Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Cycling News
Cycling News
Stephen Farrand

Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2024 - Analysing the contenders

Composite image of Elisa Longo Borghini, Mathieu van der Poel and Tadej Pogacar.

Liège-Bastogne-Liège will close out the Ardennes Classics on Sunday, April 21, with the peloton vying for one last opportunity to win one of the prized one-day classics this spring.

It is the oldest of the Classics on the men's calendar, celebrating its 110th edition, and the fourth of five Monuments on offer after Alpecin-Deceuninck's Jasper Philipsen won Milan-San Remo and his teammate Mathieu van der Poel won both Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

Known as La Doyenne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège closes out the Ardennes Classics with a last-man-standing war of attrition over 250km or more and 11 classified climbs in the rolling hills of eastern Belgium.

On the women's side, Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes is the youngest of the Ardennes Classics. Its inaugural edition in 2017 formed the triple alongside Amstel Gold Race, which held its first edition in 2001 (though it was on hiatus for 13 years between 2004 to 2016) and Flèche Wallonne since 1998. 

With no women's races offered at Milan-San Remo or Il Lombardia, Liège-Bastogne-Liège marks the third and final Monument of the season. Only one rider has won all three, with Lizzie Deignan winning the Tour of Flanders in 2016, Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2020 and Paris-Roubaix in 2021. 

This could change on Sunday if her teammate Elisa Longo Borghini or SD Worx-Protime's Lotte Kopecky triumphs in Liége.

Cyclingnews highlights the riders to watch in the men's and women's Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates)

Tadej Pogačar (Image credit: Getty Images)

Tadej Pogačar crashed out of the 2023 Liège-Bastogne-Liège, fracturing three bones in his scaphoid and disrupting his hopes and ambitions for the Tour de France. This year, the UAE Team Emirates leader is targeting a Giro d’Italia-Tour de France double and is arguably in his best-ever form, even by his high standards.

While Mathieu van der Poel has dominated the cobbled Classics, Liège-Bastogne-Liège is far better suited to Pogačar, and it is difficult to see who can match his superb climbing skills and racing aggression.

Pogačar won the Doyenne of the Classics in 2021, and a second victory would give him a sixth Monument victory, equaling van der Poel's and confirming his readiness for the Giro d’Italia, which starts in just two weeks.  

Pogačar limited his racing before his busy summer of Grand Tours but has won often. He dominated Strade Bianche with an 80km solo attack on his season debut. He was ‘only’ third at Milan-San Remo behind Jasper Philipsen and Michael Matthews in the Via Roma sprint but then won four stages and the overall classification at the Volta a Catalunya.    

Pogačar has spent three weeks training at altitude at Sierra Nevada in the south of Spain. He avoided the cold and fatigue of the rain-soaked La Fleche Wallonne and so will arguably be the freshest rider on the start line in Liege on Sunday and perhaps the strongest at the finish after the hilly 254km race.      

Demi Vollering (SD Worx-Protime)

Demi Vollering (Image credit: Getty Images)

Demi Vollering's remarkable dominance of the Ardennes Classics last year saw her win all three events – making her the returning Liège-Bastogne-Liège champion – and become the second woman, after Anna van der Breggen in 2017, to win the triple crown. 

The team appears to have changed tactics for this year's Ardennes Classics in support of multiple riders during the week and play out their strategy on the road at each race. It was not a surprise then to see Lorena Wiebes sprinting for the win at Amstel Gold Race. Although she ended up with second place, after celebrating victory too soon in the sprint against Marianne Vos (Visma-Lease a Bike), and Vollering finished 22nd.

Vollering was somewhat of a wildcard for SD Worx-Protime at the Ardennes Classics because at this point in the season last year, she had already secured two victories, and so far, she has yet to win a race, although she came close with 2nd at both Brabantse Pijl and a cold and wet La Flèche Wallonne.

Her slower start to the season could be the strategy, however, as she looks to the bigger goals at the Tour de France Femmes, possibly also the Olympic Games and the World Championships.

Sharing the leadership role among her teammates at the Ardennes Classics will certainly have taken the pressure off Vollering, but she still remains a favourite for Liège-Bastogne-Liège and will undoubtedly not want to leave the Ardennes Classics without a win.

