Liège-Bastonge-Liège Femmes 2017 Preview


To end the Ardennes classic week, we are treated to the first ever women’s edition of the oldest Monument; La Doyenne.

A very welcome addition to the women’s calendar and the decision to run the race was greeted with great fanfare from both the spectators but also the peloton itself!

After two exciting, although fairly predictably dominant Boels’ displays at Amstel and Fleche, will we see a new winner at Liege?


Or will van der Breggen secure the win and consequently take a famous Ardennes triple?!

Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

At 135km in length, it’s not the longest route the riders will tackle this year but it is roughly 15km longer than both Amstel and Fleche.

Having only four categorised climbs does not paint a full picture of how attritional the race is going to be, because the route is constantly up and down, twisting and turning on narrow roads.

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The first 75km of the day will serve as a warm-up for the second half of the race, and we should see a break established up the road.

The action will start in earnest though, beginning with the longest climb of the day! The Côte de la Vecquée is longer than anything we see in the men’s race and could see a shake up if a couple of teams put the pressure on.


Not overly steep, it does contain a kilometre at 7% though and I would not be surprised to see some probing attacks in the peloton here.

The race then follows a similar pattern of climb -> false flat -> descent -> climb from hereon in.

Next up on the schedule is the explosive La Redoute.

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We then have a relatively long period of 14km where the riders aren’t climbing but the descending is fairly shallow. This will be an equally as important part of the race because the best riders often attack on the flatter sections when those around them are tired from the previous climbs. Van der Breggen’s two wins this week are testament to that!

Within 20km to the line the riders will face the Roche-aux-Faucons before the Sant-Nicolas, cresting at only 5.5km to go.

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Short, but explosive, it could well be a launchpad for an attack if we have a group of riders left together at this moment.

From there it’s the traditional run in to the finish line.

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The rise through the Flamme Rouge and all the way to the line averages 5.3% for the 1.5km, offering one final place to attack before the false-flat sprint.


It’s really hard to look past another Boels win this week. They’ve timed their early season peak to perfection and in van der Breggen and Deignan they have two of the best riders in the peloton on current form. I set my stall out a week ago with this tweet and it’s not looking too bad just now…

She has the power to attack from distance but also the speed to win from a small sprint. Who can beat her? Well, Deignan certainly can! The Brit has played a superb team role over the past two races and could well be rewarded with team-leadership here. Her sprint win for second place in Amstel was incredible, considering she took it up into the headwind that famously curtailed Kwiatkowski in the men’s race. Will Boels try their hardest for the triple for van der Breggen, or will the Ardenne’s triple for the team be enough? I guess we’ll have to wait and see tomorrow afternoon as to how they attack the race.

Who can stop them?

On form, it looks as if Kasia Niewiadoma is the strongest challenger.


She was instrumental in splitting the race up on the penultimate climb at Fleche, with only the two Boels riders able to follow. However, that ended up being to her detriment as they ended up playing the 1-2 and she couldn’t follow every attack. Contrary to what you would normally expect, her best (and every one else who’s not on Boels) best chance of winning is that the race is easier than normal. Therefore there will be more riders in the peloton and the opportunity to form cross-team alliances to isolate one Boels rider. Although I have a feeling that scenario is very unlikely to be carried out! Nonetheless, Niewiadoma still has a very good chance of winning the race, it will just be tough trying to out-ride the two strongest women who happen to be on the same team!

The other rider who on form has a chance of beating the Boels pairing is Annemiek van Vleuten.

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The Dutch rider has 3rd and 4th in the first two races this week and certainly has the abilities to repeat, if not better those results. She’s been incredibly consistent in the WWT this year so far, notching up 6 top 10s out of the 7 races we’ve had. With the final rise to the line not being too difficult and suiting her well, I think she might fancy her chances in a reduced sprint against some of the other favourites.

Aside from those four, no one really looks on a level to challenge for the title. Yet, this is cycling and sometimes the strongest rider doesn’t always win!

Elisa Longo Borghini would definitely be included in the list above if she didn’t skip Fleche due to illness and breathing difficulties. She did manage to finish 5th in Amstel so the form was there beforehand. But you would expect it to be too soon for her to be competing for the title.

