The 2019 Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes will be held on April 28 and closes out the three Ardennes Classics. It’s the newest of the three women's events introduced two years ago, and it joined Amstel Gold Race, which had returned from hiatus, and the long-running Flèche Wallonne, to form the so-called Ardennes triple.
Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) is the only rider to have won all three races in one season, in its inaugural year, and she won Flèche and Liège last year. On Sunday, Van der Breggen will line up at Liège as the defending champion, and after winning Flèche Wallonne for a fifth time in a row on Wednesday, she stands a good chance of a repeat victory in the centre of Liège, too.
The race is 138.5km from Bastogne to Liège. It is three kilometres longer and offers more climbing than the previous two editions. The first ascent is the Côte de Wanne, arriving after 55 kilometres, followed by the Côte de Brume nine kilometres later. Then there is the Côte de la Vecquée, which signals the beginning of the second section of climbing at the 90km mark, followed by the Côte de La Redoute. The women’s peloton will not ride the Côte des Forges, and will instead head straight to the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons before the run into the centre of Liège.
Although Van der Breggen is the outright favourite, the new parcours should see a wider variety of riders taking the challenge to her. Last year, Van der Breggen caught and passed breakaway rider Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) in the closing kilometres to take a solo victory. Spratt finished second while her teammate Annemiek van Vleuten finished third.
No live TV coverage
Race organisers of the Amstel Gold Race showed the women’s race live on television and live streaming channels. However orgnaisers of the Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liege, ASO, have chosen to not provide TV or live stream viewing options. Van der Breggen and Van Vleuten decried the decision saying that was a mistake on their part.
"By now I think we deserve to have live coverage so that people can follow us. Because many people would like to, and we would like to show it. I think it is time," van der Breggen said after winning Flèche Wallonne.
"We were fighting the whole day, we had echelons on the road, so it is a pity. This is one of our biggest races, same with Liège. So, please, everybody, write that down, we want the coverage next year. Amstel was a good example of how to do it."
Likewise, Van Vleuten said that she was proud that organisers of Amstel Gold showed the women’s race live. As reported in a story on Eurosport UK, she later expanded on that after Flèche Wallonne saying, "And I think it's also proving the mistake of the organisation of Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège not to have live TV coverage for our race.
"Today we proved that we should be on television and that it is exciting to watch, otherwise people are missing something and that a lot of people want to watch the women's race. It's nice that they organise it really well, but it should at least have a live stream so people can follow it."
Van Vleuten, who returned to the peloton after recovering form a serious knee injury, won the opening round of the Women’s WorldTour at Strade Bianche. Since that victory she has placed a frustrating second place at Tour of Flanders, Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne, even if she has been bale to put a positive spin on it in post-race interviews.
"Closer every year …" Van Vleuten wrote in a post of Twitter following her second place at Flèche Wallonne. "Nice to be there fighting for the win with my team. Results last four races … 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd … Bring on Sunday! Liège-Bastogne-Liège."
Van Vleuten will once again line up with her teammate and contender Amanda Spratt, as the pair try and secure a last-chance victory in the Ardennes. Spratt was second last year, behind Van der Breggen, and has also targeted this block of the season.
CCC-Liv line up with Marianne Vos, who has been a contender during the classics season, but with the exception of her victory at Trofeo Alfredo Binda and a podium at Amstel Gold, hasn’t managed to secure a win in the Ardennes. She told Cyclingnews that this block was a major objective for her this season, and so, Liège will be her last chance to try for the win.
Canyon-SRAM's Kasia Niewiadoma is on everyone’s watch list after winning Amstel Gold Race. She was third at Liège in 2017 and has shown that she can in fact win these races on power, strength and late-race savviness.
Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) returned to the peloton after a maternity break and raced Amstel Gold and Flèche Wallonne. In both cases she was a presence in the late stages of the races. She was second to Van der Breggen in all three Ardennes races in 2017, but said that this year she will be working for her teammates.
Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Bigla); 5th at Strade Bianche, 3rd at Trofeo Alfredo Binda, 3rd at Tour of Flanders, 6th at Amstel Gold and 8th at Flèche Wallonne, means that she will be there at the finish in Liege, and she will be trying to secure a victory.
Sunweb have options with Lucinda Brand and Floortje Mackaij. Likewise, Tibco-SVB have a contender in Alison Jackson. Virtu will not have the service of Women's WorldTour leader Marta Bastianelli, but they start youth leader Sofia Bertizzolo.