The team also has World Champion Lotte Kopecky as a contender, especially knowing that she is in good form after her win at the recent Paris-Roubaix. She also played a key role at Flèche Wallonne, where she ended up finishing 15th on the Mur de Huy in her first attempt. Watch for both Vollering and Kopecky to play their cards for the win in Liège on Sunday.

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck)

Mathieu van der Poel (Image credit: Getty Images)

Mathieu van der Poel suddenly seemed human at the Amstel Gold Race after weeks of incredible Classics performances. After his historic double at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, it will be fascinating to see what he can do against Pogačar and the rest in a Monument where the cobbles are swapped for the cotes. 

It will also be a moment of sports science as we see if Van der Poel’s talents and power can handle the 11 classified climbs and 4,100 metres of vertical climbing of Liège-Bastogne-Liège.  

Van der Poel has tempered his chances of success, highlighting how he is now racing at a disadvantage compared to Pogačar and others, but he also has nothing to lose in his final race of the spring.

Van der Poel has spent the week in Spain, avoiding the spotlight and training in the sun. The cooler spring temperatures of Liège might be a bit of a shock on his return to Belgium, but he has a pedigree in the race and cannot be ignored. In 2020, when the Classics were held in September and October, van der Poel finished sixth, just 14 seconds down on winner Primož Roglič and Pogačar.

Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl-Trek)

Elisa Longo Borghini (Image credit: Getty Images)

Elisa Longo Bargain had high expectations coming into these Ardennes Classics, even opting to skip Paris-Roubaix so that she could focus on all three races. Her wins at the Tour of Flanders and Brabantse Pijl show that she is in top form this spring and has bounced back from a horrific 2023 season in which she suffered COVID-19, a skin infection and sepsis.

The Italian Champion has always been a contender for all three Ardennes Classics, and so far this year, she has finished fifth at the Amstel Gold Race and third at La Flèche Wallonne. She has one more chance of victory this Sunday in Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

She has finished twice on the podium at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, with a third in 2021 and a second last year, so she has the experience to be in the final for the win.

Lidl-Trek have shown dominance in tactics on the road, especially with her teammate Shirin van Anrooij. The two riders will be the two most-watched in the peloton, and if the race plays into their hands the way it did in Flanders, they could both end up on the podium again.

Stevie Williams (Israel-Premier Tech)

Stevie Williams (Image credit: Getty Images)

The Welshman showed his talents by winning the Tour Down Under in January but earned his place in this Liège-Bastogne-Liège analysis thanks to his impressive victory at La Fleche Wallonne on Wednesday.

Williams looked resilient in the cold and rain of the Ardennes and then bravely attacked with three hundred metres to go to the finish. Many other riders have faded on the steep slopes of the Mur de Huy, but Williams had the strength and power to stay away. 

Those talents could be vital on the 11 categories climbs and numerous others that make Liège-Bastogne-Liège so hard.

Williams and his Israel-Premier Tech teammates can race without any pressure or expectation, putting the onus on UAE Team Emirates, Alpecin-Deceuninck and Ineos Grenadiers. Michael Woods is absent due to a recent virus but Dylan Tuens is back to his best and will share leadership and ambitions with Willilams. They are a dangerous, underdog combination.  

Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM)

Kasia Niewiadoma (Image credit: Getty Images)

Kasia Niewiadoma, the reigning gravel World Champion, is always a contender for the Ardennes Classics. 

Five years after she secured the win at Amstel Gold Race in 2019, she launched up the Mur de Huy with a powerful attack to win Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday. It was an inspiring performance, especially since she had stood on the podium in two previous editions but had never won before.

She came into these Ardennes Classics with new-found confidence after finishing second at the Tour of Flanders from a three-rider breakaway, and her victory in Huy will have added to her motivation ahead of Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

The last time she stood on the podium in Liège was in 2017, the first edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but she has been in the top 10 in four other editions.

Her winning performance on the Mur de Huy shows her strength on short and steep climbs, but it was her late-race breakaway performance at the Tour of Flanders that really made her a contender for the title in Liège.

