Pogacar, among the greats
April 25 th 2021 - 17:20
Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) made history again with his first Monument triumph on the roads of Liège-Bastogne-Liège at 22 years old. The Slovenian prodige is the first winner of the Tour de France to claim the Doyenne in the following Spring since Bernard Hinault’s iconic victory in 1980. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) was hoping to be the first French winner since Hinault but he had to settle for second on Sunday, ahead of his compatriot David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ). Pogacar is the youngest winner of Liège-Bastogne-Liège since Hinault in 1977.
The pack rolls from place Saint-Lambert at 10:00 with 174 riders - Andreas Leknessund doesn’t start due to sickness, Team DSM reports. Laurens Huys and Mathijs Paasschens (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB), Loïc Vliegen and Lorenzo Rota (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), Sergei Chernetski (Gazprom-Rusvelo), Tomasz Marczynski (Lotto Soudal) and Aaron Van Poucke (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) quickly break away from the bunch with a gap already up to 2’ after 3 kilometres.
Julian Alaphilippe’s Deceuninck-Quick-Step and Primoz Roglic’s Jumbo-Visma start pulling the peloton after some 20km of racing. Tadej Pogacar and Marc Hirschi’s UAE Team Emirates quickly join them and the gap stabilizes after hitting a maximum of 10’30’’ at km 26.
Break under control
The young Laurens Huys is the first rider over the top of the first climb of the day, côte de La Roche-en-Ardenne (km 76), with a gap to the bunch down to 8’35’’. The pace increases in the bunch as they turn around in Bastogne (km 100) and head back to Liège on much more demanding roads.
Alejandro Valverde’s Movistar and Michael Woods’ Israel Start-Up Nation also participate in the chase. The attackers work well together but their lead decreases to 7’25’’ on the second climb of the day, côte de Saint-Roch (km 123.3).
A race of attrition in the first climbing sequence
The tension rises with many teams trying to position their leaders at the front of the bunch ahead of the climbing sequence starting with the côte de Mont-le-Soie. At the summit (95km to go), the gap is down to 5’10’’.
Astana-Premier Tech try to shake things up on the côte de Stockeu but Movistar and Ineos-Grenadiers control the bunch. More attacks fly over the côte de la Haute-Levée and the Col du Rosier. Mark Padun (Bahrain Victorious), Mark Donovan (Team DSM) and Harm Vanhoucke (Lotto Soudal) eventually manage to jump ahead of the bunch.
Ineos-Grenadiers go all-in
With 55km to go, the three chasers are 2' behind the leaders and they've opened a 1' gap to the bunch. Deceuninck-Quick-Step accelerate ahead of the côte de La Redoute but Ineos-Grenadiers turned the race upside down on the climb. Tao Geoghegan Hart put the hammer down, with Michal Kwiatkowski, Richard Carapaz and Adam Yates following him. And only 9 riders managed to follow them over the top, without Julian Alaphilippe.
Some 40 riders get back together with 30km to go but Ineos-Grenadiers keep pushing on the côte des Forges: Yates creates a split, Marczyinski and Rota are the last early attackers to be caught, with 23km to go, and Carapaz goes solo in the downhill.
Pogacar's perfect sprint
The Ecuadorian climber enjoys a 20’’ gap at the bottom of the final climb, côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons. Five riders get away in the ascent: David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), Woods, Pogacar, Alaphilippe and Valverde. The chasers trail by 20’’ with 10km to go but they can’t bridge the gap.
Valverde launches the sprint early, with more than 200m to go but he can’t hold it to the line. Alaphilippe looks in prime position to claim a second victory this week in the Ardennes… until Pogacar edges him right on the line.