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Live Coverage of Liège - Bastogne - Liège - Elite Men
Live coverage of Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
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.
1 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 6:14:20
2 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx - Quick-Step
3 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha
4 Rui Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida
5 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff-Saxo
6 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
7 Sergio Luis Henao (Col) Team Sky
8 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
9 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team
10 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Team Katusha
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.
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.
Rui Costa took fourth place, while Kreuziger and Romain Bardet were in the mix too, but Valverde's win was never really in doubt.
Julian Alaphillipe (Etixx-QuickStep) takes another second place, while Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) finishes in third.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) wins Liège-Bastogne-Liège for the third time.
Valverde opens the sprint from distance...
It's going to be sprint of ten riders or so for the win...
Valverde and Rodriguez catch Moreno at the final bend...
Valverde finally accelerates with 500 metres to go. Rodriguez follows him.
Moreno is opening what seems lilke a winning gap. Nobody is committing to the chase behind...
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...
1km remaining from 253km
Nibali makes it back across as they enter the final kilometre at the foot of the Cote de Ans.
2.5km remaining from 253km
Bardet sits in second wheel, ahead of Valverde, Kreuziger, Rui Costa and Rodriguez. Nibali is not in this leading group, he lost contact on the way down the Saint-Nicolas.
3.5km remaining from 253km
There are only 15 riders or so left at the front now and the race is very stretched out as Caruso sets the tempo. Kwiatkowski is still desperately chasing back on.
Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) attacks on the descent of the Saint-Nicolas but he can't get away as Caruso shuts him down.
5km remaining from 253km
Moreno leads on the descent, followed by Julian Alaphilippe and a group of around 20 riders.
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.
5.7km remaining from 253km
Dani Moreno takes over at the front, but the selection is at the back for now, with riders being shed off the back.
6km remaining from 253km
Kreuziger and company are brought back. Nibali leads on the Saint-Nicolas but he hasn't been able to make the difference.
6.3km remaining from 253km
Vincenzo Nibali puts in a fierce acceleration but he can't punch his way clear alone. The acceleration has brought back the leaders, however, and jettisoned Gilbert.
6.5km remaining from 253km
Valverde leads the chasers on the Côte de Saint-Nicolas, trying to dissuade attacks.
7km remaining from 253km
Kreuziger leads the break to the foot of the Côte de Saint-Nicolas with a lead of 12 seconds over the large chasing group.
8km remaining from 253km
The break's lead is down to just 9 seconds. Valverde is sitting on second wheel in the chasing peloton, tucked in just behind Stybar.
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.
9km remaining from 253km
Stybar still leads the pursuit, and his efforts are telling. The gap is down to 15 seconds.
9.5km remaining from 253km
Rain is falling steadily as Kreuziger, Fuglsang and Caruso cross the river Meuse, still with 22 seconds in hand on the chasers.
10km remaining from 253km
Stybar's mammoth turn on the front of the bunch has seen him open a small gap over the rest, but they're still 22 seconds down on the three leaders.
12.5km remaining from 253km
Kreuziger, Fuglsang and Caruso have reached the rain-soaked roads near the finish, and conditions could be treacherous for the chasing peloton in this finale.
14km remaining from 253km
Caruso has begun to contribute to the break's efforts. The Sicilian, Kreuziger and Fuglsang have 22 seconds in hand on the bunch, where Stybar is chasing on behalf of Kwiatkowski.
14.5km remaining from 253km
No one team is taking control of this peloton, which is being strung out in a line simply by attack after counter-attack. Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) accelerates, but is marked by Stybar. The break's lead rises to 23 seconds.
15.5km remaining from 253km
The chasing group has been brought back. A peloton of around 30 riders is the second group on the road, 18 seconds down on the trio of leaders.
Fuglsang, meanwhile, comes straight through and takes a long turn on the front of the break with Kreuziger and Caruso.
16km remaining from 253km
Visconti, Dani Moreno, Alaphillipe and Rui Costa are in the chasing group but they're struggling to strike up a decent working alliance.
16.5km remaining from 253km
Fuglsang bridges across to Kreuziger and Caruso at the front of the race. They have 19 seconds over the chasers.
