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“Maybe, Chris is obviously really outstanding at that and it’s a whole different area. But this could speed up my progress in that direction for the future about that."

Photo: ANSA / DAL ZENNARO - PERI

LIÈGE - BASTOGNE - LIÈGE

RACE PROFILE
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NEWS
24.04.2016 @ 23:22 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Wout Poels (Sky) finally took the elusive first victory in a monument for Sky when he emerged as the fastest in a four-rider group that decided an epic and cold 102nd edition of Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Launching his sprint in the final corner, he held off Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE), Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) and Samuel Sanchez (BMC) to take the biggest victory of his career after the quartet had escaped on the new climb of Rue Naniot on a long day that had been marked by snow and a strong headwind.

 

We have gathered several reactions.

 

Wout Poels: I hope this victory will give me more leadership opportunities next year

Wout Poels produced a heroic ride in poor conditions to win Liege-Bastogne-Liege, achieving Team Sky's first-ever Monument triumph in the process.

 

Poels pulled ahead with Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), Michael Albasini (Orics GreenEdge) and Samuel Sanchez (BMC Raing) as the race crested the penultimate climb, and then kept pace with his rivals on the long drag into Ans.

 

Once the quartet had rounded the final corner, Poels then unleashed his sprint and held off a late response from Albasini to seal Team Sky's biggest-ever one-day win.

 

The victory was also the biggest of Poels's career and came at the end of a cold, wet and wintery 102nd edition.

 

After the race Poels caught up with TeamSky.com and admitted it still hadn't sunk in that he'd won the oldest Monument of them all.

 

"It's unbelievably," he said. "I'm really happy and I still can't believe I won Liege-Bastogne-Liege. It's a really nice victory that's for sure!

 

"To be able to win the first Monument for the team, especially a team like this, is really special. I'm riding with the best riders in the world. It's a huge win for the team and also for myself."

 

Poels was also able to talk us through the final sprint, which marked him out as the strongest man in the race.

 

"I know I'm quite fast but I also knew that guys like Albasini were quick too. After 260km no sprint is the same. I think everyone was really tired from the cold, rain, snow and everything else the weather threw at us today. I did a good sprint and luckily it was enough to win Liege-Bastogne-Liege!"

 

”It was a really hard day due to the weather. You had to stay warm and I had prepared well to cope with that, especially in terms of clothing. It's amazing to win Liège, it's like a dream come true after my bad crash three years ago. The doctors told me that I could probably not do this job anymore but I fought. From two years ago, I started getting a good feeling on the bike, but it was some days worse, some days better. Now, I’ve got much more stable condition and I’m really happy with that. I'm a much more solid and complete rider now with less ups and downs. Liège is a monument I would watch on TV when I was a child. To win it is incredible.

 

”I liked the final cobbled climb and knew it suited me well. I looked at the guys around me who looked strong although I was worried that the others would catch us. After a first attack that didn't pay off, I decided to go flat out after the last corner with 250m to go.

 

”I can't believe that I've won it. It was a tough edition so I'm really proud. You always dream of winning a race like this one but to do it in these conditions is even more special.

 

”It makes a difference to have a strong team protecting you. Before I was spending too much time in the back of the peloton, spending too much energy to get back into position. Now I’m staying closer to the front at the important moments, and I’ve got a really strong team around me, too.

 

”The team is of course happy. It's great to show that we can do well on Classics as well as on Grand Tours. I'll be alongside Chris on the Grand Tour but hope to one day, maybe next year, have an opportunity to be a leader. I still have to prove I can do well.

 

“Maybe, Chris is obviously really outstanding at that and it’s a whole different area. But this could speed up my progress in that direction for the future about that.

 

"Liège-Bastogne-Liège is a monument. I had already done it twice without ever getting results. So you canimagine what it means to me to win. Everything was decided on the new cobbled climb. I hope that they will keep it in the future. The others with me were strong but I knew that the sprint would be hard. My first attack on the Cote de Ans was not strong. Then after the last corner, I launched the sprint and I realized that no one could pass me.

 

“We went for it on the new cobbled climb. I really like that one now. And we got a really good gap. The others were looking really strong, but I knew it was a long drag to the finish, and that was good for me.

 

“I did one little attack, not a really hard one and then I was afraid the bunch would come back, so when we hit the final corner, I went for it again with 150 metres to go. I thought ‘let’s see what happens.’”

 

“Sky is mainly for the general classification of stage races, even though that wasn’t the case today. At QuickStep I was training well with Tom Steels, but now I’m working with Tim Kerrison, I’m maybe riding a little bit harder.”

 

The race also marked the first Ardennes Classic as lead Sport Director for Kurt-Asle Arvesen. Naturally the Norwegian was thrilled with the result, and told TeamSky.com:

 

"The team were on top of everything for the whole day. The clothing we had from Rapha and fuelling was crucial, and the riders worked together really well. It was a fantastic performance.

 

"I was really happy to see that we had numbers after the Côte de La Redoute and that meant we could start playing our cards. Lars Petter and Wout said they were feeling good Sebastian and Kwiato were doing a good job for the team.

"Wout then opened up his sprint early at the end and proved beyond any doubt he was the strongest rider in the race. He pulled off an amazing win."

 

Team Sky had numbers to the fore throughout the day, conserving energy in the group as conditions veered between bright sunshine, rain, sleet and snow.

 

Working hard as a unit, every rider was present towards the front, with Chris Froome, Salvatore Puccio, Sebastian Henao, Lars Petter Nordhaug, Michal Golas, Ben Swift and Michal Kwiatkowski all working tirelessly for the cause.

 

With 10km remaining Kwiatkowski turned the screw with an acceleration, and on the penultimate climb, the cobbled Cote de la Rue Naniot, Poels was able to drag himself over into an elite quartet under flamme rouge.

 

Despite a small dig on the climb, Poels still had the strength to lead out the sprint from the front, raising his arms in celebration of a truly monumental victory.


