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Monday, April 25, 2022

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2021 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

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Liège-Bastogne-Liège reports

We posted the race orgaziner's summary with the results.

Here's the report from winner Remco Evenepoel's Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team:

First, an update on injured riders Julian Alaphilippe & Ilan Van Wilder:

Following Sunday’s crash at Liège–Bastogne–Liège, we have an update on Ilan Van Wilder and Julian Alaphilippe.

During the incident, Ilan has unfortunately suffered a broken jaw, in a crash that saw a mass pile-up in the middle of the peloton, 62 kilometers from the finish.

In the same incident, World Champion Julian Alaphilippe suffered two broken ribs, a broken scapula and a hemo pneumothorax. His condition his stable, but will need to be hospitalised for observation.

Both will travel by ambulance to Herentals for further examination and treatment.

No further statement will be made at this time.

Here's the race report:

Remco Evenepoel booked a place in the history books after capturing his first Monument at the age of 22 and becoming the first Belgian rider in more than a decade to triumph at Liège–Bastogne–Liège, the world’s oldest Monument. His success came on the back of a stratospheric performance – an all-out attack launched on the race’s most iconic climb, La Redoute, and a 29km time trial all the way to Liège, where he celebrated his biggest victory to date.

Remco Evenepoel

Remco Evenepoel after his extraordinary ride. Getty Photos

“It’s amazing, truly incredible! Liège-Bastogne-Liège is one of the races I dreamed about winning and to do this at my first participation makes me very proud and happy! I want to say a big thank you to everybody – my team and teammates, my family and my friends. They always kept believing in me, even when I had difficult days, and that’s why winning today feels even more special”, Remco said immediately after the finish.

In a way it was only logical that Remco’s first Monument win came in the Ardennes. It’s the place where the young Belgian regularly trains and which he knows like the back of his hand. It’s where, five years ago, he won the Philippe Gilbert Juniors, which finished at the bottom of La Redoute, where he took off Sunday afternoon. And it’s also a place which holds a special meaning, as evidenced by the charity work he did together with his fan club to support the victims of last year’s floods.

Sunday’s race was an eventful one, for a number of reasons. Unfortunately, two of these featured Julian Alaphilippe and Ilan Van Wilder, who were involved in a huge crash with 62 kilometers to go that forced them to abandon this final appointment of the spring classics. After a couple of confusing minutes, a regrouping took place and Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl took over the front of the bunch again with Pieter Serry, who set a ferocious tempo and reduced the escapees’ advantage to just two minutes.

At the foot of La Redoute, Mauri Vansevenant took over and drilled the pace for his countryman, who blasted away from the group, taking a handful of seconds over the chasers and setting off in pursuit of the last two men who were still in the lead from the original breakaway. Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl’s Belgian caught and dropped the two, who couldn’t live with his acceleration on Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucon (1.3km, 11%), which he crested more than 30 seconds clear off the group.

Attacks came from the bunch on a small uncategorized climb, and these halved Evenepoel’s lead, who entered the final ten kilometers with 20 seconds in hand. But Remco summoned his last resources of energy and dug deep to expand again his advantage on the flat kilometers to Liège, adding 20 more seconds to his margin and putting any doubts regarding the day’s winner to bed, despite a strong headwind. Inside the last kilometer, he began realising the towering feat he was about to achieve at his debut in “La Doyenne” and shook his head in disbelief, before crossing the line overcome with emotion, his face hidden in his hands.

“I think today was my best day ever on the bike! I woke up with a good feeling, knowing this could be my day. The race was hard, but I had a great team around me and rode stress free all the time, and all these elements helped me get inside the last hour of the race as fresh as possible. It also helped that I know these roads really well since my junior days, I knew where to be going into the climbs, and also that on the descent of Roche-aux-Faucons you can go full gas, which I did. It wasn’t easy with the headwind after the climb, but I kept pushing and dids my best.”

