PREVIEW | Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2024 - Tadej Pogacar battles Mathieu van der Poel, but brutal weather may throw in a surprise

On the 21st of April we've got the final of the Ardennes classics and the last spring classic of the season. La Doyenne, more commonly known as Liège-Bastogne-Liège, is the fourth monument of the season. We preview the race ahead featuring favourites such as Tadej Pogacar, Mathieu van der Poel and Tom Pidcock.

The race features a whole 254.5 kilometers making it one of the longest in the calendar. Through the Belgian Ardennes, it's a full day of climbing, although they are short hills. The action gets more intense towards the end, and the race should be decided in the final kilometers that, as always, features several difficult climbs that will split the race before reaching Liège. There will be 4000 meters of climbing, and this includes climbs where the classics specialists can actually struggle and the climbers can make the difference.

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Liège - Liège, 254.5 kilometers

A lot of it comes in the final 100 kilometers. There will begin a long sequence of climbs, with virtually no flat roads inbetween. With 78.5 kilometers to go you have the steepest climb of the day the Côte du Stockeau (1km at 12.8%) and the longest which is the Col du Rosier (4km at 5.7%) with 60 kilometers to go.

With 47Km to go there’s the Côte de Desnié (1.6Km at 7.5%), and the third-to-last climb is the Côte de la Redoute which summits with 34 kilometers to go. It's not being climbed to the top, featuring 1.6 kilometers at 8.7% and right after the summit following a short descent and hilltop where the race can be decided as it has in the past. The Côte des Forges comes after, featuring 1.3Km at 7.9% ending with 23.5Km to go.

PREVIEW | Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2024 - Tadej Pogacar battles Mathieu van der Poel, but brutal weather may throw in a surprise
Côte de la Roche aux Faucons: 1.3Km; 10%; 13.5Km to go

The decisive point of the race may be the Côte de la Roche Aux Faucons. It is the final climb of the day, and the small hilltop afterwards (which I consider part of it) can be just as crucial. It is 1.3Km long at 10.5%, essentially the same data as the Mur de Huy but without such gruesome gradients.

It summits with 13.5 kilometers to go, will it however see decisive attacks? It may not, as there are only some seconds of rest before a small second hilltop which has 1,2Km at 6.3% (10Km to the finish). This is a weird combination of climbs, where riders risk cracking on the second if they go all-out to make the differences in the first climb. If they save up for the last hilltop, they risk carrying a big group in the wheel, the tactics can be very interesting.

The descent into Liège is fast and only the final two kilometers are flat, if a rider makes it over the climbs alone it'll be near impossible to close gaps.

PREVIEW | Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2024 - Tadej Pogacar battles Mathieu van der Poel, but brutal weather may throw in a surprise
Finale Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2024

The Weather

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Map Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2024

Very cold, rainy and very windy. Reminds me of Flèche Wallonne's weather... I don't think it will be as bad and consequential, but it will definitely break a few riders mentally and it can make for a more open race. The wind itself will come from the north with some intensity, which actually creates a general headwind throughout the final half of the race, making it less tough and inviting for attacks. Headwind at La Redoute, cross-headwind at both the Côte des Forges and Roche-aux-Faucons. If it wasn't for the atrocious cold and rain, it could be a race heading into a sprint.

The Favourites

Tadej Pogacar - Unbeatable? In my opinion, close. Some argue that the rain will cause havoc once again in the lightweight climbers and classics riders. Which may happen, I've seen the name Pogacar mentioned among them but the reality is that he is not that kind of rider. In fact in the past Pogacar has proven to race very well under the rain and as the race will be tougher due to the weather, this may lead to another win such as Strade Bianche if he really is unnafected. The reality is that baring something unusual, he will need an actual bad day in order to lose this race, because he will absolutely be the strongest on paper for these types of climbs. UAE completely collapsed at Flèche which is a bad sign, but as long as he has one of the following - Diego Ulissi, Marc Hirschi, Finn Fisher-Black or João Almeida - at a good level to support him, then that can already be race deciding.

Mathieu van der Poel - The bid wildcard. Which van der Poel will we have? The Flanders/Roubaix one, or the Amstel Gold Race one? There is a huge difference for the race depending on this. If he has the legs of Amstel then he's not a victory contender and hardly for a Top10 - this is a monument better suited to climbers. If he has his best form, then with the long distances he can certainly put in a storming ride and be able to match the best. The climbs are not explosive as he likes, but this is a rider on the form of his life and without pressure, he certainly can add a fourth monument to his palmarès.

