Valverde wins Liège-Bastogne-Liège

Spaniard beats Alaphilippe and Rodriguez in Ans

In the end, Liège-Bastogne-Liège followed the anticipated script. A succession of teams tried and failed to rid themselves of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and the Spaniard duly claimed the uphill sprint in Ans to take his third victory at La Doyenne, seeing off Julian Alaphillipe (Etixx-QuickStep) and Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha).

Valverde's first triumph came in 2006, the year of the Operacion Puerto blood doping scandal, and the second came in 2008, the year his DNA was matched to the blood bags found in Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes' possession in Madrid.

The Spaniard eventually served a two-year ban after a protracted case that went all the way to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but he returned seemingly missing without a beat in 2012. Valverde turned 35 on Saturday and, somehow, he has just enjoyed the best Ardennes week of his career, placing second at Amstel Gold Race last weekend before claiming his third Flèche Wallonne win on Wednesday.

On Sunday, Valverde gave the impression that he was always in control of his brief in the finale, even setting the tempo on the front on the Côte de Saint-Nicolas in a bid to dissuade late attacks, and while Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep) were distanced over the top, he remained safely part of the leading group of ten on the approach to the finish in Ans.

Katusha were the final team to try to break Valverde's resolve. Dani Moreno punched clear of the leading group underneath the red kite and looked to have opened a winning gap, only for Valverde to steal across with 500 metres remaining. Rodriguez was planted on his rear wheel, and the rest of the group scrambled across soon afterwards.

But even though Valverde led out from distance, the result was never in doubt, as he claimed the win with more than a bike length to spare over the youngster Alaphilippe, who had also placed second on the Mur de Huy in midweek.

"This is incredible for me," Valverde said. "There was a difficult moment when I saw Moreno go away, but I decided to get across to him. I had to try and get him, even if it was a risk and I risked losing energy for the final."

Alaphilippe's sprint was lengthened somewhat by having to come around a slowing Rodriguez, but in truth he was never likely to catch Valverde, who, as at Flèche Wallonne, seemed to have an extra gear. In the rain-soaked finale, Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) took fourth place, while Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo), an attacker on the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons claimed fifth ahead of Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale).

The finale of the race was marred by a large crash ahead of the Côte de La Redoute that ended the hopes of the past two winners, Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) and Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin), and ultimately forced a greater reduction of the main peloton than any climb other than the final categorised ascent of the Côte de Saint-Nicolas. In keeping with recent history at La Doyenne, the selection came from the back rather than the front for the most part, and with nobody able to make the difference in the closing kilometres, a group finish was inevitable – and so too, perhaps, was Valverde's win.

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) wins in Ans

How it unfolded

A brisk start to proceedings meant that it took almost an hour of racing for the day's early break to take shape, with Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) eventually beating a way clear with Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Otto Vergaerde (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Clement Chevrier (IAM Cycling), Marco Minnaard (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Anthony Turgis (Cofidis), Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Argon 18) and Rasmus Quaade (Cult) after 40 kilometres.

They built up a lead of seven minutes at one point only for Europcar's unexpected show of force on the front to bring their margin under control ahead of the troika of the Côte de Wanne, Côte de Stockeu and Côte de la Haute-Levée with 80 kilometres remaining, by which point a determined delegation from Astana had taken up the reins.

Their aim was to dictate the terms and conditions of the break that would form ahead of the race's denouement and they duly succeeded. After Andriy Grivko laid the groundwork on the Stockeu, Tanel Kangert and Michele Scarponi found themselves off the front after the Haut-Leveé in the company of Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge), Manuele Boaro (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Julian Arredondo (Trek Factory Racing).

By the Rosier, Arredondo and Boaro had been dropped, but with Chaves persuaded to contribute to the pace-setting, the three leaders padded their advantage out to almost a minute on the Maquisard with a shade under 50 kilometres remaining, before Movistar and Etixx-QuickStep began to inject some life into the pursuit.

