Spaniard Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) won the 101st edition of Liege-Bastogne-Liege in Belgium on Sunday, following closely on the heels on his victory in Fleche Wallonne on Wednesday and second in the Amstel Gold Race last Sunday.
Valverde out-paced Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep) and fellow Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) in the uphill finale in Ans at the end of the gruelling 253-kilometre race to claim his third victory in ‘La Doyenne’. Valverde now moves into the lead in the UCI WorldTour rankings, unseating Richie Porte (Sky).
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The day’s action kicked off in earnest with an escape group consisting of eight riders after the 30km mark: Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r), Otto Vergaerde (Topsport Vlaanderen), Clement Chevrier (IAM Cycling), Marco Minnaard (Wanty Groupe Gobert), Anthony Turgis (Cofidis), Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Argon 18), Rasmus Quaade (Cult Energy) and Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida).
After four hours of racing, that front group had reduced to five as they tackled the Côte de Wanne climb. Astana did a lot of the work in chasing the break, and later on the Côte de Stockeu it was the Kazakh team’s Andriy Grivko that attacked from the peloton with Yates joining him. The two riders caught the five men in front, but the moved was short lived and they were all swallowed up by the peloton.
Tanel Kangert (Astana) then instigated a new escape group, and was joined by team-mate Michele Scarponi, Manuele Boaro (Tinkoff), Julian Arredondo (Trek) and Esteban Chavez (Orica-GreenEdge).
A big crash with 41km to go saw Nicolas Roche (Sky), Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) and Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) among many riders to hit the deck. Most remounted relatively quickly, but Roche and Yukiya Arashiro (Europcar) required medical attention. Gerrans then crashed again shortly after, his race over.
Astana duo Kangert and Scarponi set the pace of the escape with Chavez, but Arredondo and Boaro were dropped first, then Kangert also fell back. The break’s advantage over the bunch never stretched out over a minute. Katusha and Movistar led the chase, and Scarponi and Chaves were caught with 24km to go.
Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo) attacked with 19km to go, followed by Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana). Behind them, the peloton was strung out as the rain started to fall.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) put in an attack on the Côte de Saint-Nicolas with 6.5km to go, which led to the escape group getting caught. The peloton splintered, and world champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep) was one of those caught out.
By the final climb in Ans, the finish was contested by a group of just 13 riders. Daniel Moreno (Katusha) attacked first, with Valverde and Rodriguez in pursuit. As the catch was made, there was a slight slowing of pace and several riders joined them for a group sprint, with Valverde easily taking yet another victory in the Ardennes Classics.
Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2015, 253km
1. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar in 6-14-20
2. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx-QuickStep
3. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha
4. Rui Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida
5. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff-Saxo
6. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale
7. Sergio Henao (Col) Sky
8. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r
9. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana
10. Daniel Moreno (Spa) Katusha all same time
26. Steve Cummings (GBr) MTN-Qhubeka at 1-06
39. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-GreenEdge at 2-41