Lizzie Deignan took the third win of her season, winning an enthralling edition Liège-Bastogne-Liège in a breathtaking, tense solo move.
The Brit rider had been part of a nine woman breakaway but attacked with 30km on the Côte de la Redoute, riding alone to the line in Liège.
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With team mate Ellen van Dijk one of the eight chasers and disrupting any counter-attacks, her advantage seemed secure with her lead over one minute. However, at the bottom of the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons, with 16km to go, Grace Brown (Mitchelton-Scott) countered, reducing the gap to only 35 seconds as she crested the top.
Even on the descent Brown continued to close the gap as Deignan appeared to tire, but as they entered the outskirts of Liège the gap remained stubbornly around 20 seconds. In the final five kilometres the gap came down to 10 seconds and it looked as though a two woman sprint would decide the day.
But Deignan was able to hold her advantage, Brown crossing the line nine seconds down, with the Van Dijk taking third after attacking the chasers in the final kilometre.
It was a good day for the Brits, with Hannah Barnes (Canyon-SRAM) part of the day’s breakaway and finishing sixth, 2.21 behind Deignan.
How it happened
Despite its one off autumn place on the calendar, weather for this year’s race was remarkably similar to 2019, with cold rain and a tailwind behind the peloton as they left Bastogne for the 135km to Liège.
Heading north towards the first of five classified climbs, the bunch huddled together no one going clear despite the cold, with the favourites’ teams leading the way, the course heading from the open fields into the trees and climbs.
As the race hit the first of those, the Côte de Wanne, with 56km ridden, the pace lifted, the peloton a huge seven minutes ahead of the fastest projected schedule, the pace far too high for any of the speculative attacks to make any progress.
However, a brief lull saw nine women escape the bunch, building a lead of one minute as they began to climb the second classified ascent, the Côte de la Vecquée, just inside the closing 50km.
Brit Hannah Barnes was joined by compatriot Deignan, her Trek-Segafredo mate Ellen van Dijk, Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv), Katrine Aalerud Movistar), Marlen Reusser (Equipe Paule Ka), Juliette Labous (Sunweb), Grace Brown (Mitchelton-Scott) and Amy Pieters (Boels-Dolmans).
With so many of the best teams represented in the break it was left to FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope and Parkhotel-Velkenburg to chase, and as the leaders hit the penultimate climb the Côte de la Redoute they led the peloton by 1.17.
Here though, as the gradient began to bite, the race entering its closing 30km, Deignan attacked the leading group, while behind the peloton shattered, another small group heading off the front, led by Demi Vollering (Parkhotel-Valkenburg), who finished third last year.
Deignan crested the race’s signature climb with a lead of 30 seconds on the original break, and 1.30 on Vollering’s group which was down to just four women as they began descending.
With Van Dijk in the group behind and Elisa Longo Borghini with Vollering, Trek-Segafredo were in a perfect position though, as the kilometres ticked away Deignan’s advantage grew to 55 seconds as she entered the final 20km.
With the peloton out of the race, now well over two minutes down, the chase group began attacking each other, with Reusser making the first move which Van Dijk instantly shut down. However, the ascent of the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons was the perfect place for Brown to make her move, with the Australian the more accomplished climber.
The first three editions of the race had all been won by Dutchwomen and Deignan’s victory not only ends that streak, but returns the British rider to the top of the Women’s WorldTour individual standings, with just five events remaining.
Liège-Bastogne-Liège: Bastogne – Liège (135km)
1. Lizzie Deignan (Gbr) Trek-Segafredo in 3-29-48
2. Grace Brown (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott at 9 sec
3. Ellen van Dijk (Ned) Trek-Segafredo at 2-19
4. Marianne Vos (Ned) CCC-Liv
5. Amy Pieters (Ned) Boels-Dolmans all at same time
6. Hannah Barnes (Gbr) Canyon-SRAM at 2-21
7. Marlen Reusser (Sui) Equipe Paule Ka
8. Juliette Labous (Fra) Sunweb all at same time
9. Katrine Aalerud (Nor) Movistar at 2-26
10. Liane Lippert (Ger) Sunweb at 3-26