Gerrans Wins Liege-Bastogne-Liege
Simon Gerrans (GreenEdge) has won the second Monument of his career. The Australian, who won Milan-San Remo in 2012, took a bunch sprint to win the rugged, 263-km Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 6:37:43. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) finished second, and Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) took third.
As has been the case throughout this classics season, fair weather greeted the riders at the start. At six km, Pirmin Lang (IAM Cycling), Michel Koch (Cannondale), Jacobus Venter (MTN-Qhubeka), Matteo Bono (Lampre-Merida), Pieter Jakobs (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise), and Marco Minnaard (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) sallied off of the front after the peloton snuffed out an earlier move. The bunch gave this break its head, and the sextet’s advantage ballooned to 14:20 at 39.5 km and 15:50 at the summit of the day’s first climb, the Cote de la Roche-en- Ardenne (70 km).
BMC, Movistar, Lotto-Belisol, and Garmin-Sharp went to the front. With almost 100 km remaining, a crash took down Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo Bank), and Louis Meintjes (MTN-Qhubeka) hit the deck, but all remounted quickly.
On the Cote de Stockeu, the break dropped Minnaard. Behind, the pursuit’s speed increased. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), who was feeling the effects of crashes in the Amstel Gold Race and La Fleche Wallonne, and Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) dropped off the pace and eventually abandoned. With 75 km to go, world road race champion Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) crashed and abandoned. The gap between bunch and break narrowed to four minutes with 60 km remaining and to 2:30 on the run to the Cote de La Redoute.
On La Redoute, the peloton, led by Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Garmin-Sharp-POC, was within two minutes of the break. Bono jumped away from his companions. Warren Barguil (Giant-Shimano) attacked from the peloton and took Julian Arredondo (Trek) and Bakelants with him. The peloton scooped up the escapees, while Venter rejoined Bono.
On the Cote des Forges, Bono dropped Venter for good. The Italian led the field by 0:40. Alex Howes (Garmin-Sharp-POC) attacked from the bunch. Jerome Waugnies (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol) joined the Briton and attempted to bridge up to Bono, but the peloton reeled them in. The bunch caught the Italian on the Cote de La Roche-aux-Faucons.
Arredondo countered, and Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale) joined him. The pair breasted the climb with Samuel Sanchez (BMC Racing Team) in pursuit. The bunch caught Sanchez, and a large chase group formed. With 12 km left, Arredondo and Pozzovivo had 0:15 on the field, but the chasers overhauled them.
Movistar and Team GreenEdge led the field. Stefan Denifl (IAM Cycling) attacked on the day’s last climb, the Cote de Saint Nicolas, and Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha) and Pozzovivo followed. Denifl was dropped, and Caruso and Pozzovivo forged a 15-second lead. The chasers could not agree on who would pursue the fugitives, who led by 0:10 with one km remaining.
Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp-POC) attacked. The defending champion caught the leaders and appeared poised to repeat as champion. The Irishman crashed on the race’s final turn, however, and the bunch swept past him. The peloton scooped up the escapees, and Gerrans jumped into the lead to win.
The race did not develop as Gerrans expected it to. “I wasn’t expecting to see such a big group come to the finish together,” said Gerrans. “I thought the peloton would break more than it did. In fact, the hard final meant that everyone was a little more tired coming into the finish and no one had the legs to break away. My card was to wait and follow as best as I could and to try to finish it off with a small group sprint.”
For his part, Martin, the man who might have been a fall away from victory, was disappointed but grateful to his teammates. “ The team rode a beautiful race today,” he said. “We did everything right, and they gave everything for me all day. I hit a patch of something on the road, I don't know exactly what happened--it was like falling out of a tree --and down I went. Before I knew it, it was over. I think there were tears in my eyes before I hit the floor. I'm just so sorry. I know in my heart we did everything we could have to get me where I needed to be. I'm heartbroken I couldn't deliver the win for the team, but I'm proud of how they rode for me and of Tom finishing 6th. We'll just have to come back next year and try again.”
The spring classics season is ending. The Grand Tour season is about to begin. The Giro d’Italia will begin on May 9, and many of today’s riders will be in it. How will they fare? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!