Michael Albasini after second place: I thought I was the strongest

Multiple Tour of Romandie stage winner Michael Albasini continued his impressive run of form through this year’s classics season by sprinting to second for ORICA-GreenEDGE in a truly epic 102nd edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège today.

 

After covering over 250kilometres in the snow and sleet Albasini attacked on the final climb of the race – a short, steep and cobbled climb with maximum gradients of 15% - and held on at the front to lead into the descent and the final kilometres.

 

Wout Poels (Team-Sky) and Rui-Costa (Lampre-Merida) were with Albasini through the s-curve that led into the finishing straight each rider was now at their limit after 253kilometres of racing.

 

Poels was the first to attack with Albasini following. The pair gained a slim advantage on Costa with the Sky rider just beating Albasini to the line for the victory.

 

The Swiss stalwart was exhausted but happy with the result.

 

“It was really tough out there,” said Albasini. “In those kinds of conditions you are always thinking about staying as warm and dry as possible especially towards the end.

 

“We had stripped off some layers going into the final and then it snowed again, it was really demanding. It was close at the end, I felt good and I tried a couple of times to get away but I didn’t quite have the legs in the last few metres.

 

“Maybe it’s too soon to be happy about second place but I think in the days to come I will be pretty happy about it.

 

“I came on Liège to work for Simon Gerrans but saw he was struggling in the Côte de Saint-Nicolas. It was my turn to lead the team. I went to the front of the group to be able to attack or chase attempts. I then pushed on the cobbles and was surprised to be the strongest. Eventually, at the end of the day, I wasn't the strongest. On the final straight I could no longer feel my legs. 

 

"I started this morning to help Simon Gerrans our leader. In the end, I always felt great but he was not good. He was dropped on Saint-Nicolas and I realized that I had a chance. I have not left the top five not to miss an attack. I preferred to do the paved climb of the Rue de Naniot at my pace and I was surprised to be one of the strongest.

 

”I believe Poels was just the strongest today. We were all tired. You can't be as focused after such a day. Maybe I should have attacked earlier. I proved that I could be with the best and that's what counts the most.

 

“I thought perhaps I was the strongest of the four. I set the pace on the Cote de Ans and I was surprised that Poels launched the sprint at the exit of the last corner. In the sprint, my gearing was too small. I couldn’t do the sprint with the same power, and I should have changed my gears beforehand.

 

“That was my error, although I have to admit he did a super sprint, too. He was already ahead of me in Fleche Wallonne so if I can’t be happy with second, I realise I’ve done a good race all the same.

 

"I believed I was the strongest Anyway, after 250 kilometers, it is mostly a matter of freshness and eventually Poels who was already better than me at Flèche Wallonne, won. Now I am disappointed but in two or three days I will be happy. I proved that I can compete with the best in the world in one of the toughest races in the world and that's not bad. 

 

”Of course we're an Australian team but we have a very international team. The team has improved a lot on the Ardennes classics with podiums on the Amstel Gold Race or Fleche Wallonne and a win on Liege with Gerrans. There's so much quality in this team.

 

“It’s an Australian team, but everybody in this squad counts. Maybe in the cobbled Classics we’ve not been the best team before, but Mathew has had some unlucky crashes there in other years. This year he didn’t and he was there in Roubaix to win.

 

 

Sport director Matt White was overjoyed with the result and the performance of Albasini, another hard worker for the Australian outfit.

 

“Michael (Albasini) thoroughly deserves this result,” said White. “Like MathewHayman he is someone who is always working for others and this was one of his opportunities to be team leader and he really produced an epic performance.

 

“The conditions were so hard today, wind, snow and rain it was never more than six degrees all day long. So many riders abandoned that just to finish the race would be impressive but Michael is a hard man and when he has got good legs in a good position he is going to produce the goods.”

 

White praised the team on what was a tough day on the road.

 

“The team rode well throughout the race,” continued White. “We still had four guys up there going into the last 35kilometres and we all knew Michael was our protected rider. They did a great job keeping him at the front for as long as possible.

 

“Liège-Bastogne- Liège is a super hard race at the best of times but today was beyond that.

 

“I’m over the moon for Michael. He is a traditional bike rider and I think he is one of the few guys in today’s race who can actually thrive in such adverse weather conditions.”

 

Rui Costa: For some reason, my body copes well with these conditions

“On Saint-Nicolas, I saw that the race was getting harder and I had good legs and could be well placed for the lasts climb,” Rui Costa said. “I saw Albasini was strong. I hung on to his wheel. When I saw others dropping behind I pushed harder. Poels deserves his win. 

 

”It was a tough day with the rain, the snow and the cold. My toughest ever classic. It's my favourite one so I'm happy to be on the podium. With the tough day we had, only the best could make it to the finish. 

 

“It was really hard. It was very complicated to get through, although when it’s bad weather, my body seems to react well. But even so, it can be complicated in good weather, you’ve got to be in good shape, too. Liege is one of the toughest races and I knew I could do well. The weather complicated everything during the whole day added to the fact that the penultimate climb on the cobbles also changed the outcome.

 

“Lombardia is very hard, too, but this kind of weather makes things even more complicated, when it wasn’t cold it was two or three degrees above zero. That kind of mixture of things really changes the race and the last climb has changed the race a lot, too. It was the toughest day on a bike that I can remember.

 

“The new contenders in that front group were racing very strongly and then we had Samuel Sánchez as well.

 

“I can’t hide the fact that I wanted to win, I saw the group split apart and I was on the right side of that, but Poels was stronger than me in the sprint. My congratulations to him.

 

"The attacks on Saint-Nicolas tightened the race but I had good legs to be well placed on the cobblestones of this new climb. I understood that Albasini was very strong and would be hard to beat. I really thought about victory after a race where rain, wind, cold and snow have made ​​many suffer.

