Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) succeeded Slovenian compatriot Primoz Roglic as the winner of Liège-Bastogne-Liège when he outsprinted French duo Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) in a five-up sprint for the oldest title on the cycling calendar. Veteran Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) took fourth place with Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) fifth.
The five riders broke clear on the race’s final climb, La Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons, 13km from the finish, Woods forcing a split with a strong acceleration on its steepest section. After the Canadian pressed hard again on the false flat above La Roche-aux-Faucons, the small group gained a decisive gap on the chase behind and shared the workload into the final kilometre.
Coming into the last 500 metres, Valverde, the only previous winner of Liège, had been finessed to the front, with Woods on his wheel, then Gaudu, world champion Alaphilippe and Pogačar at the rear. The Spaniard led out from the front, but couldn’t respond when Alaphilippe and Pogačar came through on his right, the young Slovenian judging his effort perfectly as he came through on the Frenchman’s right-hand side to claim victory by a wheel.
“I really love this race so to win here against those names is incredible,” said Pogačar.
“I knew that Alaphilippe was looking strong so I decided to stay on his wheel and wait as long as I could. I had very good legs today and that enabled me to come through with real speed at the finish. I’m living the cycling dream at the moment.”
Asked if his victory was a kind of revenge for UAE who been unable to race Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday because of positive Covid tests, Pogačar replied: “We were really disappointed we couldn’t race there. We’ve got some really good riders, including Davide Formolo and Marc Hirschi, and it’s really good for the whole team that we’ve won this race. We were really motivated for the race today and once again I’m really happy with the work the team has done.
“Now I’m going to rest, spend some time with the family, then restart and prepare for the Tour de France,” added Pogačar, who became just the fourth reigning Tour de France champion to win Liège after Ferdi Kübler (1951), Eddy Merckx (1972 and 1975) and Bernard Hinault (1980).
How it unfolded
The break formed soon after race director Christian Prudhomme had waved the flag to signal the start of the action on the outskirts of Liège, with seven riders making the cut: Laurens Huys and Mathijs Paasschens (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB), Loïc Vliegen and Lorenzo Rota (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), Sergei Chernetski (Gazprom-Rusvelo), Tomasz Marczynski (Lotto Soudal) and Aaron Van Poucke (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise).
With a tailwind pushing them along swiftly, their advantage reached a maximum of 10:30 after just 40km of riding, at which point UAE, Deceuninck and Jumbo-Visma began to push the pace up on the front of the peloton.
Climbing the Côte de Wanne, with 90km remaining, the break’s lead had been trimmed to little more than five minutes, with the same three big teams very prominent at the front of the bunch. It was at this point that the harrying of the favourites’ teams began. Astana-PremierTech’s Luis León Sánchez was the first instigator, the Spanish champion attacking close to the top of the Wanne, followed by teammate Omar Fraile and Ineos Grenadiers’ Luke Rowe.
The move, which cut another 30 seconds from the break’s advantage, was soon closed down, but it triggered further offensives. On the Haute Levée, former winner Philippe Gilbert (Lotto Soudal) had a little dig, as his team and Astana continued their efforts to break up the peloton and make the race harder. Greg Van Avermaet (AG2R Citroën) was the next to move, on the false flat over the top of the Haute Levée, Jumbo neutralizing the Olympic champion’s acceleration.
These little raids continued on the subsequent climb of the Col du Rosier, Niklas Eg (Trek-Segafredo) stretching the peloton to begin with, then Cofidis’s Rémy Rochas adding to the pressure. Alaphilippe’s Deceuninck teammates marked the moves, but once more Lotto Soudal and Astana kept them busy with further thrusts. On the plateau beyond the Rosier, Mark Padun (Bahrain Victorious), Harm Vanhoucke (Lotto Soudal) and Mark Donovan (Team DSM) managed to get clear of the bunch, the trio quickly opening up a gap of more than a minute on the bunch while closing in on the seven escapees at the same time.
