World time trial champion Annemiek van Vleuten resumed her normal position on the top step of the podium by winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2019.
After finishing second in both the other recent Ardennes races, the Dutchwoman won her second Women’s WorldTour race of the year following her Strade Bianche success in March.
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Both victories were similar in style, long solo efforts winning the day. At La Doyenne she attacked at the bottom of the Côte de la Redoute, riding solo to the line for over 30km, eventually winning by a margin 1-39.
She was initially followed on La Redoute by Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) and Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) but they were soon caught and a small chasing group formed. This didn’t last long when Deignan attacked again on the approach to the final of five climbs, the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons.
Deignan was joined by two others, but that trio was unable to catch Van Vleuten and they were subsequently caught by a small group.
In the end the Brit finished seventh, with Floortje Mackaij (Sunweb) sprinting to second and Demi Vollering (Parkhotel-Valkenburg) making it an all Dutch podium in third.
How it happened
A vast contrast to the other Ardennes Classics this year, as rain and cold temperatures greeted the peloton as they rolled out of Bastogne for the 138.5km race.
An early high pace was set, with some lacking the resolve to tackle the weather and the course’s five climbs and dropping out of the back early. With such a high pace none of the attempted breakaways were able to get clear in the opening kilometres.
After 35km there was a slowing in the break and Urska Bravec (BTC City Ljubljana) took advantage of this, escaping the peloton and gaining a lead of 30 seconds.
However, as the race approached the the Côte de Wanne, the first of the day’s climbs, Mithcleton-Scott took to the front and she was caught.
The Côte de Wanne split the bunch, with around 50 riders leading the race over the top, though some were able to get back on the descent before the second climb, the Côte de Brume.
For the second climb in succession Maria Novolodskya (Coegas-Mettler-Look) crested first with Leah Kirchmann hot on her heels, the pair escaping the bunch and forming the day’s breakaway.
Behind them a main bunch of around 40 riders formed, though were happy to give the leading duo their head for a while, and they built a lead of 1.30 with 58km to go.
As the race approached its closing stages on the Côte de la Vecquée, Boels-Dolmans unsuccessfully tried forced a selection, the resulting 10-rider group were caught as they passed the top of the climb, but the leaders’ advantage had been slashed.
Though the pace eased once again and a group of 80 came together on the long descent, this allowed the gap to grow at the front of the race. It was only on the approach to the penultimate climb, La Redoute, that the leaders were finally caught, and the moment they were Van Vleuten launched her winning attack.
Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes: Bastogne – Liège (138.5km)
1 Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Mitchelton-Scott in 3-42-10
2 Floortje Mackaij (Ned) Sunweb at 1-39
3 Demi Vollering (Ned) Parkhotel Valkenburg 1-43
4 Soraya Paladin (Ita) Alé-Cipollini
5 Lucinda Brand (Ned) Sunweb
6 Kasia Niewiadoma (Pol) Canyon-SRAM
7 Lizzie Deignan (GBr) Trek-Segafredo
8 Alena Amialiusik (Blr) Canyon-SRAM
9 Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
10 Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den) Bigla all at same time