By Barry Boyce,


Top 20 All Time Major Classics #5

Liege-Bastogne-Liege 1980: Hinault, Snow, and Pain

CR Timeline 1980 x Top 20 Classics Countdown

“La Doyenne” (the Old Lady), Liege-Bastogne-Liege is the oldest surviving classic (first run in 1892) and carries with it the history and prestige of the five great cycling monuments. Every year Liege-Bastogne-Liege is a transition from the cobbled climbs of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix to the longer hills of the Belgian Ardennes.

174 riders came to Liege on April 20, 1980 for the 66 th edition of La Doyenne. The riders arrived at the start line in a raging snow storm. Many in the media called it the worst Ardennes weather in the history of L-B-L. After one hour of racing more than half of the 174 starters had abandoned the race. It was merely survival for the remaining riders as the race passed through Bastogne and turned back towards Liege .

Image ©:

Two riders, Rudy Pevenage (Ger) and Ludo Peeters (Bel), broke away from the frigid and shattering peloton and gained a 2'15” lead over the famed Stockeu climb. Always a front runner, Bernard Hinault (Fra) began to increase the pace on the Stockeu and broke clear with Silvano Contini (Ita) and Henk Lubberding (Bel). After a 20 km chase the Hinault group caught the leaders on the Haute Levee climb. With 80 snow covered kilometers on the road to Liege, Hinault rode straight through the leaders to plough a lonely path to the finish.

Bernard Hinault increasing the pace (from Archive)

The biting cold and pelting snow increased the pain of the difficult terrain on the roads back to Liege. Hinault's exposed face was stinging from the snow as he steadily increased his advantage on the peloton. The frozen Frenchman dismissed thoughts of abandoning while in the lead. Driven by immense pride and a potentially colossal moment in cycling history, Hinault ignored the pain and flew towards Liege .

His Renault-Gitane teammates, long since abandoned, welcomed a near frostbitten Hinault from the warm confines of a Hotel along the finish straight in Liege. Across the finish line Bernard Hinault claimed his second Liege-Bastogne-Liege victory, a devastating 9'24” ahead of second placed Hennie Kuiper (Ned).

True champions have an innate ability to suffer during a race. On April 20, 1980 Bernard Hinault suffered above and beyond normal limits to claim one of the greatest classics victories of ALL TIMES!


L-B-L April 20, 1980
244 Km Liege-Bastogne-Liege

1. Bernard HINAULT (Fra) 7h01'42"

2. Hennie Kupier (Ned) +9'24"

3. Ronnie Claes (Bel)

Starters: 174
Finishers: 21
Average Speed: 34.720 km/h


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