World Champion Julian Alaphilippe (FRA/Deceuninck - QuickStep), Alejandro Valverde (ESP/Movistar), Tadej Pogačar (SVN/UAE-Emirates), Michael Woods (CAN/Israel Start-Up Nation) & David Gaudu (FRA/Groupama - FDJ) sprinting for victory towards the finish line in Liège 107th Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2021 (1.UWT) 1 day race from Liège to Liège (259km) ©kramon

Preview: Who’s going to win the 2022 men’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège?

Tadej Pogačar, Julian Alaphilippe, and Wout Van Aert are among the favorites to watch in the finale of the Ardennes Classics.

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With La Flèche Wallonne in the books, the last major one-day race of the (Northern Hemisphere) spring looms. The climber-friendly Monument that is Liège-Bastogne-Liège awaits on Sunday.

One of the oldest Classics on the cycling calendar, “La Doyenne” is a grueling trip through the Ardennes region of Wallonia whose profile is challenging enough that the Grand Tour stars quite often feature near the top of the leaderboard.

Will that be the case this year? Defending champion Tadej Pogačar will certainly be among the contenders. Plenty of non-Tour de France winners will be lining up to challenge the Slovenian superstar, however, including the likes of Julian Alaphilippe and Wout van Aert, who look to be the other two top pre-race favorites.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of the men’s race at the 2022 edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

The route

Liège-Bastogne-Liège will take riders a total of 257.1 km from Liège, south to Bastogne, and then back up to – you guessed it – Liège. That may seem obvious but for several years the race didn’t actually end in one of the places mentioned in its name. These days, however, Liège will again welcome a very tired peloton that must traverse 10 official climbs on its way from start to finish. None of them is particularly long but most are quite steep.

After only two of those climbs feature in the first half of the race, the remainder await in the second half, starting a little after 160 km into the event with the Côte de Mont-le-Soie. From that point on, there will be little respite for the peloton. Next up are the Côte de Wanne, the Côte de Stockeu, the Côte de la Haute-Levée, the Col du Rosier, and the Côte de Desnié.

Finally, the last two climbs on the parcours should provide the most action. With around 30 km to go, the venerable Côte de la Redoute will take riders up 2.1 km at an average gradient of 8.9 and a double digit sector just after the midway point of the ascent. Then it’s onto the brutal Côte de la Roche-Aux-Faucons, just 1.3 km in length but with an 11% average gradient.

From the top, with 13.3 km to go, it’s a short descent into an uncategorized kick up again, and then it’s mostly downhill to the to the Liège finish line. Given the difficult nature of the course, it’s unlikely that a large pack will be left to chase down any moves that get clear on the late climbs, but there’s enough distance between the Côte de la Roche-Aux-Faucons and the finishing straight to make things interesting for any solo attackers that get clear of a small group.

The favorites

The defending champion has been as impressive as ever in the early goings of his 2022 campaign, and with so many climbs on the menu at Liège, it’s hard to look past Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) as the race favorite. If he could come so close to winning the Tour of Flanders, surely the more climber-friendly Liège-Bastogne-Liège will be a clear opportunity for a big win? That said, Pogačar’s 12th-place finish at La Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday suggested that he might not be quite as in-form at this point as he was two weeks ago. He’s still the favorite for Liège, but the field is full of challengers who could take him on. Marc Hirschi is a strong second option for UAE Team Emirates.

Julian Alaphilippe (QuickStep-Alpha Vinyl)e rode to runner-up honors at Liège last year for the second time in his career, and his skill set is perfectly suited to the up-and-down parcours. While the three-time Flèche Wallonne winner probably wasn’t thrilled with Wednesday’s fourth place finish, it’s nothing to sneeze at either. He’s a strong pick to contend in Wallonia – albeit not the only rider on his team who fits that description. Remco Evenepoel, who has been inconsistent but occasionally excellent so far in 2022, gives the team a card to play from a long-range attack.

Wout van Aert is another rider who could contend for the win in what will be his first ever Liège appearance. We tend to think of the Belgian star as better-suited to the cobbles than the Ardennes, but the fact is that Van Aert has excellent climbing legs and the repeated ascents at Liège should not trouble him too much. His rivals will have to drop him before the finish, too, considering his elite sprinting capabilities. Beyond Van Aert, Tiesj Benoot and Jonas Vingegaard give Jumbo-Visma other strong cards to play.

Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Victorious) showed his strength at La Flèche Wallonne and there’s every reason to think he’ll again be in the mix at Liège. He doesn’t have the sprint to beat a rider like Van Aert or Alaphilippe, but if he can get clear late, he’ll be a dangerous contender. The same could be said for his teammate Matej Mohorič, whose attacking prowess has already secured him one Monument victory this season. Expect Bahrain Victorious to ride an aggressive race.

Even at age 42, Alejandro Valverde is worth keeping an eye on. He has put up some fine results in his final season, including his runner-up ride at La Flèche Wallonne. No active rider in the me’s peloton counts more Liège victories on his career palmares than Valverde’s four. He knows how to win the race and given his strong finishing kick, he could do it in a variety of scenarios.

Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) rode onto the podium at La Flèche Wallonne and could be an outside threat to attack in the Liège finale. The Ineos Grenadiers have several riders to send up the road in Tom Pidcock, Dani Martínez, Michal Kwiatkowski, and Geraint Thomas. Benoit Cosnefroy (AG2R Citroën), Mike Woods and Jakob Fuglsang (Israel-Premier Tech), Romain Bardet and Søren Kragh Andersen (DSM), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana-Qazaqstan), and Rigoberto Urán (EF Education-EasyPost) are others on the long list of big names with an outside chance for Sunday’s race.

CyclingTips star ratings

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️: Pogačar, Alaphilippe, Van Aert
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️: Teuns, Mohorič, Evenepoel
⭐️⭐️⭐️: Valverde, Benoot, Vlasov
⭐️⭐️: Hirschi, Vingegaard, Martínez, Kwiatkowski, Pidcock
⭐️: Woods, Bardet, Nibali, Thomas, Fuglsang

When to watch

Riders will start to cover the first of the 257.2 km on tap for the day at 10:20 am local time (4:20 am ET/9:20 am BST/6:20 pm AEST). After the peloton traverses just two climbs in the first 160 km, the challenges will begin to come in much quicker succession starting with the Côte de Mont-le-Soie, which the riders should hit at around 2:38 pm local time (8:38 am ET/1:38 pm BST/10:38 pm AEST).

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