Liège-Bastogne-Liège

Amael Moinard
The Liege-Bastogne-Liege road race is the oldest classic race in European cycling history, having been run almost a hundred times, and in fact its nickname -- "La Doyenne" -- means "the oldest" in French. As the name suggests, the course traces a round trip between the Belgian cities of Liege and Bastogne. The outward trip is relatively direct, covering 95 kilometers (59 miles), but the return trip follows a more winding trail, for a distance of 163 kilometers (101 miles). The race is run during a single day in late April.

Liege-Bastoge-Liege is infamous among cyclists for the difficulty of the second half, which features many short but extremely steep climbs, with slopes anywhere from 5% to 12%. Thus, it is a race that demands strength and aggression. To make matters worse, the late spring start means the race is often marked by bad weather, making the racers' task all the more difficult.

The race began in 1892 as an amateur competition. Starting in 1894, professionals were admitted to the race. Leon Houa of Belgium won the race in its first three years as both an amateur and a professional. As of this writing, Belgian cyclists have won 57 of 95 editions of Liege-Bastogne-Liege, including the famous Eddy Merckx. The win record for the race is held by Merckx, with five wins between 1969 and 1975. Since the end of Merckx's reign, however, cyclists from other countries have been winning o­n a more regular basis, with multiple wins by Spain's Alejandro Valverde, France's Bernard Hinault, and Italy's Moreno Argentin and Michele Bartoli, among others.

The Liege-Bastogne-Liege race is part of the International Cycling Union (UCI)'s ProTour, and victory earns a cyclist points toward his UCI World Ranking.