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Liège-Bastogne-Liège, known also as La Doyenne, is the oldest one-day race still in existence. First run in 1892 by L’Express newspaper, the 270km Monument takes place in the rolling, forested Ardennes region of south-east Wallonia. The voluptuous nature of the course makes it very punishing; add bad weather conditions and you have arguably the hardest of the spring classics.
On 20th April 1980, Bernard Hinault took his second win of La Doyenne, but it didn’t come easily. Almost as soon as the peloton lined up at the start, snow blizzards swept in. Half of the 173 riders who started, including Giuseppe Saronni and Lucien Van Impe, the favourite, abandoned. As what remained of the peloton struggled back to Liège, Belgium’s Rudy Pevenage and Ludo Peeters attacked. The pair broke away from the frozen bunch over the infamous Côte de Stockeu, riding their way to a two-minute gap.
But Hinault, Le Patron, sternly upped the pace as the pack rode through biting winds and thick snow. Pushing hard over the Stockeu, he took two riders with him and, after a 20km pursuit, the Hinault trio caught Pevenage and Peeters on the Haute Levée. But the Badger wasn’t finished and he attacked alone, away from the group he’d formed, and literally ploughed on through the snow and over the climbs of La Redoute and Saint Nicolas. He finished an incredible nine minutes up on second-placed Hennie Kuiper.
As he rolled across the finish line, a depleted and incredulous group of spectators applauded one of the toughest rides of modern cycle racing. It took nearly a month for the feeling to return to his fingers and Le Blaireau claims he still suffers from the effects of that frostbite. This legendary edition of the race was given the nickname Neige-Bastogne-Neige (Snow-Bastogne-Snow).
This year Rapha, in association with ASO and Golazo Sports, are giving amateur riders the opportunity to ride Liège-Bastogne-Liège. La Doyenne Classique will take place on Saturday 21st April, the day before the pro event. More Info »
See footage from the 1980 edition of La Doyenne » blog.sonuma.be