This season’s revelation, Coryn Rivera, will hope to hang on the coattails of the better climbers and challenge for a sprint. She’s proven so far this year that she is one of the fastest riders in the world after a tough day.


I gave her an honourable mention for Fleche and she managed to sneak into the top 5 and I think Shara Gillow could do something similar tomorrow. A criminally under-rated climber, she prefers the steep ramps so the closing climbs should suit her. Another top 5 is on the cards!


It would make for a great race if someone could stop Boels, but I just can’t see it happening. It’s only a question of wether I choose Deignan or van der Breggen?! This route actually suits the Brit ever so slightly more in my opinion but as I’m a big fan of fairytale stories, I would love to see the Dutchwoman complete a famous Ardennes triple!


I’ll be rooting for a Shara Gillow podium spot as she’s part of my season long fantasy team!

Unfortunately I don’t think we’ll be getting any live coverage of the race so the best place to follow it is on Twitter via the #LBLWomen hashtag.

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated like normal. Who do you think will win and how? Can anyone stop Boels’ domination? Next on the blog from will be Tour of Romandie previews, but I’ll be back with the Women’s World Tour for Chongming Island. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.





Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2017 Preview

La Doyenne or “the Old Lady” for the Anglicised among you, returns on Sunday for its 103rd edition!

Normally a very attritional race in its own right, last year’s race had the added dimension of truly awful weather with snow and rain throughout the day. In the end it was Wout Poels who took the victory from a small group that had escaped on the penultimate climb and stayed away until the end, sealing Sky’s first Monument win. Albasini and Rui Costa rounded out the podium.


Poels isn’t here this year to defend his crown so it opens the door for a new winner, or one of the previous champions to step up to the mantle again.

Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

258km of rolling road through the Ardennes awaits the peloton.



Don’t let the fact that there are only 10 categorised climbs on course fool you, this is a tough and attritional race where the road is up and down a lot throughout the day.

The first 160km will serve as a warm-up for the riders and we’ll see our usual relatively large break go composed mainly of the Pro-Conti teams with a handful of World Tour representatives in their for good measure.

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Credit: Velorooms

Once we get to 90km to go, the climbs start in earnest, beginning with the Côte de Pont. But it’s the Col du Rosier which could be the site of the first potentially race winning attack I think. At 4.4km in length it is the longest ascent of the race and averaging 5.9% it is steep enough to gain some distance with a strong attack.

From there they tackle a descent before the Maquisard. However, it is probably the final three climbs that this race is famous for.

The Côte de la Redoute comes at roughly 40km to go.

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Short and steep, it’s one that might entice the punchy riders into a move depending on the race situation.

Next up after that is the Roche-aux-Faucons, with the Côte de Saint-Nicolas coming at under 10km to the finish line.

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There’s little time for the race to regroup once over the summit as they descend before starting the approach into Ans.

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The closing climb up to the finish line averages 5.3% for the 1.5km so isn’t overly difficult but at the end of a tough day riders will still need something left in the tank to cope with it.

How will the race pan out?

I think our aggressive Spring racing will continue here and we’ll see a similar race to Amstel. Plenty of teams have several options in their ranks and I would be very surprised to see them all happily wait for the final climb like they do in Fleche.

So we could well see some relatively serious attacks come on the Rosier. Who makes it and what teams are represented will then shape the rest of the race.

If we get strong enough riders from Movistar/Sky/BMC/Orica/Quick Step then it stays away in my opinion. Well, that is of course if they continue to work hard while out in front and everyone co-operates. Although we did see that the front group managed to stay ahead at Amstel even with JJ Rojas sandbagging them.

From there it’s just about being not only one of the strongest riders but one of the most tactically astute.

Or of course, it could all come back together and we get an aggressive final couple of climbs like we had in last year’s edition.


With it being such an open race there is no clear favourite in my opinion, but Valverde is most definitely the closest to one that we have. Imperious on the Huy midweek, he seems to get better with age which is ridiculous when you consider his already illustrious career. In Amstel his Movistar team was caught out and probably would have preferred a different rider up the road. I’m sure they won’t make the same mistake twice but their team still doesn’t look that great. Having already won this race 3 times, he knows what it takes and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him on the top step of the podium again come Sunday afternoon!


