Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2023: how to watch, times and favorites
The fourth monument, the Liège-Bastogne-Liège, takes on a special interest in this 2023 with the prospect of the confrontation between two true monsters of this sport willing, despite their youth, to continue to magnify their already prolific palmarès. Tadej Pogacar looking to round off a fantastic Ardennes week that began with his spectacular victory in Amstel Gold Race and Remco Evenepoel trying to make history by revalidating his fantastic victory of last year, this time with the rainbow jersey on his back. Who could ask for more?
The Battle of the Ardennes is between Remco and Tadej
La Doyenne, the fourth of the five monuments, one of the oldest races on the calendar since it began to be held in 1892 and which represents a paradigm shift with respect to the classics contested until this point of the year by proposing a tough challenge of more than 4,000 m of elevation gain. The terrain was crushed by the bloody battles that were fought between its hills during the two world wars and is now the scene of spectacular clashes between some of the best cyclists in the world.
The great duel
It may seem like a slight to the rest of the participants, but this Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2023 looks like the first big clash, with both riders in top form, between Tadej Pogacar and Remco Evenepoel, perhaps the only time during the season that we will see the two in the same race if we take into account the competition calendar foreseen for them.
Perhaps Tadej Pogacar will be one point ahead in the betting for the victory in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, a race that he already managed to conquer in 2021 with a total domination of it, similar to the one he has been applying throughout all the races that have been disputed in the current campaign and that have made him, without a doubt, public enemy number 1. It will be the Slovenian's last competition before taking a short break and starting specific preparation for the Tour de France, with his reappearance not scheduled until late June at the Tour of Slovenia, one of his regular events.
In addition to the attraction of his duel against Remco Evenpoel, after his victory last Sunday in Amstel Gold Race and Wednesday's victory in Flèche Wallonne, Pogacar may be the first rider to win the Ardennes triple in the same year since Philippe Gilbert did it in 2010. In addition, with victory on the Wall of Huy, the Slovenian has become only the third rider in history, alongside the illustrious likes of Bernard Hinault and Eddy Merckx, to have won all three Ardennes Classics and the Tour de France.
In front of him will be Remco Evenepoel, the defending winner of this Liège-Bastogne-Liège, thanks to the magnificent attack he gave us a year ago in such a mythical place as the Côte de la Redoute. This year he will have the incentive of facing a very tough rival like the Slovenian and, on the other hand, get the precious photo of winning this race wearing the rainbow jersey. His approach, however, has been much more discreet than that of Tadej with only three stage races: San Juan, UAE Tour and Catalunya, of which he was only able to win in the Arabian event despite his great role in Catalan lands.
For Remco, the Liège-Bastogne-Liège will be a good test to quantify his form just a few weeks before his first big goal of the year: the Giro d'Italia, where he will face another intense battle against Primoz Roglic.
In addition, Remco recovers for this race an important piece as Julian Alaphilippe who, despite his gray start of the season seems ready to return to his former glory. The Frenchman has already demonstrated his qualities in this race and can be an interesting piece for Soudal-QuickStep's options.
Although the spotlight is on the two of them, we insist once again on the unpredictability of the classics. For example, who would have thought that the break that would lead to victory a few days ago in the Amstel Gold Race would come more than 80 kilometers from the finish. In this scenario, we can never rule out a fighter like Tom Pidcock, who will try to get another of his select victories and prove that he is also capable of winning when he has the best in front of him.
After Wednesday's race, Mikel Landa, who in Liège-Bastogne-Liège has the ideal terrain for his climbing skills, gains a lot of ground. However, his lack of decisiveness in small groups makes it very difficult for him to aspire to victory.
One step below, we should keep an eye on Bora-Hansgrohe, with a Jai Hindley who is already showing details of the form that led him to win last year's Giro d'Italia or an Alexandr Vlasov who, despite the discreet start of the campaign, is fine-tuning his form these days in Tour of the Alps.
It will also be interesting to see what the AG2R-Citroën riders can show us with men like Ben O'Connor or Aurélien Paret-Peintre who have been very active at the beginning of the season although, as we said, a step below the big favorites. Enric Mas also deserves a vote of confidence. Despite not having been in a position to fight for victory these days, the Mallorcan has had a tremendously consistent start to the season and the Liège-Bastogne-Liège course is well suited to his characteristics.
The very tough Ardennes climbs
So far this spring, the riders who have faced the Classics season have had to deal with climbs and walls characterized by steep slopes but of short length.
All that changes with the arrival of the Liège-Bastogne-Liège, 258 kilometers in which more than 4,000 meters of elevation gain, most of which is concentrated on the way back from Bastogne, when the race enters the intricate hills of the Ardennes with some of the climbs that are real mini-hills reaching more than 4 kilometers of ascents like Col du Rosier and combined with very hard walls like the famous Cote de Stockeu, home of the monument in honor of Eddy Merckx after 1 kilometer at 12.5% average gradient.
However, two are always the decisive points of this race. First, La Redoute, a very tough climb of 1.6 kilometers that is faced at kilometer 224 and that has traditionally been the place where the race has been broken and even where the great champions, as Remco Evenepoel did last year, have forged their victory in the race.
The other place of reference is La Roche Aux Faucons, of relatively recent introduction to bring the difficulties closer to the end of the race and avoid the big regroupings that occurred in the final descent towards Liège. Only 1.1 km long but with an average gradient of 11%, after the 244 kilometers it is reached and the false flats that the riders find when they reach the top, it has been a decisive place over the last decade.
How to watch the Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2023
The Liège-Bastogne-Liège closes the Ardennes week next Sunday, April 23rd, a race that can be followed on Eurosport, both through its Eurosport 1 channel and its digital platform from 13:00.