Sport

Liège–Bastogne–Liège, the cycling classic of Belgian Ardennes

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 and made history again with his first Monument triumph on the roads of Liège-Bastogne-Liège at 22 years old.

Liège–Bastogne–Liège, also known as La Doyenne (“The Old Lady”), is a one-day classic cycling race in Belgium and is part of the UCI World Tour. It is one of the Ardennes classics: Amstel Gold Race, La Flèche Wallonne and Liège–Bastogne–Liège, which are three cycling classics held in mid-April in the Belgian Ardennes and southern Limburg in the Netherlands. Liège–Bastogne–Liège is considered one of the most arduous one-day cycling events in the world because of its length and demanding course.

The finish of last year’s race can be described as one of the most dramatic moments of the 2020 season. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) was the man at the centre of it all, appearing to be on the brink of victory in a five-man sprint to the line before making the mistake of celebrating too early, allowing Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) to lunge ahead of him and take the victory on his debut at the race. 

Given the results of last year, Alaphilippe had unfinished business with Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He has come close to winning it before 2020, also finishing second on his debut back in 2015, but last year’s defeat has been especially painful. The Frenchman brought terrific form with him into this year’s race, having just winning Flèche Wallonne over Roglic on Wednesday.

This year’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège featured a total of 11 categorised climbs, spread out across 259,5 kilometres of tough, arduous racing through the lumpy terrain of Wallonia.

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 and made history again with his first Monument triumph on the roads of Liège-Bastogne-Liège at 22 years old. The Tour de France winner was part of the group, which included Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) and Alaphilippe, that broke away with just under 13km to go on the final climb of the La Roche-aux-Faucons. 

Valverde, who was seeking his fifth win in the race, opened the sprint first before Alaphilippe came charging through. It looked like the Frenchman would take the win, but Pogacar timed his sprint to perfection to edge out the world champion and seal a memorable win. With the win, Pogacar succeeded Slovenian compatriot Primoz Roglic as the winner of Liège-Bastogne-Liège. 

“I’m without words. I really love this race so to win here against those names is incredible. In the sprint I knew that Alaphilippe was looking strong so I decided to stay on his wheel and wait as long as I could. I was just lucky, I had very good legs today and that enabled me to come through with real speed at the finish. It’s unbelievable. I’m living my cycling dream at the moment. – Tadej Pogacar

PHOTOS: Bettini Photo & Aurélien Vialatte/A.S.O.

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