“Today we showed the Wolfpack mentality, we rode as the incredible team we are and we kept believing in ourselves. We didn’t have a great spring, but we still won a lot of races and gave our best every time, despite facing bad luck and not so good moments. Having my family at the finish line and celebrating with them makes this a perfect day I will always remember”, said after his monumental triumph the youngest rider in the last 54 years to win Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

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Here's the report from third-place Wout van Aert's Jumbo-Visma team:

Wout van Aert has finished his first Liège-Bastogne-Liège on the podium. After a difficult moment on the Cote de la Roche-aux-Faucons, the 27-year-old Belgian of Team Jumbo-Visma fought his way back into the chasing group and sprinted to third place. For Van Aert, it was his second podium place in a monument this season.

Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2022 podium

The top three finishers, from left: Quinten Hermans (2nd), Remco Evenepoel (1st) & Wout van Aert (3rd).

Without the sick Tiesj Benoot, the riders left Liège for the last spring classic of the season. On the undulating Ardennes roads, eleven riders had a significant lead, but this disappeared when the peloton increased the pace on the steep climbs.

On the Cote de la Redoute, Remco Evenepoel was the first of the favourites to attack. The young Belgian immediately created a gap and picked up the remaining riders one by one. Van Aert kept calm in the depleted peloton and hoped he could close the gap on the Cote de la Roche-aux-Faucons.

That hope was dashed when Van Aert was dropped just before the top of the final climb. He fought his way back into the chasing group. Meanwhile, Evenepoel did not see his victory threatened. In the battle for the podium, Van Aert secured third place.

"This was the highest result possible for me", Van Aert said. "I tried to follow the best climbers and on top of the Cote de la Roche-aux-Faucons, I struggled to keep up. In the final kilometres I gave everything to sprint for the podium, which took a lot of strength. It was a sprint of dying swans, but fortunately it was just enough for the podium. Riding in the Belgian championship jersey, I really wanted a podium place."

For Van Aert, who had to skip the Tour of Flanders and Amstel Gold Race due to a corona infection, it was his second consecutive podium spot. "My goal was to win a monument this spring and unfortunately I failed. However, given the circumstances, I can be satisfied with how I performed. All in all, it was a nice and successful spring."

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Fourth-place Daniel Martinez's Team INEOS Grenadiers posted this report:

Dani Martinez sprinted to fourth as part of a lead chase group as Remco Evenepoel (Quick-step Alpha Vinyl) won Liege-Bastogne-Liege with a long-range solo attack.

Martinez had been one of the only riders able to stay in contention with Evenepoel, working with other team leaders to help the reduce the gap to the Belgian until attacks within this second group disrupted the chase.

This allowed Evenepoel to stay away and win the Monument, with Martinez edged into fourth on the line after a bunch kick.

Tom Pidcock

INEOS rider Thomas Pidcock on the Redoute climb. Sirotti photo

Earlier, the Grenadiers had been reduced in numbers after illness forced Omar Fraile and Carlos Rodriguez to abandon the race. This setback was compounded by Tom Pidcock being caught in a large crash with 50 kilometres to go, which affected a large portion of the peloton. Fortunately he was able to continue and re-join his teammates in a reduced bunch. 

With the race already splitting up on the iconic La Redoute climb, Evenepoel accelerated and quickly amassed a sizeable advantage that the dwindling peloton could not make up.

Behind, the INEOS Grenadiers contributed to the chase, with Geraint Thomas pushing the pace, until the peloton splintered again on Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons.

Despite a small reduction in the gap to the leader, the chase group were only able to sprint for second, with Martinez narrowly missing out on a podium in Liege. 

Dani Martinez:
"It was a hard day. This morning I woke up a bit under the weather, I wasn’t feeling myself and during the stage I had stomach ache and I went to the team car several times.

"It was a hard day, but despite of all the stress, crashes and everything, I felt great on the climbs and I managed to react to all the attacks from my rivals.

"At La Redoute, the key moment of the race, I had a mechanical and I had to stop to fix it but Remco already attacked and I had to wait for the other teams to control the situation, but Remco was really strong and stayed clear."

Geraint Thomas:
“It was a hard, attritional race and we were on the backfoot early, with Omar and Carlos feeling sick. Once we’d got into the race there was a big crash and luckily I was just behind it and had to pick my way through.

