The women's Liège-Bastogne-Liège was decided on the final climb, the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons, starting 15 kilometres from the finish. It was Anna van der Breggen (Team SD Worx), world champion and winner of the race in 2017 and 2018, who split the race and delivered teammate Demi Vollering to victory.
Van der Breggen took to the front of the group of about 30 riders and set a hard pace, stifling any attempts to attack and dropping one rider after another.
Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team), Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo), and Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) and her teammate that remained with Van der Breggen at the top of the climb, and it was in support of Vollering that the world champion did all this work.
Vollering confirmed in the post-race interview that it had been the plan to try to drop mainly Marianne Vos (Team Jumbo-Visma) on this last climb before descending into Liège. Vos did return to the group briefly, but when the pace went up again on the short, unclassified climb after the Roche-aux-Faucons, she lost contact for good, eventually finishing 1:27 minutes behind in sixth place.
"We did a good race as a team. We were well-positioned, but I broke on the last climb. I came back but then I had to let them go. In terms of results, we had hoped for more. We did not make any mistakes as a team, so in the end, we can be satisfied," Vos said.
It was Van Vleuten's attack that doomed Vos' chances. The European champion had wanted to make her move earlier, but the wind direction made her hold back: "I wanted to try that one big attack to make the difference, but there was such a strong headwind at La Redoute," Van Vleuten explained.
"You could not open a gap without the others following you. If there was an attack, I had to be there, but I did not want to be the first to go. In the end, I tried it after the Roche-aux-Faucons, but it came back together, and with Van der Breggen pulling we knew it was going to be a sprint finish. After all the wear and tear, I wanted to launch my sprint to try and get a good result."
Van Vleuten was passed by Vollering in the sprint and finished second, just ahead of Longo Borghini who had always been near the front but made the choice not to attack in the final and instead put her faith in a sprint.
"It was clear from the beginning that SD Worx were going for Vollering. On the Roche-aux-Faucons, Van der Breggen put on a really hard pace that stopped everyone else from attacking. I expected Niewiadoma to try something and Van Vleuten went afterwards. At the beginning, we were three and then the other two joined us, so I thought my best option was to go for the sprint," the Italian champion said.
"So many times I tried to attack and it didn't work out, so Ina [Teutenberg, DS] told me to wait for the sprint and to go at the very last moment. I took Vollering's wheel but could not pass her. I am satisfied with my third place; I could not ask for more," Longo Borghini said.
With her third place, Longo Borghini also took back the lead in the UCI Women's WorldTour ranking at the end of the spring classics campaign: "It is always an honour to wear it, it shows that you are consistent in your results. I will surely try to defend it, but there are many races and the season will speak for itself."
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Lukas Knöfler started working in cycling communications in 2013 and has seen the inside of the scene from many angles. Having worked as press officer for teams and races and written for several online and print publications, he has been Cyclingnews’ Women’s WorldTour correspondent since 2018.
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