What's Cool In Road Cycling

Liege 07 Pre-Ride: Here Come The Pros

As part of Velo Classic Tours’ Ardennes Week trip, our agenda includes two days riding the roads and bergs of the Liege-Bastogne-Liege parcours. Thursday was all about the climbs and the scenery. Friday, it’s all about the pro teams we met on the roads of Belgium.

** See Liege-Bastogne-Liege live in North America on Cycling.TV **

Pete brought along a special guest rider to show us how the pros handle the toughest parts of the Liege-Bastogne-Liege course – ex-pro Marcel Wust.

Retired German uber-stud Marcel Wust greeted us at the start today in Stavelot.

“Wust-ie” has won stages in the Tour, the Giro and the Vuelta. He was known as a sprinter, but he once wore the climber’s polka dot jersey at the TdF, too. With him along for the ride, we were got a real taste of what it was like to pedal with the pros.

• Our day started with a climb up the back side of the Cote de Wanne (we renamed it the Cote de Waaaaah yesterday. Marcel stopped near the top to chat with the cows and take in the scenery.

After zooming back down the hill into Stavelot, the first sign that this was going to be a big-boy ride greeted us at the bottom of the Cote de Stockeau.

Belgian legend Eddy Merckx won L-B-L five times. If you can make it to the top of the Stockeau…

…you can cast your eyes on this bronze bust of “The Cannibal”. I guarantee you…the pros won’t be stopping to rub Eddy’s bronze arm when they come screamin’ through here on Sunday.

• The Cote de Stockeu is just 1.1km long, and they say the average grade is 11.6%. I confess…I’ve never climbed a harder hill in my life.

The Stockeu begins and ends in Stavelot, but the “fun” has just begun. Most of the pro teams were already in the area, getting their read on the climbs and sighting the course for Sunday’s L-B-L.

We spotted the Liquigas boys right in downtown Stavelot…just the first of many pro teams we’d see on the course today.

You leave Stavelot via another big-time climb. The Cote de la Haute-Levee is not as steep as the Stockeu, but it’s a whole lot longer…3.9km, at an average grade of 6% (with a few kicks up higher).

Near the top of the Haute-Levee, the guys from Bouygues Telecom went flying by me. And just think…this is their “easy” day. Pffft!

The Haute-Levee flattens out at the top, then another bad-road-banzai descent into the town of Gleize. Back up the hill…again… from there, on the 3.9km Cote du Rosier. The cue sheet that Pete prepared for us says this climb is tougher than the last one, but it seemed a bit easier. Maybe because the dense Ardennes forest shielded us a bit from the upper-80-degree sun.

Deep into the forest, zooming up the Rosier, the guys from Cofidis are out for a pre-race look at the circuit. I gotta tell ya… even riding a few meters with these big-time pros is a real kick.

I catch-up with Marcel near the bottom of the Cote de la Vecquee, and he helps drag my butt up the 3.2km, 6.2% average grade climb. At the top, I stop to catch my breath and all of a sudden I hear something that sounds like a damn diesel train! Nope…it’s not the California Zephyr…it’s the entire CSC team powering down the hill, with Bjarne Riis at the wheel of the team car behind ‘em.

And who’s right there in the middle of the CSC pack? Yup…Velo Classic’s Pete Easton has hooked up with the big boys, and he stays with ‘em for km after km, all the way into Remouchamps.

We regroup after about 40 miles, and head toward our lunch break at Stoumont. We’re following the river along a nice stretch of rollers, and up ahead, I see a guy in the Maglia Rosa of the Giro d’Itala. Hmmm…I wonder…could it be Basso?

Nope…this guy is no Basso. But he’s thrilled to hook onto the end of the train that Marcel Wust is pulling.

At lunch, about 20km outside of Stavelot, we trade stories of who we’ve seen on the course today. Lisa Easton, Pete’s better half, has chatted-up the CSC and Caisse D’Epargne guys. We’ve also seen Milram, Astana, Credit Agricole, AG2R, Agritubel, T-Mobile and Euskatel, but Pete has the best experience of the day. He was headin’ up the Vecquee, trying to stay with Paolo Bettini and the QuickStep team, but he was startin’ to fade. The next thing you know, the team car comes up along side, and Pete reaches out to grab the car’s door handle, for a bit of a tow up the hill. Near the crest, he slingshots off and beats Bettini and the boys to the top.

Now, that’s a story.

Here’s Pete’s view of Paolo from the climb up the Cote de la Vecquee. How cool is this?

We’ve seen the toughest parts of Sunday’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege race, and PEZ has taken you up the hardest climbs. We’re staying on the L-B-L course in the town of Stavelot, so stay tuned for our roadside look at this finale to the Spring Classics, as Velo Classic Tours lead us to the best viewage of this Sunday.

** See Liege-Bastogne-Liege live in North America on Cycling.TV **

PEZCYCLING is traveling with Velo Classic Tours through the Ardennes Classics – and you should too.

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