The pace ratcheted up still further following the large crash on the approach to the Côte de la Redoute that eliminated Martin, Gerrans (the Australian would crash again while chasing back on), Nicolas Roche (Sky), Matthias Fränk (IAM Cycling) and Fränk Schleck (Trek) from contention, and the peloton was reduced to just 40 riders or so by the base of the climb.

Up front, Kangert was forced to relent on La Redoute, and his absence – allied to the increase in intensity behind – saw Scarponi and Chaves swept up at the base of the Roche-aux-Fauçons with a little over 22 kilometres remaining. It was stalemate most of the way up the climb, as Nibali, Kwiatkowski and Bardet all sized one another up, before Kreuziger punched his way clear within sight of the summit.

Kreuziger, who is still racing pending a Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing on his biological passport case, was joined by Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) on the way down the other side, and the trio built up a lead of 25 seconds as Movistar and Etixx dithered behind. As leaden drops of rain began to fall, Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep) took up the reins, and his forcing brought the peloton back to within sight of the leaders at the base of the Côte de Saint-Nicolas.

Valverde looked to control the pace on the early slopes before Nibali's much-anticipated attack finally arrived as the gradient stiffened but although he pegged back the three leaders, he couldn't forge clear alone. His attack did, however, put paid to the hopes of Kwiatkowski and Philippe Gilbert (BMC) among others, and when Dani Moreno took over near the summit, it ultimately led to the winning selection being formed.

Romain Bardet took a flyer on the treacherous descent but he was unable to force his way clear, although his move did distance Nibali himself and reduced the leading group to just ten riders on the approach to Ans.

As the gradient pitched upwards, Dani Moreno scorched off the front and as all eyes turned to Valverde to chase, it briefly looked as though he might benefit from the impasse behind to claim the win. On this occasion, however, Valverde's thinking was clear, and he bounded up to his wheel on the approach to the final left-hand bend.

"I started as the big favourite, and I knew all the world watching me, but I knew that I could do something all the same," Valverde said. "It's been an amazing week."

