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Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2019

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Hello and welcome to our live coverage of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the oldest Monument on the calendar. For the first time since 1991, the race will finish in Liège rather than Ans, with a downhill-flat finish rather than the uphill finish we're used to. Still, at 256km long and with 11 climbs – plus various 'hidden' climbs –on the menu, mean it should remain as tough a challenge as ever.

 

 

 

It's a cold and damp one in Liège this morning, around 10 degrees centigrade and raining according to our reporters on the ground.

Here are live shots of Michael Matthews and Dan Martin at the start this morning, wrapped up as they sign on.

 

 

The race kicks off in around 15 minutes as the riders depart for the neutralised zone.

 

The weather isn't expected to improve much today, though the forecasts look to be mostly for cloud rather than more rain. Still, it'll remain chilly throughout.

 

Dan Martin might have 121 on his back, indicating he's the UAE Team Emirates leader today, but the 2013 winner is down on his chances of success today. The Irishman suggested he will play a support role in the finale this afternoon. Read the full story here.

 

Team Sky race their last Monument under their current sponsorship today. Ineos will be taking over at next weekend's Tour de Yorkshire. Here's the team lined up on the stage this morning, in front of the rainclouds in Liège, from @teamsky.

 

 

And here's four-time race winner Alejandro Valverde at the start. The world champion is another rider whose condition is in doubt today, having said he wasn't at his best at Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne. Read the full story here.

 

 

The peloton have rolled out for the neutralised section now.

 

The neutralised section is 6.8km long. After that, the real racing gets underway.

 

256km remaining from 256km

And now the flag drops and the racing gets underway. The attacks come straight away.

 

Five riders have gone on the attack, though it's unlikely that the very first attack will form the break of the day. More on their identities as we get it.

 

Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Tobias Ludvigsson (Groupama-FDJ), Andrea Pasqualon (Wanty-Gobert), Lilian Calmejane (Total Direct Énergie) and Jérémy Maison (Arkéa-Samsic) are the five men on the attack.

 

Manuele Mori (UAE Team Emirates) and Baptiste Planckaert (Wallonie Bruxelles) also attempted a move but were caught by the peloton.

 

It's Dries Van Gestel (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) up front, not Lilian Calmejane.

 

The group are reportedly 30 seconds up the road at the moment.

 

Van Gestel has now been dropped by the lead group and is chasing 15 seconds back, along with teammates Kevin Deltombe and Mathijs Paaschens. They lie 15 seconds up on the peloton.

 

248km remaining from 256km

Attackers continue to jump away from the peloton during these early stages. The break is 45 seconds up the road.

 

Kevin Deltombe (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Mathijs Paasschens (Wallonie-Bruxelles) and Jérôme Baugnies (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) are among the counter-attackers.

 

243km remaining from 256km

Deltombe and Paasschens are trailing the leaders by 20 seconds, while Lilian Calmejane (Total Direct Énergie) is with Kenny Molly (Wallonie Bruxelles) chase a further 20 seconds back. The peloton is a minute down on the four leaders.

 

Deltombe and Paasschens join the four up front.

 

Fabio Felline (Trek-Segafredo) is the first rider to abandon the race.

 

The peloton has let the break go now. The six men are 3:20 up on the main pack. Calmejane and Molly still chase.

 

Calmejane is riding his fourth Liège-Bastogne-Liège today. Here's what he had to say ahead of the race:

 

"It’s the end of a long run since the beginning of the season and it’s been quite intense. I discovered the cobble classics and didn’t have a proper rest then. But I think the shape is here and I have the endurance for this although I might lack a bit of freshness.

 

"I think lots of things will happen in Côte de la Redoute. On other years, we would see riders dropped off the back but this time favorites will have to show themselves. It’s up to me to make the most of riders looking at each other to try and surprise them. That’s not a bad situation for me."

Calmejane and Molly have joined up with the break now, making it eight up front. They're over six minutes up on the peloton.

 

229km remaining from 256km

The gap between peloton and break is up to 8:35 now.

 

Michał Kwiatkowski is among the favourites today, in Team Sky's final race as sponsors. The Pole, who has twice finished on the podium at Liège, has said he's been "waiting for all winter" for the race, and that he's excited to compete in "Liège-Bastogne-Liège, not Liège-Bastogne-Ans."

 

Read our full story on Kwiatkowski here.

 

 

The first hour of racing saw the break cover 38 kilometres.

 

216km remaining from 256km

The break's advantage is now up to nine minutes.

 

We have some quotes coming in from our reporters on the ground in Liège.

 

First up, Simon Clarke, who took second at last weekend's Amstel Gold Race.

 

"The shape is good but today’s a completely different ball game. It’s a much more vertically challenging parcours [compared to Amstel Gold] and much more challenging conditions. We’re going to see a vastly different race from last Sunday, definitely it helps to have good condition but there are going to be a lot of other factors that go into getting a good result today.

 

 

"On top of the conditions is a new parcours, so it’s going to be very interesting to see what happens and how it plays out. I think we’re going to see a very different Liege to what we’ve seen in other years.

 

"The team is really clicking this year. It’s going really well. We have to thank a lot of the management, they’re doing everything they can supporting us in every way possible. We’re really feeling that as riders and I think that’s showing in our results."

 

 

202km remaining from 256km

Deceuninck-Quick Step and Lotto-Soudal are setting the pace at the head of the peloton at the moment. The gap is around 8:20 as the break head towards the 200km to go mark.

