Evenepoel Wins Liege-Bastogne-Liege
Today’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2023 was the final Spring Classic of the 2023 season. The hilly route was 258.1-kilometers long and featured 11 classified climbs, including the legendary Cote de la Redoute, where many decisive attacks have taken place.
Defending Liege-Bastogne-Liege champion Remco Evenepoel was at the start in his World Champion jersey together with his Soudal-QuickStep teammate Julian Alaphilippe who finished second in 2015 and 2021.
Early in the race a breakaway group featuring 11 riders primarily from smaller team was established. Some teams were clearly hoping to gain valuable TV exposure for their sponsors. The group included Jason Osborne (Team DSM), Mathis Le Berre (Team Arkea Samsic), Lars van den Berg (Groupama-FDJ), Paul Ourselin (Team TotalEnergies), Georg Zimmermann (Intermarche-Circus-Wanty), Fredrik Dversnes (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team), Simone Velasco (Astana Team), Johan Meens (Bingoal WB), Alexandre Balmer (Jayco-Alula), Ruben Apers (Team Flanders-Baloise), and Hector Carretero (Equipo Kern Pharma). The group quickly built a 04:30 minute lead on the main peloton.
Race favorite Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) crashed with EF Education-EasyPost’s Mikkel Honore 174 kilometers from the finish and it would be interesting to see if the crash would affect Pogacar’s chances of winning the Ardennes Triple. Pogacar won Amstel Gold Race last weekend and the Fleche Wallonne on Wednesday. Both Pogacar and Honore later abandoned the race due to the injuries sustained in the crash.
Pre-race outsider David Gaudu was at the back of the main peloton group and was clearly not having an optimal day on the bike. Reportedly, Gaudu was suffering from allergies, and he was seen acting as support rider for his teammates carrying water bottles to and from the team car.
With 100 kilometers left of this year’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the advantage of the front group had been reduced to less than three minutes.
84 kilometers from the finish line, Jan Tratnik launched an attack from the main peloton for his Jumbo-Visma team. He was joined by Magnus Sheffield (Ineos-Grenadiers) and Balmer joined the duo after having been dropped from the front group.
Tratnik eventually dropped Sheffield and Balmer but was joined by Dversnes from the breakaway. Meanwhile, the remains of the breakaway group had an advantage of 01:20 minutes over the main peloton, with Tratnik, Dversnes and Sheffield somewhere in between.
With 65 kilometers left, a six-man group had formed at the front. The group featured Tratnik, Osborne, van den Berg, Ourselin, Zimmermann, and Velasco. Soudal-QuickStep were setting a fast pace in the main peloton, hoping to keep the attackers within a controllable distance.
The six-man group was later reduced to a Tratnik-Velasco duo.
On the Cote de Desnie – the final climb before the Cote de la Redoute – Bauke Mollema attacked from the main peloton for his Trek-Segafredo outfit. He was joined by Ineos-Grenadiers’ Pavel Sivakov. Few kilometers later they were reeled in by the peloton led by Soudal-QuickStep. At this point, Evenepoel had only one teammate in front of him.
Shortly before the Cote de la Redoute last year’s runner-up finisher Quinten Hermans (Alpecin-Deceuninck) suffered a mechanical and had to wait for his team car.
On the Cote de la Redoute the favorites took to the front of the main peloton. Romain Bardet, Marc Hirschi, Ben Healy, Mattias Skjelmose, Ben O’Connor, and Evenepoel were active.
Evenepoel launched a powerful attack 33.5 kilometers from the finish. Ineos-Grenadiers’ Thomas Pidcock tried to catch up and was closing in on Evenepoel. The two riders formed a duo while Trek-Segafredo’s Skjelmose and Giulio Ciccone were chasing the front duo.
15 seconds behind the Trek-Segafredo duo a five-man chase group had been established featuring Tiesj Benoot (Jumbo-Visma), Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain-Victorious), Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost), Romain Bardet (Team DSM), and Ion Izagirre (Cofidis).
30 kilometers from the finish Evenepoel increased the pace, thereby dropping Pidcock. Evenepoel then went solo, hoping to be able to remain in front for the remaining 30 kilometers. He built a 30 second advantage over Pidcock.
Healy attacked from the main peloton and was joined by other challengers. A group of chasers formed.
15 kilometers from the finish Evenepoel had a 01:20 minute lead.
On the final climb of the day Healy attacked from the chase group and was joined by Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain-Victorious). Later, Pidcock turned the duo into a trio.
Evenepoel soloed across the finish line to take his second consecutive victory in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The World Champion won the race in 06:15:49.
Pidcock won the sprint for second place, while Buitrago took third. Healy finished outside the podium despite having worked very hard in the chase group.
“It’s incredible to win this race in this beautiful World Champion jersey,” race winner Evenepoel told Roadcycling.com before being celebrated on the podium. “I want to thank my teammates for their incredible work, and this is their victory as well. I was very sad to hear about Pogacar’s crash and I send him all my best wishes and hope he is ok. I’ve experienced similar things myself.”