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Liège - Bastogne - Liège 2015


Live coverage of Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

The 200-strong Liège-Bastogne-Liège peloton has just been flagged away from the Place Saint-Lambert for the neutralised start. There are slate grey skies over Wallonia and there's a distinct chill in the air but for now at least, conditions are dry.

The start list in full is available here. There is a 7.5km neutralised zone to be negotiated before the départ réel, due at 10.30am local time. From there, 253 kilometres and ten categorised climbs stand between the peloton and the rising finish at Ans.

The listed climbs on today's menu are as follows:

In keeping with the prevailing trend towards "tougher" courses (qv. the Tour of Flanders), the organisers have made some alterations to the parcours this time out, as Alasdair Fotheringham explains. Last year, the draggy Vecquée followed the stiff troika of the Cotes de Wanne, Stockeu and Haute-Levée, but it has been replaced by the testing combination of the Col du Rosier and Col du Maquisard. There is less chance to recover after the Côte de La Redoute, too, with the aim being to force a smaller selection ahead of the grand denouement on the Côte de Saint-Nicolas.

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Another attack led by Moreno Hofland (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis) sallies clear... and is just as quickly pegged back by the peloton, which is trundling along at a brisk 45kph.

Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep), got some big cheers when he took to the signing on podium and after his second place in Flèche Wallonne and seventh in Amstel Gold, the young Frenchman has raised his country’s game in the Ardennes Classics. “We’re doing well, our team is strong, and our game plan is all about Michal Kwiatkowski,” said Alaphilippe, a Liege-Bastogne-Liege debutant. “I hope I’ve recovered from my big effort on Wednesday, and I hope I will be able to do something, it’s a very hard finale. We did a reconnaissance on Friday and I’m sure the extra 50 kilometres compared to Flèche Wallonne will make a big difference.”

214km remaining from 253km

Ulissi has been joined by Sebastien Minard (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Otto Vergaerde (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Clement Chevrier (IAM Cycling), Marco Minnaard (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Anthony Turgis (Cofidis), Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Argon 18) and Rasmus Quaade (Cult). It looks like a successful combination - they have established a lead of 50 seconds over the peloton.

206km remaining from 253km

198km remaining from 253km

It is in fact Matteo Montaguti, and not his Ag2r teammate Sebastien Minard, in this leading group. A reminder again of the names: Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida), Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Otto Vergaerde (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Clement Chevrier (IAM Cycling), Marco Minnaard (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Anthony Turgis (Cofidis), Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Argon 18) and Rasmus Quaade (Cult).

191km remaining from 253km

Sadhbh O'Shea is in Liège for us and she has put together

Team Sky come to Liège-Bastogne-Liège with Lars-Petter Nordhaug, Sergio Henao, who finished seventh at Fléche, and Nicolas Roche as their top riders.

“Those three guys are all in good form, particularly Sergio, who raced strongly in Pais Vasco,” Philip Deignan said of Sky's troika of leaders. “They’ve all done well in these races in the past and we’ll just be there to try and get them to the finish in as good a shape as possible. We don’t have any top favourites for the race, but they can still pull off a result for sure.”

175km remaining from 253km

While the majority of Liège-Bastogne-Liège contenders raced Flèche Wallonne in midweek, Romain Bardet and his AG2R-La Mondiale teammate Domenico Pozzovivo are fresh from the Giro del Trentino. Bardet has had a low-key start to the season but he was confident on the Liège start line.

165km remaining from 253km

Bauke Mollema (Trek Factory Racing) has had a quiet Ardennes Classics campaign so far, but will be looking to finish the week off with a solid result before he turns his focus back to stage racing.

153km remaining from 253km

147km remaining from 253km

Tom Dumoulin returns to racing at Liège-Bastogne-Liège after taking a short break following Amstel Gold. The Dutchman will take joint leadership at the race and he’s looking to stir up the favourites with an attack.

Vincenzo Nibali is participating in the 11th Liège-Bastogne-Liège of his career, a sequence that began as a neo-professional with Giancarlo Ferrett’s Fassa Bortolo team back in 2005. “I came last, more than 17 minutes down,” Nibali told Gazzetta dello Sport. “It was my first experience of the classics and my first time in Belgium. ‘Ferron’ had explained the course to me so well, metre by metre, that I can remember it still now.”

131km remaining from 253km

Hermans' team leader Philippe Gilbert was an injury doubt for this Liège-Bastogne-Liège, of course, following his crash at Flèche Wallonne, but the 2011 winner is safely nestled in the peloton for now. When he spoke to reporters at the team presentation yesterday afternoon, however, he seemed to be approaching La Doyenne more in hope than in expectation.

Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) was another faller at Flèche Wallonne, though the 2013 Liège winner looked to sound a broadly optimistic note when he spoke to reporters yesterday. "It’s a weird situation because physically I’m fine it’s just this whiplash thing that I’ve got going on,” Martin said. “Maybe it will get better or maybe it will get worse during the race, I don’t know. I’m just happy to be at the start."