Alaphilippe, Valverde and Rodriguez on the podium


Full Results

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team6:14:20 
2Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx - Quick-Step  
3Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha  
4Rui Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida  
5Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff-Saxo  
6Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
7Sergio Luis Henao (Col) Team Sky  
8Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale  
9Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team  
10Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Team Katusha  
11Louis Meintjes (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka0:00:10 
12Lars Petter Nordhaug (Nor) Team Sky  
13Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team0:00:24 
14Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica GreenEdge  
15Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Team Katusha  
16Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
17Julien Simon (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:00:32 
18Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Tinkoff-Saxo0:00:44 
19Vasil Kiryienka (Blr) Team Sky0:00:52 
20Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal0:00:58 
21Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Etixx - Quick-Step  
22Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:01:04 
23José Mendes (Por) Bora-Argon 18  
24Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) IAM Cycling0:01:06 
25Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin  
26Stephen Cummings (GBr) MTN - Qhubeka  
27Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar  
28Rudy Molard (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
29Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing Team  
30Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Astana Pro Team  
31Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC Racing Team0:01:10 
32Davide Formolo (Ita) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team  
33Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo  
34Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Alpecin  
35Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek Factory Racing0:01:30 
36Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team0:01:41 
37Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo  
38Kanstantsin Siutsou (Blr) Team Sky0:02:03 
39Simon Yates (GBr) Orica GreenEdge0:02:41 
40Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Movistar Team0:02:49 
41Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana Pro Team0:04:37 
42Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx - Quick-Step0:04:44 
43Jarlinson Pantano (Col) IAM Cycling0:05:02 
44Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team0:05:31 
45Huub Duyn (Ned) Team Roompot0:06:05 
46Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team  
47Georg Preidler (Aut) Team Giant-Alpecin  
48Dominik Nerz (Ger) Bora-Argon 18  
49Maurits Lammertink (Ned) Team Roompot  
50Tiago Machado (Por) Team Katusha  
51Merhawi Kudus Ghebremedhin (Eri) MTN - Qhubeka  
52Mikael Cherel (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
53Björn Leukemans (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
54Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Argon 18  
55Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek Factory Racing  
56Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica GreenEdge  
57Jan Bakelants (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale  
58Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana Pro Team  
59Anthony Roux (Fra)  
60Simon Clarke (Aus) Orica GreenEdge  
61Jacques Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka  
62Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo0:06:22 
63Simon Geschke (Ger) Team Giant-Alpecin0:08:09 
64Matteo Bono (Ita) Lampre-Merida0:08:18 
65Rafael Valls Ferri (Spa) Lampre-Merida  
66Alberto Losada Alguacil (Spa) Team Katusha  
67Rein Taaramae (Est) Astana Pro Team  
68Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica GreenEdge  
69Carlos Betancur (Col) AG2R La Mondiale  
70José Herrada (Spa) Movistar Team0:09:22 
71Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Movistar Team  
72Preben Van Hecke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise0:09:32 
73Petr Vakoc (Cze) Etixx - Quick-Step  
74Jan Polanc (Slo) Lampre-Merida  
75Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar Team  
76Matteo Montaguti (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale  
77Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale  
78Laurent Pichon (Fra)  
79Joseph Rosskopf (USA) BMC Racing Team  
80Chris Anker Sörensen (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo  
81Luis Angel Mate (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
82Bob Jungels (Lux) Trek Factory Racing  
83Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team  
84Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar  
85Stéphane Rossetto (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:10:16 
86Mike Terpstra (Ned) Team Roompot  
87Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Argon 18  
88Rasmus Guldhammer (Den) Cult Energy Pro Cycling  
89Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Team Roompot  
90Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team0:11:28 
91Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) FDJ.fr0:11:39 
92Jérôme Baugnies (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert0:12:02 
93Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:13:04 
94Sergey Lagutin (Rus) Team Katusha0:15:04 
95Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre-Merida0:16:43 
96Paul Martens (Ger) Team LottoNL-Jumbo  
97Sander Armee (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
98Bjorn Thurau (Ger) Bora-Argon 18  
99Maxime Mederel (Fra) Team Europcar  
100Alex Howes (USA) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team  
DNFSimon Gerrans (Aus) Orica GreenEdge  
DNFLuke Durbridge (Aus) Orica GreenEdge  
DNFDaryl Impey (RSA) Orica GreenEdge  
DNFImanol Erviti (Spa) Movistar Team  
DNFRory Sutherland (Aus) Movistar Team  
DNFMaxime Bouet (Fra) Etixx - Quick-Step  
DNFGianluca Brambilla (Ita) Etixx - Quick-Step  
DNFMichal Golas (Pol) Etixx - Quick-Step  
DNFJulien Vermote (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step  
DNFAlessandro Vanotti (Ita) Astana Pro Team  
DNFDaniel Martin (Irl) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team  
DNFNathan Haas (Aus) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team  
DNFBenjamin King (USA) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team  
DNFSebastian Langeveld (Ned) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team  
DNFMatej Mohoric (Slo) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team  
DNFBen Hermans (Bel) BMC Racing Team  
DNFKlaas Lodewyck (Bel) BMC Racing Team  
DNFTejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team  
DNFDmitrii Kozonchuk (Rus) Team Katusha  
DNFMaxim Belkov (Rus) Team Katusha  
DNFSébastien Minard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFManuele Boaro (Ita) Tinkoff-Saxo  
DNFBruno Pires (Por) Tinkoff-Saxo  
DNFPawel Poljanski (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo  
DNFMichael Valgren Andersen (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo  
DNFValerio Conti (Ita) Lampre-Merida  
DNFJose Rodolfo Serpa (Col) Lampre-Merida  
DNFDiego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida  
DNFBart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
DNFTosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
DNFDennis Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
DNFLouis Vervaeke (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
DNFNicolas Roche (Irl) Team Sky  
DNFPhilip Deignan (Irl) Team Sky  
DNFNathan Earle (Aus) Team Sky  
DNFDanny Pate (USA) Team Sky  
DNFJulian Arredondo (Col) Trek Factory Racing  
DNFFumiyuki Beppu (Jpn) Trek Factory Racing  
DNFLaurent Didier (Lux) Trek Factory Racing  
DNFFrank Schleck (Lux) Trek Factory Racing  
DNFCalvin Watson (Aus) Trek Factory Racing  
DNFYukiya Arashiro (Jpn) Team Europcar  
DNFFabrice Jeandesboz (Fra) Team Europcar  
DNFBryan Naulleau (Fra) Team Europcar  
DNFPerrig Quemeneur (Fra) Team Europcar  
DNFAngelo Tulik (Fra) Team Europcar  
DNFBertjan Lindeman (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo  
DNFBram Tankink (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo  
DNFMike Teunissen (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo  
DNFJos Van Emden (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo  
DNFMoreno Hofland (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo  
DNFLawson Craddock (USA) Team Giant-Alpecin  
DNFCaleb Fairly (USA) Team Giant-Alpecin  
DNFJohannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Giant-Alpecin  
DNFThierry Hupond (Fra) Team Giant-Alpecin  
DNFFloris De Tier (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
DNFTim Declercq (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
DNFSander Helven (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
DNFThomas Sprengers (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
DNFPieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
DNFArthur Van Overberghe (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
DNFOtto Vergaerde (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
DNFMathias Frank (Swi) IAM Cycling  
DNFClement Chevrier (Fra) IAM Cycling  
DNFPirmin Lang (Swi) IAM Cycling  
DNFPatrick Schelling (Swi) IAM Cycling  
DNFDavid Tanner (Aus) IAM Cycling  
DNFLarry Warbasse (USA) IAM Cycling  
DNFArthur Vichot (Fra)  
DNFOlivier Le Gac (Fra)  
DNFKévin Reza (Fra)  
DNFBenoît Vaugrenard (Fra)  
DNFJussi Veikkanen (Fin)  
DNFSimone Antonini (Ita) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
DNFFrancis De Greef (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
DNFTim De Troyer (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
DNFYannick Eijssen (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
DNFMarco Minnaard (Ned) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
DNFMatthew Brammeier (Irl) MTN - Qhubeka  
DNFAndreas Stauff (Ger) MTN - Qhubeka  
DNFDaniel Teklehaimanot (Eri) MTN - Qhubeka  
DNFJohann Van Zyl (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka  
DNFYohan Bagot (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
DNFNicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
DNFRomain Hardy (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
DNFAnthony Turgis (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
DNFCesare Benedetti (Ita) Bora-Argon 18  
DNFBartosz Huzarski (Pol) Bora-Argon 18  
DNFPaul Voss (Ger) Bora-Argon 18  
DNFMarc De Maar (Ned) Team Roompot  
DNFReinier Honig (Ned) Team Roompot  
DNFSjoerd Van Ginneken (Ned) Team Roompot  
DNFJesper Asselman (Ned) Team Roompot  
DNFAlex Kirsch (Lux) Cult Energy Pro Cycling  
DNFRomain Lemarchand (Fra) Cult Energy Pro Cycling  
DNFChristian Mager (Ger) Cult Energy Pro Cycling  
DNFMartin Mortensen (Den) Cult Energy Pro Cycling  
DNFMichael Reihs (Den) Cult Energy Pro Cycling  
DNFFabian Wegmann (Ger) Cult Energy Pro Cycling  
DNFRasmus Christian Quaade (Den) Cult Energy Pro Cycling  


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