With former winner Philippe Gilbert out with a broken finger, Samuel Sanchez was had to step into the leadership role for BMC at Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Despite a recent victory at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, Sanchez was, at best, a dark horse.
However, he infiltrated the winning move after Michael Albasini went clear on the cobbled Côte de la Rue Naniot. With four in the move, there was always going to be one who would miss out on a spot on the podium. Sanchez already looked a little in trouble as he sat on the back of the group unable to take a turn on the front. As Albasini and Wout Poels duked it out for the victory, Sanchez pulled up and didn’t contest the sprint. He rolled across the line in fourth place, equalling his best finish from 2004.
“It’s a good result and it’s good UCI WorldTour points for the team. For me, the most important thing is the performance in the final. It’s a fight to win the race. When I arrived at the finish line, there was really nothing left. The race was a survival race. There were a lot of crashes in the final, a lot of rain, so it was really hard,” said Sanchez.
“For me and the team, and my teammates it’s a good result. The perfect result is the first three places but still. My form is impressive. I’m 38 years old and it’s my 13th Liège-Bastogne-Liège, so I’m happy.”
It was a challenging day out for all of the riders with snow battering the peloton for almost the duration of the six and a half hour race. The weather conditions forced the organisers to make a last-minute change to the route, missing out one of the early climbs where the worst of the snow was.
While many were a little more sheltered in the sanctuary of the peloton. Alessandro De Marchi had no such protection in the eight-man break, which went in the opening 15 kilometres. The break didn’t succeed and was caught with just over 20 kilometres to the finish but De Marchi did make it to the finish, 12 minutes behind the leader Poels.
“It was a super, super hard day. It was crazy really. I think conditions like that are too much. To be in a breakaway like that, with those conditions, for 200 kilometres, is just painful,” said De Marchi. “Towards the end I didn’t really have the legs but I’m happy to have made the breakaway with such strong riders and stay away for so long. Now it will be all about recovery.”