We showed up at Liège-Bastogne-Liège ready to go big. After our second place at La Flèche Wallonne, we were on a high and everyone wanted to push a little farther, swing a bit bigger. But Liège is not Flèche.
Flèche always, always, always comes down to a few riders on the Mur, but Liège is a race that can be won by different types of riders and different types of strategies. The sprinters can make it over the climbs, a break could win… the possibilities come down to who is willing to make the race and we wanted to be those riders.
Being aggressive isn’t just one moment of attack. Before that moment there is an orchestrated sequence of events carried out by different members of the team. Emma Norsgaard our 18-year-old last minute substitution, had to get over La Vecquee and help me on the descent; Ann-Sophie Duyck buried herself to survive long enough to place me leading into La Redoute; Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig had to lead me out into Côte de La Roche aux Facons. As we approached Côte de La Roche aux Facons, everyone had done their part so it was my turn to execute.
We hit the bottom of the climb and I attacked. The big players followed. The same three riders I was with in the final hundred meters of Flèche were on my wheel: Anna van der Breggen, Annemiek Van Vleuten, and Megan Guarnier. A group joined us from behind and, after two moves were neutralised, Amanda Spratt got away solo.
On the penultimate climb, it was time to swing again. We hit the bottom and I attacked. Anna and Annemiek followed. I pushed the pace, but at the top Anna counter-attacked, eventually bridging across to Amanda. I was left with Annemiek glued to my wheel.
I could see Anna and Amanda up the road but I knew Annemiek was not going to help me chase her teammate down. I also knew there was a group chasing us from behind. My brain ran queries, trying to figure out the best move. The odds were, let’s just say, unfavourable but I owed it to the team to try. I knew it was going to take some miracle to finish third but maybe we would re-join them? Maybe I had enough to hold off the chasing bunch behind us and finish at least fourth. We hadn’t shown up to race Liege conservatively.
I put my head down and went for it. I could almost feel the weight of Annemiek in my legs as I towed her to the line. Naturally, she attacked and out-sprinted me but I had managed to hold off the chase pack and finish in fourth.
Of course we wanted to win, to get a podium, but when the ride from start to finish is that exciting, when your team spirit is unmatched in the pro peloton, when you race that big, you definitely have no regrets.
Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio is a professional bike racer for the Cervelo Bigla team. You can follow her adventures of racing the Women's WorldTour circuit right here on Cyclingnews and at her website Rocacorba Cycling.
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Ashleigh-Moolman-Pasio is a world-class climber and the newest member of CCC-Liv (formerly Waowdeals). She has written a regular blog for Cyclingnews since 2016, touching on topics of gender equality in women’s and men’s professional cycling.
From South Africa, Moolman-Pasio turned professional with Lotto Ladies Team in 2010, spent one season with Hitec Products in 2014 and the last four seasons with Cervelo-Bigla. She made a move to CCC-Liv in 2019 and will race alongside her long-time mentor Marianne Vos.
She’s a versatile rider who was second at Flèche Wallonne, fourth at the Tour of Flanders and Liège-Bastonge-Liège, and second behind Annemiek van Vleuten at the Giro Rosa in 2018. This year, look for Moolman-Pasio at the front end of the peloton, and on the podium, during the Spring Classics and at the most mountainous stage races on the Women’s WorldTour.
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