Rui Costa (Lampre) and Samuel Sanchez (BMC) are also in this chase group, as leaden drops of rain begin to fall.
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.
17km remaining from 253km
Jakub Fuglsang (Astana) tries to bridge across to the two leaders, where Caruso is sitting on, doubtless citing his commitment to Rodriguez.
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.
19km remaining from 253km
Roman Kreuziger, still waiting for a CAS decision on his biological passport case, accelerates off the front of the leading group on the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons. Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha) bridges across to him and they have a small gap as they crest the summit.
Michal Kwiatkowski muscles his way towards the front. He still has Julian Alaphillipe and Zdenek Styar for company in this sizeable leading group.
Nibali, Kreuziger, Majka and Romain Bardet are all well-placed near the front but for now at least, nobody dares launch an attack.
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.
20.5km remaining from 253km
Enrico Gasparotto is prominent as the leading group hits the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons.
22km remaining from 253km
There are still around 45 riders in this peloton on the approach to the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons, and Astana, Movistar and Katusha are all present in numbers.
24km remaining from 253km
Katusha's Tiago Machado has put in a huge turn on the front, and that's done for Scarponi and Chaves, who are pegged back three kilometres shy of the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons.
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.
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.
29km remaining from 253km
Scarponi is taking decidedly longer turns on the front than Chaves, and their advantage is beginning to be pinned back once again by the peloton. Led by a coalition of Movistar and Katusha riders, they are just 18 seconds down on the two leaders, having swept up Siutsou.
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.
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...
35km remaining from 253km
There is a slight lull in the bunch after La Redoute and Scarponi and Chaves gratefully stretch their lead back out to 36 seconds. Kanstantin Siutsou (Sky) tries to set off from the pack in lone pursuit.
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.
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.
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.
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.
38km remaining from 253km
The end result of that crash is a vastly-reduced peloton on the approach to the Côte de La Redoute (2 km at 8.9%), and they are just 19 seconds down on the three leaders.
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.
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.
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.
Pierre Rolland (Europcar) and Nathan Haas (Cannondale-Garmin) are also among the fallers.
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).
Scarponi, Kangert and Chaves still hold a lead of 43 seconds as they barrel towards the Redoute.
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.
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.
46km remaining from 253km
The speed is high in the main peloton, which has been strung out into a long line on the way up the Maquisard. A number of riders are showing signs of struggling towards the back, including Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal).
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.
48km remaining from 253km
There are still around 70 riders or so in the main body of the peloton on the approach to the Col du Maquisard. We can expect that number to drop dramatically after the Côte de La Redoute.
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.
54km remaining from 253km
Chaves has begun to collaborate with the Astana pair up front and their lead has nudged above the minute mark on the long sweep towards the foot of the Col du Maquisard.
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.
59km remaining from 253km
A collective attack in the Ardennes from a team in light blue, that old staple... The Astana tandem and Chaves have a lead of 58 seconds over the bunch as they approach the summit of the Rosier.
63km remaining from 253km
Scarponi and Kangert's forcing on the Rosier has distanced Arredondo and Boaro. Chaves holds on as best he can to the Astana duo. The bunch is at 40 seconds.
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.
69km remaining from 253km
Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) is almost back in contact with the rear of the peloton, which is now being led by Katusha, Etixx-QuickStep and BMC.
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.
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.
72km remaining from 253km
Manuele Boaro (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Michele Scarponi (Astana) are bridging across to Kangert, Arredondo and Chaves, and they should form a leading quintet over the top of the climb.
73km remaining from 253km
Tanel Kangert (Astana) accelerates out of the leading group near the top of the Haute-Levée in a bid to form a more malleable break. Julian Arredondo (Trek) and Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) bound across to him and they have a small gap. BMC have taken up the reins in the main peloton in a bid to bring some order to the race.
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.
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.
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.
74.5km remaining from 253km
The break hits the Côte de la Haute-Levée and immediately Minaard is in difficulty. Izagirre catches Grivko and they are both almost in touch with the leaders. The bunch is at 28 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%).
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.
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.
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.
