Despite buckets of rain around 7,600 cycling fans took part in the fifth edition of the Liège-Bastogne-Liège Challenge, held a day before the pro race. The one and only Eddy Merckx was present to support the participants.
The 2015 edition just fell short of breaking the attendance record, which is still impressive considering the averse weather conditions.
7,600 avid cyclists couldn't be discouraged by the rain as they gathered in the Halles des Foires in Liège for the start. At this new starting location the organisers built a starting village with plenty of space for partners.
SUPPORTED BY EDDY MERCKX
As announced before the race, Eddy Merckx dropped by in Liège. The five-time winner of La Doyenne, between 1969 and 1975, linked his name to the mountain classification, the Grand Prix de la Montagne. Split times of five climbs were recorded and available to all contestants through the app "My LBL Challenge". After firing the starter's gun, Eddy Merckx headed to the top of La Redoute to encourage the participants.
Cycling fans had the choice between three distances. The second-longest, over 156 kilometres, proved to be the most popular one with 4,100 cyclists. The short distance of 75 km was picked by 1,100 cyclists, while 2,400 die-hards went for the ultimate challenge: the entire 273 km distance.
Just like the pro race on Sunday, Saturday's event was an international affair. Belgians were in the majority with 33%, followed by the Netherlands (26%) and Britain (13%). Other countries attracted to the charms of the Ardennes included France, Germany and Italy, the other remaining countries in the top-six.
JUST LIKE THE PROS
Many foreign participants arrived on Friday in their motorhomes to pick up their starting numbers. They are in for a great cycling weekend, following up their own exploits on Saturday by attending the pro classic on Sunday.
At the finish line contestants were spoiled, as promised, with a well-deserved massage in the Skoda Comfort Zone. Through the app "My LBL Challenge" participants could retrieve personalised pictures, videos and split times on the climbs, so they could relive and analyse their performance. Just like the pros.