Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the fourth Monument of the year, signals the end of the spring Classics and the imminent start of Grand Tour season. For many, it means the final chance to obtain some one-day glory ahead of a long wait until the Italian autumn Classics, as well as the chance of fulfilling the dream of adding one of cycling’s oldest and most prestigious races to their palmarès.
That, of course, is no easy feat. Liège is one of the most arduous of the Classics; the men’s race is over 258km with 4,500m of climbing, most of which is crammed into the second half of the route. The start list is also almost always one of the most stacked of the hilly Classics, as rouleurs, puncheurs, and even Grand Tour contenders all take time out of their schedules to race La Doyenne.
For much of its recent history Liège has been a remarkably open race, and it’s rare for a rider to finish victorious in two consecutive editions. In fact, no-one has defended their title here since Michele Bartoli did it in 1998. Accomplishing that will be the target of the current world champion Remco Evenepoel (Soudal – Quick-Step), who is breaking from his Giro d’Italia preparations to try and take a second Monument victory.
His main obstacle in accomplishing that will almost certainly be the rampaging Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), who has dominated the spring in a (dare we say it) Merckx-like fashion.
But who else could be in contention for victory this Sunday, April 23? We take a look at the top contenders for Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2023.
It’ll be no surprise that Tadej Pogačar enters the final spring Classic as the outright favourite. He has had a jaw-droppingly remarkable year so far, beginning with victories in Spain before claiming three stages and the general classification at Paris-Nice. Turning his attention then to the Classics, his lowest finishing position of fourth came first at Milan-San Remo, before a third place at the E3 Saxo Classic was followed by three huge consecutive wins at the Tour of Flanders, Amstel Gold Race, and La Flèche Wallonne.
Pogačar scored his second win of the Ardennes Classics so far at Flèche Wallonne (Zac Williams/SWPix)
Now positioned to take a rare Ardennes hattrick, the 24-year-old will almost certainly revert back to his tactic of attacking early and soloing to the finish at Liège, having played it cool to win from the bunch at Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday.
The route suits him perhaps more…
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