On a day tinged with grief, Alejandro Valverde engaged full stealth mode to claim his fourth Liege-Bastogne-Liege title to add to the fifth Fleche Wallonne he claimed five days ago. With calculated coolness, the Spaniard timed his attack on the stinger of an uphill finish into Ans to perfection (again). Stalking down a mighty attack by Dan Martin who must be wondering when his time will EVER come again, Michal Kwiatkowski rounded out the podium. History was made as Olympic champion Anna van der Breggen claimed the first-ever LBL women’s race and made a clean sweep of this year’s Ardennes classics.
Rider of the RaceEmbed from Getty Images
Yes, with the route altered and the removal of the cobbled obstacle called the Cote de la Rue Naniot (which I loved by the way), it’s easy to say the race finish suited Alejandro Valverde. And it did, there’s no denying it. However, you also cannot deny the achievement of this perennial rider. He has won or finished on the podium in all bar three of the races he has started this year. He has racked up nine victories in the Ardennes Classics, second only to Eddy Merckx who stands on ten, and holds outright the most number of podium appearances. He shows no sign of stopping, indeed is set to ride with Movistar until 2019. Greatest Ardennes racer ever? I wouldn’t put it past him.Embed from Getty Images
This victory was different though, and at the finish he spoke through his tears…
This win is for Michele Scarponi. He was a good friend of mine. It hurts to think he’s gone, I’ll miss him. I’ll give all my prize money from this victory to his family.
I’m going to play fast and loose with the rider award now because I am certain Alejandro would want his teammates up alongside him. Shuffle up, Mr Valverde.
Movistar rode an immense race. It’s never easy having the favourite on your team, everyone has to up their game and stick to the plan. The fact I never saw Valverde until the time came for him to make his race-winning pounce in the final kilometre is tribute to their success. Rory Sutherland and Imanol Erviti rode kilometres on the front to keep the break manageable. Carlos Betancur (yes really!) hit the breaks and Daniel Moreno covered the late moves.
The tragic death of Michele Scarponi yesterday hung heavy over the race. I cannot imagine how it felt to try to turn your head away from grief and get ready to race. An emotional tribute took place at the race start as riders and fans paid their respects to a much loved man. The memory of the Astana team standing, heads bowed, tears falling, will stay with me for a while.
Jakob Fuglsang carried the Astana team colours into the finale to finish fifteenth. From their emotional team report
For Jakob, the main motivation was to finish the race for Michele, he was not thinking about himself. Of course, he wanted to do as good as he could. But the most important for him was to ride for 100% and to finish it for Michele. With Michele they discussed this race a few days before, and it was important for Jakob to live this day in the race.
Queen of the ArdennesEmbed from Getty Images
What a season Boels-Dolmans Anna van der Breggen is having. The Olympic Champion picked her moment to attack with 4km to go and soloed to take victory in the first-ever edition of the women’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Teammate Lizzie Deignan attacked out of an elite chase group along with WM3 Energie’s Katarzyna Niewiadoma and beat the Polish champion on the run in to claim second. Not only does this mark van der Breggan’s superb trio of Ardennes wins this year, it was also unique in that each race produced exactly the same podium. Of course, yet again we didn’t get to see the race live, but a great race report can be found on Cycling Tips Ella.
Pimp my Liege
Dan Wuori always keeps an eye on the lighthearted rituals.
And he didn’t let us down…
MenEmbed from Getty Images
1 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) 6:24:27
2 Dan Martin (Quick Step Floors) same time
3 Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) +0:03
4 Michael Matthews (Sunweb) same time
5 Ion Izaguirre (Bahrain-Merida) s/t
WomenEmbed from Getty Images
1 Anna van der Breggan (Boels-Dolmans) 3:42:77
2 Lizzie Deignan (Boels-Dolmans) +0.17
3 Katarzyna Niewiadoma (WM3 Energie) +0:19
4 Ellen van Dijk (Sunweb) +0:31
5 Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica-Scott) same time
Header image: La Doyenne Podium ©GETTY? Tim de Waele/Corbis