Team Sky in theory pose the biggest threat to the Spaniard as they have the great 1-2 punch of Kwiatkowski and Henao (Sergio), heck, you could even through Rosa into that mix too. This race looks best suited to the former world champion though. He’s really regained his footing as one of the best one-day racers in the world this year. With a monument win already under his belt this season he could well go on to make it two!

Dan Martin is QuickSteps leader for this race and rightly so. A former winner here, this is one of his favourite races in the calendar and he always seems to find himself at the pointy end of the day. Finishing 2nd to Valverde (again) on Wednesday, he’ll be hoping to go one better this Sunday. Yet, I have my eye on one of his team-mates and there is certainly some fantasy-league bias to this one; Petr Vakoc. With no Gilbert or Alaphilippe the Czech rider is co-leader elect and has all the abilities to go well on Sunday in my opinion. The way he easily bridged across to Wellens in Brabantse shows how well he is going because Wellens isn’t exactly short of form at the moment. He was unlucky to have suffered a mechanical at a bad time in Amstel and I get the feeling that we haven’t seen the last of him over this past week…


BMC will have two leaders in this race who aren’t clear favourites according to the bookmakers, although I’m unsure as to why one of them isn’t. Those two riders are of course Teuns and Van Avermaet! The former was excellent in La Fleche, taking a great third place. It’s nice to see him living up to the lofty expectations that were put on him after his breakthrough performance in the 2014 Tour of Britain. He certainly has a good opportunity on Sunday to repeat that result. However, it’s his team-mate GVA that interests me more. According to the bookmakers he’s a relative outsider and I just can’t get my head around why! Yes, he was only 12th place in Amstel and looked jaded chasing the front group, but that’s because he was the rider shouldered with most of the workload. The climbs here aren’t too tough and the Olympic Champion has a very, very good chance of taking his second monument of the year.

I expect an attacking race from Orica as they have plenty of good climbers in their team. Likewise the same can be said for Cannondale and Astana. Yet, I just don’t see any of their riders winning this race.

I would love to see Haas go better than his 4th in Amstel for Dimension Data, but he was struggling with illness in Fleche. Maybe it was just a small bug and he’s managed to turn it around?

Izagirre is dangerous for Bahrain, so too are the UAE duo of Costa and Ulissi. I think the Italian will have a really good race here as he prepares for the Giro.


He impressed me a lot in Pais Vasco, especially his 8th place in the TT. Since then he was in the second group in Amstel and finished in 10th place in Fleche. Not bad form!

Bardet and Barguil will hope to top 10, but this is me just filling up some words and naming some more names as I’ve already suggested my winner…


Greg Van Avermaet to show that Amstel was just a blip and he rounds out one of the best spring classics seasons of all time with a fine victory in Liege!



Set my stalls out with this tweet earlier this week and again this morning;

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I’ll be marking him down as 200/1 with 0.5pt EW on. He’s into 150/1 now with most places and I still think there’s value to be had with that, especially if you can get the 4 places available.

I went a bit heavy-handed on Vakoc thinking I’d only have two picks and that would be it, but I’m going to have three now so the stakes have risen. It is the last monument for a while though so YOLO as the kids these days say…

0.5pt EW Vakoc @ 200/1

1pt EW Ulissi @ 66/1 with Bet365 (take the 50/1 and 4 places available elsewhere)

2pts EW GVA @ 22/1 with Coral who’re paying 4 places. (would take 20s)


Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated like normal. Who do you think will win La Doyenne? Will we see an attacking race or will it come down to a relatively large group heading towards Liege? I’ll be back again with my Liege Femmes preview so please return for that! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.




Well, it’s been a busy week with a lot of racing. We’ve not only been treated to Amstel and Fleche but also Tour of Croatia and Giro del Trentino. However, it’s now time for the main event; Liege – Bastogne – Liege.

The only Ardennes to be classed as a Monument, this is by far the most demanding of the races and the most prestigious to win. “La Doyenne” (The Old Lady) started way back in 1892 and several of cycling’s biggest names have won this race such as Merckx, Argentin and Hinault.

