Liège-Bastogne-Liège is an absolute classic on the international cycling calendar. It is the oldest classic ever and as a result has the brilliant nickname ‘La Doyenne’. It is traditionally the last of the spring classics.
On Saturday 23rd April, one day before the pros, you can ride your own Liège-Bastogne-Liège and get a taste of this epic race. Follow in the footsteps of big names like Eddy Merckx, Philippe Gilbert, Alejandro Valverde, Moreno Argentin, Paolo Bettini, Tadej Pogačar, Anna van der Breggen and Annemiek van Vleuten.
The ultimate challenge is to cover the entire distance of Liège-Bastogne-Liège like the pros the following day. Famous hills such as the Côte de Saint-Roch (the wall of Houffalize), Côte de Wanne, Côte de Stockeu will pepper the longest distance of the Liège-Bastogne-Liège Challenge.
Descending the Côte de Stockeu down into Stavelot, the longest distance coincides with the middle distance and both then tackle the triptych of the infamous Rosier, la Haute Levée and la Vecquée. The middle distance then meets the shortest distance just ahead of the Côte de la Redoute, which then leads to the finale.
The last few years, the finale has consisted of the Côte de la Redoute, where the late Frank Vandenbroucke and Michele Bartoli battled it out for victory, the not to be underestimated Côte des Forges and the all-consuming Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons. Those who still feel fresh there, will imagine themselves hero of the road for a day en route to the finish in Liège!
The day before travelling
After a few years wait we were finally on the road again for one of the iconic Belgium classics; the 147km Liège-Bastogne-Liège Sportive.
We had a team of seven, including Lee, Mark, and Graham (that’s enough Tonks for anyone), plus Steve-will-I-won’t I-Richards from the village and a little known lad from the slums of Canterbury (a super fit Glen) and, of course, the normal retrobates Bingo and Dale.
The day before we set off the ever reliable Glen asks the incompetent captain for the address of the hotel (probably so he can transfer his bitcoin empire). This is where the planning went immediately pear shaped. It turns out our hotel was 400 miles away from Liège. A slight administration error. A message to self; ‘get Linney to check the Barca 2022 bookings’!
After a nervous call to Bingo we got it all sorted. The little 147km ride could not of got off to a better start. Nothing [further] could go wrong.
All was brilliant on the drive over to Belgium, except for a delay with the ferry. We stopped off outside Antwerp for a flying visit to brother Steve, and delivered his vintage 1993 Cannondale T700 for him. This is still my favourite bike, I just wish I was tall enough to ride it! We picked up a bag of delicous Cardomom Buns (and a welcome bag of thirst quenching beers) and then steamed off through the busy traffic on the Antwerp ring-road to Liège.
Surprise surprise it did go even more pear shaped again as the digs were double booked. In true Aylesham style we just dusted ourselves down and after a bit of giggling Graham found a possible place. In no time we were all checked-in, van parked and bikes safe. As usual everything goes like clockwork!
On the Day
The weather turned out fine on the day and the team were buzzing with nervous energy ready for the brutal ride ahead of us. It did not dissapoint. It was tough with long climbs and sweeping descents. Just want we needed to get the Barca 2022 training going.
All the team put in a tremendous effort to complete this tough iconic classic, with Bingo honing his navigation skills to find a lovely little watering hole for a little comfort break for El Capitano a couple of miles from the finish. All good training.