Les forçats du pavé



La 'Doyenne' will mark its centenary edition in 2014. The late-April seductive classic in the Ardennes region of Belgium takes riders on a journey through industrial townships, rolling fields, woodland climbs and punctures back to civilisation in the Liege suburb of Ans via the unforgiving gradients of Saint-Nicholas.
The race, a 256km gruelling route, builds drama towards the latter end of the day, with the bulk of its punishing ascents being not-so kindly laid in the latter stages of the parcours. No less than 11 climbs await tired legs, with aggressive riders able to capitalise by punching out on these rises.
La Redoute offers a perfect chance to view the race up close, a tangible experience for the fan of the riders effort and pain. Contorted faces and laboured cadence almost make the professionals seem like us mere humans in their suffering, but the pelotons speed up the climb is about as un-reminiscent of the amateur attempts the day before. Simply devastating!
1999 saw the charismatic Belgian badboy Frank Vandenbroucke dart away like a startled stickleback in a summer stream on La Redoute, and managing to finally shake Boogerd on the Côte de Saint-Nicolas. It was then head down, burying himself to the finish in what was one of Liege's most stylish wins.