Stephen Williams - Israel have a strong lineup including Dylan Teuns as well, but it's Williams who captures the attention here. One of the best puncheurs in the world, he has truly gotten the results he promised this season, and honestly does not need to perform in Liege after winning Flèche Wallone. As a skinny puncheur who loves the steep climbs, it is surprising how comfortable he looked, a great sign for Sunday. If anyone can follow Pogacar in the climbs, he will be a big contender, as he already showed in Catalunya.

Tom Pidcock - An inconsistent rider and the rough weather is absolutely a problem for him. He will hope for the best possible conditions otherwise it will get quite complicated. But if he doesn't suffer through that, then with the victory at Amstel Gold Race and last year's second place here, he is absolutely a card to complete the podium once again. Egan Bernal is featuring in this race and he does like the rain. If we've got our best Egan back then he will also be a podium contender.

Kevin Vauquelin - Second at Flèche Wallonne. Vauquelin has taken quite a leap over the past year and a half, and in my head a very underated rider. The Frenchman is Arkéa's new star but still under the radar, he can get freedom in a race with such competition. But as he showed, he has the legs to win one like this, liking the explosive climbs but not having any problem with the longer ones.

Maxim van Gils - The leader of Lotto Dstny continues to impress and handling the weather at Flèche, he proves to be one of the most consistent and reliable cards to play. Third at Flèche and Strade Bianche, he's proven himself among the best, whilst in these types of small and steep climbs he can handle some incredible speeds.

Jayco - Michael Matthews has been on great form, sprinting to the podium of Milano-Sanremo and Tour of Flanders. Honestly, a good contender for a podium here as he's been climbing well, but he will need to be able to have good legs in the right moments. Perhaps the presence of Simon Yates may help him save up a bit at times, and ultimately benefit from the headwind on the climbs to keep the race compact and fight for a strong result.

Santiago Buitrago - Buitrago was third here last year, a very strong result which he can match this year. However in Flèche he definitely wasn't as strong in the final lap, it casts doubt on how he will handle the long distance in this weather. If he does however, then he will be among the best, leading Bahrain who also features Pello Bilbao and the duo of thrived at the Tour of the Alps: Antonio Tiberi and Wout Poels.

Mattias Skjelmose - The leader of Lidl-Trek abandoned Flèche shaking uncontrollably. This is just about the worst sign you could expect, but could've also been the result of clothing mistakes - which can be fixed. If it is, the Dane has the power to soar up these climbs very well. A tough task, let's see if he will be able to be the best version of himself.

Decathlon - A team that can do wonders. Benoît Cosnefroy is in great form, he may struggle with the amount of climbing but on his best day a Top10 is no surprise. The team also has Paul Lapeira who has been on the form of his life the past month, and climber Felix Gall who can ride well depending on the race situation. Other good riders rounding up the lineup, the French team comes in very solid.

Alexey Lutsenko - Lutsenko came off the Giro d'Abruzzo with an impressive victory over a very strong UAE team. Honestly, perhaps the best Lutsenko I've ever seen, and that confidence will radiate to this classic. A podium contender if he is ok with the weather, he carries great form and is a big fan of this type of terrain as well.

The rough weather may play some tricks on the field and open opportunities for other riders who may be very well suited to the weather. Definitely have Uno-X in mind who loved Fleche weather and the Norwegian Tobias Johannessen showed good form for the first time in a while. Alex Aranburu is also a lover of the tough conditions.

Groupama come in with David Gaudu in the lead, but two riders who handled the weather well in Romain Grégoire and Valentin Madouas. EF have Ben Healy and Richard Carapaz... And we've got some other riders who can do well such as Aleksandr Vlasov, Jai Hindley, Guillaume Martin, Tiesj Benoot and Romain Bardet.

Prediction Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2024:

* Tadej Pogacar
** Stephen Williams, Kévin Vauquelin, Santiago Buitrago, Maxim van Gils
*** Mathieu van der Poel, Tom Pidcock, Mattias Skjelmose, Tiesj Benoot, Benoît Cosnefroy, Dylan Teuns, Alexey Lutsenko, Michael Matthews, Egan Bernal, Antonio Tiberi, Romain Bardet

Pick: Tadej Pogacar

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