• 2017 Liège-Bastogne-Liège (Getty)Source: Getty
We've made it: the final race of Ardennes week, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the oldest of the five monuments. Watch it live Sunday 22 April from 10:00pm AEST online or on SBS Viceland.
By
Jane Aubrey

20 Apr 2018 - 3:16 PM  UPDATED 20 Apr 2018 - 3:17 PM

Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes 135.5km

Defending champion: Anna van der Breggen

The women’s race should be called, Bastogne-Liège without the opening circuit the men experience. It’s a mostly flattish first half of the race before the first of four climbs, the Côte de la Vecquée, kicks in at kilometre 82.5 (6.7km at 4.9%). Then, like the men’s route, the Côte de La Redoute, Côte de la Roche-aux-faucons and Côte de Saint-Nicolas will sort out the peloton.

The latter was the launch pad for Anna van der Breggen’s victory in 2017, leaving Lizzie Deignan, Katarzyna Niewiadoma, Ellen van Dijk, Annemiek van Vleuten and Ashleigh Moolman in her wake.

The verdict

Current WorldTour leader van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) collected her fourth Flèche Wallonne victory on Wednesday and looms large among the favourites for this race. Mitchelton-Scott has threatened with Aussie Amanda Spratt (third at Amstel Gold and fifth at La Flèche Wallonne Fèminine) seemingly on the verge of victory along with the consistent form of Annamiek van Vlueten.

Canyon SRAM was missing from the finale on the Mur du Huy, and one should expect them to come out firing and race this last Ardennes Classic aggressively. Also for the Australians, keep an eye on Shara Gillow (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope). The former national ITT champion was sixth at Flèche Wallonne and seventh at last year's Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes.

2017 men's Liège-Bastogne-Liège winning moment

Liège-Bastogne-Liège – men’s 258km

Defending champion: Alejandro Valverde

The penultimate monument for the season. La Doyenne – ‘the old lady’ – the oldest of the five monuments, dating back to 1892. Jokers need not apply. If you win here, it’s no fluke. Eddy Merckx won here five times, a record that Valverde (2006, 2008, 2015 and 2017) will attempt to equal on Sunday.

La Doynne’s toughness is marked by its 4,500m of climbing – and worthy of a grand tour mountain stage. The peloton will traverse 11 categorised climbs, but what they lack in number, they make up for in length. There are three key climbs which will decide who will tackle the finale in Ans – the Côte de La Redoute at kilometre 218.5 (2km at 8.8%); the Côte de la Roche-aux-faucons at kilometre 239 (1.6km at 10%) and Côte de Saint-Nicolas at kilometre 252.5 (1.4km at 7.6%).

Approaching the finish line, only the strongest survive with the last one and a half kilometres kicking up at 5%.

The verdict

While Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) couldn’t match the acceleration of Julian Alaphilippe (QuickStep Floors) on Wednesday up the Mur de Huy, he definitely can’t be discounted. Meantime, QuickStep’s assault on the 2018 season continues with 28 wins to date – expect Alaphilippe to be in the mix again along with teammate and 2011 winner, Philippe Gilbert.

Michael Matthews (Sunweb) was unlucky to be struck by a mechanical in the final kilometres at Amstel Gold last Sunday, but is a solid candidate after finishing fifth on Wednesday, and fourth at last year's Liège.

Dan Martin (UAE – Team Emirates) is usually in considerations having been both a winner (2013) and runner-up (2017) here, but his form seems off. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida) and Roman Kreuziger (Mitchelton-Scott) also deserve consideration.

The Zwift SBS Cycling Podcast also previews the race, listen: 

Watch the race live Sunday 22 April from 10:00pm AEST online or on SBS Viceland. 

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