Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) added another major line to an already impressive palmares as he captured Australia’s first ever victory in 100 editions of Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Doing so both wearing the Australian national champion’s jersey and in the much-coveted centenary edition of La Doyenne only made his success even more impressive.
“It’s absolutely incredible, it was very tough at the end of the race, but thanks to the team I got through,” the 33-year-old - already with wins in all three Grand Tours, Milan-San Remo, three editions of the Tour Down Under and a string of other top races to his name - said afterwards.
“I was pretty confident I would have a chance of doing well in a small bunch sprint, but after 260 kilometres everything is possible, and particularly after such a hard finish and tough final climb like that.”
In a race where it seemed that none of the top riders could really establish any kind of solid advantage on the rest, the stalemate and the likelihood of a final sprint meant the race scenario was playing out increasingly in favour of Gerrans: as he put it, “the situation unfolded perfectly.”
“I’ve always thought Amstel Gold” - in which he has three times finished third, including last week - “was a much better race for me. Here for me to win it was a question of everything going exactly right. I always said I needed a perfect day for that to happen and that’s what happened today.”
“I’ve had some very beautiful wins in my career, but Liège-Bastogne-Liège is very special to me. I’ve competed in it for almost every year of my career, so to finally get the win is extremely rewarding.”
Following Amstel, Gerrans skipped Flèche Wallonne to ensure he was in top shape for Liège-Bastogne-Liège - “I was really happy to arrive here a little fresher” he said - but even he had a bad moment or two on a day when fatigue hit the favourites hard across the board.
“With 30 kilometres to go, coming in the Cote des Forges I didn’t have good legs and I told the team so, but they stuck by me and that gave me the extra confidence I needed to be able to go for the win.”
He was able to avoid Dan Martin’s late crash, which allowed him to stay in contention. “He was obviously very unlucky for him to go down like that so close to the finish, particularly as he’s the defending champion. Fortunately it neither hindered nor benefited me, I came through on the inside and made it through.”
With Liège celebrating its 100th edition, Gerrans says he is very aware that he has not won an 'ordinary' Doyenne. “To win any Liège-Bastogne-Liège is very special, but the fact it’s the 100th edition really puts my name in the history of the race, it’s a real honour. Our team got some fantastic results in 100th edition of Tour last year, and now to do that again - maybe that’s a good omen.”
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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