 

"It is true that neither Purito nor were Valverde there and with the cold, the best were ahead. I tell you, I did everything to win.”

 

Impressive Samuel Sanchez fourth in Liege at 38 years of age

It doesn’t get much tougher than what the peloton faced at the fourth Monument and last Spring Classic of the year, Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

 

Despite the freezing temperatures, wind, rain and snow, it was in fact a pretty solid day in the saddle for BMC Racing Team. Alessandro De Marchi raced aggressively from the beginning, finding himself in an eight-rider breakaway from the 15 kilometer mark, only to get caught with 23 kilometers to go. Samuel Sánchez battled it out on the final climbs of the day to cross the line in fourth place, another validation of his excellent form. And all eight BMC riders made it to the line.

 

“It’s a good result and it’s good UCI WorldTour points for the team,” Sanchez said. “For me the most important thing is the performance in the final. It’s a fight to win the race. When I arrived at the finish line there was really nothing left. The race was a survival race. There were a lot of crashes in the final, a lot of rain, so it was really hard.

 

“For me and for the team, and my teammates it’s a good result. The perfect result is the first three places but still. My form is impressive. I’m 38 years old and it’s my 13th Liège-Bastogne-Liège, so I’m happy.”

 

Valerio Piva, Sports Director, added:

 

“The objective was obviously to place as best we could and we were hoping for the podium with Samuel Sánchez who was coming in as our leader. He finished fourth, he was in the good move, and it was a great result for us. We also had Dylan Teuns in the first group and Loïc Vliegen was there until just before the end. The team worked really well to support Samuel and to have Alessandro in the breakaway representing BMC Racing Team was good to see. I think we can be happy with how today went, especially considering the conditions and now we look forward to the next block of racing.”

 

Alessandro De Marchi: These conditions were too much

“It was a super, super hard day,” De Marchi said. “It was crazy really. I think conditions like that are too much. To be in a breakaway like that, with those conditions, for 200 kilometers, is just painful. Towards the end I did’nt really have the legs but I’m happy to have made the breakaway with such strong riders and stay away for so long. Now it will be all about recovery.”

 

Vliegen proud of Liege-Bastogne-Liege debut

“It was my first Liège-Bastogne-Liège and I hope there will be many more to come,” Loic Vliegen said. “It was a good experience, even if I wasn’t feeling 100%. It was really amazing to have my family and friends on the side of the road supporting me, even if I couldn’t hear them because of the terrible conditions. With the snow, the rain and everything it was crazy out there. It was a hard day that’s for sure.”

 

Ilnur Zakarin fifth in Liege-Bastogne-Liege debut

On a day when most riders would probably have preferred to stay home and out of the rain and snow, Team KATUSHA’s leaders were in the heart of the action for the 102nd Liège - Bastogne – Liège and trying for the win. Ilnur Zakarin and Joaquim Rodriguez both stayed with the finishing peloton, but the podium places came from a group of four that slipped away on the last cobbled climb.

 

”First of all we would have liked to win, but in the final our two leaders were there fighting for the win. It was such a hard day with the weather conditions – all day it was cold, there was snow on almost all of the climbs. Our riders were motivated and they were always in the front supporting our leaders. We came onto Saint-Nicolas in the front and then on the last climb with the attack of four riders, Ilnur tried to go. I think he could have followed, if the climb was not on pavé, but he’s a light rider and for him the cobbles are difficult. He attacked and almost caught those four, but the gap was too much. In the end he finished fifth, so he was part of the race until the last few meters. It was not really organized behind, when the four went away, but for his first Liège it was a good effort. For this race you need to know the parcours and of course the weather was a factor today so his result is actually excellent as far as we are concerned. Next we go to the Tour de Romandie and then the Giro,” said team director José Azevedo.

 

With less than 3 km to go, Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge), Wout Poels of Team Sky, Lampre-Merida’s Rui Costa and Samuel Sanchex (BMC) attacked on the 600 m Côte de la Rue Naniot. Zakarin worked to bridge across, but the distance was too great and the sprint for the win came from the attackers. Poels took the victory ahead of Albasini and Costa with a winning time of 6:24.29 (39.482 km/h) on the 248 km course from Liège to Ans. Sanchez was fourth at 4-seconds and Zakarin sprinted in for 5th place at nine-seconds. Rodriguez was 8th (+0.12).

 

“The weather was absolutely terrible. It was a really hard day under the rain and snow with the temperature around zero. It was a tough debut for me here in Liège - Bastogne – Liège, but up to the final I was able to save some energy. We were together with Joaquim in the front group on Saint-Nicolas, so it was good for us. I followed an attack from Diego Rosa, but later the others joined us. On pavé it was hard. I did my best to be as high as possible, but four guys went away. Later I decided to attack from the chasing group, there was a chance to catch the leaders, but finally the gap was too big. In the end, I was able to finish 5th, and I think this is a good result for me. I am really happy. Now I am moving to the Tour de Romandie,” said Ilnur Zakarin, referring to his next race in which he is the defending champion.

 

Joaquim Rodriguez after top 10 in Liege: I missed that little something

”I am happy with our race. I had a good feeling in the legs all day long. On Saint-Nicolas I felt really strong, but then on those cobbles I had a difficult moment and that was the decisive moment of the race. I just missed that little something at the crucial moment, but I am happy. Team KATUSHA did a great job and Ilnur showed that he was one of the best riders. After such a long period without a race and immediately finishing so good in Liège - Bastogne – Liège proves that he has worked hard for the upcoming Giro d’italia,” said team leader Joaquim Rodriguez.