As the peloton tackled the next climb, the newly added Côte de Desnié, Rochas jumped off the front once again, Deceuninck’s Pieter Serry reeling him back in. Serry was then joined by a gaggle of his teammates at the front of the bunch including Alaphilippe as the climb of La Redoute approached.
The break reached La Redoute with its lead now less than a minute. Paasschens was the first rider to yield as his teammate Huys pushed up the pace on the front. When the peloton reached the foot of this key climb, Ineos Grenadiers were massed on the front of the line, with Tao Geoghegan Hart in the vanguard. The Giro d’Italia champion set a ferocious pace up La Redoute’s steep ramps, his sustained effort causing a split in the line, with just a dozen riders or so on his wheel.
Pogačar was there, but defending champion Primož Roglič and Alaphilippe weren’t. As the Ineos-led group swept up the three riders still in between the break and the peloton, Roglič did manage to scramble across to this group, while, in the Alaphilippe group behind, Deceuninck began a furious chase to close the gap, which they achieved after five minutes of furious pursuit.
Back at the front, Vliegen and Marczynski got back up to the two leaders, but the quartet’s advantage was now less than 30 seconds, and it evaporated on the penultimate climb of the Côte des Forges. Geoghegan Hart was once again the instigator, accelerating hard with teammate Adam Yates on his wheel. Yates kicked on, Pogačar again right where he needed to be, always keen to work and distance his major rivals.
Yet, the front group slowed, and as it did Ineos Grenadiers’ Richard Carapaz bolted away. The Ecuadorean opened up a gap of 20 seconds, descending from the Côte des Forges, briefly getting into the now-banned Mohoric position as he did so, which would result in his subsequent disqualification. Carapaz led by 21 seconds coming onto the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons, the chase group led by Deceuninck’s James Knox, with Alaphilippe right on his wheel.
The final hostilities began with a big acceleration by UAE’s Davide Formolo, which did for Carapaz. Then Woods delivered the first of his big attacks, Pogačar, Alaphilippe, Gaudu and Valverde the only four riders able to stay on the in-form Canadian’s wheel. The only question that now remained, was which of the five would take the title?
|1||Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates||06:39:26|
|2||Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep||Row 1 - Cell 2|
|3||David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ||Row 2 - Cell 2|
|4||Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 3 - Cell 2|
|5||Michael Woods (Can) Israel Start-up Nation||Row 4 - Cell 2|
|6||Marc Hirschi (Swi) UAE Team Emirates||00:00:07|
|7||Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Team DSM||00:00:07|
|8||Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo||00:00:07|
|9||Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe||00:00:09|
|10||Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain Victorious||00:00:09|
|11||Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Ineos Grenadiers||00:00:09|
|12||Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana-Premier Tech||00:00:09|
|13||Primoz Roglic (Slo) Jumbo-Visma||00:00:09|
|14||Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) Team BikeExchange||00:00:09|
|15||Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis||00:00:09|
|16||Davide Formolo (Ita) UAE Team Emirates||00:00:09|
|17||Jack Haig (Aus) Bahrain Victorious||00:00:12|
|18||Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers||00:00:37|
|19||Michael Matthews (Aus) Team BikeExchange||00:01:21|
|20||Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe||00:01:21|
|21||Alex Aranburu Deba (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech||00:01:21|
|22||Toms Skujins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo||00:01:21|
|23||Aurélien Paret Peintre (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team||00:01:21|
|24||Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal||00:01:21|
|25||Krists Neilands (Lat) Israel Start-up Nation||00:01:21|
|26||Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic||00:01:21|
|27||Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe||00:01:21|
