La Doyenne

Liège-Bastogne-Liège took place for the 100th time today.
This race is the oldest classic among all the cycling races.
That is also why we tend to call it “La Doyenne”.
A “respected figure”, a “senior member”, or simply “the oldest”.
The first edition was in 1892 and an idea of the newspaper L’Expresse.
Léon Houa, a Belgian rider, won the first three LBL’s.
The first two races were for amateurs, the third for professionals.
Since 1908 though, it has been an annual professional race.
With 100 editions we also have 100 different stories to reminisce.
The 1943 edition for example, a race in the midst of wartime.
In WWI, between 1914 and 1918, the race could not take place.
However, in 1943 the organizers managed to make it happen.
After all, the oppressor was in favour of keeping the people satisfied.
Richard Depoorter won and managed to win again after WWII too, in 1947.
Unfortunately, he would die very tragically during a race only a few years later.
Depoorter’s two victories are not the only Belgian successes.
La Doyenne is a race through the Ardennes, with 59 Belgian victories.
Eddy Merckx is still the rider with the most LBL wins.
He won the race five times, Moreno Argentin four times.
Undoubtedly, the 1980 edition is the most remarkable of all.
It received the nickname “Neige-Bastogne-Neige” (Snow-Bastogne-Snow).
It snowed from the start and only 21 riders made it to the finish.
The French rider Bernard Hinault won, but had suffered greatly.
His fingers were frozen and it took him three weeks to recover.
However, his fingers are still sensitive today and some still numb.
Hennie Kuiper became second, but finished more than 9 minutes after Hinault.
The victory was an heroic one: it was incredible how Hinault ignored his pain.
Back then the riders still finished in Liège, but since 1992 they finish in Ans.
The Côte de Saint Nicolas was then included, but La Redoute would
remain the most famous climb in the Liège-Bastogne-Liège course.
For a few years now, it carries the name “Phil”.
Obviously, this refers to the Belgian rider Philippe Gilbert,
who was born and raised in the region Aywaille, at the foot of the hill.
Gilbert won his “home race” in 2011 and annually, all his family
and friends are there to cheer for him on their “La Redoute”.
But Philippe Gilbert did not win on the 27th of April 2014.
Today, we all witnessed a new, fresh, historical cycling story.
An Australian story: Simon Gerrans secured the first Aussie victory.
The Orica GreenEDGE rider is the 100th man who wins “La Doyenne”.

Bernard Hinault in the 1980 edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège


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