Richard Carapaz (EF Education-EasyPost)

 Richard Carapaz (Image credit: Getty Images)

Richard Carapaz has again endured a difficult spring, crashing hard at Tirreno-Adriatico and missing a month of racing. The Ecuadorian is a man of few words but a fighter who has overcome difficulty throughout his life and in his recent racing career to come back and win.  

Carapaz has only raced the Amstel Gold Race and La Flèche Wallonne but quickly impressed on the Mur de Huy and out in the terrible weather conditions. While other riders suffered and climbed off, Carapaz raced on and was upfront on the climb to the finish line. 

He suffered in the final metres, and other riders passed him before the finish, but it was a clear message that Carapaz was back and a dangerous contender for Sunday who should not be ignored.  

EF Education-Easypost have shown their strength as a team in virtually every classic but have obtained less than they deserved. Carapaz can count on a strong team that also includes co-leader Ben Healy, Mikkel Frølich Honoré and possibly a returning Neilson Powless after a knee injury wrecked his spring.  

Juliette Labous (Team dsm-firmenich PostNL)

Juliette Labous (Image credit: Getty Images)

Juliette Labous is a dark horse contender, opting to skip the cobbled Classics in favour of the Ardennes Classics. 

She steadily improved across the first two events, finishing 19th at the Amstel Gold Race, where her teammate Pfeiffer Georgi finished fourth, and then she was seventh on the Mur de Huy at Flèche Wallonne.

The French talent typically focuses on the Ardennes Classics, where she can show her strengths on the challenging and hilly terrain, before turning her attention to the shorter summer stage races ahead of her bigger goal at the Tour de France Femmes.

Her best place at Liège-Bastogne-Liège was eighth place in 2020, but it's a race where only the strongest survive the 10 ascents followed by a fast run-in to Liège, and we can anticipate Labous to be present in the final.

Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers)

Tom Pidcock (Image credit: Getty Images)

Tom Pidcock has endured a contrasting week of Ardennes racing, winning the Amstel Gold Race with a superb performance and sprint finish but then suffering in the cold and rain of La Fleche Wallonne

Yet he remains a favourite for Liège-Bastogne-Liège, with the forecasts of a mainly dry Sunday easing his suffering and disappointment and poking his natural pride.  

Pidcock’s multiple talents mean he can race cyclocross, mountain bikes, Milan-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix, the Ardennes Classics and the Tour de France.

While van der Poel is handicapped by his solid physique on the many cotes of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Pidcock is more of a climber and so will revel in the hills on Sunday.

He will not ride defensively and will surely join Pogačar if the Slovenian attacks early to create an open race and hurt van der Poel or anyone else. Pidcock and Pogačar could then go head to head and sprint for victory in Liege. That would be a thrilling end to one of the best Classics seasons for years. 

Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (AG Insurance-Soudal)

Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Image credit: Getty Images)

Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio has been relatively quiet this spring campaign, finishing 17th at Strade Bianche and, more recently, 21st at Brabantse Pijl, but she has turned that around at the Ardennes Classics, finishing seventh at Amstel Gold Race and fifth at Flèche Wallonne.

For the first time in her career, she opted for a lengthy break and high-altitude training camp instead of competing at the cobbled Classics and perhaps will arrive fresher than her rivals as she contests the Ardennes Classics.

Her results so far seem to show an upward trajectory, and her form indicates that she is just starting to peak ahead of the late-spring stage races. 

Although she has never stood on the podium at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, she has finished four times in the top 10, including fourth place in 2018 and 2022. This means that she knows what it takes to make it to the final stages of the race in the lead group.

Honourable mentions

  • Benoît Cosnefroy (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale)
  • Mattia Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek)
  • Marc Hirschi (UAE Team Emirates)
  • Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Qazaqstan)
  • Kévin Vauquelin (Arkéa - B&B Hotels)
  • Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost)  
  • Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers)
  • Évita Muzic (FDJ-SUEZ)
  • Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx-Protime)
  • Shirin van Anrooij (Lidl-Trek)
  • Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ-SUEZ)
  • Veronica Ewers (EF Education-Cannondale)
  • Christina Schweinberger (Fenix-Deceuninck)
Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.