Evenepoel comes in colours into Liège

April 23 rd 2023 - 17:11

2 out of 2. Following his victory on his maiden appearance in La Doyenne last year, current world champion Remco Evenepoel won his second straight Liège-Bastogne-Liège. After a first attack up the Côte de la Redoute, the Belgian rider rode his final rival Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) off his wheel with 30 kilometres to go and powered solo all the way to the Quai des Ardennes. It’s the fourth time in the race’s history that a world champion seals back-to-back victories, the second one in the rainbow jersey, after Ferdi Kübler (1952), Eddy Merckx (1972) and Moreno Argentin (1987). On top of that, this was Evenepoel’s first triumph in the aforementioned rainbow jersey. Pidcock was 2nd in the finish line, with Bahrain Victorious’ Santiago Buitrago in 3rd to claim Colombia’s first-ever podium in La Doyenne. On a sad note, the much-anticipated duel between Evenepoel and UAE Team Emirates’ Tadej Pogacar did not take place as the Slovenian rider crashed out 84,5 kilometres into the race and suffered fractures to the left scaphoid and lunate bones.

Highlights - #LiegeBastogneLiege 2023

172 riders took the start at 10:35 in the 109th edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, which was held over a 258,1-kilometre course from Liège to Bastogne – and back. There were three non-starters: Samuele Battistella (Astana Qazaqstan), Sam Oomen and Tosh van der Sande (Jumbo-Visma). Six riders took flight as the flag dropped: Jason Osborne (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Lars Van den Berg (Groupama-FDJ), Georg Zimmermann (Intermarche-Circus-Wanty), Fredrik Dsvernes (Uno-X), Simone Velasco (Astana Qazaqstan) and Johan Meens (Bingoal WB). Shortly after, another five cyclists went clear from the bunch: Mathis Le Berre (Arkea-Samsic), Paul Ourselin (TotalEnergies), Alexandre Balmer (Jayco-AlUla), Ruben Apers (Flanders-Baloise) and Hector Carretero (Equipo Kern Pharma). Both groups merged at kilometer 12 to create a 11-strong breakaway that Soudal-Quick Step and UAE Team Emirates were happy to let go.

Pogacar crashes out before reaching Bastogne

With the breakaway building a gap as large as 4’55” by kilometer 46 and some remarkable headwind, the bunch was seemingly down for a peaceful ride to Bastogne before hitting the hilly way back to Liège’s Quai des Ardennes. Unfortunately, Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) crashed out of the race along with Mikkel Honore (EF Education-EasyPost) at kilometer 84,5, leaving La Doyenne without one of his two main favourites. The Slovenian rider suffered a wrist injury as a result of the aforementioned crash.

Breakaway under control

Bora-Hansgrohe and EF Education-EasyPost cooperated with Soudal-Quick Step at controlling the breakaway, which bore a 3’00” advantage with 100 kilometres to go. As the climbs began to add up, the front group was reduced to just five riders – Osborne, Van den Berg, Zimmermann, Velasco and Ourselin. Behind, Jumbo-Visma’s Jan Tratnik powered away from the bunch at the base of the Côte de Wanne (km 173,1), with Groupama-FDJ’s Valentin Madouas and Ineos Grenadiers’ Magnus Sheffield trying to follow him - yet failing. The Slovenian rider bridged back to the break with 65 kilometres to go, by when the peloton had brought the lead of the head of the race down to 1’15” and it began raining over the race convoy.

Evenepoel takes off

Despite several attacks from the likes of Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) or Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers), Soudal-Quick Step kept control of the race, reducing the bunch down to 40 riders by the base of the Côte de la Redoute (km 224,2). It was up this climb that the last two riders remaining at the front, Tratnik and Velasco, were reeled back in. Just 300 meters shy of the summit, Evenepoel took off from his teammate Ilan van Wilder’s wheel. His acceleration was only matched by Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers). With 30 kilometers to go, up the Côte de Cornemont, Evenepoel simply rode Pidcock off his wheel, paving his way for a first victory on the rainbow jersey.

Pidcock, Buitrago and Healy were the best of the rest

The current world champion quickly built a remarkable advantage, clocking a 1’10” gap atop the Côte des Forges (km 234,8). From then on, it was a race for podium between his rivals. Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost) and Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain Victorious) managed to power away from a 20-strong group during the climb to the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons (km 243,8), while Pidcock joined them shortly after. Evenepoel made it to the finish line with time to savor and celebrate his second straight victory in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Meanwhile, Pidcock and Buitrago took the best off Healy to earn their podium spots, rounding up a top3 featuring three 23-years-old cyclists.

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