La Doyenne is 'The Grand Lady' and graces her presence as the oldest race.
Liege-Bastogne-Liege dates way back to 1892 and tomorrow's big 'monument' marks the 94th edition. Sure it's 261 kilometers and it goes over 13 small, but, prominent climbs with gradients from 5 to 12%. With the addition of the new steep 'falcon's rock' climb, with 20 kilometers remaining, will provide added drama. The rider that wins has his place in history. And it is so for Eddy Merckx, his immortality is secure with the record 5 wins.
The race is up for grabs as most of the favorites from last Wednesday's Fleche Wallonne are present. Damiano Cunego(lampre) 'the little prince' is ready to go. His Italian compatriot, Riccardo Riccò(Saunier) is back and should be strong coming off from flu. Fränk Schleck(CSC) is hungry for a win and promises a good ride. However, I'm liking the Aussie Cadel Evans(Silence-Lotto ) chances, especially coming off from his great 2nd place at Fleche Wallonne. And don't forget the Canadian spark plugs; Michael Barry(High Road) and Ryder Hesjedal(Slipstream) will be there to help their leaders. Hesjedal was a very good 39th at Fleche and he looks to do well with La Doyenne.
You can't talk about tomorrow's race without mentioning some of her 'men' from the past. The infatuation with 'the grand dame' deserves mention, here are some of them...
1966. Eventually winner, Jacques Anquetil 'mastering' La Doyenne.
1979. The 'crush' is on.
(right to left): Hinault, Pollentier, Shepers, Van Impe & Baronchelli on one of the picturesque climbs. The outcome; La Doyenne will pick Didi Thurau.
The following year, 1980.
One who hated the classics, but loved to win her heart.
Hinault takes off alone in the bone chilling cold to score an impressive victory. LBL's icy grip was so severe that it took him 3 weeks to regain movement in his index and middle finger of his right hand. The Badger was frozen and couldn't get into his bath at the hotel until the water was almost cold!
She left her mark on him.
Photos: (above & middle), The Fabulous World of Cycling.