Daniel Martínez nearly gave Ineos Grenadiers another Classics podium at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but the Colombian was narrowly beaten to third place by Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) in a photo finish.
The race was won by Remco Evenepoel (Quickstep-AlphaVinyl), who soloed clear with 29km to go, while Quinten Hermans (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert) was a surprise winner of the sprint for second place, 48 seconds down.
Martínez's fourth place finish was all the more remarkable given that he was one of several riders on the Ineos Grenadiers team who took the start of La Doyenne while suffering from stomach problems. He had a mechanical problem at the critical moment in the race where Evenepoel made his winning move.
"It was really very hard," Martinez said. "This morning I woke up a little unwell, I did not feel very well physically and then during the stage I was a little sick to my stomach. The crashes, the stress, but in the end I think I felt very well. On the climbs I managed to hold off the attacks. But at the key moment of the race I dropped my chain, I was fixing it when Remco attacked."
His teammates also struggled during the race, with Tom Pidcock getting taken down in the mass crash with around 60km to go and Carlos Rodriguez and Omar Fraile not making it to the finish because of their illness.
"It was a hard attritional race," Geraint Thomas said. "Unfortunately we were on the back foot early with a few of the boys, especially Omar and Carlos a bit sick. I felt like my stomach was not 100 per cent."
Then, the crash disrupted the peloton with Pidcock having to burn energy to chase back on. Thomas missed the fallers and made the front group and Michal Kwiatkowski on Evenepoel's wheel at the critical moment but the Polish rider did not have the legs to follow.
"I saw Dani with his chain off so I waited for him, got him back in the front," Thomas explained. "Then I just tried to keep Dani in position for the last climb. Unfortunately, Remco had a good enough lead then and stayed away."
Ineos Grenadiers finished off their Classics campaign with one of the organisation's most successful outings, having won Paris-Roubaix with Dylan van Baarle, the Amstel Gold Race with Kwiatkowski, De Brabantse Pijl thanks to Magnus Sheffield. Martínez's fourth place in Liège was also his best Classics result to date.
"I think, all things considered, Dani fourth, almost got on the podium with a photo finish - we all pulled together under the circumstances," Thomas concluded.
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