Since last edition the race is stripped of the hilltop finish in Ans in favour of a flat finish in the centre of Liège. This means less elevation gain in the finale, but this does not imply an easy sprint finish. The relentless succession of Ardennes’ hills is certainly going to do damage.
Last year, only a handful contenders were left after the last climb, the steep Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons, when Fuglsang rode away on the false flat at the top. He extended his lead in the descent to solo to victory. Something like that could happen again.
Another likely scenario is a sprint of a select group. Who has enough juice left for a jump or a sprint after such an onslaught? Hirschi, Alaphilippe, Pogacar and Roglic are usually the ones with a solid sprint at the end of an hard race.
Valverde won Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2006, 2008, 2015 and 2017. The Spaniard only needs one more win to reach the same level as record holder Eddy Merckx. Other Liège winners that are still racing are Jungels (2018), Poels (2016), Dan Martin (2013), Gilbert (2011) and Davide Rebellin (2004). Jungels, Poels and Martin are the only former winners at the start.
Hirschi is on fire this season. He was brilliant on the Tour de France, won bronze at the Worlds, and last Wednesday he sprinted to triumph in La Flèche Wallonne
Alaphilippe is another pre-race favourite. He won the rainbow jersey on a similar circuit at the Worlds, although those climb were shorter and steeper. But the finale was also a descent onto a flat final section.
It remains to be seen how Pogacar goes. Is he still fresh enough to be there with the best? On the other hand, most contenders have been racing since the Tour de France, so freshness is a relative concept for virtually all riders on the start list.
At 258 kilometres, Liège-Bastogne-Liège is a long race with pre-race favourites getting dropped along the way. The Ardennes’ hills account for roughly 4,500 metres of vertical climbing.
Favourites 2020 Liège-Bastogne-Liège
***** Marc Hirschi, Julian Alaphilippe, Tadej Pogacar
**** Primoz Roglic, Michal Kwiatkowski, Maximilian Schachmann
*** Adam Yates, Lennard Kämna, Benoît Cosnefroy, Michael Woods
** Mathieu van der Poel, Tom Dumoulin, Tim Wellens, Daniel Felipe Martínez
* Rigoberto Uran, Warren Barguil, Rui Costa, Daniel Martin, Wout Poels