There are no major alterations to the route for 2012. Starting in Liège, the course rolls south for 95 mild kilometers to the turn-around point at Bastogne, site of heavy fighting during World War II.
Breakaways inevitably form early, but rarely hold out for victory in Ans. Teams will be looking to have riders in a move, however, simply to force rivals to lead the chase.
The real fun begins on the loop back toward Liège, with things heating up on the Stockeau climb with about 80km to go. From there, ever-increasingly difficult climbs come in ever-frequent succession.
The Redoute was long Liège’s signature climb, but race organizers added the steep and narrow Roche aux Faucons to spice things up before the Saint-Nicholas, and it has quickly become the point of reference of the race. Andy Schleck used it to catapult to victory in 2009 and attacked there again to free his brother, Gilbert and himself in 2011.
The summit of the Saint-Nicolas lies 5.5km, much of it a long false flat, from the finish in Ans. It was here that Gilbert powered away from the Schlecks a year ago, just as Alexander Vinokourov did to Alexander Kolobnev in 2010 and Gilbert’s former mentor Dirk De Wolf did from a four-man breakaway in 1992. If Gilbert arrives with Rodríguez, Gerrans and/or Valverde to this final ramp, look for major fireworks from four somewhat-even favorites.