anna van der Breggen. The Dutch rider went on to win the second edition in 2018, while Annemiek van Vleuten also won two editions in 2019 and 2022, while Lizzie Deignan took victory in 2020 and Vollering in 2021.

Cyclingnews highlights some of the biggest talking points ahead of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, to add to our preview of the major contenders and route guide for the 142.8km race from Bastogne to Liège.

Join Cyclingnews' live coverage of the Ardennes Classics and check back after the event for the full race reports, results, photo galleries, storylines and race analysis.

Van Vleuten questions place in Ardennes

World Champion Annemiek van Vleuten at Fleche Wallonne

World Champion Annemiek van Vleuten at Fleche Wallonne (Image credit: Getty Images)

Annemiek van Vleuten lines up as the defending champion at Liège-Bastogne-Liège and has won the race twice in her career. A favourite to win a third time, she said that the route suits her better than both Amstel and Flèche. 

However, the World Champion enters the Spring Classics finale without a victory this season, and it has caused her to question her place at the Ardennes Classics.

Van Vleuten set out with a targeted program to compete in six one-day events this spring but has only managed to finish in the top 10 at Strade Bianche (4th) and Flèche Wallonne (7th). 

Normally a dominant figure in the spring one-day races, questions about her early-season form have begun to swirl. Van Vleuten has considered her form and results, too, and said that while she is in good shape, the depth and strength of the peloton has increased compared to previous years.

"I am not feeling bad, I feel like I’m up there like in other years, but others were better," Van Vleuten said after Flèche Wallonne. “Of course, I’m not racing for a result like seventh — I started with the idea of going for the win. After today, I can conclude that I'm not in the same position as I used to be in other Ardennes campaigns. I don't know yet what that is about."

Movistar will field a team that includes Van Vleuten and Liane Lippert, who has had a promising season so far, with 2nd at Flèche Wallonne, 3rd at Brabantse Pijl, 8th at Dwars door Vlaanderen and 7th at Strade Bianche.

“It was very nice that Liane finished second [on the Mur de Huy]. That offers us some other chances to make a good race on Sunday, which should also suit me a little bit more. We still have a few days ahead to think about how we are going to handle it in Liège-Bastogne-Liège.”

Vollering goes for the triple

HUY BELGIUM APRIL 19 Demi Vollering of The Netherlands and Team SD Worx celebrates at finish line as race winner during the 26th La Fleche Wallonne Feminine 2023 a 1273km one day race from Huy to Mur de Huy UCIWWT on April 19 2023 in Huy Belgium Photo by David StockmanGetty Images

Demi Vollering wins on the Mur de Huy (Image credit: Getty Images)

After conquering the Cauberg to win Amstel Gold Race and the Mur de Huy to win Flèche Wallonne, Demi Vollering will attempt to go for the Ardennes Classics triple at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

It is a feat that has not been accomplished in the women's peloton since Anna van der Breggen won all three events in 2017, the first time that all three events were offered in one season on the women's racing calendar.

The long-running Flèche Wallonne celebrated its 26th edition on the women's calendar this year, but Amstel Gold Race returned after a 14-year hiatus in 2017, the same year Liège-Bastogne-Liège made its women's debut.

In the men's peloton, two riders have won all three of the Ardennes Classics in one season; Philippe Gilbert in 2011 and Davide Rebellin in 2004. Like Vollering, Tadej Pogačar also aims to capture all three events this season after winning Amstel and Fleche earlier this week.

Vollering lines up with her dominant SD Worx team that will undoubtedly support her attempt to win the Ardennes triple. "The form is really good, so of course, I now hope to also fight for the victory in Liège-Bastogne-Liège," she said.

La Redoute, La Roche-aux-Faucons significance

Aerial drone picture shows the new descent of La Redoute during a training and track reconnaissance session ahead of the LiegeBastogneLiege one day cycling race on the Cote de la Redoute in Remouchamps Aywaille Thursday 20 April 2023BELGA PHOTO DIRK WAEM Photo by DIRK WAEM BELGA MAG Belga via AFP Photo by DIRK WAEMBELGA MAGAFP via Getty Images

Aerial drone picture shows the new descent of La Redoute (Image credit: Getty Images)

Liège-Bastogne-Liège's 142.8km from Bastogne to Liège sees a significant addition, with Stockeu now positioned in between the Côte de Wanne and Côte de la Haute-Levée, to make for a decisive trilogy earlier in the race. 

However, it is the Côte de la Redoute and Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons that will likely have the biggest impact on the outcome of the race, as they have in all six previous editions of the women's event.

In the inaugural year, Annemiek van Vleuten led a reduced group of 40 riders over La Redoute and towards La Roche-aux-Faucons and then Cote de Saint Nicolas, then Anna van der Breggen went on a late-race attack for a solo win by 17 seconds in Ans. 

The race exploded over Le Redoute again in 2018, too, with Pauline Ferrand-Prévot's solo effort caught by a select group on La Roche-aux-Faucons. Van der Breggen made her winning move over the Côte de Saint-Nicolas and, again, soloed to victory by 6 seconds.