 

Warren Barguil bounces back from illness with top 6 in Liege

Only fifty riders were left after the Cote de la Roche-aux-Faucons with Warren Barguil and Sam Oomen still visible at the front for Giant-Alpecin. It was another top 10 for Warren Barguil as he sprinted to the 6th place after a strong performance during the snowy edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

 

Warren Barguil said: “We went through a lot of emotions today. I wasn’t particularly in good shape during a few moments in the race, but I fought hard to try and get the best possible result. These last days I had a sore throat, but I didn’t want to think about it. "I said, ’You have done so much sacrifice to get into form for these Ardennes classics that you have no right to doubt.’ After my accident, I had no idea I was going to be so good at the Amstel, Flèche and Liège.  I made many sacrifices to start this race and wanted to be in the best shape as possible. I managed a top 10 and I am super happy with this result.

 

“During the cobblestones sections I wasn’t in the ideal position but there weren’t a lot of riders dropped. I thought a Movistar rider would attack but they were all on the limit. I positioned myself at the back of the group and when Zakarini attacked I waited a bit before I made my move. I didn’t manage to catch him but I was not far behind him and I gave everything to not be caught by the bunch chasing behind me. 

 

”Overall, I am satisfied with my Ardennes races and I am going to continue to prepare for next year. Personally, it’s a great achievement to take such a result and I am really proud of myself and of the team’s performance, especially in such conditions.”

 

Coach Aike Visbeek gave his thoughts after the race: “I told the guys to show a lot of dedication to aim for a top result. The goal was to protect Warren and to try and have a rider in the break. Unfortunately, we didn’t make the break but then the riders were fully committed in supporting Warren. The whole team did a great job and Warren always had support on the climbs. On the Saint Nicolas, Sam positioned Warren for the finale and he took the chance to attack in the last 2km.

 

“It’s the first time we achieve a top 10 result in Liège and that all the riders finished the race which is very good especially in these challenging weather circumstances. As a team we prepared really well for the Ardennes campaign and it is a step in the right direction for the upcoming races.”

 

Roman Kreuziger: I expected more than seventh

In one of the more memorable editions of ‘La Doyenne’ in recent years, riders were treated to awful conditions in addition to the demanding parcours and ten climbs before the uphill finish in Ans. In a hard-fought Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Tinkoff’s Roman Kreuziger rode a strong race, crossing the line in seventh position, with teammate Michael Valgren close behind in 14th.

 

Widely regarded as the toughest of all the classics, the 102nd edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège didn’t fail to live up to its reputation today. While the route itself was exceptionally tough already, climbing the infamous La Redoute and a selection of some of the hardest climbs of the classics, such as the Côte de Saint-Roch and the Côte de La Roche-aux-Faucons, finishing on the 10.5% Côte de la Rue Naniot, the day’s weather added another element of difficulty to the race.


Sport Director Bruno Cenghialta commented on the race from the team bus saying:

 

"We obviously wanted a better result than what we achieved as we always go to a race with the aim to win, and when we had two riders in the front in the finale things looked good for us but it is not always that easy. At the point of the race with the new cobblestone climb the four riders that pulled clear were the strongest, and Roman missed the extra needed to attack at that point. The chasing group lacked collaboration as they waited to see who was going to do the work to bridge the gap and these four riders got the gap they needed."

 

The weather was atrocious, with mist and rain over the whole course, and there was an expectation that there would be snow at the finish. Indeed, at the 45km mark, the route was altered, bringing the riders out at the 75km point at the foot of the first climb, the Côte de La Roche-en Ardenne, taking 5km off the overall distance. As the day went on, the weather changed from snow, to rain, to sunshine, and while the snow failed to stick to the road, the wet, slushy conditions made conditions treacherous, and crashes much more likely.

 

Roman Kreuziger was clear at the end of the race that the conditions contributed to an already difficult course, and the team’s aim was to stay safe as the weather conditions worsened to arrive at the finish able to contest the win.

 

“I think that we tackled a very tough race today. With the weather it was very hard, but we raced well together in position and stayed pretty safe, so from this point we can be satisfied.”


 Pavel Brutt escaped with the first breakaway to stick, but with the changeable conditions, riders found it hard to hold on. The break decreased in size gradually, until Pavel was dropped from the front. Conditions were hard and what started as a group of eight riders was whittled down to two.

 

With 40km to go, the attacking duo’s advantage, which had originally been allowed to grow to more than eight minutes, had been reduced to just a minute and a half. Just 10km later, and with 30km to go, the peloton had brought down the lead to fourteen seconds and this gap was growing smaller as each kilometre passed.

 

With the conditions as bad as they were, it was remarkable that there weren’t more riders down, but with 25.5km to go, Rafal Majka was unfortunate enough to be involved in one. The Polish rider was lucky to escape with just scrapes, and will still be riding next week’s Tour de Romandie.


At the 10km to go point, Tinkoff were close to the front, with the jerseys of Roman Kreuziger and Michael Valgren visible, but rather than taking charge and wasting precious energy, the duo were letting other teams do the work. Even at this early stage of the finishing stretch, riders were looking around waiting to see who would attack first.

 

While the attacks eventually came, Roman Kreuziger stayed at the front looking calm – not allowing the break influence him but concentrating on pulling the attack back in. With the race’s final climb looming, the Côte de la Rue Naniot, a small break of four riders was a little way up the road, but never out of sight of the chasing group. As a splintered lead group crossed the line, Kreuziger arrived at the finish twelve seconds after the winner, in seventh position.

 

Cenghialta added: "It is not always that simple to get the results that you want, especially after over 240km and nearly six and a half hours in tough, cold conditions with rain, snow and low temperatures to deal with. When you reach the finale and the final climbs in these conditions you have very little in the legs and so I think that we made the most of what we could do in this situation."

 

From the finish, Tinkoff’s leader for the race was disappointed by the lack of work in the chasing group.

 

"Me personally, I waited until Saint-Nicolas to play just one card. But on the new climb with cobbles, in the first half I couldn’t find my rhythm and couldn’t follow the other guys that attacked so I’m disappointed with this because nobody wanted to pull and really make the race to help catch the break. I'm very disappointed, as I saw in the last 500m that even into a head wind I was making up ground. I expected more than seventh, but that’s how the one-day races go – you need some luck.”

