Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha) entered the final corner of the 263km Liège-Bastogne-Liège neck and neck with Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) only for the defending champion to slide out, while Caruso was overtaken on the final straight and was powerless as Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) sprinted past to claim the win. The Italian finished fourth after being just 100 metres from victory.
"This is an emotional day for me," said a disappointed Caruso after the fourth monument of 2014. Katusha entered the race with Joaquim Rodríguez under an injury cloud. He didn't finish the race and as Caruso explained, he was the the beneficiary of last year's runner-up pulling out.
"I think I'll experience this sadness for a very long time because chances are I won't find myself in such a position to win such a big race in the future," Caruso said. "I had good condition and when 'Purito' went out of the race, we were given the freedom to ride for ourselves and I was ready to do that."
"I've done everything in the past few weeks to have good condition. I've been away from my family now for almost a month and a half so I dedicate this ride to my children whom I haven't seen in such a long time."
"The cooperation from Pozzovivo was good at the end so I can't look to him for any excuses. I did my best. Normally I'm the guy who is working for Joaquim; it isn't often that I can be the leader. On one hand I'm happy that I showed what I can do, but on the other hand I missed a chance maybe of a lifetime."
For Rodriguez, it was a hard day in the saddle. Still suffering after his crashes last week, he decided with 65km to go that his race was over.
"I'm still having some trouble because of my crash in the Amstel Gold Race in that I experience some difficulties with my breathing. In cycling if you cannot breathe correctly, you cannot recover," Rodriguez said.
"It went well until we had three climbs in a row and it was impossible from that point. I'm not panicking before the Giro. I have confidence that I can rest my lungs for three or four days and then should feel better. Caruso really deserved the victory today. He did everything he had to do to win, but that's cycling."
For team director, José Azevedo, Katusha entered the race with a Plan A and a Plan B and almost pulled of a victory against the odds.
"We started this race with two plans, waiting until the Côte de Stockeu to see how Purito was feeling. If he was OK at that point we would race for him. If not, we would look to Dani and Giampaolo," Azevedo said.
"Caruso did very well on Saint-Nicolas. He was just 50 meters from winning a big classic. We just missed a little luck. The condition of the riders continues to be good. Most of these riders now go on to the Giro d'Italia."
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