Hinault on his way to a win in the 1980 edition of the race. Could we see similar weather this year?!

More importantly, from a fans perspective, it is in my opinion easily the greatest spectacle of the three races. Unlike Amstel and particularly Fleche, this race doesn’t always come down to a sprint up the last climb and there are a lot of attacks throughout the day which could feasibly be the winning move.

On that note, let’s look at the route for this year’s edition and where these attacks might be made.


At 253km the race is slightly longer than Amstel (248km) and significantly longer than the mid-week Fleche Wallonne (196km). It starts of rather innocuously on the way to Bastogne with rolling, “flat” terrain for the first 100-odd kms. However, these kilometres are just a warm-up before the turn for home and the more action-packed second half of the race. It’s once the race reaches the 90-ish km to go point that the categorised climbs start to become more regular.


The first five of these will wear down the legs of the riders and we might see some favourites who are having an off-day start to struggle on La Redoute with just under 40km to go. At this point the break won’t be too far ahead (if at all) and I expect to see some satellite attacks by strong second/third tiered riders to make the pace even higher or, so that they’re out the front once it gets even more difficult over the Côte de La Roche-aux-Faucons. I expect someone like Steve Cummings to have made his move by the time we reach that climb.

Roche-aux-Faucons is a tough little climb, 1.5km in length with an average gradient of 9.9% or 1.3km at 11%, depending who you listen to and what you go off. This will get rid of any strugglers in the peloton and only the strongest will be left near the front once the climb is crested. There’s even about a kilometre of un-categorised climbing after a short descent, this really puts the hurt on! From that point, there is a fast run in to the bottom of the penultimate categorised climb: Côte de Saint-Nicolas. Another tough ramp, 1.2km at 8.6%. Some strong attackers could make a move here.

This used to be the final climb, however, for 2016 the organisers have decided to change the route slightly removing a climb (Côte de Stockeau) that was about 75km from home, adding in the Côte de la Rue Naniot which crests with just under 3km left. This will surely add to the excitement in the finale, creating a launchpad for those left in the front (if there is a group) who don’t fancy themselves in a sprint up to the finish line. The riders who’ve ridden this climb today seem to think it will have a big role to play in the race…

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Google Streetview screenshot of Côte de la Rue Naniot. Will a decisive move be made here?!

Once over the top of Rue Naniot, there is a short descent and flat before the final kick up to the finish line. Which although not categorised, is actually fairly steep for around 1km and gaps can occur here. Dan Martin made a race-winning move here during the 2013 edition, dropping Joaquim Rodriguez with around 400m to go. Whereas in last years edition, Valverde marked attacks fantastically and was once again the best on this finish. Same again this year?PROFILKMS

Weather Watch

There’s been a lot of talk of some snowfall on Sunday, however, at this moment in time that doesn’t seem to be the case. The riders will be glad to know it’s just forecast for rain and a high of 7˚C…ha!

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For us, that should make the race even more of a spectacle! It will be harder for teams to control the attacks and we’ll see the cold-weather specialists come to the fore. Having numbers in the finish will be important, it will be a real race of attrition.


The bookies have the first 3 from Fleche occupying the top 3 in the market (in a slightly different order), with Valverde a strong favourite ahead of Dan Martin and Alaphilippe.

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I can understand why these three are the market favourites. Valverde has been Mr Consistent as usual this season and is always in form. Both Martin and Alaphilippe performed well mid-week, with the former a previous winner and the latter going well last year it seems obvious. And in a sense, the bookies are right. However, with the potential bad weather, i couldn’t advise anyway to back them with any real confidence, so it’s a no from me. Admittedly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of them there at the finish, sprinting to victory and making me look like a mug but from a betting stance, they’re not value unless you want to risk a lot.

I wouldn’t touch Gerrans or Kwiatkowski with a barge-pole either. Two riders who I have backed this season and had successes with so far but again I can’t back them here. Gerrans was good at the start of the season, but hasn’t been convincing since. Kwiatkowski has been in similar form and was dropped early at Amstel and I’ve not seen anything to suggest he’ll recover for this. Even though it is the race that suits him best.

