Last year, the finish of La Doyenne returned to the centre of Liège for the first time in 28 years. Jakob Fuglsang attacked on the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons, which was the last of eleven climbs, and soloed to victory on the Boulevard d’Avroy. The finish will remain Liège until at least 2024.
The first half the race is never very special. The riders penetrate the Ardennes on rolling roads, usually with one or two climbs before turning back at the roundabout in Bastogne. Yet, as the route is far from flat these first 100 kilometres will certainly add to the overall damage.
The way back to Liège is something else entirely. Especially the last 100 kilometres are a ceaseless onslaught. The Côte de Saint-Roch in Houffalize – after roughly 120 kilometres – is likely to give a first taste of what’s in store before the race intensifies on the Côte de Mont-le-Soie with 95 kilometres out.
The riders tackle Côte de Wanne (2.7 kilometres at 7.4%), Côte de Stockeu (1 kilometre at 12.5%) and Côte de Haute-Levée (3.1 kilometres at 7%) in succession before continuing onto the Col du Rosier, which is the longest climb of the day: 4.4 kilometres at 5.9%.
The route flies down to the foot of the Col du Maquisard. This 2.5 kilometres climb at 5% is a prelude to the emblematic Col de la Redoute. The 2 kilometres climb out of the valley averages 8.9% with ramps up to 13%. A short drop and short climb leads to Sprimont before the sharp Côte des Forges appears.
The Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons is the last climb of the day. The energy sapping 1.3 kilometres climb at 11% continues onto a false flat, where Jabob Fuglsang dropped his fellow-attackers Michael Woods and Davide Formolo in last year’s race. The Dane held off his chasers in a technical descent into Liège and finished 27 seconds ahead of Formolo, while Max Schachmann outsprinted Adam Yates, Woods, David Gaudu and Mikel Landa to take third place.