The fourth Monument of the season is upon us and, as ever, it’s time for our run-down of the contenders for Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
We often title these pieces ‘5 favourites, 5 outsiders’, but this Spring has stretched and tested that format. At the Tour of Flanders, the so-called ‘big three’ stood head and shoulders above everyone else, and at Amstel Gold Race and La Flèche Wallonne there was one outstanding favourite who duly delivered on the idea that he’d be in a race of his own.
That rider was Tadej Pogačar and while he remains the rider to beat, at Liège he’ll have company. Defending champion Remco Evenepoel is dropping in ahead of the Giro d’Italia to provide us with a second top-tier favourite as well as a mouthwatering battle in prospect.
It’s hard to look beyond that duo, which is why we’ve put the rest of the riders in this list of contenders down as outsiders. There are some big names, and also a couple of potential surprise packages, but read on for a dive into the riders who could make an impact on Sunday.
After his blistering run of form this season, there is no looking past Tadej Pogačar as the number-one favourite for Liège-Bastogne-Liège. In his sights is a historic Ardennes treble, which, in truly unprecedented style, would be coming off the back of Tour of Flanders glory.
The Slovenian comfortably delivered on his favourite status at Amstel Gold Race and La Flèche Wallonne but he doesn’t exist in a complete league of his own ahead of Liège. That’s because world champion and defending champion Remco Evenepoel is dropping down from altitude ahead of the Giro, promising one of the most mouthwatering battles of the season to date.
That might just turn the tables on Pogačar’s approach. Until now, the tactic has effectively been to try and burn everyone off his wheel. It didn’t quite work at Milan-San Remo but it certainly did at Flanders and Amstel. At those races, he had to use the relatively short climbs to get rid of more traditional Classics contenders. At Liège, however, he’ll be out on longer climbs against a rider preparing for the high mountains of Italy.
The weapon he possesses over this particular opponent is a stronger sprint. So whereas Pogačar knew he had to get rid of the likes of Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel earlier in the Spring, at Liège he should be confident to go to the line with his biggest rival. Of course, if he can drop…
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