“I saw Dani with his chain off, so I waited for him, got him back to the front and tried to keep him in good position for the last climb. Unfortunately Remco had a good enough lead and it stayed away.

“All things considered, Dani came fourth and almost got on the podium but for a photo finish. We all pulled together under the circumstances and I think it was alright in the end.”

Sport Director Gabriel Rasch:
"It was a hard start, a lot of teams wanted to go in the break and in general it was a really hard race, hats off to Quick Step and Evenepoel - the way they won was amazing.

"We had a couple of guys who had a minor stomach problem that we weren’t 100% sure of. The illness meant we had to do status checks during the race and then adjust our plans, but I think if we had more riders in the final we maybe could have done more, but it is what it is.

“We were not far off the podium and Dani did a really good sprint, in the end we need to be happy with our performance.”

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Sixth-place Dylan Teuns' Bahrain Victorious team posted this report:

The final of the Ardennes Classics didn’t have the dream ending Bahrain Victorious hoped for with a back to back victory after Teuns win at Flèche. In the end it came down to a bunch sprint for second and Dylan managed to cross the line in sixth.

The oldest Monument on the calendar was also the hardest to face. Bahrain Victorious was at the start with a super strong lineup: including the Slovenian Champion Matej Mohorič, the former race winner Wout Poels, a brilliant Mikel Landa on his road to the Giro, Damiano Caruso coming out from Giro di Sicilia as GC and stages winner, the experienced Spanish rider Luis Leon Sanchez, and a back in form Jack Haig, who was also one of the possible contenders of this tough race. All in all, one of the strongest teams on the paper this morning at the start of La Doyenne.

And that’s what the team proved to be, riding an aggressive race and pulling in front of the peloton to bridge the gap to the day’s breakaway. Multiples attacks from Landa and accelerations from Poels aimed to make the race as difficult as possible. The plan worked well but was not enough to prevent and stop the winning move of Remco Evenepoel(Quick-Step), who went on the legendary Redoute climb, and nobody was able to follow him. He bridged the gap to the race leader and managed to solo to victory in Liège.

Behind him, Bahrain Victorious tried to arrange the chase, but without success. “Everybody of us was committed to working, except our leader Teuns and Haig”, Matej Mohorič explained. “I was not on a great day; therefore, I just worked for the team, and on the last ascent, I finished my job”.

Bahrain Victorious leader Dylan Teuns went hard on the Roche-aux-Faucons, where the race was usually decided in the past. But it was not enough to make the difference and take advantage of the rivals for the sprint for the remaining steps of the podium, finishing in 6th place in Liège.

“I can’t say to be happy with the result, as I was looking for the victory today,” says the Belgian rider. “We showed a strong team performance. This finale is always a little bit technical, without a climb. I tried several times on the last climb, and I got it away a bit, but they came back in the end, and there was no super collaboration. We tried to organize the chase to Remco Evenepoel without success, and the gap remained the same. I did the sprint, finishing 5th. It could be better, but it is what it is.”

And here's the report from Bruno Amirail's Team Groupama-FDJ:

He did it again. Not satisfied enough with his breakaway on the Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday, Bruno Armirail went for it again on Sunday on the most prestigious of the Ardennes Classics: Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The French rider rode away after just a few kilometres and then proved to be the last breakaway’s survivor. He was caught by the winner Remco Evenepoel twenty kilometres from the finish, and was close to hold on to the other favourites in Roche-aux-Faucons. He even was the first rider from the Groupama-FDJ cycling team on the line, as he secured a brave sixteenth position to finish off his fine day up front. Rudy Molard (18th) and Quentin Pacher (20th) also entered the top-20.

Bruno Amirail on La Redoute. Sirotti photo

On Sunday, the 2022 spring Classics campaign was set to come to an end. As usual, the “Doyenne” and its atrocious climbs between Liège and Bastogne made up this last big battle. At the start of the fourth Monument of the season, the Groupama-FDJ cycling team had certain ambitions, in particular that to add an eleventh top-10 in a row in the WorldTour Classics. They, however, had to do it without David Gaudu, third last year. Rudy Molard, Quentin Pacher, and Valentin Madouas all had their card to play in the final, but beforehand, Bruno Armirail also had the opportunity to take part in an aggressive race. He did not hesitate. After only five kilometres, the time trial specialist took a gap with four other competitors.