 

Here's what Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team) had to say at the start:

 

"The condition is good. I am certainly not a favorite, but I am very motivated to close my spring classics well.

"I have managed to maintain the condition from the Cobbled classics and with the new arrival in Liège I think I have a chance of a good result.

"The middle of the course is very hard, the same for the final with the sequence of the climbs and the Roche-aux-Faucons last, before diving on Liege for about 10 kilometers. I think that the attacks are going open earlier, unlike previous editions where we often had a race of waiting. This time, the options are more numerous on the course. Alaphilippe and Fuglsang are the favorites but there are also other riders like Schachmann who we saw Wednesday with its fifth place at the Flèche Wallonne. Also you must consider Valverde on this type of course."

Here's our reporter Alasdair Fotheringham on the new finish.

 

"The ‘new’ Liege finish is set on the Boulevard d’Avroy, a wide avenue that runs through the centre of Liege. The finishing straight rises very gently but steadily on a slope with a gradient of a couple of per cent at most for the last 500 metres.

 

"As the road rises the last part curves slightly to the right on what is - although the avenue itself is large - a fairly narrow finish, just two traffic lanes wide for the last 300 metres. The road surface is good, but these are city centre roads, so there could be a lot of dirt on them and in the rain, it may well be slippy."

 

 

The break are heading towards the Côte de La Roche-en-Ardenne, which is 2.8km long with an average gradient of 6.2%.

 

It's the first major climb of the day, as the break edges towards Bastogne before heading north back to Liège.

 

Here's what Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) had to say at the start today.

 

"It’s my favourite race, and I’m really waiting to see how things work out, of course even with the change of route it’ll still be a very hard race,” Bardet told reporters on Saturday afternoon at the team presentation. “I don’t think we’ll necessarily see different riders up there.”

 

 

The break has crested the climb now, and they're 6:45 up on the peloton.

 

More quotes, this time from Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) at yesterday's presentation. It's the first race since Milan-San Remo for the Dutchman.

 

“I’ll tell you tomorrow night [how my form is]. I’m hoping to win, but I don’t think that’s realistic, I’ve just come back from altitude one and a half days ago so I’m here specially with the Giro in my mind, but I hope to do well tomorrow.

 

“I haven’t done any Ardennes Classics so I’m curious to see how the race will evolve.” As a team, “we have several cards to play, Michael [Matthews] being our most important card, together with me, maybe but it all depends on the legs. Maybe I can go with the moves and Michael can wait for a sprint.

 

”I like [the new route], we’ll see what it gives, but I think it’s a good change, so we’ll see what happens. It could be a more open final but it’s more risky to say that. Maybe we’ll get a close finish as always.”

 

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More quotes, this time from Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) at yesterday's presentation. It's the first race since Milan-San Remo for the Dutchman.

 

 

“I’ll tell you tomorrow night [how my form is]. I’m hoping to win, but I don’t think that’s realistic, I’ve just come back from altitude one and a half days ago so I’m here specially with the Giro in my mind, but I hope to do well tomorrow.

 

 

“I haven’t done any Ardennes Classics so I’m curious to see how the race will evolve.” As a team, “we have several cards to play, Michael [Matthews] being our most important card, together with me, maybe but it all depends on the legs. Maybe I can go with the moves and Michael can wait for a sprint.

 

 

”I like [the new route], we’ll see what it gives, but I think it’s a good change, so we’ll see what happens. It could be a more open final but it’s more risky to say that. Maybe we’ll get a close finish as always.”

170km remaining from 256km

We have 170km to race in the men's race, while over in Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes – which isn't televised at all – there's just under 80km remaining.

 

The gap between the break and peloton is now down to 6:30.

 

Over in the women's race, the lead group is down to around 40 riders with 75km to go.

 

The break reaches Bastogne. That's the easy part out of the way; there are ten climbs on the way back to Liège.

Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (CCC-Liv) abandons the women's race. There's 74km to go there, with three climbs, including the Redoute and Roche-aux-Faucons, remaining.

 

More quotes from the start, this time from Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin).

 

"I had a week of rest after Roubaix and had a small vacation with my wife and now I start here in Liège but more as help for Ilnur Zakarin and I will feel the legs for sure in the end.

 

"I was in really top shape in the Classics. Now, with one week of rest for sure the shape is not gone. I’m still in good shape.

 

"I think with the weather it will be an open race for sure. I expect a small group to sprint for the victory today."

152km remaining from 256km

6:30 for the break now. The race situation is quite stable at the moment.

 

The break heads through the feed zone and the gap goes up again. They're just over seven minutes down on the break now.

52km to go for the women. Maria Novolodskaya (Cogeas Mettler) and Leah Kirchman (Team Sunweb) are up front there, with an advantage of a minute over the peloton.

 

The Côte de Saint-Roch is next on the menu for the break.

 

Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) abandoned the race at the feed zone. He had been recovering from a bug at the Vuelta al País Vasco, and said yesterday that he was pessimistic about his chances today. 

 

It's still wet and cold (reportedly five degrees centigrade) as the break crest the Côte de Saint-Roch.

 

36km to race for the women. A peloton of around 80 riders chase the two breakaway riders.

 

A couple of shots from the race. Here's Alejandro Valverde wrapped up warm and Julian Bernard leading the break.