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Cavalli, FDJ aim for Ardennes Classics triple at Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes - Preview

Marta Cavalli dominated Amstel Gold Race and La Flèche Wallonne for back-to-back victories
Marta Cavalli dominated Amstel Gold Race and La Flèche Wallonne for back-to-back victories (Image credit: Getty Images)

The cycling world could be on the verge of witnessing Marta Cavalli win all three of the Ardennes Classics, a feat only accomplished by Dutchwoman Anna van der Breggen in 2017. The Italian has enjoyed a remarkable run of success after winning Amstel Gold Race on April 10 and La Flèche Wallonne on April 20, and she stands a good chance of carrying her Classics strength into Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday.

While the oldest of the Classics on the men's calendar, Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes is the youngest of the Ardennes Classics women's races, only introduced five years ago to form the third event of the historical cycling series.

Van der Breggen won the first two editions in 2017 and 2018 while Annemiek van Vleuten won in 2019 and Lizzie Deignan won in 2020. Demi Vollering lines up this time around as the defending champion with SD Worx.

It should be no surprise that Cavalli has brought FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope such a successful Spring Classics campaign. She came into her second year at the French outfit as one of three leaders for one-day racing, alongside Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig and Grace Brown.

Uttrup Ludwig was ruled out of the first two Ardennes races due to the COVID-19 coronavirus and Brown was focussed on the cobbled Classics. Cavalli has lived up to every opportunity as a sole team leader.

She showed that she could climb with the best over the Cauberg, a show of force which subsequently led to her late-race attack to win Amstel, and then she was the strongest on the Mur de Huy to win Flèche. Her versatility as a rider also stood out with her fifth place at Paris-Roubaix Femmes last weekend, and she will soon turn her attention to preparations for the mountainous Giro d'Italia Donne.

Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes - The favourites

Demi Vollering (SD Worx)

Demi Vollering (SD Worx) (Image credit: Getty Images)

Cavalli and FDJ are not the only riders and teams aiming to close out the Classics season with success in Liège. 

The field will include favourites Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo), who won Paris-Roubaix and finished sixth at La Flèche Wallonne, while her teammate Lucinda Brand, third in the Hell of the North, has only just begun to wind up her road season.

The route will cater to the strengths of SD Worx riders Vollering and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, both consistently performing among the top five and top 10 in the Spring Classics, with Vollering having also won Brabantse Pijl.

There are also those teams that have not been as successful as FDJ, SD Worx or Trek-Segafredo and will aim to salvage their spring campaign. Canyon-SRAM have strong contenders in Kasia Niewiadoma, Soraya Paladin and Elise Chabbey, who have all performed well but have not secured a victory.

Jumbo-Visma's Marianne Vos is currently on the unofficial start list but has also been out due to COVID-19 since the morning of Paris-Roubaix Femmes. The team has not won a race this spring, but they have a good chance of success if Vos starts the race in good form, while Anna Henderson could also turn their fortunes around. 

Lorena Wiebes has brought Team DSM four wins this season so far, but the team can look to riders like Liane Lippert and Floortje Mackaij in Liège.

Movistar's Annemiek van Vleuten opened her Classics campaign with a victory at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad but has since finished with second places at Strade Bianche, Tour of Flanders and La Flèche Wallonne, and fourth at Amstel Gold Race. 

She will undoubtedly use those final steep ascents of the Redoute and Roche-aux-Faucons to her advantage to try and take the win in Liège.

Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes - The climbs

Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes 2022 Profile

Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes 2022 Profile (Image credit: Liège-Bastogne-Liège)

Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes' 142.1km route begins in Bastogne and includes seven ascents, however, the variation of punchy climbs is slightly different than the previous year. 

Unlike last year, the climbing will begin at the 55.3km mark on the Côte de Mont-le Soie and will next tackle the Côte de Wanne, Côte de la Haute-Levée, Côte du Rosier and Côte de la Redoute. 

Gone is the Côte des Forges, located between the Redoute and the final ascent of the Côte de la Roche-Aux-Faucons, which could make for a less decisive final this year. 

However, Roche-Aux-Faucons remains the last decisive point of the race prior to the 13km run-in to Liège.

  • Côte de Mont-Le-Soie - 1.7km at 7.9 per cent, 55.3km
  • Côte de Wanne - 3.6km at 5.1 per cent, 63.6km
  • Côte de la Haute-Levée - 2.2km at 7.5 per cent, 72km
  • Côte du Rosier - 4.4km at 5.9 per cent, 86.2km
  • Côte de Desnié - 1.6km at 8.1 per cent, 99.5km
  • Côte de la Redoute - 2.1km at 8.9 per cent, 112.7km
  • Côte de la Roche-Aux-Faucons - 1.3km at 11 per cent, 128.7km

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Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in cycling from the community and grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all men's and women's races including Spring Classics, Grand Tours, World Championships and Olympic Games, and writes and edits news and features. As the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten also coordinates and oversees the global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.

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