 

With the race over, and a chance to look over the events of the day, Kreuziger was pleased to have been in a position to contest the win, and looked to the future races, confident of his condition now that the Spring Classics were over.

 

“For sure, I can go into the coming races and look positively to the second half of the season as I saw today that I am in good shape and was able to fight for the victory."

 

Bauke Mollema laments poor positioning after 9th place in Liege

The final spring Monument arrived with snow, rain and cold temperatures, but unfazed Bauke Mollema brushed aside the harsh elements to finish in 9th place in Liege-Bastogne-Liege Sunday.

 

"I always like this race, and I had a good day actually," Mollema replied when asked about the horrendous conditions. "It was cold with the snow and rain, but I was never cold on the bike. I had on a lot of clothing today, and I managed to stay warm.

 

"My positioning was not so good at times – I started a little too far in the back -  and that always takes some energy. I think in the last kilometer I was there and still had some power in the legs for the sprint, but there were five already gone."

 

"It's good to be in the top 10 but yeah…"  Mollema paused then continued, "You always hope to do better. But that's how it is on the cobbles, the first four riders went away, and I think the strongest guy won."

 

Movistar controlled at the head of the peloton for most the of the race, policing the chase to the day's breakaway, but at the finish it was Team Sky's Wout Poels, who won from the four leaders, outsprinting Michael Albasini (Orica GreenEdge) and Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida).

 

Only seconds later a select group numbering 20 sprinted for the minor places and Mollema crossed the line in a respectable 9th place.

 

Ryder Hesjedal shows first signs of form in Liege

Ryder Hesjedal was next across for the team, arriving three minutes later after two crashes impeded him from finishing higher. After a frustrating build-up toward his primary goal the Giro d'Italia, it was a promising sign for the experienced Canadian.

 

"A top 10 in Liege is not easy, so I think we should be happy," Hesjedal pointed out before adding: "It was a pity to be held up by two crashes near the end. I definitely felt good, and you get a little bit uncertain – I have not really been in the finales of many races building up – and it's definitely a tall order when the first time you think you will be in the finale is Liege-Bastogne-Liege. I felt like I could have been there if not for the two crashes before the La Roche-aux-Faucons. Once I got going again, I was almost able to make it back to the front group. It was good to keep pushing and digging deep right to the finish. It was too bad I was not up there to help Bauke a little bit more.

 

"Today was obviously incredibly hard; it's always a hard race but with the weather conditions it was a next level. We were ready for today; we had some bad luck through this Ardennes campaign, and we definitely wanted to get through today as best as possible. I feel like I did that personally, which is important for making a step toward the Giro."

 

The team next lines up at the Tour of Romandie on Tuesday, a final preparation for Ryder Hesjedal ahead of the Giro d'Italia, which begins May 6th.

 

Diego Rosa: We knew that we had to avoid a sprint

Diego Rosa was the best Astana rider in 10th

 

"For us it was difficult to go to the finish with a group. We had to anticipate and we tried it. In the end my legs were good, but the climbs are not very suitable to me. 

 

 "We knew we had to anticipate so first Grivko attacked and then I attacked on Saint Nicholas. Unfortunately there was no way to make a difference: I could not do more, but there will be other opportunities for us at Astana.”

 

Enrico Gasparotto: Today 12th was the maximum for me

Liège-Bastogne-Liège was the last spring classic for Wanty-Groupe Gobert. The Belgian pro-continental team was again very strong and could compete with the best World Tour teams. Enrico Gasparotto took the 12th place of the race won by the Dutchman Wout Poels (Team Sky).

 

"I'm happy with my performance because I gave myself 110%. I could not do better today,” Enrico Gasparotto said.

 

The race was special due to the extreme weather conditions with wind, rain and slush.

 

“During the race, I changed my clothes twice,” the Italian explained.

 

The team Wanty-Groupe Gobert didn’t have any rider in the breakaway, but protected his team captain Enrico Gasparotto all the day.

 

In the final, there were three hills with the Côte de Saint-Nicolas, the Côte de Naniot (new climb on cobblestones - 10.5% on average) and the Côte d’Ans, all gathered in the last seven kilometres.

 

 "I suffered on the Côte de Saint-Nicolas. In the Côte de Naniot, I was completely à bloc.  I tried to survive in the last kilometres", Gasparotto admits.

 

Four riders attacked in the Côte de Naniot. De Dutchman Wout Poels won race. In the last metres, Enrico Gasparotto sprinted to get a place in de first ten. The winner of the Amstel Gold Race got the 12th place.

 

”It was the best possible result today.

 

“It was very tough day for everyone. We deserve a big round of applause for what everyone has been able to do. The first thing I would say is "Thank God it's over."

 

For his first Liège-Bastogne-Liège as a pro rider, the Frenchman Guillaume Martin could finish the race.

 

"I'm just glad I could finish the race. With this extreme weather conditions, it is already a victory for me,” the winner of Liège-Bastogne-Liège U23 in 2015 thinks.

 

Sports director Hilaire Van der Schueren is pleased with the strong performance of his riders.

 

"It was a tough day for everyone. I was called at least twenty times for clothing changing. Enrico Gasparotto didn’t have any power left in the final kilometres, but gave everything to get a result. He had the right mentality. We rode very good classics. Some World Tour team would be already happy with our results,” Hilaire Van der Schueren concludes. 

 

New cobbled climb dealth Romain Bardet a moral blow in Liege

"It was an ultra tough race. It was really hard. I do not think many people do sports in such conditions. We must acknowledge the courage of the riders to go to the finish. It was a long way. We honored our sport,” Romain Bardet said after his 13th place.

 

“I was dropped a bit on the new climb and behind it was tough mentally. I took a blow to the morale when after had I felt good on Saint-Nicolas, I was much less at ease on the cobbled street. I can’t have any regrets, I gave the maximum and the team surrounded me. I was not with the four strongest and finally it does not really matter whether I am 5th, 6th or 12th.

