Race report | Liège-Bastogne-Liège30 Nov. -0001
TEXT / NINA BERTON | PHOTOS / FELLUSCH
This year I rode my first Ardennes classics and so Liège-Bastogne-Liège, also known as "La Doyenne", was a first for me too. I was super excited to ride this historic race, as it is something I have been dreaming about since I first watched it on TV. The day before the race we went to the team presentation, and we did a little preload spin to get the body ready for racing. That’s when our team mechanic noticed that there was something wrong with my bike frame. It was actually broken, and this meant I wouldn’t be able to race on my own bike the next day.
This meant our team mechanic needed to convert a spare bike so that all the dimensions match the ones on my own bike. This was a bit of a stressful situation as it is very important that you feel good on your bike and have a decent position. But I didn't want to let this worry me, because I had prepared for this race for so long now and it shouldn't fail now because of the equipment. I just trusted in our mechanic, which in retrospect definitely was the right decision, as he managed to fit the new bike perfectly.
The next morning it was finally race day and the long wait finally came to an end. We had breakfast at 6:30, as the race start was already at 08:35. Afterward, we went to the sign-on, and then we took the last preparations before leaving to line up at the start. We managed to stand in the front row, which was really helpful to facilitate positioning in the bunch at the first kilometers of the race. Standing at this start line, my heart rate was already rising as I was quite nervous, and I just wanted to head off.
As soon as the countdown started, I got into my racing bubble, and I began to drop my nervousness. The 5 first kilometers of the race were all about staying in the front rows of the bunch and maintaining your place in the peloton before we then turned into some more narrow roads.
The first hills
Our team really managed to do quite well at the beginning of the race, as we all stayed close to each other in the bunch. When the first hills came, it was no longer so easy, and we were all more spread out in the peloton. Moreover, it had started to rain, which meant that we were all wet and cold. I still felt very good myself and I had no problems dealing with these weather conditions, as I’m used to it due to cyclocross racing.
Things started to heat up before the first listed climb after about 53 kilometers. That’s when all the big teams wanted to position their leaders in the front of the bunch, and it became hectic in the peloton. At that moment I really had to grit my teeth to just get over the top of the climb with the peloton, as these are the key moments where you need to keep the contact to have a chance to finish the race successfully.
Stay in position
I was also able to cross the Côte de Wanne with the front of the peloton, but that’s when it got harder to position well, as I didn’t have anyone who could help me move up. When the Côte de la Haute-Levée came after about 72 kilometers, I was at the very back of the peloton and that’s where I lost contact with the first peloton. Sitting at the back you always need to use extra energy to pass the riders who fall to the back. That’s what cost me the contact with the leading group, as a small gap was made that I just couldn’t close anymore.
From that moment on I found myself in the second peloton of about 30 riders. We rode really well together, as we could still see the front group for a long time. From that moment on I just tried to take the relays without spending too much energy, so that I still had a reserve left for the final kilometers.
I felt very good on the climbs, which allowed me to enjoy the crowds cheering us on at the roadside. I really enjoyed the Côte de la Redoute in particular. It hurt quite a bit, but the atmosphere there was incredible. In the last climb, our group then became smaller once again, as the pace really increased that close to the finish. That’s when I was really grateful to have the team car behind me from where I got some guidance and extra encouragement.
From there a long descent took us to Liège, where the finish line was waiting for us. In the end, it came to a sprint, which isn’t really my strength, but it was great to make that experience too. In the end, I became 72nd, arriving in the second main bunch. I personally think that this is a result I should be satisfied with. I have given everything I had on that day and physically I felt very good.
A year ago, I would have never imagined getting such a result at a race of this level, so I am happy to see the improvements I made this winter. Step by step I am getting closer to my goals, and I take that as motivation for the rest of the season. I hope that I will be able to participate in this race again next year, now that I have gained some experience because I think that I have learned from it and that I could improve my performance.