The final Monument of spring is upon us. Liège-Bastogne-Liège is on Sunday and it could be an historic edition. Only three riders have ever won the Ardennes triple in the same year: Davide Rebellin in 2004, Philippe Gilbert in 2011 and Anna van der Breggen in 2017; this year both Demi Vollering and Tadej Pogačar could join that club.
Obviously with that comes pressure and comes eyeballs from everyone else in the peloton, although Pogačar has more than his fair share of eyes on him in every race he starts (and Vollering should have).
So, who are the favourites for the 2023 men’s and women’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège and who could cause an upset? Let’s find out.
Liège-Bastogne-Liège women’s favourites
La Flèche Wallonne
The women’s race is in the morning with coverage starting at 10:15 and sets off from Bastogne (so, yes the name is misleading), but takes in plenty of climbing including the finishing trio of the Côte de la Redoute, Côte des Forges and the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons. Who will prevail?
Amstel Gold. Tick. La Flèche Wallonne. Tick. Demi Vollering is all set to become the second woman to do the Ardennes triple in the same year, joining her DS and mentor Anna van der Breggen. Since she arrived on the scene Vollering has been seen as Van der Breggen’s successor and her domination this season – along with her second at the Tour de France last year – is showing why.
Seven race days so far in 2023 for Vollering and after 17th at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad her results have been: 1, 1, 2, 2, 1, 1. With Annemiek van Vleuten looking out of form, Vollering is categorically the one to beat.
Challengers and outside bets
While there are stacks of talented and capable riders that could win on Sunday, it’s Vollering’s to lose.
Her challengers will be: Grace Brown, Marta Cavalli, Elise Chabbey, Mavi García, Pfeiffer Georgi, Liane Lippert, Elisa Longo Borghini, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, Kasia Niewiadoma, Soraya Paladin, Silvia Persico, Gaia Realini, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, Shirin van Anrooij and Annemiek van Vleuten.
Liège-Bastogne-Liège men’s favourites
La Flèche Wallonne
Coverage of the men’s race starts at midday in the UK and the riders head out from, surprisingly, Liège, head towards Bastogne and then back to Liège for that same final as the women.
You thought Demi Vollering’s 2023 results were impressive, this is Tadej Pogačar’s, stage races in square brackets: 1, [1, 1, 21, 1, 14, 1 (GC)], [27, 55, 5, 1, 21, 1, 1, 1 (GC)], 4, 3, 1, 1, 1. Is he the GOAT?
Whatever he is, he’s a phenomenon and on course to add an Ardennes triple crown to his Tour of Flanders win (plus the rest) in 2023. He can literally do it all, you won’t break him on the climbs and if you come with him to the finish he’ll probably out-sprint you. Barring incident, clever tactics are probably the only way to beat him.
However Liège-Bastogne-Liège may present his toughest challenge so far this year…
The defending champion and World Champion has been away training for the Giro d’Italia, so who knows how his legs are? Probably excellent. He knows how to win this race (launch the rockets and leave everyone in your dust) and it suits him down to the ground. Pogačar will be very nervous about young Remco.
He’ll have to ditch Pogačar before the finish though, as he’d undoubtedly get beaten in a sprint, but with his time-trialling ability all he’d need is a small gap to maintain on the final run-in. On top of that, his Soudal-QuickStep team are under big pressure to produce, so you can be sure all involved will be doing their utmost to make sure Remco defends his title. What was that about the only way to beat Pogačar? Expect every other QuickStep rider to be doing their bit to disrupt and attack the race.
Challengers and outside bets
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Julian Alaphilippe, if he’s got legs he could be the perfect teammate for Evenepoel to play off, and Andrea Bagioli would be silly not to get into some form of breakaway.
Also looking to make a Monumental upset: Romain Bardet, Benoît Cosnefroy, Quinten Hermans, Søren Kragh Andersen, Mikel Landa, Valentin Madouas, Matej Mohorič, Tom Pidcock, Mattias Skjelmose and Michael Woods.
The Cyclist prediction
I’m a Demi Vollering fan and think she’ll do it but it feels like a cop-out, so I’m going to say Shirin van Anrooij, who you can find in the latest issue of Cyclist magazine, out now.
It’s a nice feeling not being confident in predicting a Tadej Pogačar victory, but here I am. He has a strong team lining up on Sunday and they should all be kept until as late as possible to chase back a potential Evenepoel attack. It certainly won’t be easy though. With no Iván García Cortina at the start, my less boring pick is Benoît Cosnefroy. Allez Benwah.