On a day when the weather Gods threw everything but the kitchen sink at the peloton, it was Sky’s Woet Poels who raised his weary arms aloft for a FINE victory at Liege-Bastogne-Liege. The Dutchman followed the winning move on the cobbled Cote de Naniot that saw four riders break clear, and had enough strength to hold off Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE) in the last metres. A battling Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) claimed third place. Who would have guessed at the beginning of the year that Wout Poels would take Team Sky’s first Monument win? #Chapeau
Man of the Race
I refuse to single out just one rider. The four in the sprint for the line, the three that made the podium, any who took the start – all deserve the plaudits along with white fluffy towels, hot water bottles and a bidon of hot tea STAT. Instead I am going with the man who absolutely made the race for me – step forward Sean Kelly from Eurosport!Embed from Getty Images
It’s fair to say I struggle to appreciate the Ardennes races. I knew I’d need a ‘little extra’ to help me through La Doyenne, and today Sean was really on form. Whether he was giving us ALL the facts on rain jackets #JustGetRidOfThem, or cocking a snook at the appalling weather with the classic ‘a bit of a blizzard’, his dry comments helped the time whizz by.
Here’s another Kelly classic – the fact it was followed by a little chuckle was just perfect.
That mixture of wryness and knowledge of his subject is the genius of Sean Kelly in the commentary box: I hope he’s on board for the Giro.
The breakaway. You know you’re in for something a little different when the breakaway features strong riders as opposed to wild cards with an aim at TV time. I want to pay particular respect to Monsieur Jeremy Roy. Not only did the FDJ stalwart make the break of the day in support of his team leader, he battled away on his own up La Redoute when the break split up, and then carried right on fighting all the way to the finish line as last man home. I hope Marc Madiot’s team had La Marseillaise playing at full volume as he rode over the line.
Something new. La Doyenne may be oldest of the five Monuments, but she is not afraid to shake it up a little. The addition of the new cobbled climb of Rue Naniot certainly made the difference today, providing the platform for the strong surge by Albasini that led to the winning move. Yes the riders were already on the limit by the time they reached here, wearied by the toll of distance and weather. Perhaps this caused a sharper selection then it might have done in better weather, but I think it’s an experiment worth trying again.
Movistar to the fore. With Alejandro Valverde one the big favourites for the win, and Tinkoff and Astana with riders in the break, the Movistarlets spent much of the of the 248km at the front of the peloton. Rory Sutherland was immense and so modest as usual.
It was also a pleasure to see Carlos Betancur racing like he means it again. So often the butt of the jokes last year, today Bananito went into attack mode in the latter stages of the race – zinging off the front like a little blue power ball. All this AND eschewing the use of leggings. I’m awarding him the honorary title of ‘Heinrich Haussler of the Ardennes’.
1 Wout Poels (Sky) 6:24:29
2 Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE) same time
3 Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) s/t
4 Samuel Sanchez (BMC) +0:04
5 Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) +0:09
6 Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin)+0:11
7 Roman Kreuziger(Tinkoff) +0:12
8 Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) same time
9 Bauke Mollema (Trek-SegaFredo) s/t
10 Diego Rosa (Astana) s/t
For full race review, go to Cycling News
Featured Image: Race website