Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) won the 106th Liège-Bastogne-Liège with an exhibition of race craft and experience to make the most out of his legs and the circumstances in the final kilometres. Two weeks after a heart-breaking defeat on the Tour de France, the Slovenian got his payback from this amazing sport called cycling. Roglic went clear with Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and Marc Hirschi (Team Sunweb) with 14 kilometres to go, atop the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons. They reached together the final straight, where the wearer of the rainbow jersey put out an irregular sprint that got him relegated because it hindered the effort of Pogačar and Hirschi. Still, Roglic was quicker than Alaphilippe and crossed the finish line first as the French rider raised his arms.
175 riders took the start on the 106th edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège at 10:24, ready to race over 258 kilometres from Liège to Bastogne and back. It was after nine kilometres that Iñigo Elosegui (Movistar Team), Kobe Goossens (Lotto-Soudal), Alexander Kamp (Trek-Segafredo), Michael Schär (CCC Team), Kenny Molly (Bingoal WB), Omer Goldstein (Israel Start-Up Nation), Valentin Ferron, Paul Ourselin (Total Direct Energie) and Gino Mäder (NTT Pro Cycling) went clear. Kamp punctured shortly afterwards and was caught by the peloton, from which Mathijs Paasschens (Bingoal WB) counter-attacked. The Dutch rider joined the frontrunners at the kilometre 40, establishing a nine-strong break. The biggest time gap was 5’45”, clocked atop the Côte de la Roche-en-Ardenne (km 76). Deceuninck-Quick Step, Team Sunweb and Ineos Grenadiers were the teams that devoted more effort to control their advantage.
Crashes before the clashes
The race changed significantly as the riders entered the last 100 kilometres. Crashes took it toll, forcing the withdrawal of pre-race favourites such as Greg van Avermaet (CCC Team) or Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott). A crash at the head of the bunch with 85 kilometres to go removed from contention Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-McLaren) and Michael Valgren (NTT Pro Cycling), affecting also Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Marc Hirschi (Team Sunweb) and Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates), amongst many others. The pack was left pattern-less until everyone came back to its par and Trek-Segafredo took the reins. Meanwhile, at the front of the race, a series of attacks left Schär alone, as a sole frontrunner, with 64 kilometres to go. Mäder was the last man able to hold the Swiss’ wheel.
Deceuninck-Quick Step put the hammer down
Deceuninck-Quick Step hit the front of the pack again on the Col du Maquisard (km 210; -48km). The Belgian outfit brought back Schär at the Côte de la Redoute (km 222; -36km). By the summit of this iconic climb there were only 50 riders on the bunch, that was led by Dries Devenyns and Mauri Vansevenant into the Côte des Forges (km 234; -24km), where Michael Albasini (Mitchelton-Scott) launched an attack before taking a bow and bidding farewell on his last-ever professional race. Despite an attack by Luis León Sánchez (Astana Pro Team) and Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates), it all came down to the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons (km 243,5; -14,5km).
An eventful outcome
Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma) upped the pace at the foot of the climb and Alaphilippe took the initiative to force a final selection including himself, Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and Marc Hirschi (Team Sunweb). The four cooperated without hesitation, with a dozen riders chasing them around 20” behind. Matej Mohoric (UAE Team Emirates) attacked from the chase to join the quartet with 500 meters to go, launching the final sprint. Alaphilippe took off 200 meters from the finish and got a clear margin, but his irregular trajectory barred Hirschi and Pogačar from pulling off a clean sprint and he was therefore relegated to 5th place. The rainbow jersey raised his arms, but he was pipped on the finish line by Roglic, undisputed winner of the day.