122km remaining from 253km

The walking wounded are numerous at this Liege-Bastogne-Liege, while last year's winner Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) has had his build-up blighted by two crashes. He broke his collarbone during the winter and then fractured an elbow at Strade Bianche, and he admitted that he has arrived at La Doyenne short of his best. As ever, he will hope that a large group is still in contention come the finale, though there is at least one team determined to shed him long before the finish in Ans. "The fresher I can get to the finish, the better my chances, but if you look at the Astana line-up, they haven’t got any big favourites if a reasonable sized group comes together to the finish so obviously it's in their interests to make a selective group and get a small group for the finale," Gerrans said.

107km remaining from 253km

It's curious to see Europcar so active at the front of the peloton. While Pierre Rolland is in decent form - he won the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon - neither he nor Thomas Voeckler are among the top echelon of favourites this afternoon, and there are plenty of other teams - Movistar and Astana spring to mind - who have more reason to work at this juncture.

90km remaining from 253km

The break starts to fragment on the Côte de Wanne. Quaade, Chevrier and Vergaerde have lost contact.

85km remaining from 253km

Diego Ulissi is doing a lot of the work in this break but Anthony Turgis is pedalling well too. The French neo-professional won the amateur Liege-Bastogne-Liege last year ahead of Dylan Teuns.

83km remaining from 253km

The Côte de Stockeu (1km at 12.5%) home to the monument to five-time winner Eddy Merckx is next on the agenda. The bunch approaches Stavelot at the base of the climb, where there is always a fierce battle for positions.

79km remaining from 253km

Luis Leon Sanchez had a mechanical problem ahead of the Wanne and he is the only Astana man missing from the front of the bunch on the Stockeu. The pace-making of the seven light blue jerseys is beginning to jettison riders off the back.

Andriy Grivko (Astana) accelerates near the top of the Stockeu and he sets off alone in pursuit of the break. Astana are clearly keen to force Alejandro Valverde's Movistar squad to put their shoulders to the wheel at the front of the race.

The break crosses the summit of the Stockeu with all five riders still aboard. Grivko follows alone at 30 seconds, the bunch is at 38 seconds.

Gorka Izagirre (Movistar) sets off in pursuit of Grivko ahead of the next climb, the Côte de la Haute-Levée (3.6 km at 5.6%).

74km remaining from 253km

Grivko and Izagirre make it across to the break. Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) is the next to accelerate off the front of the bunch in pursuit.

A small chase group has formed behind the leaders with no fewer than four Astana riders - though not Nibali - and Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep). Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) is off the back of the peloton, meanwhile, perhaps with a mechanical problem, though it's not immediately clear.

The leading group has swelled to 21 riders now after the Astana-led chasers have bridged across. There are now five Astana riders at the front of the race, with Nibali in the peloton behind.

73km remaining from 253km

72km remaining from 253km

On the descent of the Côte de la Haute-Levée we have five leaders: Michele Scarponi, Tanel Kangert (Astana), Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge), Julian Arredondo (Trek Factory Racing) and Manuele Boaro (Tinkoff-Saxo). They have a 15-second lead over the second group on the road.

There are ten relatively flat kilometres ahead of the break before they tackle the Col du Rosier (4.4 km at 5.9%). There has been something of a regrouping behind and the peloton is chasing at 24 seconds.

69km remaining from 253km

The race is running very much to plan for Vincenzo Nibali thus far, with two Astana teammates up the road, but it's notable that Alejandro Valverde's Movistar team is not among the squads working to peg back this move. And why should they, when Katusha seem content to carry the load for now.

63km remaining from 253km

59km remaining from 253km

Boaro and Arredondo cross the summit 48 seconds down. They'll likely be swept up by the peloton on the way over the other side. Movistar have taken charge of affairs at the head of the bunch, just under a minute back on Scarponi, Kangert and Chaves.

54km remaining from 253km

Arredondo has been caught by the peloton, and Boaro is also within their sights. Scarponi, Kangert and Chaves remain a minute clear, with the Astana pair peforming the bulk of the pace-making.

48km remaining from 253km

The Col du Maquisard is 2.5 km in lenght at an average gradient of 5%. It's far from the toughest climb on the agenda but after more than 200 kilometres, efforts like this start to exact an amplified toll. Kangert leads the break and the Estonian is pedalling very smoothly indeed.

46km remaining from 253km

Movistar's injection of pace in the main bunch has pinned the break's lead back to 45 seconds nearing the top of the Maquisard. Nibali, Rodriguez and Valverde are all sitting comfortably towards the front.

Dominik Nerz (Bora-Argon 18) and Rafa Valls (Lampe-Merida) crash towards the rear of the bunch, but they are both able to remount and give chase.

Scarponi, Kangert and Chaves still hold a lead of 43 seconds as they barrel towards the Redoute.

A large crash in the main peloton looks to have ended the hopes of Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin), Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) and Nicolas Roche (Sky).

Pierre Rolland (Europcar) and Nathan Haas (Cannondale-Garmin) are also among the fallers.

It happened near the front of the group and a lot of riders were held up. Vincenzo Nibali had to unclip but managed to come through unscathed.

