Inside Liège-Bastogne-Liège with Qhubeka-Assos

We spend the Liège weekend with the South African WorldTour team.

“It’s my dream job,” Qhubeka-Assos team assistant Valerie Vermeirsch said as we rolled out before the start of Liège-Bastogne-Liège towards the first feed zone of the day.

A former kindergarten teacher, Vermeirsch has only been working in the sport for a handful of years, but she loves the diversity of her job.

And while Liège-Bastogne-Liège may be one of the world’s most celebrated races, we saw a very different side of one of cycling’s monuments, as we spent this past weekend inside the Qhubeka-Assos team.

Team leaders like Fabio Aru or Sergio Henao may well be known to cycling fans around the world, but Qhubeka-Assos is made up of dozens of staff members like Valerie, who simply love what they are doing.

Liège-Bastogne-Liège is known as La Doyenne, or Dean of classics, as it is the oldest of the great one-day races. For the riders, Liège is nothing short of a daunting race. Nearly 260 kilometers long, it is feared in the peloton by its relentless repetition of climbs. And while the ride out to the turn-around point in Bastogne may be relatively relaxed, as they race back towards Liège tackling climbs like the Stokeu, Haut-Levée, La Redoute or Roche aux Faucons is simply brutal, as there is nowhere to hide for any rider having a bad day.

It is an exhausting day for the staff as well. The wake-up call comes early, with many staff members knowing they will not return home until well after midnight. Nevertheless, the mood was upbeat throughout the weekend.

With the sun shining on Saturday, team mechanics enjoyed preparing the team bikes while the riders did a relaxed coffee ride. Much of the staff had been living and working together for weeks throughout the classics campaign. And as for the riders, Liège was the final big objective before shifting their attention to stage races. But while the mood was light, it was clear that everyone remained focused on their own task at hand—that of preparing for one of the world’s biggest bike races.