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April 21 st 2018 - 17:55

The World’s best riders are ready to tackle the 104th edition of La Doyenne on Sunday. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) is looking to reassert his dominance in the Ardennes after Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) dethroned him at Huy. Women are also back for the second edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes. Already winner in 2017, the Olympic champion Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) is the hot favorite after her victory at La Flèche wallonne.

 

Valverde: “I feel as good as ever but…”

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) remains a very hot favorite for the victory at Ans despite losing La Flèche wallonne to Julian Alaphilippe on Wednesday. “I feel as good as ever but you can’t always win”, the Spanish veteran explains. “I think my rivals will attack from far away so it will be harder for us to control. If it comes to down to a small group sprint, I’m one of the fastest riders so I can always go for victory. We’ll see how things unfold during the race.” Valverde is looking forward to his “favorite race in the international calendar. I already won it four times and we’ll try to get the fifth but it will be very hard.”

 

Matthews: “I’m just enjoying every bit of these classics”

After a spectacular climb up the Mur de Huy, many expect Michael Matthews (Sunweb) to shine on Wednesday. “There was not any pressure on me, I just wanted to see what I could do on this climb and I think 5th place is quite a good result for a sprinter”, the Australian puncheur-sprinter said on Saturday, a year after finishing 4th at Ans. “I’m happy to be back in some sort of shape (after a broken shoulder at the end of February) where I can try and contest. I’ve worked a lot with my ostheo on my shoulder and my back.” At La Doyenne, ‘Bling’ hopes for “a fun race, where we can all just go out there and enjoy ourselves. I’m just enjoying every bit of these classics. Alaphilippe showed he’s in a great form. With the way he’s going, I think he’ll be quite active. But then there’s also Valverde that likes a pretty crazy race and then a final sprint. I don’t know how it will go.”

 

Alaphilippe : “I prefer a race with lots of moves”

An impressive performance at La Flèche wallonne granted Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) his biggest win to date… and the Frenchman is looking for more with Liège-Bastogne-Liège, where he finished 2nd behind Valverde in 2015. It was almost a lifetime ago: “I don’t have lots of experience at Liège, but I’m very motivated and I know the shape is good. With what we saw on Wednesday, we can imagine riders will try to go from far away, like Nibali did. And in the end, I prefer a race with lots of moves. If we see lots of attacks, there’ll be less riders battling it out in the end. Then, I’ll need the legs to respond well. We’ll see.”

 

Women are back for La Doyenne

After a successful first edition in 2017, Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes is back for more exciting racing. The route will be the same to last year’s: 136km featuring some of La Doyenne’s most iconic climbs, with La Vecquée, La Redoute, La Roche-aux-Faucons and Saint-Nicolas before the uphill finish at Ans. 135 riders from 23 elite teams will line up in Bastogne to try and overthrow Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans). Winner last year, the Olympic champion proved on Wednesday she’s in a great condition with her fourth victory in a row on La Flèche wallonne.

 

Bardet: “A long range attack is more likely to succeed on La Doyenne”

Early season injuries and sickness didn’t prevent Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) from building a top shape ahead of Liège. “I’m happy with my condition, everything is in track for tomorrow”, the French climber explained after making it in the top 10 of La Flèche wallonne (9th) for the first time in his career. “I took my marks on Wednesday and we know where the key climbs of Liège are. A long range attack like Nibali tried at La Flèche is more likely to succeed on La Doyenne, but we’ll have to see how the race unfolds… and be even stronger tactically.”

 

Benoot: “I want to finish on a high note”

Tiesj Benoot is only riding his first Liège-Bastogne-Liège but he’s already viewed as a serious contender. With his teammates Jelle Vanendert (3rd at La Flèche) and Tim Wellens, Lotto Soudal rely on a power trio offering a wide range of tactical options. “I want to finish classics season on a high note”, Benoot explained on Saturday. “As a team, we’ve been active since the beginning of the season and the final act has to be at least as good. On Wednesday, we played an active part in the race and if everything goes well, without crashes or other incidents, all three of us could be at the front for the finale. Anyway, eventhough I’m discovering La Dyenne, I’ve seen on the Strade Bianche that I can cope well with successive climbs.”

 

8.000 amateurs take on the Challenge

Before the professionals, amateurs from all around the World were able to experience first-hand the majesty of La Doyenne on Saturday. 8.002 riders from 56 different countries tackled one of the three different routes designed for the 8th edition of the Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the longest one covering 274km! Those who chose the intermediate route, a 154km challenge, got to ride with retired champions Fränk Schleck and Laurent Jalabert. Belgians were the most numerous in the peloton (35% of the participants), followed by Dutch riders (23%) and Frenchmen (15%).

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