 

“In the end, it was decided with the legs. I was not able to accompany the first four on the Rue de Naniot. It was tough mentally. There is no regret to have. 
 

"Saint-Nicolas is a climb that I enjoy. It is less explosive than the last one with the cobbles where I was missing something. So I tried to anticipate the attacks. We must accept than some were stronger than us.

 

"I remain very happy with the collective work. My teammates helped me mentally at times when I was chilled by the cold. We can be proud of what we have done collectively. We expected better in terms of results but there will be a next time.”

 

Impressive Patrick Konrad delivers top results in both Trentino and Liege

After the first hour, a 7-riderbreakaway built a solid lead over the peloton and yet again in the breakaway of the day was Cesare Benedetti for Bora-Argon 18. In the end, he could not stay with the last 3 leaders and lost contact with about 45k to go.

 

Within this first group of favourites was Patrick Konrad. The Austrian rider showed again superb legs and manged to hang on the leading group on all the final climbs. After the sunny days in Italy in the Giro del Trentino, he adapted to the extremely cold conditions and finished in a strong 15th place.

 

“This was an unbelievable hard day. In the beginning of the race I thought my legs were not good enough today, I still felt a little tired from Trentino. After 200k I thought that there was a 50:50 chance of exploding on one of the climbs or staying in front. But when the others started to get tired I think I was able to remain at my level. On the short new cobbled section I was really on the limit, but I manged to hang on. When I saw the last kilometre I even thought that a top ten could be possible. I focused on the position in the last corner, but on the finishing straight I did not have the legs anymore. But a 15th place in this epic Liège-Bastogne-Liège is a really great result for me and the team which did an amazing job today again,” said Patrick Konrad.

 

“This is one of the days when you don’t regret not being a pro anymore! Great spectacle for the fans and the sport, but really on the limit for the riders. Congratulations to Patrick (Konrad) who delivered a fantastic performance in these hard conditions. But also to the whole team because everything worked out very well today. CeCe (Benedetti) made it into the breakaway and in the end one of our leaders was in the group of favourites, so we can be really happy. I feel just a little sorry for Paul (Voss) because he really struggled with the weather conditions. I think otherwise he could also have done a strong ride today,” said Enrico Poitschke, sports director.

 

Alejandro Valverde: I didn’t think the new climb would be decisive

Suffering did not bring a victory this time, but it did bring respect to the whole Movistar Team. Today's Liége-Bastogne-Liège (248km between the Place Saint-Lambert and Ans' Rue Jean Jaurès) will go into the history books as a show of pain, commitment and courage from the whole peloton. Temperatures below zero, rain, snow, tons of foul weather clothes that weren't useful when sun went out but were more than needed just minutes later, when snow hit back into the 'Hell of the Ardennes'. The Blues, which brought the same eight riders leading up to Alejandro Valverde's success in Flèche Wallonne, pulled at the front of the bunch for almost 150km and proved again how consistent and brilliant his elements are on the very top of the sport.

 

The squad directed by José Luis Arrieta - Dani Moreno, Carlos Betancur, Imanol Erviti, Rubén Fernández, Giovanni Visconti, Rory Sutherland and Ion Izagirre-  took their hearts out for team leader Alejandro Valverde, seeking for the Murcian marvel's fourth win in the 'Doyenne'. The Spanish road race champion warned beforehand this race would be way different under the rain, with his goals inevitably leaning towards a Giro d'Italia just two weeks ago. Still, the telephone squad's hard job brought the spectacle the longest-standing Monument in the calendar deserved. An exhibition crowned by Colombia's Carlos Betancur, who launched an attack with 18km to go and another one on the Côte de Saint-Nicolas. 

 

After that penultimate climb followed the new, grueling Côte de la Rue Naniot - 600m at 10.5% average gradient, on cobblestones - just 2.3km from the finish. On the closing slopes, a quartet composed by Poels (SKY), Albasini (OGE), Costa (LAM) and Sánchez (BMC) made a split impossible to bridge for the pursuit. Dutchman Wout Poels prevailed as Valverde crossed the line in 16th spot.

 

Alejandro Valverde said: “I want to thank the whole team - they were sensational all day, and it has more importance considering today's conditions. Hailstorm at times, lots of snow, rain, temperatures below zero... it was really difficult. I ended the race with a strange feeling, yet still a good one because I've seen again that my legs feelt good leading up to the Giro.

 

"It was sad today because I thought that the cobblestones wouldn't be decisive, and afterwards, it was too late to get back into the winning sprint. And, well, conditions were probably harder than in Castilla y León, but I didn't struggle as much as I did last week. Confidence on my legs before the Giro remains there after Wednesday; now we'll take some days' rest and start thinking about the big challenge now ahead.

 

"It was a day that the rain, the snow and the cold made ​​ very difficult, but the team has worked hard and has always controlled the race very carefully. On the final climb I was very close to the best but failed to take their wheel, and then the race went away. But my condition is good and I'm convinced I can go straight to the Giro where I go to be a leader. "

 

Stephen Cummings confirms form with great ride in Liege

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka, despite the bad weather, was actually looking really good heading into the deciding points of the race. Steve Cummings' fine run of form continued as he quietly went about his business, moving around riders who were being shelled out of the back of the peloton one-by-one. 

 

When the early break of the day was brought back with 23km to go, the peloton was largely reduced yet Cummings still had Igor Anton and Merhawi Kudus for company at the head of the race. Once the race went over the Cote de Saint-Nicholas at 7km to go though, it was down to 26 riders and the Brit was still very much in contention.

 

Cummings had to dig deep on the final two climbs and eventually, he would finish in an honest 19th place on the day. 

