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April 18th, 2023

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The “Doyenne”: a historical race

Liège-Bastogne-Liège is back this Sunday 23 April for its 109th edition and will make for an exciting end to the cycling Spring season. Considered as the oldest classic, it is nicknamed “La Doyenne”, which is French for “Old Lady”. This prestigious and demanding race is part of the 5 cycling monuments and is known for being the best of the Ardennes classics.

Let’s go back in time

The “Doyenne” was created in 1892 by the Liège Cyclist Union (founder of the RFC Liège). Initially, the race was called Spa-Bastogne-Spa. The first edition featured 33 racers (mainly from Liège) but only 17 of them made it to the finish line. The very first winner of this legendary cycling race was Léon Houa, who completed the 250 km in 10.48 hours.

This particular course was short-lived, and after just 3 editions, the race was no longer organized. But fourteen years later the classic made a comeback, featuring the course as we know it today, starting and ending in Liège. 

Liège-Bastogne-Liège is widely regarded as one the hardest races in modern cycling. Its length, around 250 km, and its steep climbs, are greatly feared by the cyclists. However, the various ascents of the course present golden opportunities for the competitors to attack their opponents.

The 109th edition 

This year, no less than 258.5 km and 10 ascents are waiting for the racers.

 The legendary Wanne-Stockeu-Haute Levée trilogy can, from the start, have a tremendous impact on the race. But the last 3 big climbs will also play a decisive role for the cyclists. The Côte de la Redoute, where Remco Evenepoel made his big move last year, can dramatically affect the outcome of the race. Not forgetting the Côte des Forges, which was reinstated this year, and the Roche-aux-Faucons, located just 6 km away from the finish line.

 The spectators are impatiently waiting for a duel between Tadej Pogačar and Remco Evenepoel. But the two men on form at the moment, Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel could also have their say.

The Liège-Bastogne-Liège record holders 

·   In 1909, Victor Fastre (18 years and 362 days old) won the race and is still, to this day, the youngest Liège-Bastogne-Liège winner, and the youngest cyclist to ever win a great classic.

·   Léon Houa, Eddy Merckx, and Moreno Argentin, are the joint record holders for most consecutive victories (3) on this Ardennes classic.

·   In 1975, Eddy Merckx broke the record for most victories of the “Doyenne” by winning the race for the 5th time.

·   Belgium is the most successful country in the history of Liège-Bastogne-Liège. It boasts a record total of 59 victories.

·   By winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2011, Philippe Gilbert achieved a historic quadruple. In the space of just 10 days, he won the Brabantse Pijl, the Amstel Gold Race, the Flèche Wallonne, and the “Doyenne”.

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