Yukiya Arashiro (Europcar) has an injury to his collarbone. Nicolas Roche gets gingerly to his feet with a cut to his forehead. He looks very groggy and his race is clearly over.

Dan Martin and Gerrans seem to have remounted but they'll have their work cut out to get back on. The unfortunate Martin in particular, looked to have fallen quite heavily.

38km remaining from 253km

Etixx-QuickStep are forcing on the front of the reduced bunch at the foot of La Redoute. Maxime Bouet works on behalf of Michal Kwiatkowski.

Simon Gerrans was already struggling to get back on, and the 2014 winner has fallen once again, and his race is over. We haven't seen how he fell, but he was in the centre of the road with no other riders around him. A forlorn Gerrans sits gingerly on the pavement with his head in his hands.

Kangert drops back on the Redoute, as Scarponi and Chaves press on without him at the front of the race. The small bunch is at 22 seconds - Nibali, Rodriguez, Valverde, Kwiatkowski, Gilbert, Enrico Gasparotto, Roman Kreuziger and Louis Meintjes are all still aboard.

Frank Schleck and Nairo Quintana were also caught up in that earlier crash, incidentally. We have had no news of Dan Martin since that crash, either, and it will be exceedingly difficult to latch back on to the peloton at this point, particularly given how slow he was get back to his feet.

35km remaining from 253km

The road is constantly rising and dipping from here, though just two categorised climbs remain. The Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons (1.5 km at 9.4%) comes with 19 kilometres remaining, before the Côte de Saint-Nicolas (1.2 km at 8.6%), whose summit is just 5 kilometres from the line. ASO never categorises the finale on the Côte de Ans as a climb but as Michele Bartoli showed Laurent Jalabert in 1998, it should be...

Tejay van Garderen (BMC) was reportedly also caught up in that earlier crash. Scarponi and Chaves still have 31 seconds on the bunch as Siutsou tries to bridge across alone.

29km remaining from 253km

Once again, we're set to have a sizeable group hit the slopes of the Côte de Saint-Nicolas together. Joaquim Rodriguez, Vincenzo Nibali and - perhaps - Philippe Gilbert will surely have to try and rid themselves of Valverde there.

We'll see, of course, whether somebody dares to force the issue as early as the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons this time around. The recent precedent has been for the selection to come from the back rather than the front at this juncture of Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

24km remaining from 253km

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Katusha take up the reins once more at the front, with Alberto Losada keeping things ticking over. His tempo is shedding riders from the back of the group. Carlos Betancur is among those struggling.

Nibali, Kreuziger, Majka and Romain Bardet are all well-placed near the front but for now at least, nobody dares launch an attack.

Michal Kwiatkowski muscles his way towards the front. He still has Julian Alaphillipe and Zdenek Styar for company in this sizeable leading group.

19km remaining from 253km

Kreuziger and Caruso have a lead of 16 seconds over the peloton, which is being led by Nibali's Astana team. There's a phalanx of Katusha riders near the front, too, keeping a watchful eye on proceedings.

17km remaining from 253km

Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) and Julian Alaphillipe (Etixx-QuickStep) also zip off the front of the bunch and a very dangerous chasing group is developing here.

Rui Costa (Lampre) and Samuel Sanchez (BMC) are also in this chase group, as leaden drops of rain begin to fall.

16km remaining from 253km

16km remaining from 253km

Fuglsang, meanwhile, comes straight through and takes a long turn on the front of the break with Kreuziger and Caruso.

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The break is a little over two miles from the Côte de Saint-Nicolas (1.2 km at 8.6%), with 14 seconds in hand on the bunch, still led by Stybar. Kwiatkowski, Gilbert, Valverde, Nibali and Rodriguez are all still in there.

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Michal Kwiatkowski has been dropped on the Saint-Nicolas and he'll have his work cut out to get back on as the descent begins.

5km remaining from 253km

Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) attacks on the descent of the Saint-Nicolas but he can't get away as Caruso shuts him down.

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Dani Moreno accelerates just as they pass the red kite. Meintjes follows his wheel but then swings off and lets a gap open. Valverde looks across for help but it's not coming...

Moreno is opening what seems lilke a winning gap. Nobody is committing to the chase behind...

Valverde finally accelerates with 500 metres to go. Rodriguez follows him.

Valverde and Rodriguez catch Moreno at the final bend...

It's going to be sprint of ten riders or so for the win...

Valverde opens the sprint from distance...

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) wins Liège-Bastogne-Liège for the third time.

Julian Alaphillipe (Etixx-QuickStep) takes another second place, while Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) finishes in third.

Rui Costa took fourth place, while Kreuziger and Romain Bardet were in the mix too, but Valverde's win was never really in doubt.

Alaphilippe had to take the long way around Rodriguez in the sprint and that cost him some ground, but he was never likely to overhaul Valverde.

That's Valverde's third Liège-Bastogne-Liège win after 2006 and 2008, and his first since returning to racing in 2012 following a two-year ban for his implication in the Operacion Puerto blood doping investigation.


Thanks for joining our live coverage this afternoon. A full report, pictures and results will follow here, and we'll have all the news and reaction from Liege on Cyclingnews in the next few hours.

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