 

Sports director Jens Zemke said:

 

“Finally, we can be satisfied, it was a solid performance by our boys today. Especially Steve, he was right up there finishing in the first group with all the big names there. With Steve you never know, he could always attack with 2 or 3km to go and succeed so we were part of the game today. In the last hour of racing we also still had 5 guys in the first group and this was after some terrible weather conditions. It was so cold, wet and snowing. It was horrible actually so I hope the boys can recover well now because some go to Romandie and others to Yorkshire, so we have a tough program coming up.”

 

Crash-marred day for Cannondale at Liege-Bastogne-Liege

It was a mixed bag for Cannondale today with four crashes involving Mike Woods, Lawson Craddock, Ben King and Tom-Jelte Slagter. Alex Howes made it to the pointy end with the main bunch and slotted into 20th place.

 

“No luck for me today @LiegeBastogneL. Crashed out of the race, beside a few scratches I'm ok,” Slagter tweeted.

 

Tim Wellens disappointed after missing out in Liege-Bastogne-Liege

Jelle Vanendert was the first Lotto Soudal rider and finished at the 22nd place. Tony Gallopin abandoned the race due to a crash. He felt dizzy and has a knee injury.

 

Tim Wellens said: “I felt good during the race, the team surrounded me very well. Among others Tomasz Marczysnki rode a whole day in the wind for me. But in the finale I was unable to follow the group of favourites. I ate and drank enough, I didn’t have troubles with the weather conditions either. I just couldn’t follow the favourites on the Côte de Saint-Nicholas.

 

”I was really motivated and I wanted to obtain a nice result today. Unfortunately I was unable to do that in the past few races, in the Amstel Gold Race I finished tenth though. I felt really good during the ‘Ardennes Classics’, these races suit me well. Next year I’ll come back with the same motivation and hopefully my shape will be as good as this year. The results will come.

 

” I’m a bit disappointed but the Giro d’Italia is coming and that’s my next goal. It’s a nice race and there will be a few opportunities to show myself during these three weeks.”

 

Thomas De Gendt continues streak of Liege attacks

Thomas De Gendt said: “Before the race we decided that Sander Armée, Bart De Clercq or I would join a break. We tried to do that and eventually I managed to be in the break together with several other riders. It was a strong front group and everyone did his part of the job. No one was giving full gas but still we were able to obtain a nice gap. When we entered the hill zone, several riders were dropped. On La Redoute I was dropped too, but just after the summit I was about fifteen seconds behind and I managed to join them in the descent.

 

”I was already part of the break two times in Liège-Bastogne-Liège but I never managed to survive until the summit of La Redoute. Now I was again in the escape and I wanted to remain ahead at least till after La Redoute because I met my wife here ten years ago (laughs). Due to this effort I was caught on the Roche-aux-Faucons.”

 

Julian Alaphilippe: I am proud just to have finished

All the riders in Liège-Bastogne-Liège endured a real ordeal on Sunday, and it wasn't any different for Julian Alaphilippe. Despite not getting the result for which he came for and finishing only 22nd, the Frenchman wasn't sad in Ans and insisted to look on the bright side of things:

 

"I am happy for completing the race. It was terrible today: snow, hail, rain, you name it, we had it all. I gave everything and finished the race empty on the inside.

 

”The team showed again how united it is and rode really strong. Unfortunately, I couldn't finish the job, but I have no regrets. For sure, it's a race that I will never forget.

 

"I have the joy of having finished. Frankly, it was a very trying day for the entire peloton but personally, it's the first time I ride in such conditions, hail, snow, low temperatures, rain, for so many kilometers. I'm glad I finished but it was without success at the end. It was evident that we had a very strong team but the result is not there at the end.  I have no regrets, I did not have the resources to do better. 

 

“When you see days like today, we say that this is really a sport for dog at times. I'm glad I finished, it's a race I will remember all my life. It is La Doyenne, everyone is motivated, everyone is fit. The conditions could have eliminated a lot of people but I was surprised that there were still so many on Saint-Nicolas. The strong finished front, I could not go with them. I will return with even more fury.”

 

 

Daniel Martin with no regrets after suffering in Liege cold

"Honestly, I wouldn't change anything I did today. I changed clothes at the right moment and I dressed perfectly. I just missed some power in the legs at the finish, as the cold took its toll on me. It was important to keep believing you'll feature in the final, which I did, but in the end this wasn't enough, as all of the sudden my legs stopped working and I had no more power left, so I got dropped", said Dan Martin, the 2013 winner, at the end of a sodden day which reminded many of the 1980 edition of Liège-Bastogne- Liège.

 

“You just tell yourself that everyone is feeling bad because of the weather, you just have to keep believing that you’ll be there in the final. The moment you realise it’s over is when you get dropped. It’s just the way it is.

 

“I didn’t feel bad but all of a sudden my legs just stopped working. I didn’t have any power left. That might have been to do with the cold or whatever but you can’t change it by wondering why. It just happened.”

 

“With the weather it’s hard to say. It would have been a completely if it had been 20 degrees. It just sucked the life out of everybody. Even without the new climb nobody would have been attacking because nobody can when it’s that cold. I can’t really comment because I wasn’t really involved in the race by then.”

 

“I don’t tend to over-analyse what I do. Today definitely the weather didn’t play into our hands. You always want to come to Liège and do your best and be involved in the final at least. That didn’t happen today but I’m happy with how I’ve raced this spring, I’ve been consistent,” he told Cyclingnews.

 

“I’ve learned lessons: maybe Pais Vasco wasn’t the best preparation, so I’ll probably go back to my usual programme next year. You’re just learning little lessons all the way and I’m learning this team as well.”

 

Also Etixx – Quick-Step CEO, Patrick Lefevere, shared his thoughts on the weather-affected race which drew the curtain on the Spring Classics: "We can't be disappointed, because the guys gave everything. We came here with a young team and until the end they were protagonists. Of course, the real protagonist today was the weather, and the riders paid for every little effort they made in such fierce conditions. Unfortunately, Dan suffered because of the cold, but he did a great race on Wednesday, at Flèche Wallonne, just as Alaphilippe, who has a bright future ahead of him. Congratulations to every rider who finished the race!"

