Liège-Bastogne-Liège: Rating the favorites — who will master the final spring classic?

Everyone knows the favorites for 'La Doyenne,' but who will scramble the script? The reigning world champions might have something to say.

Photo: Getty Images

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Liège-Bastogne-Liège closes out the spring classics season with a bang.

La Doyenne is finally getting some of the respect the grand dame of cycling deserves.

Course tweaks, deeper fields, and superstars targeting historical milestones all add extra luster to one of cycling’s legendary races.

The monument is one of the icons of the calendar. And with Demi Vollering and Tadej Pogačar both chasing the elusive “Ardennes treble,” the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Who can stop either of them? Will the reigning world champions in Annemiek van Vleuten and Remco Evenepoel awake from their respective slumbers? Can an outsider upset the established order?

We dive in with predictions:

Who will win the women’s and how?

Van Vleuten is overdue for a big ride. (Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

Sadhbh O’Shea — VeloNews

Demi Vollering looks like a rider much more comfortable in the role of leader compared with this time last year. The Dutch rider has blitzed the rest of the pack in recent days, winning the Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne in fairly comfortable fashion and I believe that she can follow in the footsteps of her DS Anna van der Breggen and complete the trio of hilly classics.

After her superb ride at Amstel, Vollering looks like she should do another big solo ride to take the win. Where will she go? She might not need to wait for La Redoute and could go on one of the earlier climbs while her SD Worx teammates run interference behind for her. There was criticism of other teams not doing enough to try and challenge SD Worx earlier in the spring, but that seems to have changed lately and it won’t be an easy race. Teams such as Trek-Segafredo, UAE Team ADQ, and Team DSM have all been riding aggressively and could cause an upset if they outsmart SD Worx.

The tough course provides the setting for the final classic. (Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

Fred Dreier — Outside Magazine

My head, of course, says Demi Vollering because she also appears to be on world-beating form. She’s so good right now that appears to not even know that she’s dropping everyone on the climbs. So, in my LBL scenario, Vollering just rides away from the pack on the Roche aux Faucons, then rides solo all the way into Liège. She crosses the line and looks back, completely oblivious to the fact that the closest competitor is on course, 2km from the finish.

Andrew Hood — VeloNews

No race this spring has finished without SD Worx dominating the conversation. The super-team hasn’t won every race, but it’s dictated the tactics and put riders in the position to win. Vollering is the obvious favorite, but others will be nipping at their heels.

Trek-Segafredo brings the deepest and most experienced team, and Movistar with the arrival of Liane Lippert gives the “Blues” an extra option behind Annemiek van Vleuten. I do not expect the script to change that much: SD Worx for the win.

Can anyone stop Tadej Pogačar?

Bardet looked sharp at Flèche Wallonne. (Photo: Bas Czerwinski/Getty Images)

Sadhbh O’Shea — VeloNews

Though it would be great to see Tadej Pogačar become just the third rider to win the so-called Ardennes triple, I think that Remco Evenepoel will defend his title from last year. While Pogacar has been smashing the cobbles of the Tour of Flanders and destroying his rivals at Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne, Evenepoel has been squirreling away training as he builds up to the Giro d’Italia and should be the slightly fresher of the two.

I think it’s going to go like this, Pogačar will make a big attack on the Côte de la Redoute and take Evenepoel with him. The pair will go to the line together with Evenepoel getting the jump on Pogačar in the sprint finish.

Fred Dreier — Outside Magazine

Pogačar wins by dropping a watts bomb on the stragglers at the base of the Côte de Roche aux Faucons. It’s a savage acceleration. A total nuclear attack that is so fierce that even Remco Evenepoel just looks into the TV camera and makes a Jim Halpert face. The asphalt on the roadway literally melts or catches fire or becomes ash. Someone’s head explodes from the heat. Gruesome, yes, but that’s what I expect to see.

Evenepoel said he’s ‘not afraid of Pogačar’ ahead of Sunday’s big race. (Photo: BENOIT DOPPAGNE/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)

Andrew Hood — VeloNews

All spring, the peloton’s “big” have entered the ring and slugged it out until the end. There have been no surprise winners in any race, so don’t expect a miracle in the men’s race.

The longer distance added with the prestige of the race will see the cream rise to the top. Can anyone out-gun Pogačar? On paper, that list would be very short, perhaps only Evenepoel. I expect the pair to ride everyone off their wheels. Can a straggler hang on for the ride? Maybe Pidcock or perhaps a rider like Romain Bardet.

If Evenepoel can stay with Pogačar to the line, he stands a chance. I expect Pogačar to try to drop everyone by the Côte de Roche aux Faucons. The only question will be if his legs might be running out of jet fuel after a long and fruitful spring.

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