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Been there, got the T-shirt - Liege Bastogne Liege

A guide to cycling in our heroes footsteps.

Surrounded by greening slag heaps the city of Liege is far from the most picturesque of places, but the race that starts and ends there runs through some truly stunning scenery. Being the oldest and one of the longest of the monuments it traverses some of the most iconic climbs in cycling - not least the Stockeu and La Redoute.

Booking ahead

Go direct to the organisers website at www.sport.be/classicchallenge. If you are mad enough you can also sign up there for the Tour of Flanders and Paris Roubaix sportives at the same time and book yourself a gruelling triple header. The LBL sportive comes in 3 sizes - 79, 160 or the full route at 276km for the hard men. The Sheep took the 160km option as we were still in training for the Alps later in the year. Honest!

Getting there

As with most things cycling nowadays there's no end of guided options to choose from and some of them are reasonably priced. If you prefer the DIY approach then getting there is a doddle. The length of your string from home to the channel will vary but once in Calais it's about 3.5 hours to Liege by road. 98% of that is motorway - take a right near Bruges, circle round Brussels and then straight on to Liege.

Where to stay

If you want to be close to the action then bear in mind that downtown Liege is not the best for cycling around and you'll see more than enough of that at the start/end of the Sportive. Our tip would be to head for Spa. Bars, restaurants and accommodation are all plentiful - and a real plus point is it's proximity to the hills that feature prominently in the second half of the race.

Thoughts on the Sportive

You'll probably register the day before so if driving you'll know where you are heading for. The official car parks are small and fill up very early so you could well be parking roadside like hundreds of others. We rolled up at just after 8 and parked within half a mile of the start line.The start is very urban - but start early and it's quiet enough traffic wise and you are in more danger from over exuberant club riders bunching up. We can only speak on the 160km route but in short, after the first 8 or 9 miles it's a stunning ride. The hills are mostly long and draggy( La Redoute and Cote St Nicholas aside!) with long sweeping descents.Good friendly participants, decent and well stocked foodstops, beautiful countryside. You will not be dissapointed

Other rides


Unless you are doing the full route then you'll miss out on some of the aforementioned iconic climbs such as the Stockeu. A highly recommended ride out from Spa is to go over the Maquisard to Remouchamps(try and find Gilbert's mums house!) with a slight detour checking out La Redoute ahead of the main event. From the top double back and take the valley road to Trois Ponts, a few km's south of which will get you to the bottom of the Cote de Wanne, then the Stockeu, Haut Levee, Roslier and back down into Spa. Plenty of cafes in Trois Ponts and Stavelot(near the Stockeu) for coffees and lunch.

Watching the Race

Now in all honesty I have to say we had a plan - but a plan is only a guide and it was great on Saturday at 6pm, looking dodgy by 8 and fracturing like a Wiggins-Froome relationship by 10. Sunday therefore saw us taking it easy at breakfast and moseying across to Louveigne and watching from the roundabout in the center of the village(cafe on the corner though so good for carb and coffee loading). From there we went to Stavelot for a very leisurely lunch and then camped out on the Stockeu. If you are 3/4 of the way up then at least you can see them head down the other side so can claim to have seen the race 3 times. Good atmosphere on the Stockeu that gets less boozy the higher you go! As with most of the great races you can bomb all over for maximum action or choose 1 or 2 spots and soak up the atmosphere.

Beer of the weekend

Grimbergen Blonde. Not local but we got on it and never stopped !

T-shirt action

Free for all sportive entrants. Good quality but mixed reaction on the design split evenly between good and average. My view is it's a bit MTB and not emblematic of La Doyenne but I always was a traditionalist.