Moving on from this, let’s talk about what the first “L” in LBL stands for…

L – Long range attacks

There has been one rider so far in these Ardennes races that has consistently been attempting to squirrel off the front in the final 20km. That man is Tim Wellens. With the weather on Sunday looking to be poor, the Belgian will look to capitalise on conditions that suit him very well. Just look at his back-to-back GC wins at the Eneco Tour for proof of that! This race suits him better than the previous two and if there are a lack of numbers/teams willing to chase then I don’t think they’ll see him until the finish line. I have him at 36/1 but I’d suggest that the 28/1 with Coral, paying 4 places, is definitely value.

B – Barguil

Warren Barguil has seemed to fly under the radar coming into this race. After recovering from the horrific crash that decimated the Giant Alpecin team at the start of the year, he has slowly produced good results and his form is building. 3rd on a stage at Pais Vasco, 15th at Amstel and 9th at Fleche. He’s done well in long classics before, such as his 9th place at San Sebastian in 2015. I personally think he’s climbing better than ever and will definitely be around the top 10 on Sunday, and with right move and a tactical race he could go on and win. Furthermore, he’s got a good kick so if the group is small (around 5) he could even win from a sprint

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B could also stand for Bardet, who has been climbing well and looking lively at Giro del Trentino. He’s currently available around 33-40/1. I had money on him last year but haven’t backed him this time round. Will I come to regret it?! Hopefully not!

L – Long shots

It’s not just Wellens who won’t want to wait around until the final climbs. I’ve just finished watching the final stage of Trentino and one rider who has impressed me an awful lot is the Dane, Jakob Fuglsang. He was 9th in this race last year after attacking earlier and ending up in the front group at the finish. At Trentino he seemed effortless over the climbs and he certainly is one that doesn’t mind the bad weather/a tough race either. His second on stage 5 of the 2014 TdF exemplifies that. He could be a rider like Wellens who could get away around 20km to go over Côte de La Roche-aux-Faucons for example. With the way he is riding I think few will be able to cope with him. Originally I thought Nibali would be Astana’s trump card here, but he seems to be taking things easily at Trentino. Now that could be bluffing for this race or he might be going for a more gradual build up to the Giro. With the potential bad weather here I don’t think he’ll want to take many risks.

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Therefore, I think Fuglsang will get the role of leader for this race, with LL Sanchez and Diego Rosa as his supporting riders. As i said earlier, having numbers in the end will be key. Astana could have even more left at the end if Nibali turns up and isn’t out for a training ride. A dangerous team, the Shark copes well in the rain! However, Fuglsang is still available at a MASSIVE 80/1 in some places, with Coral even offering 4 places…


Away from those mentioned above, I haven’t backed any one else for this race. It’s hard to find value at the top of the market unless you bet big and I can’t personally advise that to you.

I think the race will buck the recent trend and be won by a solo rider. It may not be much from a group behind, lets say 5 seconds or so. On that note, this market offered by PP could provide a good bet Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 16.27.54

The winner may well be a rider that I’ve not even mentioned so far but I’d be here for a while if I wanted to list all the possible outcomes. The likes of Sammy Sanchez and Rui Costa both go well in these races and in bad weather so are ones to watch out for.

Therefore, the three riders I’ve said above (Wellens, Barguil and Fuglsang) are definitely worth a little investment, you should get your money’s worth from them!

It’d be boring if I don’t suggest an overall winner and sat on the fence. So in that case, our 2016 Liege-Bastogne-Liege champion will be the Belgian, Tim Wellens. He’ll get the timing of his attack right for once and take the victory as everyone looks on from behind!

Cycling : 11th Eneco Tour 2015 / Stage 6

*Although from a personal point, Fuglsang returns the most for me, I’d like to see Wellens finally get the big win he deserves.*

With the rain and cold weather forecast, it will only excite the race even more than previous years. The introduction of the new climb close to the finish creates a new dynamic, and I think this will be one of the best, most attacking editions of LBL in recent years! Unlike the riders, I’ll be sat dry and cosy on my couch watching on, hoping to witness a classic.

Hope you all enjoy the race wherever you’re watching it from! Anyway…

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.