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Weekend outlook: Storm’s brewing for Liege

Here's your quick-hit guide to this weekend's Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the final spring classic of 2016.

Soak it in while it lasts, folks — the spring classics end this Sunday with La Doyenne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The peloton faces 253 kilometers of relentlessly hilly roads in southwestern Belgium, and at this point, the weather forecast looks a bit iffy.

Andrew Hood’s got your full race preview, in which the most pressing question is: Can anyone beat Alejandro Valverde? The 2015 (and 2008 and 2006) champ stormed to victory in Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday, which is a great indicator of his form (for more on that, ProCyclingStats.com has an interesting analysis of Liège winners).

In addition to the sketchy weather, one wrinkle, which you may have noticed earlier this year, is a slight change in the race route. The famous Stockeu, a brutal 1.1km grind averaging 10.5 percent, is out. Rue Naniot, a sneaky little 550-meter climb is in, and merely 2.5km from the finish in Ans, Belgium, just outside Liège (let’s face it, Liège-Bastogne-Ans doesn’t sound right).

As an ASO-promoted event, Liège will air on NBC Sports Live Extra (online streaming) starting at 7:50 a.m. EDT. The real action often begins when the peloton reaches La Redoute, 36.5km from the finish at about 10 a.m. EDT. However, there should also be some fireworks over the Côte de Wanne/Côte de la Haute-Levée tandem, around 8:30 a.m EDT, if you’re so inclined.

But really, do people still care about the Ardennes classics? You must if you’ve read this far, but it’s an interesting question, which Andrew Hood ponders in his recent article comparing this week’s hilly one-days to their more popular cobbled brothers, such as the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.