79km remaining from 253km
The break swings right at Stavelot and hits the daunting Stockeu with a lead of 35 seconds over the peloton, which is still being led by Astana.
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.
83km remaining from 253km
Astana are on the front of the race en masse, riding in support of Vincenzo Nibali. Despite the misgivings of the UCI and despite its troubling doping record, the Kazakhstani squad remains in the WorldTour after the Licence Commission opted not to revoke its status. The news has deflated speculation that Nibali might ride both the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France. "It hasn’t taken any pressure off my shoulders because there never was any pressure. It’s only the media that made this up,” Nibali said of the Licence Commission decision.
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.
85km remaining from 253km
Astana take over at the head of the peloton on the lower slopes of the climb, with Alessandro Vanotti prominent. The gap is down to just 45 seconds. There are leaden skies over the race and there have been some heavy showers at the finish, but for now the peloton is on dry roads.
The break starts to fragment on the Côte de Wanne. Quaade, Chevrier and Vergaerde have lost contact.
90km remaining from 253km
Katusha take over from Europcar at the head of the peloton on the approach to the Côte de Wanne. The break's lead has been whittled down a little more than a minute.
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.
107km remaining from 253km
The speed has picked up a notch or two in the peloton as they chug towards the Côte de Wanne and the true beginning of hostilities. The break's lead has been sliced to just 2:30.
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.
122km remaining from 253km
The break has passed over the Côte de Saint-Roch with 3:40 in hand on the peloton, where Europcar and Lotto-Soudal are doing the bulk of the pace-setting for now.
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."
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.
131km remaining from 253km
Another chunk has crumbled off the break's advantage. The margin is now down to four minutes flat. Meanwhile, BMC's Ben Hermans abandoned the race at the feed zone.
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.”
The Tour de France champion added that he was determined to enjoy his outing in the Ardennes. Like Bradley Wiggins, Nibali seems to find the classics a less stressful experience than winning Grand Tours. “It’s completely different to a Grand Tour here,” he said. “You need a bit of invention, a bit of ingenuity and experience, as well as the luck to find the perfect day, whereas a Grand Tour is all calculations and stress. Here, you attack, you follow, you accelerate. I enjoy it. I race precisely for this.”
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.
“I was pretty tired last week but I took some more rest than I would have wanted to have but I think I’m fresh again and I hope to do well today,” Dumoulin told Cyclingnews. “I was really disappointed with Amstel Gold. I actually felt really good the week before after Pays Basque and I proved there that my shape was really good with the TT win but in Amstel I didn’t feel good. I was pretty disappointed and afterwards I got really tired so maybe I was a little bit tired before Amstel. I hope it’s good today.
“Warren [Barguil] and me are the guys that are aiming for it in the final. I think Warren can wait maybe a little bit longer but I think that I have to attack so I’m aiming for that. There has to be a moment but if the moment isn’t coming then I’m not going to do something stupid.”
147km remaining from 253km
Our eight escapees have reached Bastogne and the Rond-point La Doyenne, where they turn and take the road back northwards towards Liege. Their advantage stands at 4:25. The next climb on the menu is the Côte de Saint-Roch, in 20 kilometres' time.
153km remaining from 253km
The break's advantage continues to be pared back to more manageable dimensions. Ulissi et al now hold a lead of 4:45 over the chasing peloton.
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.
“I want to finish as high as possible. It’s hard to look at the positions and you just go for it but we will see,” Mollema said at the start. “We have several guys who can be there in the final and of course I want to have a good result. I think guys like Frank Schleck, Fabio Felline and Bob Jungels can also be there in the final. It’s a long race and a lot of things can happen, you need to keep the initiative and get riders in the breakaway, especially in the final in the last 70 kilometres.
“I think that the group [at the finish] will be smaller because of the weather and the parcours is a little bit tougher because the climbs are closer together, which means less recovery after La Redoute.”
165km remaining from 253km
The race has crossed the first categorised climb of the day, the Côte de La Roche-en-Ardenne, where the gap between the leaders and the bunch stood at 5:15. Reinier Honig (Bora-Argon 18) had been giving chase alone, but he was swept up by the peloton on the slopes of La Roche-en-Ardenne.