The women's race finished for the first time in Liège in 2019 when the race saw Annemiek van Vleuten attack on La Redoute with 32km to go and increase her lead to 1:39 to take the solo victory.

In 2020, Lizzie Deignan was part of a nine-rider front group that went clear with over 50km to go. Deignan then went on her own on La Redoute, 30km from the finish, opening a gap of almost a minute but then winning by nine seconds ahead of late-chaser and runner-up Grace Brown.

In 2021, a thinned-out field raced over La Redoute, then Anna van der Breggen shattered what was left of the peloton on the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons with 13km to go and led out the five-rider breakaway sprint, setting up teammate Demi Vollering to take the win.

Last year, Annemiek van Vleuten made her first attack over the La Redoute to catch breakaway rider, Marlen Reusser. She then attacked again over the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons, caught and passed breakaway rider Grace Brown and crossed the line in Liège with the win, 43 seconds ahead of a chase group of five.

This year's edition will showcase eight climbs, including the decisive Côte de la Redoute and Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons, in a race of attrition that will best suit the most powerful climbers in the peloton.

  • 1 - Côte de Wanne (3.6km at 5.1%)
  • 2 - Côte de Stockeu (1km at 12.5%)
  • 3 - Côte de Haute-Levée (2.2km at 7.5%)
  • 4 - Col du Rosier (4.4km at 5.9%)
  • 5 - Côte de Desnié (1.6km at 9.4%)
  • 6 - Côte de la Redoute (1.6km at 9.4%)
  • 7 - Côte des Forges (1.3km at 7.8%)
  • 8 - Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons (1.3km At 11%)


Liane Lippert at Amstel Gold Race

Liane Lippert at Amstel Gold Race (Image credit: Getty Images)

The list of potential contenders for this year's Liège-Bastogne-Liège is long. If we look outside of the overwhelming favourites like Demi Vollering and Annemiek van Vleuten, several riders could surprise on the challenging roads into Liège.

The finals of both the Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne showcased a mix of riders who could shine once again at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

Silvia Persico stands out as a wildcard for the UAE Team ADQ squad after winning Brabantse Pijl and then finishing in the top 10 at both Amstel and Flèche, showing her versatility as a rider who is powerful on both the climbs and in a sprint. 

Trek-Segafredo has a prominent contender in Elisa Longo Borghini, who finished third at the Tour of Flanders and helped her teammate Gaia Realini to third place on the Mur de Huy. She also finished third in the race two years ago and is a strong candidate for the challenging route and tactical final.

Although starting her season with a peak in the Australian summer, FDJ-SUEZ's Grace Brown has been in great form this spring. She was 6th at Amstel and skipped Flèche Wallonne, meaning she might be fresher than most for Liège.

Liane Lippert could be the leading rider for Movistar after finishing second place on the Mur de Huy. Other riders to watch based on their recent performances this week are Mavi García (Liv Racing TeqFind), Kasia Niewiadoma, Soraya Paladin and Elise Chabbey (Canyon-SRAM), Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (AG Insurance-Soudal-QuickStep), Évita Muzic (FDJ-SUEZ) and Pfeiffer Georgi (Team DSM) has consistently featured in the finals all spring. Also look out for Yara Kastelijn, who finished 10th on the Mur de Huy for Fenix-Deceuninck.

More Monuments for women

Lizzie Deignan wins Liege-Bastogne-Liege

Lizzie Deignan wins Liege-Bastogne-Liege (Image credit: Getty Images)

Lizzie Deignan lines up at the women's Liège-Bastogne-Liège as the rider who has won three different Monuments in her career; Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. 

The Trek-Segafredo rider recently returned to the peloton, at Flèche Wallonne, eight months after the birth of her second child. In an interview with the media, she stated that if organisers RCS Sport launched women's versions of Milan-San Remo and Il Lombardia, she would like to win all five of cycling's Monuments during her career.

"I'm the rider with the most Monuments at the moment. So I'd like to try and go for new Monuments. We don't have, or maybe we do, but we don't know yet. Milan-San Remo and Lombardia. So I would love to be able to aim for five Monuments in my career, that would be special," she said.

Currently, three of the five Monuments are on the calendar, with Tour of Flanders launching a women's race in 2004, Liège-Bastogne-Liège launching a women's race in 2017 and Paris-Roubaix adding a women's event in 2021. 

RCS Sport, which has taken over the Giro d'Italia Donne beginning in 2024, has confirmed that it also has plans to bring back a women's version of Milan-San Remo and to launch a women's Il Lombardia in the future, meaning Deignan, and the women's peloton, could soon have the opportunity to contest all five Monuments.

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Kirsten Frattini
Women's Editor

Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in cycling from the community and grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all men's and women's races including Spring Classics, Grand Tours, World Championships and Olympic Games, and writes and edits news and features. As the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten also coordinates and oversees the global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.

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