 

Roompot regrets not hitting the break in Liege-Bastogne-Liege

Huub Duijn was 32nd and the best man for Roompot - Orange Peloton.

 

"The team has performed to its capacity, I think," said sports director Erik Breukink. “It’s too bad we did not hit the break of the day. What always worked well in the Flemish races didn’t work in the hilly classics. But Maurits Lammertink (49th), Pieter Weening (64th) and Huub were in the first group until the Cote de Saint Nicolas so I can be satisfied. When the big men went, we had to surrender but that's not really crazy.”

 

Besides the bad luck for Michel Kreder (puncture on the Cote de Haute Levee) and Johnny Hoogerland (puncture on La Redoute), Reinier Honig and Nick van der Lijke suffered from hypothermia.  Antwan Tolhoek did well. "It was a good performance for such a young rookie under these conditions. Moreover Antwan often rode in the front rows. He surprised me in a positive way.”

 

"It is beautiful that a compatriot wins such a monumental race. That's always good for Dutch cycling, "said Breukink. 

 

And colleague Michel Cornelisse, who has worked with Poels since the amateur days, was equally pleased:

 

"Ideally, I would of course have preferred one of our riders to win. But I can live very well with Wout as the winner,” he said.

 

Another heroic ride for IAM Norwegian in the Ardennes

Having already taken part in the breakaway on Wednesday at the Flèche Wallonne, the tall 26-year old Vegard Stake Laengen managed to bridge up to the established breakaway of seven riders after a 25 kilometer chase within the first hour of the race, and then remained at the front for over 160 kilometers.

 

Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff), Paolo Tiralongo (Astana), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Cesare Benedetti (Bora Argon), Alessandro De Marchi (BMC), Jérémy Roy (FDJ ) and Vegard Stake Laengen (IAM) had built up a nine minute lead ahead of the pack full of race favorites by the time they rolled past Bastogne around 125 kilometers into the race averaging a very respectable 40km/h.  Nicolas Edet and Alessandro de Marchi managed to keep ahead of the pack until about 24 kilometers to go, but were eventually reeled in by the pack under the impetus primarily of Alejandro Valverde’s Movistar team.

 

“I tried my luck chasing onto the break, but I still managed to reach my goal,” confessed Vegard Stake Laengen after his heroic ride for the day.  “I tried to keep a good pace to join up to the breakaway.  Then we rode well together since there was a good amount agreement among us.  But I was not able to hang onto the leading group once we hit la Redoute.  Even if my legs were good today, that was just a bit too much for me.  I hope to be as fit for my next races coming up like the Tour of Belgium.”

 

”Vegard managed to get into the break, but his chase probably cost him an important amount of strength,” Kjell Carlström, directeur sportif for IAM Cycling at the race, explained.  “We talked in the morning during our team briefing that we should try to and do something in the break.  We succeeded in doing that, and managed to put in a good performance.  But it has to be said that this was a very hard day and those who are resistant to the cold rode the best.”

 

LottoNL-Jumbo after Liege disappointment: We were not good enough

Snow, rain and cold made for an epic battle in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, won by Wout Poels (Sky) today. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s Enrico Battaglin dealt best with the horrible weather conditions. He held on in the first group and eventually finished 46th place.

"It was a very tough race with the rain, cold and snow. I fought to hold my position in the first group, but on the Saint Nicolas climb, the lights went out slowly," said the Italian. "I'm sorry I didn't have it. This was the first time I did this race, so I lacked some experience. Hopefully next year will be better.

 

"But I'm happy with my form. The next course I will race is the Giro d'Italia. I'll try to go for a stage victory."

"Before the race we were hoping for a place in the top 10 with Robert Gesink, but unfortunately that didn’t work out. We were just not good enough today," LottoNL-Jumbo sports director Addy Engels explained. "Of course, the cold weather played a role. Some ride physically and mentally better in it than others do. That's no excuse because all the riders have to ride in these circumstances.

 

"If you look at the results of the Amstel Gold Race, Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, then it was a disappointing Ardennes campaign. This was the last classic. Now we focus on the next races, like the Tour de Romandie and Giro d’Italia."

 

Chris-Anker Sørensen hugely disappointed after cold day in Liege

Fortuneo-Vital Concept had no riders near the top.

 

Chris-Anker Sørensen said: "I do not think I was the only one but I suffered greatly from the cold, it was a terrible day. My legs did not respond. I'm really disappointed, I was very motivated to do something and finally I had to hang on to cross the line. I think all the riders who finished today should get a medal, it was daunting. Now I have to look ahead, I'm going back to training and I hope that the next races will be better.”

 

Pierrick Fedrigo said: "In eleven participations, I have never experienced such conditions. I was well protected from the cold. This is a great race but I do not know if many riders had fun today. I fought to the end, the victory was to pass the finish line.”

 

Florian Vachon said: "I said before the start that it was a dream to participate in this race. The conditions turned it into a nightmare but thankfully I had the correct sensations. At certain moments we wondered what we did there. In these moments, we remembered that we did a race. I'm still satisfied to finish but I want to come back next year with other ambitions.”

 

Sports director Sébastien Hinault said: "The hail and snow made the race more difficult than ever. We all react differently to cold. Florian did not suffer too much while Chris-Anker was frozen. He cannot express hismelf in these conditions. At the foot of the Roche-aux-Faucons, he was still surrounded by Brice Feillu, Florian Vachon, Pierrick Fedrigo and Anthony Delaplace. I would have liked to see the team in warmer weather. It's like this and the conditions are the same for everyone. Congratulations to those who have finished, it was a pain. We had five at the finish. In view of the day it's positive, it will serve us for the future.”

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