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Tadej Pogacar turns Flèche Wallonne nightmare into Liège-Bastogne-Liège dream

Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) celebrates his Liège-Bastogne-Liège win
Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) celebrates his Liège-Bastogne-Liège win (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) turned the frustration of missing La Flèche Wallonne into success at Liège-Bastogne-Liège by edging out world champion Julian Alaphilippe to win his maiden Monument.

The Tour de France winner was part of a winning move that included Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), and Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quickstep) that broke away with just under 13km to go on the final climb of the La Roche-aux-Faucons. 

The group were almost caught on the false flat but managed to build on a slender lead before establishing a 30-second advantage inside the final kilometres.

Valverde, seeking his fifth win in the race that would have equaled Eddy Merckx's record, opened the sprint first before Alaphilippe came charging through. It looked as though the Frenchman would take the win but Pogacar timed his sprint to perfection to edge out the world champion and seal a memorable win.

“I’m without words. I love this race and to win here against those names is incredible. In the sprint I knew that Alaphilippe was going longer and I stayed behind him. I was just lucky in the end it was a good wind for me because I was coming from behind and could come with speed. It's unbelievable. I’m living my cycling dream,” Pogacar said at the finish.

The win came after Pogacar and his team were forced to miss La Flèche Wallonne after two of their staff tested positive for COVID-19. That meant that defending champion Marc Hirschi was forced to miss the race but on Sunday the team rode an astute race with Hirschi and Davide Formolo helping to ensure Pogacar was in the winning move.

“We were really disappointed not to start Flèche because we had really strong riders for that race and last year’s winner Marc. It would have been great for us but we were really motivated for today and we’re really happy that today went like this,” Pogacar said.

“Next I rest, I take some time with family and then I’ll restart and prepare for the Tour de France.”