Here is our overview of some of the climbs of ‘La Doyenne’. The Liege Bastogne Liege is a pro race which takes place at the end of April in the Ardennes area of Belgium. The oldest of the great classics of cycling, the original organisers, the RC Pesant Club Liégeois, started this race in 1892, so in 2022 will be the 130th year of this race’s existence.
Liege-Bastogne-Liege couldn’t be any more Belgian – it’s the oldest of the five Monuments (hence the nickname ‘La Doyenne’, the Old Lady), and is arguably the most gruelling ride of the early season. At around 270km in distance, and featuring over 5,000m of climbing, spread over the rolling hills of the Ardennes, it’s a serious challenge and a real war of attrition. Only the strongest of mind and body survive this one!
Sports Tours International are the Cycling Classics experts. We give you the opportunity to ride the LBL Challenge which is the cyclo-sportive version of the event on the Saturday, then watch the Pro race on the Sunday. All of this in one fantastic weekend travel package. The Liege Bastogne Liege Challenge gives you the choice of 3 distances: 84km, 164km and the full distance. You will find out that not all of Belgium is flat and this will be a weekend to remember from both a sporting and a historical point of view.
To get you excited we would like to give you a bit of a rundown of what you will be up against if you do decide to ride the sportive version of Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
The Côte de Roche-aux-Faucons, which made its debut in 2008, featured again in the 100th edition in 2014 alongside the legendary climbs of La Redoute and Saint-Nicolas, which helped forge the legend of the race. For the 100th edition, the organisers vowed to retain a modern course with a nod at all the great climbs in the history of Liège-Bastogne- Liège.
The Côte de La Roche-en-Ardenne is traditionally the opening climb of the Liege Bastogne Liege. It comes 70 kilometres into the race is 2.8 kilometers in length and has an average ascent of 6.2%. You will only ride this climb if you do the full distance event. More information
The Côte de Saint-Roch comes after 116.5 kilometres and is 1 kilometre long with an average ascent of 11%. Click here for more info: Côte de Saint Roch. You will only ride this climb if you do the full distance event.
The Côte de Wanne comes after 160 kilometres and is 2.7 kilometre long with an average ascent of 7.3 %. You will only ride this climb if you do the full distance event. More info here: Cote de Wanne
Also back in 2014 was the Haute-Levée, which was part of the classic trio inserted in 1952 with Cote de Wanne and Rosier. The Côte de la Haute-Levée comes after 175 kilometres and is 3.6 kilometres long with an average of 5.7%. You will ride this climb if you do either the 164km or the full distance event. More information on the Haute Levee
Then there is La Redoute, which is not so important since the race no longer finishes in Liege but in Ans. Yet La Redoute – since 1974 – is La Redoute. It’s a monument and a rallying spot for the crowd. The infamous Côte de La Redoute comes after 218 kilometres and is 2 kilometres long with an average ascent of 8.8% and a maximum of 21%. All Sportive distances will ride this.
The climb, which is 2.2km in length and averages a knee-trembling 10% gradient, comes after around 220k of the race, and is frequently known as the ‘beginning of the end’. There’s around 50km of relentless climbing to follow the ascent, but La Redoute has frequently been used as the springboard of decisive attacks, and also has gained its legendary status due to it being in the heart of the region where Phillipe Gilbert – the hugely decorated current pro racer and past winner of Liege-Bastogne-Liege – was born. The climb starts in a relatively easy but ugly fashion, snaking out of the village at around a 5% grade before heading right under a highway bridge. Take in the atmosphere here, as all the local fans will have pitched up their caravans and campers to stake a place to watch the race the following day. Revel in their amazing enthusiasm as they cheer you on, beer in one hand and Frites in the other, Ardennes flags waving from their vehicles. You then skirt along by the side of the busy road you just passed beneath, and the pitch almost imperceptibly rises to around 8%, and saps your energy and momentum before you truly realise it. Take it easy here if you can, as the worst is definitely yet to come. As you bend left, the road rapidly steepens to around 14% for almost the entire top half of the climb and cruelly ramps up to 18%+ for several sections. You’re again reminded of how legendary this climb is; whilst you stare at your stem wishing it all to be over, you’ll see the huge words PHIL PHIL PHIL painted on the tarmac in tribute to the region’s most famous son. Grit your teeth and grind on as you’re nearly there now.
You’ll eventually see the monument at the top, a tribute to the French Austrian war in the late 18th century, and you can breathe a well-earned sigh of relief. You’re over one of the most famous climbs in Northern European racing, and can now set your sights on surviving the testing final 50km back to Liege.
You can find some more info here: Côte de la Redoute
The Côte de La Roche aux Faucons comes after 240 kilometres and is 1.5 kilometres long with an average of 9.3%. All distances will ride this. In 2009, for Andy Schleck’s victory, Roche-aux-Faucons, introduced the previous year, was decisive. You can find some more info here: Côte de la Roche au Faucons.
Since 1998, St Nicolas, the last climb before the finish, has made the difference because modern cycling is so competitive that you still have 70 riders at the foot of that last hill. The Côte de Saint-Nicolas comes at the end of the race at 257 kilometres and is 1.2 kilometres long with an average of 8.6%. All distances will ride this. You can find some more info here: Côte de Saint-Nicolas.
This is the history of Liège-Bastogne-Liège – an almost entirely flat course in 1892 and climbs added in the course of time.
Written with input from Jim Cotton, 2017
Jim is a passionate and experienced cyclist who has ridden with us for various Haute Routes, the Etape du Tour, and La Marmotte. He keeps a blog of his musings and experiences on the bike here: https://mountainmutton.wordpress.com
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