The 2019 edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège will see some old faces return with the race set to finish in the centre of Liege for the first time in almost three decades, while the triptych of the Côte de Wanne, the Côte de Stockeu and Côte de la Haut Levée are all back on the parcours. The Côte de Wanne will also be included in the women's race, one of two new climbs for the third running of the event, and will feature the same finale.
In an event at the Place Saint-Lambert in Liege, organisers ASO unveiled the new routes as well as the seven wildcards for the men’s race. On top of the 18 WorldTour teams automatically invited, a mixture of French and Belgian teams have earned a spot at La Doyenne. Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise, Wallonie Bruxelles and Wanty-Gobert make up the Belgian contingent with French squads Cofidis, Direct Energie, Arkea-Samsic and Vital Concept-B&B Hotels completing the list of wildcards.
While there is plenty that remains the same in the men's route for 2019, there are also a large number of changes. The opening section of the route looks more like the 2017 race, with the Côte de le Roche-en-Ardenne to replace the Côte de Bonnerue as the first climb of the day. The Côte de Saint-Roch remains in its traditional place and signals the midway point of the race, with the Côte de Mont-le-Soie following as it did in 2018.
After a three-year absence, the trio of the Côte de Wanne, the Cote de Stockeu and Cote de la Haut-Levée are back. The surface of the Stockeu had been deteriorating and it was removed for the 2016 edition for roadworks, while the Wanne and Haut Levée were struck off the following year. With the Côte de Mont-le-Soie coming so soon before them, it will make for a tough run of climbs that will whittle down the peloton.
Following a passage through Stavelot, the race tackles the Col du Rosier, followed by the Col du Maquisard and the Côte de la Redoute. The Côte des Forges makes its first appearance since 2014 and is the penultimate climb with the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons the final ascent of the day.
The biggest change is the moving of the finish line from Ans back into the centre of Liege after 27 years, which removes both the Côte de Saint-Nicolas and the final drag to Ans from the route. The final climb - the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons - is now some 15 kilometres from the finish line, giving those who have been dropped an opportunity to chase back on. The flatter finish will, of course, favour faster finishers, possibly forcing some to go on the attack sooner in order to give themselves a shot at victory.
The 2019 Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes, women's race, is 138.5km; three kilometres longer and offers more climbing than the previous two editions. It will once again begin in Bastogne but the first ascent will come some 30 kilometres earlier than previously with the Côte de Wanne arriving after 55 kilometres, followed by the Côte de Brume nine kilometres later.
The Côte de la Vecquée 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 Liege.
Anna van der Breggen won the opening two editions of the women's Liège-Bastogne-Liège in a dominant fashion, and the new world champion will be one of the favourites again this April. However, the new parcours should see a wider variety of riders taking the challenge to her.
Both women's and men's races will be run on the same day, Sunday, April 28.
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