LBL : number 100


Victory on the 100th edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège is coveted by many in the elite pack. Philippe Gilbert and Alejandro Valverde have shown their ability to follow in the footsteps of Dan Martin, who will also be in with a shout. However, Chris Froome, who will be coming out of his shell for the occasion, could, like many others, have a say in the outcome.

There is much more than just a cycling race to be won this Sunday. Liège-Bastogne-Liège is traditionally the grand finale of the sequence of spring classics. Its 100th edition, which turns over a page in the history of cycling, also opens up a new era. The pretenders for victory on the Old Lady of the classics are all aware of the weight of this special vintage and the presence of King Philippe to give starter's orders will remind them, as if it was needed, of the moment's solemnity. It is possible, however that the current spring masters are not inclined to loosen their grip on the prize. In any event, this is the message put across by several former winners of Liège-Bastogne-Liège over the last few days. Philippe Gilbert and Alejandro Valverde, respectively triumphant in Liege in 2011 and 2006-2008, respectively demonstrated their superiority on the Amstel Gold Race and the Flèche Wallonne. This will give them a psychological advantage over their rivals when it comes to the crunch, which could potentially be spread over the slopes of the final 60 kilometres! However, like last year, Dan Martin showed on the Flèche Wallonne (with a 2nd placed finish) that he has no reason to feel inferior to the favourites when defending his title. Among the men in form on the Mur de Huy on Wednesday, it is possible that Michal Kwiatkowski (3rd), Bauke Mollema (4th) or Roman Kreuziger (8th) could find themselves more at ease on the finish of Liege-Bastogne-Liege. This could also be true of Simon Gerrans (3rd on the Amstel Gold Race, and often well-placed in Liege) or Thomas Voeckler (4th in 2012), who both missed out on Wednesday's race in order to save themselves for this weekend. If pursuing this line of reasoning, then the list of pretenders could also be extended to include major players who were not in the spotlight in Huy, such as Vincenzo Nibali, “Purito” Rodriguez or world champion Rui Costa.

To mark its prestigious vintage, this Liege-Bastogne-Liege will also witness the return to competition of Chris Froome. The winner of the 100th Tour de France has, to date, never shone on the Old Lady (36th in 2013), but will be present this year with a new status to defend. Finally, the French clan will be represented by the lively Romain Bardet, who was especially active on the Path of the Chapels on Wednesday (and 2nd on the LBL prospects race in 2011), by Warren Barguil, who proved on the Vuelta 2013 that he knows how to perfectly combine apprenticeship and efficiency, or by Tony Gallopin, the only French rider to have won a major classic (San Sebastian, 2013).

The race in pictures


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