Four days after winning his fifth Flèche Wallonne, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) dominated Liège-Bastogne-Liège for the fourth time in his career Sunday, equalling Moreno Argentin’s tally, only one shy of Eddy Merckx’s record. El Imbatido, once again winner ahead of Dan Martin, couldn’t contain his emotions on a day that began with a tribute to the late Michele Scarponi. For Valverde, this a third double Flèche-Liège after 2006 and 2015.
Paying tribute to Scarponi
An emotional tribute to Michele Scarponi preceded the start of the 103rd Doyenne. The 200 participating riders and the audience in Liège celebrated a minute of applauses, with the eight Astana riders wearing black armbands at the front of the pack.
Once the race began, Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) quickly went for the first attack of the day, before a group of eight riders managed to break away at km 4 with Tiago Machado (Katusha), Anthony Perez and Stéphane Rossetto (Cofidis), Mekseb Debesay (Dimension Data), Bart De Clercq (Lotto Soudal), Nick Van Der Lijke (Roompot), Fabien Grellier (Direct Energie) and Aaron Gate (Aqua Blue).
Pardini’s solo act
Olivier Pardini (WB Veranclassic) missed the move but decided to go in pursuit at km 15. A major solo effort almost granted him a spot at the front of the race, as he cut to 5 seconds a gap that previously rose above 2 minutes… but the Belgian came up short and eventually missed his shot at joining the leading group after the first climb of the day, the côte de la Roche-en-Ardenne. Pardini, who broke away on the Flèche wallonne, was finally caught by the peloton after 100 km of racing. At the moment, just after the turning point in Bastogne, the leaders were enjoying the maximum gap of the day: 13’25.
First moves on the Ferme Libert and La Redoute
Team Sky and then Quick-Step Floors decided to answer Alejandro Valverde’s call, helping Movistar control the race and slowly cut the gap. The new trilogy of climbs, with the côte de Pont, the côte de Bellevue and the côte de la Ferme Libert, was the opportunity to make the race harder and prepare later attacks. Simon Gerrans (Orica-Scott) tried to break away but the 2014 winner couldn’t open a real gap.
The col du Maquisard finally offered ground for a strong counter-attack, led by Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondiale) and quickly followed by Alessandro De Marchi (BMC), Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Hansgrohe), Carlos Betancur (Movistar), Omar Fraile and Nathan Haas (Dimension Data) and Gianluca Brambilla (Quick-Step Floors). Another move initiated by Sebastian Henao (Sky) and followed by Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) brought everyone together after the côte de la Redoute. At the front, Anthony Perez (Cofidis) went solo while Aaron Gate (Aqua Blue) was dropped from the chase.
Henao? Formolo? Martin? Valverde.
Sergio Henao (Sky) tried his luck on the côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons and the côte de Saint-Nicolas but never managed to actually get rid of the teammates Michael Albasini (Orica-Scott) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) needed to control the race until the finish. Stéphane Rossetto (Cofidis) was the last of the early attackers to be caught, after Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) joined him at the front of the race with 9 kilometers to go, only to drop him and then be caught on the côte de Saint-Nicolas.
Davide Formolo (Cannondale-Drapac) enjoyed the following downhill to open a gap with only 4 kilometres to go. The Italian puncheur still had a margin of a few seconds in the final kilometre, when Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) made his move. Once again, the 2013 winner entered the last curve ahead of everyone. But Alejandro Valverde, as he did Wednesday on the Flèche wallonne, had perfectly timed his sprint to bring home a fourth victory on the Doyenne. Michael Kwiatkowski (Sky) finished third.
Top 25 Finishers
1 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 6:24:27
2 Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors
3 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky 0:00:03
4 Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb
5 Jon Izaguirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida
6 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
7 Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica-Scott
8 Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott 0:00:07
9 Michael Woods (Can) Cannondale-Drapac
10 Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe
11 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
12 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
13 Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky
14 Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates 0:00:10
15 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team
16 Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek-Segafredo 0:00:14
17 Rudy Molard (Fra) FDJ
18 Julien Simon (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
19 Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Soudal
20 Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
21 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac
22 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb
23 Davide Formolo (Ita) Cannondale-Drapac
24 Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC Racing Team 0:00:24
25 Omar Fraile (Spa) Dimension Data 0:00:28
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