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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » 2006 Liege-Bastogne-Liege & Fleche Wallonne
2006 Liege-Bastogne-Liege & Fleche Wallonne
World Cycling Productions // Unrated // September 1, 2006 // Region 0
List Price: $39.95 [Buy now and save at Worldcycling]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted March 3, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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The movie

The Spring Classics season is always an exciting one in the professional bicycle racing calendar, with April in particular often showcasing the "best of the best." That's what we get in this double feature of Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Fleche Wallonne: two races and a lot of excitement.

The Belgian classics are often dominated by the big Belgian teams, who are eager to win on home turf. The Italians are also usually a force to be reckoned with, as they've produced many talented single-day racers. Spain, on the other hand, typically produces riders who excel in stage races, the multi-day or multi-week races like the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia, and Vuelta a España. (Think Miguel Indurain and Pedro Delgado.) The Spanish teams tend to keep their riders away from the Classics, making only a token effort and reserving their real attention for the week-long races within Spain. In the past few years, though, we've seen that pattern change, with the World Championship and other key races opening up to Spanish talent. Now, in Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Fleche Wallonne, we see the Spanish rider Alejandro Valverde burst into prominence like a thunderbolt. Not that his success will be a surprise to those who've been following the sport closely over the past few years. Valverde has proved himself to be a top star on the cycling scene... but the Belgian cobbles and nasty short climbs are a challenge all their own.

Though Liege-Bastogne-Liege is the first race in the DVD package, it makes sense to watch the Fleche Wallonne first, as it is chronologically earlier.

The 2006 Fleche Wallonne took place on April 19, just a few days after the Amstel Gold race. That race gave indications that Michael Boogerd might be a strong contender in the Fleche Wallonne, but he had a lot of competition: apart from Valverde, the Fleche Wallonne start list included Ivan Basso, Paulo Bettini, Damiano Cunego, and Danilo Di Luca, among many other stellar cyclists. The race itself turned out to be very exciting, with a lot of aggressive action. It's always great to see a race like this, featuring a lot of riders who all feel confident in their ability to win. On any given day, like this one, there are in fact many riders with a solid chance to see the victory: but in the end, it's the challenge of the course itself, with brutal climbs like the decisive Mur de Huy and the Cote de Ahin weeding out the strongest from the merely strong.

Liege-Bastogne-Liege took place just four days later, on April 23: barely enough time for the riders to shake the cramp out of their legs. Alejandro Valverde was clearly the main target for all the other teams, especially for Quick.Step's Paulo Bettini, who wanted to take a third Liege-Bastogne-Liege title. A major breakaway featuring most of the main teams shaped the race fairly early on. It was perhaps not quite as much of an attacking race as the Fleche Wallonne, but it was still very tense as riders attempted to break off from the front of this group and make their way clear; by the end, only the strongest were still hanging on. The final turned out to be a very interesting, tactical finish, with various riders trying to leap clear while others covered the breaks and waited for their perfect moment. This is the kind of finish that I think is the most exciting in cycle racing, more so than the over-too-soon thrill of a bunch sprint.

The two-hour coverage of Liege-Bastogne-Liege gets started in the race itself quite quickly, with no introductions or interviews. Fleche Wallonne runs only about an hour and 15 minutes, which is fine since the coverage picks up when the race starts to get really serious.

The DVD

This is a two-disc set; each race has its own DVD, with the two packaged in a single-wide keepcase.

Video

The image for Liege-Bastogne-Liege is presented in 1.33:1 format, and looks quite disappointing compared to other races this season. (Probably due to the quality of the broadcast footage, not the DVD transfer). The image is grainy, with colors looking harsh and usually too bright. The Fleche Wallonne, which is also in 1.33:1 format, looks similar, with very bright colors and some pixellation; it looks better in the grain department, with a cleaner overall picture.

Audio

Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Fleche Wallonne both offer a clean and clear soundtrack, with Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen's commentary sounding fine.

Extras

Start lists for the two races are printed on the reverse side of the DVD cover insert. There are no special features other than a promo for the DVDs of the other Spring Classics.

Final thoughts

This pair of races offers a solid package of entertainment for cycle racing fans, especially those who have been following the careers of the up-and-coming riders like Alejandro Valverde. I'll give this a strong "recommended" rating.

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