|28||Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma||00:01:21|
|30||Omar Fraile Matarranz (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech||00:01:21|
|31||Sergio Higuita Garcia (Col) EF Education-Nippo||00:01:21|
|32||Simon Clarke (Aus) Team Qhubeka Assos||00:01:44|
|33||James Knox (GBr) Deceuninck-QuickStep||00:01:44|
|34||Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain Victorious||00:01:45|
|35||Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers||00:01:47|
|36||Quinten Hermans (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux||00:02:42|
|37||Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis||00:02:42|
|38||Mark Donovan (GBr) Team DSM||00:02:43|
|39||Alexander Kamp (Den) Trek-Segafredo||00:03:06|
|40||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team||00:03:06|
|41||Julien Simon (Fra) Total Direct Energie||00:03:06|
|42||Lorenzo Rota (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux||00:03:06|
|43||Laurent Pichon (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic||00:03:06|
|44||Fernando Barceló Aragon (Spa) Cofidis||00:03:06|
|45||Nicola Conci (Ita) Trek-Segafredo||00:03:06|
|46||Luc Wirtgen (Lux) Bingoal Pauwels Sauzen WB||00:03:06|
|47||Robert Gesink (Ned) Jumbo-Visma||00:03:06|
|48||Benoit Cosnefroy (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team||00:03:06|
|49||Martijn Tusveld (Ned) Team DSM||00:03:06|
|50||Mikkel Honoré (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep||00:03:06|
|51||Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Alpecin-Fenix||00:03:06|
|52||Diego Rosa (Ita) Team Arkea-Samsic||00:03:06|
|53||Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Gazprom-RusVelo||00:03:06|
|54||Ben Tulett (GBr) Alpecin-Fenix||00:03:06|
|55||Ide Schelling (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe||00:03:06|
|56||Matteo Jorgenson (USA) Movistar Team||00:03:06|
|57||Rob Power (Aus) Team Qhubeka Assos||00:03:06|
|58||Michael Valgren (Den) EF Education-Nippo||00:03:06|
|59||Simon Geschke (Ger) Cofidis||00:03:06|
|60||Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Team Qhubeka Assos||00:03:06|
|61||Fabio Aru (Ita) Team Qhubeka Assos||00:03:06|
|62||Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ||00:03:06|
|63||Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates||00:03:06|
|64||Valentin Ferron (Fra) Total Direct Energie||00:03:06|
|65||João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck-QuickStep||00:03:06|
|66||Romain Seigle (Fra) Groupama-FDJ||00:03:06|
|67||Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech||00:03:06|
|68||Harm Vanhoucke (Bel) Lotto Soudal||00:03:06|
|69||Christopher Hamilton (Aus) Team DSM||00:03:06|
|70||Daryl Impey (RSA) Israel Start-up Nation||00:03:06|
|71||Carlos Verona Quintanilla (Spa) Movistar Team||00:03:06|
|72||Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauzen WB||00:03:06|
|73||Christopher Juul-Jensen (Den) Team BikeExchange||00:03:06|
|74||Lucas Hamilton (Aus) Team BikeExchange||00:03:06|
|75||Mikel Nieve Iturralde (Spa) Team BikeExchange||00:03:06|
|76||Ruben Fernandez (Spa) Cofidis||00:03:06|
|77||Sergio Henao Montoya (Col) Team Qhubeka Assos||00:03:06|
|78||Pierre Latour (Fra) Total Direct Energie||00:03:06|
|79||Mark Padun (Ukr) Bahrain Victorious||00:03:06|
|80||Mauri Vansevenant (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep||00:03:45|
|81||Jan Bakelants (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux||00:04:15|
|82||Lukasz Owsian (Pol) Team Arkea-Samsic||00:04:15|
|83||Valentin Madouas (Fra) Groupama-FDJ||00:04:15|
|84||Remy Mertz (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauzen WB||00:04:15|
|85||Sylvain Moniquet (Bel) Lotto Soudal||00:04:15|
|86||Dorian Godon (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team||00:05:02|
|87||Julien Bernard (Fra) Trek-Segafredo||00:05:02|
|88||Jimmy Janssens (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix||00:05:02|
|89||Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech||00:05:02|
|90||Sergei Chernetskii (Rus) Gazprom-RusVelo||00:05:02|
|91||Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Lotto Soudal||00:05:02|
|92||Loïc Vliegen (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux||00:06:17|
|93||Aaron Van Poucke (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|