Anybody wishing to tackle some of the spring classics the day before watching the pros ride can do so with relative ease. Having attempted the Rhonde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders Cyclo) last year, this years challenge was to take on the Liege Bastogne Liege. Having only watched the race on TV and not ridden or visited the Ardennes region of Belgium before, I was blissfully unaware of what a challenging ride this is. Although it doesn’t attract the number of participants as the Tour of Flanders Cyclo if anyone wishes to test their metal then this surely is a must do event. This year attracted around 8000 riders across the different routes. The majority of the iconic climbs come in the second half of the ride whether attempting the 156km or 273km route, but the ride still has uncategorised challenges all the way around the route. As the pro race tends to favour those that can climb well, that in itself should give a little insight into what this event can throw at you. Both routes will provide approx 8400ft and 15000ft of climbing respectively. The weather this year didn’t favour the sportive riders with rain for a large proportion of the day but once crossing the finish line you will be rewarded with the overriding sense of achievement I’m sure. If your lucky, as we were, you may spot some pros loosening up for the following days event along the route.
The event is very well organised, signage is clear and there are strategic marshals posted at some of the sticky points especially when navigating your way out of and back into Liege. There are a couple of small towns along the route that have cobbled sections in them. This will give you a small taste of what it’s like negotiating cobbles to help hone your bike handling.
At least three feed stations are available at various points around the route and are well stocked with plenty of dispensers to refill bottles, and offer a selection of edible goodies. One we stopped at also had a Mavic service lorry which seemed to be catering for anything that was put in front of them.
Your ride number is sent via email a couple of weeks before the event, this needs to be collected from the start/finish prior to staring the ride as it includes a timing chip. At least 4 of the climbs ( Rosier, La Redoute, Roche aux Faucons and Saint Nicolas) are individually timed just to add that extra bit of incentive.
It’s best to collect your start pack the day before, it beats the rush in the morning of the event and you don’t have anything extra to carry.
We managed to stay in a hotel approx 7m away so rode to the start which avoided any parking issues, so it’s worth booking your hotel early.
Registration opens around the first week of December and costs approx €30 with a choice of three routes.