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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » 2005 Liege-Bastogne-Liege & Fleche Wallonne
2005 Liege-Bastogne-Liege & Fleche Wallonne
World Cycling Productions // Unrated // July 1, 2005 // Region 0
List Price: $39.95 [Buy now and save at Worldcycling]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted August 8, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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The movie

The 2005 Spring Classics of pro bicycle racing wrap up with Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, known as the "Ardennes Weekend" for the region of Belgium that the routes wind through, and the fact that in years past, the two races were on the same weekend. They have a few days in between them now, but the two races are still felt to be connected, with a prize given to the best combined finisher.

In the race calendar, Flèche Wallonne comes first, though oddly World Cycling Productions persists in packaging the set with Liège-Bastogne-Liège first. The races are really much more enjoyable when watched in order, so after you finish watching Paris-Roubaix, I recommend that you hop ahead to Fleche Wallonne and then return to Liège-Bastogne-Liège. That way you'll get all the excitement and won't have the results of Flèche Wallonne spoiled.

Flèche Wallonne used to be a relatively minor race (though still one that any rider would love to win, of course), ranked lower than the other Classics; now that it's an equal part of the Pro Tour, it may take on a greater stature. Liège-Bastogne-Liège, on the other hand, is one of the oldest and most prestigious of the Classics. The routes of both races include plenty of cobbled hills, including an absolute brute of a climb to the finish of Flèche Wallonne (at one point the gradient reaches 25%). Oddly, though, the peloton often stays together far more than it does on the flat Paris-Roubaix, or on the route of the Tour of Flanders, with the final attack often springing from the massed group relatively near the finish line. That means that, overall, the Ardennes Classics tend to be not as exciting as the earlier-season races. However, the way that any individual race shapes up depends on the riders, as we saw, for instance, in the brilliant Ghent-Wevelgem this season. Let's take a look at Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège for 2005.

Flèche Wallonne

Like the 2004 Flèche Wallonne, the 2005 edition is fairly dull, to be perfectly honest. Most of the race stays in a steady state: we have one major break, with the peloton chasing it down, slowly but surely. About halfway through, Phil Liggett even comments to the effect that the race is in the same situation as it was when they started commentating! In the case of a race like this, I think that the full two hours of race footage overdoes it. I'd have preferred a tightly edited hour or even 45-minute program instead; it's not like I need to have the DVD filled in order to feel like I have my money's worth! (Actually, the ideal would be to use DVD technology to give everyone exactly what they want: the full version, for those who want it, and the ability to skip ahead to the "good parts" as well.)

On a stronger note, though, Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen do a very nice job with the commentary. Even when there's not a whole lot going on, they always have interesting things to say about the riders and the race as a whole.

Flèche Wallonne is probably most interesting in its showcase of Jens Voigt from CSC, who is fast becoming one of my favorite riders by virtue of his willingness to attack and actually try daring things, instead of sitting safely in the bunch. After seeing him race in Flèche Wallonne, his performance in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, which you would logically want to watch after Flèche Wallonne, is even more impressive.

Liege-Bastogne-Liege

Liège-Bastogne-Liège is definitely the stronger of the two races in terms of excitement for the viewer, as well as prestige for the winner. The 2005 course is different from other years, with added difficulty in the form of two additional climbs, making a total of twelve hills for the riders to deal with, particularly in the last section of the course. The pre-race buzz is all about whether Liquigas' star rider Danilo di Luca will be able to "do the triple" by winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège in addition to Amstel Gold and Flèche Wallonne.

Liège-Bastogne-Liège turns out to be a reasonably entertaining, if not great, race. The first half of the two-hour coverage is actually more interesting than the second half. Early on, we get a lot of intense attacking action, with breaks forming and re-forming. The final important break eventually forms relatively far from the finish line, which would normally make for a good chase, except that the peloton never really gets its act together to do any meaningful counter-moves. The breakaway is an interesting one, though, including at various times Steffen Wesemann, Alexandre Vinokourov, Jens Voigt (especially impressive after his performance in Flèche Wallonne), Cadel Evans, Alejandro Valverde, and Michael Boogerd, among others. When the finish line gets closer, the race does get more interesting, and the finish is certainly impressive.

The commentary from Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen is excellent as always; in particular, Paul is in fine form (listen for his spontaneous impression of a rider speaking in a German accent!). Unfortunately, we're stuck with Bob Roll here as well, and he is given a lamentable amount of air time. (I wistfully hoped for an alternate audio track with Roll's commentary replaced by silence. No such luck.) Roll always sounds awkward, often simply repeating what Phil or Paul said immediately beforehand instead of having any useful insights, his eagerness is simply grating and false-sounding, and in general his attempts at commentary consistently sound like fragments of a monologue rather than a discussion of the race action. I've suffered through Roll's co-commentary on a number of races now, and it consistently detracts from the quality of the presentation overall.

The DVD

The 2005 Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Flèche Wallonne is a two-disc set, nicely packaged in a slim single-wide keepcase. The art is all nicely done, except for the fact that the cover of the DVD, and the disc art for Liège-Bastogne-Liège, gives away too much of the results.

Video

Overall, the image quality here is good, along the lines of WCP's other race DVDs. It's always tough to handle live television broadcasts, so there are some instances of picture break-up and interference, but there's nothing out of the ordinary. Liège-Bastogne-Liège in particular I thought had good colors and a generally very attractive appearance. Flèche Wallonne is perhaps a little more muted, but it's still good-looking overall.

Audio

The audio track for Flèche Wallonne is excellent, with Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen always sounding crisp, clear, and natural, while the "race ambiance" sound provides a pleasant overall background sound, as if you're there on the spot. Liège-Bastogne-Liège is good overall, also including the race background sound effectively. I did notice that Phil's commentary sometimes sounded a little bit muted on this track, but it never gets in the way, and overall it sounds good.

Extras

For special features, we get a display of WCP logo merchandise and other Classics DVDs. There's also a start list for each race printed on the inside of the DVD insert.

Menus are handled well; the menu art is, unfortunately, a give-away to who wins, but the chapter stops are well placed and well labeled, referring to specific climbs along the race route.

Final thoughts

Liège-Bastogne-Liège is a race that cycling fans will want to see for 2005; though it's still not one of my overall favorites among the Spring Classics, the 2005 race does deliver a package of racing excitement that's a big step up from 2004's edition. Flèche Wallonne is fairly dull this year, with an interesting finish tacked onto a relatively uneventful race. I'll give the set of these two races a mild "recommended": cycling fans will be interested in seeing how the 2005 spring season wrapped up. Recommended.

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