Pogacar denies Alaphilippe to win Liège-Bastogne-Liège

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? 

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Full Results
1Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates06:39:26
2Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStepRow 1 - Cell 2
3David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJRow 2 - Cell 2
4Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 3 - Cell 2
5Michael Woods (Can) Israel Start-up NationRow 4 - Cell 2
6Marc Hirschi (Swi) UAE Team Emirates00:00:07
7Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Team DSM00:00:07
8Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo00:00:07
9Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe00:00:09
10Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain Victorious00:00:09
11Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Ineos Grenadiers00:00:09
12Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana-Premier Tech00:00:09
13Primoz Roglic (Slo) Jumbo-Visma00:00:09
14Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) Team BikeExchange00:00:09
15Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis00:00:09
16Davide Formolo (Ita) UAE Team Emirates00:00:09
17Jack Haig (Aus) Bahrain Victorious00:00:12
18Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers00:00:37
19Michael Matthews (Aus) Team BikeExchange00:01:21
20Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe00:01:21
21Alex Aranburu Deba (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech00:01:21
22Toms Skujins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo00:01:21
23Aurélien Paret Peintre (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team00:01:21
24Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal00:01:21
25Krists Neilands (Lat) Israel Start-up Nation00:01:21
26Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic00:01:21
27Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe00:01:21
28Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma00:01:21
30Omar Fraile Matarranz (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech00:01:21
31Sergio Higuita Garcia (Col) EF Education-Nippo00:01:21
32Simon Clarke (Aus) Team Qhubeka Assos00:01:44
33James Knox (GBr) Deceuninck-QuickStep00:01:44
34Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain Victorious00:01:45
35Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers00:01:47
36Quinten Hermans (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux00:02:42
37Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis00:02:42
38Mark Donovan (GBr) Team DSM00:02:43
39Alexander Kamp (Den) Trek-Segafredo00:03:06
40Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team00:03:06
41Julien Simon (Fra) Total Direct Energie00:03:06
42Lorenzo Rota (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux00:03:06
43Laurent Pichon (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic00:03:06
44Fernando Barceló Aragon (Spa) Cofidis00:03:06
45Nicola Conci (Ita) Trek-Segafredo00:03:06
46Luc Wirtgen (Lux) Bingoal Pauwels Sauzen WB00:03:06
47Robert Gesink (Ned) Jumbo-Visma00:03:06
48Benoit Cosnefroy (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team00:03:06
49Martijn Tusveld (Ned) Team DSM00:03:06
50Mikkel Honoré (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep00:03:06
51Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Alpecin-Fenix00:03:06
52Diego Rosa (Ita) Team Arkea-Samsic00:03:06
53Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Gazprom-RusVelo00:03:06
54Ben Tulett (GBr) Alpecin-Fenix00:03:06
55Ide Schelling (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe00:03:06
56Matteo Jorgenson (USA) Movistar Team00:03:06
57Rob Power (Aus) Team Qhubeka Assos00:03:06
58Michael Valgren (Den) EF Education-Nippo00:03:06
59Simon Geschke (Ger) Cofidis00:03:06
60Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Team Qhubeka Assos00:03:06
61Fabio Aru (Ita) Team Qhubeka Assos00:03:06
62Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ00:03:06
63Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates00:03:06
64Valentin Ferron (Fra) Total Direct Energie00:03:06
65João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck-QuickStep00:03:06
66Romain Seigle (Fra) Groupama-FDJ00:03:06
67Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech00:03:06
68Harm Vanhoucke (Bel) Lotto Soudal00:03:06
69Christopher Hamilton (Aus) Team DSM00:03:06
70Daryl Impey (RSA) Israel Start-up Nation00:03:06
71Carlos Verona Quintanilla (Spa) Movistar Team00:03:06
72Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauzen WB00:03:06
73Christopher Juul-Jensen (Den) Team BikeExchange00:03:06
74Lucas Hamilton (Aus) Team BikeExchange00:03:06
75Mikel Nieve Iturralde (Spa) Team BikeExchange00:03:06
76Ruben Fernandez (Spa) Cofidis00:03:06
77Sergio Henao Montoya (Col) Team Qhubeka Assos00:03:06
78Pierre Latour (Fra) Total Direct Energie00:03:06
79Mark Padun (Ukr) Bahrain Victorious00:03:06
80Mauri Vansevenant (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep00:03:45
81Jan Bakelants (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux00:04:15
82Lukasz Owsian (Pol) Team Arkea-Samsic00:04:15
83Valentin Madouas (Fra) Groupama-FDJ00:04:15
84Remy Mertz (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauzen WB00:04:15
85Sylvain Moniquet (Bel) Lotto Soudal00:04:15
86Dorian Godon (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team00:05:02
87Julien Bernard (Fra) Trek-Segafredo00:05:02
88Jimmy Janssens (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix00:05:02
89Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech00:05:02
90Sergei Chernetskii (Rus) Gazprom-RusVelo00:05:02
91Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Lotto Soudal00:05:02
92Loïc Vliegen (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux00:06:17
93Aaron Van Poucke (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise