La Doyenne: EF Pro Cycling is ready to race the hardest monument

The Ardennes classics culminate Sunday at Liège-Bastogne-Liège

April 19, 2024

Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège promises to be one of the hardest races of the year

 It always is. Liège-Bastogne-Liège is the doyenne of the monuments—the oldest of cycling’s great classics.

Kim Cadzow, Clara Emond, Veronica Ewers, Clara Koppenburg, Lizzie Stannard, and Magdeleine Vallieres will race for EF Education-Cannondale.

Richard Carapaz, Ben Healy, Mikkel Honoré, Archie Ryan, James Shaw, Harry Sweeny, and Rigoberto Urán will ride for EF Education-EasyPost.

The Liège-Bastogne-Liège course is legendary. First raced in 1892, it runs between Liège, a post-industrial city on the banks of the Meuse, and Bastogne, a gray-slate town nestled deep in the Ardennes, passing over the low forested mountains that run up and down the province of Wallonie, Belgium. The men race 254.5 kilometers, starting and finishing in Liège, while the women go straight to the hardest climbs on the 152.9-km run from Bastogne to Liège. The grand finale includes famous hills such as the Côte de Wanne, Côte de Stockeu, Col du Rosier, Côte de la Redoute, Côte des Forges, and Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons. Often terribly steep, these roads wind through woods on gritty asphalt, reaching high plateaus above the treeline. On Sunday, a freezing wind will be howling across the fields and meadows. Racing in the Ardennes is not for the faint-hearted.

“Liège-Bastogne-Liège is a real monument for the sport,” says Olympic champion Richard Carapaz. “It is so difficult due to the length and the amount of climbing. The best teams come with their best riders and that’s what makes it so beautiful.”

That is what Kim Cadzow loves about it.

“Racing in the Ardennes is some of the hardest racing that there is,” she says. “There is a lot of climbing. There are a lot of punchy riders and that just makes it so challenging to race here. You never really know what is going to happen at the bottom of any of the climbs and even on the flats, it is this constant race, this constant battle for position. The weather can just make it crazy.”

Ben Healy thrives in the Ardennes. Last year, the Irish champion finished fourth at Liège-Bastogne-Liège after lighting up the finale with a number of huge attacks.

“It is hard, long, and normally cold, so only for the tough riders in the peloton,” Ben says.

Clara Emond made her WorldTour debut at Liège-Bastogne-Liège last year and was shocked by how rough it was in the bunch. She has since learned how to use her elbows in the pack and gained a lot of confidence. Clara is excited to show what she can do on the climbs at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

“It is going to be a really hard race,” Clara says. “And if the weather is like it was at Flèche Wallonne, it is going to be even harder. The climbs are super short but there are so many of them that it is going to be a really reduced peloton really fast. It is going to be a super selective race. The run-ins to the climbs are like bunch sprints and then we have to go up them. I feel fit. I think I am going to be good. If we race well as a team and we are able to really be in the race and be actors in it and be aggressive and make different moves, we will be happy.”

After his strong ride at Liège-Bastogne-Liège last year, Ben Healy is ready to race for the top step on the podium.

“Our ambition is to win the race, as simple as that,” Ben says.

Richie Carapaz is game. He went on the attack at Flèche-Wallonne on Wednesday and wants to do the same at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

“We are a very good team,” he says. “Riders like Rigo and Harry and James bring a lot of experience. Ben feels very good. It’s going to be a very hard race. Our ambition is to win!”

That’s the spirit. Go EF Pro Cycling!

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