Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) won his first ever Monument after claiming victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2019.
The Dane finally broke the curse Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) seemed to hold over him, as the Frenchman had beaten him to the win at both La Flèche Wallonne and Strade Bianche, as well as being his co-conspirator in the Amstel Gold Race when the pair gifted the victory to Mathieu van der Poel.
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Rumours had begun circulating that words had been exchanged between the pair during La Doyenne, and when asked in the post-race press conference Fuglsang said: “Before we took the speedy downhill to La Redoute, I was in the wheel of Luis León Sánchez and he was in the wheel of his guys. I looked over at him to see if I could get any sign of how he was feeling and he looked back and said to me ‘I hope you win today’.
“I looked back and said ‘thank you and good luck’, I think he probably knew then that he wasn’t at his best or the Cote de la Roche-aux-Faucons was going to be too hard for him.”
When asked about how it felt to finally take his first Monument in the thirteenth year of his professional career, Fuglsang said: “It’s an amazing feeling and a super way to finish off these three Classics. It’s been a big goal for me this week and to crown it off with a victory today in such a race, it’s just amazing.
“I dont know why it took so long,” the Dane said, “the first few years I had to grow up first, but no this season it seems like everything has come together and everything is going well and we have a really strong team.
“They led me out perfect for the Roche-aux-Faucons and yeah everything seemed to click. It took some time [to claim a Monument win] but I hope I have another few good years in me.”
The day nearly ended very differently for the 34-year-old, as his back wheel kicked out as he descended with 5km left to race. Fuglsang explained what happened, saying: “After we did a recon of the parcours I had in my mind that the descent was more or less straight and the corners you could take full speed.
“But that’s one thing when it’s dry and another thing when it’s wet. I of course didn’t want to let anyone come back on me so it was all or nothing. Then in one moment when I cut the corner the rear wheel slipped and somehow I managed to save it, but yeah it was a scary moment.”
Bastogne is in the Belgian province of Luxembourg, where Fuglsang used to live and train with the Schleck brothers, the Dane being a former team-mate of Andy Schleck when the pair raced for Saxo-Bank/Leopard-Trek. Andy Schleck, who hails from Luxembourg, won the race ten years ago in 2009. Last year’s winner, Bob Jungels (Deceuninck – Quick-Step), is also a Luxembourger.
When asked about the Luxembourg connection, Fuglsang said: “Of course, the way that Andy won back when I was with him in 2009 was an inspiration for me, and for me as the same kind of rider as Andy, I haven’t reached the same results in my career, but he was also not necessarily a fast guy in the sprint, but when they can succeed you can think it’s actually possible.
“In the past it was actually further to the finish line, and they had to go from further out to succeed. So I made up my mind that my finish line has to be the top of Roche-aux-Faucons because if I’m in a group there I’m probably not going to win this one and I probably want to win this one and I want to get the maximum out of it.
“That’s why I went all in once I looked back and saw that Michael Woods (EF Education First) was dropped and David Formolo (Bora-Hansgrohe) was three metres back, I was like ‘it’s now and never’ to the top, and I had to die or win, to give it my all.”
When pressed about the change to the finish, Fuglsang said: “Maybe I didn’t like it before the race but after I do like it.”