Safety on the Liège Bastogne Liège Challenge Route?

by Chikashi

I went for a little recce of the LBL Challenge route yesterday and rode the short (80km) version that was used last year. Even though I plan to ride the medium (160 km) version this year, the route getting out of and back into Liège are the same for all 3 versions. I understand the appeal of trying to replicate, as much as possible, the route that the pros will be riding the following day, but the roads will be closed for them whilst they won’t be for us hobbyists. After yesterday’s little jaunt, I wonder whether it is all that appealing.

Liège, like Roubaix, is hardly one of the cities where one can be overcome with a desire to settle permanently. However, unlike Roubaix, Liège and surrounding areas are densely populated and serviced by a network of very busy roads. So far, nothing that would provoke some thoughts. The problem is that enough of the route getting in and out of Liège is on N-roads, without cycle lanes, with cars, lorries and buses whizzing by, just a couple of feet away from one’s left shoulder, at 70+ km/h, that is, speed limit plus alpha, including some flyovers that definitely look inappropriate for cyclists. Furthermore, this is not confined to central Liège but can also be seen in the adjacent towns. On the way back in, participants will be riding through the high street in Ans. The road is not exactly wide, with plenty of Saturday traffic. It is a straight stretch that tempts motorists to exceed the speed limit. Tellingly, there is a speed camera installed. 

The last time I felt this uneasy riding a bike was when I rode from North London to Peterborough on too many dual carriageways 3 years ago.

Of course, once outside the metropolitan area, the route is fantastic. The ham sandwich tasted divine atop the Côte de la Redoute in the sun. Emptying out my bladder whilst looking down on the climb wasn’t half bad either.

I am starting to wonder whether it would be better to forego LBL and wait to enter the Tilff Bastogne Tilff Challenge in June. After all, I want to have a bit of fun, not stress.