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.
“I’m feeling well. I recovered well from Trentino and let’s see what the legs have to say,” Bardet told Cyclingnews. “We’ll see this afternoon but in my mind it was a good choice and the result should follow. We can do an aggressive race and if the other teams want to escape with us then it will be good to anticipate it.”
175km remaining from 253km
Europcar's pace-making has shaved almost two minutes off the break's advantage. The gap now stands at 5:45.
“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.”
As for Deignan himself: “I’m doing all right, but this was a late call-up and I’m sort of missing the distance a little bit. I’ll do what I can for the first five hours, 200 kms and then probably struggle over that.
“It’s harder as a route, before the Redoute they’ve cut out a chunk of flat where you could get some recovery, and the weather forecast later today [for rain] could make things very challenging.”
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.
“It’s going to be tough as ever, and we’ll try to be up there in the finale,” Henao told Cyclingnews at the start. “We looked over the last 90 kilometres on Friday, and it’s definitely harder than when I rode here in 2013. These races are ones that I like, and I think this one probably is better for me than Amstel or Fleche. Then we’ve got Lars-Petter, and NIcolas is in very good shape as well.
Sadhbh O'Shea is in Liège for us and she has put togetherthis gallery
from the start in front of the Palais des Princes-Evêques this morning.
191km remaining from 253km
As the break stretches its lead out to 7:45, it is, rather surprisingly, Europcar who take up the reins in the peloton and set about organising the chase.
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).
198km remaining from 253km
The break continues to augment its lead. The gap is now out to 5:30.
206km remaining from 253km
The pace has slackened considerably in the main peloton and the break's advantage has quickly yawned open to 3:35. Moreno Hofland (LottoNL-Jumbo) gives chase alone. meanwhile, and is 1:40 behind the break.
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.
214km remaining from 253km
An eight-man group has opened a small gap over the peloton and it's interesting to note that Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) is among their number. The Tuscan returned to action at the Tour of the Basque Country following a nine-month ban for a positive test for salbutamol, and his performances thus far have been low-key. He was 49th at Amstel and 50th at Fleche Wallonne, and will be hoping for an upturn by the time the Giro d'Italia rolls around.
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.”
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.
234km remaining from 253km
Van Hecke's move is also brought to heel by the briskly-moving peloton. After almost half an hour of racing, the early break has yet to be estabished.
238km remaining from 253km
That trio has been pegged back once again. Preben Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) is the next to try his luck, but he's going to need some reinforcements if he is to forge clear.
245km remaining from 253km
Bjorn Thurau (Bora-Argon 18), Johann Van Zyl (MTN-Qhubeka) and Romain Hardy (Cofidis) have opened a small gap over the peloton but they haven't quite snapped the elastic fully.
251km remaining from 253km
The flag has dropped and the race has begun in earnest, incidentally. Valerio Conti (Lampre-Merida) was the first rider to try and escape but the pace is brisk early on and the Italian couldn't get away.
253km remaining from 253km
There was a sizeable contingent of Polish support at the start, and world champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep) and Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) were greeted with raucous cheers when they went to sign on. Winner of Amstel Gold Race last week, Kwiatkowski is among the chief favourites this afternoon, though he insisted yesterday that Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) would be the man to beat. "He’s the most experienced rider, he knows how to prepare for such a hard week," Kwiatkowski said.
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.
The listed climbs on today's menu are as follows:
79km - Côte de La Roche-en-Ardenne (2.8km at 6.2%)
125.5km - Côte de Saint-Roch (1 km at 11.2%)
169km - Côte de Wanne (2.7 km at 7.4%)
175.5km - Côte de Stockeu (1km at 12.5%)
181.5km - Côte de la Haute-Levée (3.6 km at 5.6%)
194km - Col du Rosier (4.4 km at 5.9%)
207km - Col du Maquisard (2.5 km at 5%)
218.5km - Côte de La Redoute (2 km at 8.9%)
234km - Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons (1.5 km at 9.4%)
248km - Côte de Saint-Nicolas (1.2 km at 8.6%)
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 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.