“We had planned to anticipate the fight by going in the breakaway, and I managed to take it, like I did on the Flèche Wallonne”, said Bruno. “I also felt better than I did on Wednesday”. After an hour of fierce racing, six more men eventually joined the leading group to bring the breakaway to eleven riders. Their lead reached the six minute-bar in the first half of the course. On the way back to Liège, and particularly entering the sequence of climbs with 90 kilometres to go, the bunch however came back just 3’30 away from the Frenchman and his break’s partners.

Throughout the climbs, riders started to be distanced in the peloton, but it also occurred up front quite naturally. The Groupama-FDJ rider therefore had only five riders left with him after the côte de la Haute-Levée. Together, they kept their cooperation going and approached the climb of Desnié, forty-two kilometres from the finish, with a 2’30-gap. In the bunch, the first attacks occurred, but Philippe Mauduit and Marc Madiot’s men were always quick to respond. This also resulted with the gap reducing by one minute before the well-anticipated Côte de la Redoute.

Right from the first slopes, Bruno Armirail then stood up on the pedals and almost instantly got away solo. “I was happy with my feelings, but I knew that I had to manage my energy as well as possible”, he said. “I had planned to attack in La Redoute in order to go as far as possible. I accelerated almost at the bottom, and I had to. I saw that they were all kind of tired, and I couldn’t waste too much time staying with them. I needed to go at that time. I felt good, so that’s what I did.” With thirty kilometres to go, he therefore went away solo, and his main chaser quickly became Remco Evenepoel. A few minutes later, the young Belgian indeed broke away from the bunch at the top of La Redoute and gradually closed the gap with the Frenchman.

Evenepoel eventually bridged across with twenty-one kilometres to go, and Bruno Armirail had then no choice but to try to follow the wheel. “It was hard,” he smiled. “When I heard he was close, I sat up a bit and waited for him.

Unfortunately, he’s very aerodynamic and I am a little too tall, so it was not easy to hold on to his wheel. I tried to follow as much as I could, but he went fast right from the bottom of the Roche-aux-Faucons climb, and considering my day up front, I couldn’t keep up”. The duo tackled the final hill of the day with a lead of about thirty seconds over the group of favourites, where the team still had its three cards. However, when things got more serious, Valentin Madouas, Quentin Pacher and Rudy Molard had to let go one after the other. As for Bruno Armirail, he was caught by “big guys” at the top of the hill. He fought hard to hold on to the group, but the ascent towards Boncelles right after proved fatal to him. “I dropped in the second part of the climb, it’s a shame, but I was at the limit,” he said. In the lead, Remco Evenepoel managed to secure victory after his superb ride, while the Frenchman eventually arrived in a third group and took 16th on the day.

“If I had been told this morning that I was going to be sixteenth after being in the breakaway all day, I would probably have been happy”, concluded Bruno. “It’s a good day. There was a great atmosphere in la Redoute. It’s awesome to climb it alone and in the lead. I had goosebumps, although the goal was to attack to get a result”.

“Bruno did a solid race, so hats off to him,” said Philippe Mauduit. “He put in a very good performance. Behind him, we were close to having a rider in the group that arrived for second place. The guys were in the mix up until La Redoute but they all struggled a bit in the Roche-aux-Faucons. It came down to small things. Rudy and Quentin were just 50 metres behind at the top, but 50 metres is too far on a race like this. It was a difficult Liège-Bastogne-Liège, as usual”. With Rudy Molard (18th) and Quentin Pacher (20th), the team put three riders into the top-20 of the Belgian Monument. “Overall, it’s still a great Classics campaign”, added Philippe. “With the exception of today, we achieved top-10 finishes in all the races. This Sunday, we had a great team once again. At each start, everyone was motivated and wanted to give everything for the best possible result. At the end of the day, that’s what’s important.”

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