Not the podium we would have expected but a welcome change off-script as Alejandro Valverde's Ardennes reign comes to an end... Congratulations Wout Poels!
Road race - Men
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Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge) is second and Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) third. Samuel Sanchez (BMC) a few seconds back for fourth.
Victory for Wout Poels (Team Sky) in a slow motion sprint. Finally Sky have their monument - and from the most unlikely of sources!
Onto the final bend and it's Poels who takes it up... and he holds Albasini at bay to take the victory!!
It's Zakarin for Katusha. And Poels attacks! Albasini latches on before Costa and Sanchez close the gap. The pack is closing in, but they may have left it too late.
Under the flamme rouge and this quartet has about 10 seconds - it could stick! They're onto the final climb to the finish in Ans. One Katusha rider in pursuit, but no sign of Valverde et al...
Albasini and Costa have a small gap over Sanchez and Poels, who sheds his arm warmers and tosses them on the road.
Albasini has really blown the race apart - he has Sanchez and Poels in pursuit, and Rui Costa. They crest the summit with a gap over the others...
Onto that cobbled climb of the Côte de la Rue Naniot (600 metres at 10.5%). Albasini takes it up for Orica-GreenEdge.
Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) is still there. And the final categorised climb is approaching... 20-odd riders left now.
Next up is that new cobbled climb, which is short and sharp, before the final rise to Ans. Rosa edges ahead - it looks like Zakarin has sat up. The Russian didn't look comfortable on a short cobbled section at the top of the Saint-Nicolas climb.
Diego Rosa (Astana) uses the Bardet attack as a springboard for his own, taking Zakarin with him. They have a small gap as they hit the top of the climb.
There's a lot of looking at each other as Lars Petter Nordhaug takes it up for Sky with Romain Bardet (Ag2R-La Mondiale) in his wheel. Meanwhile, Vincenzo Nibali, the Italian champion, has cracked. And now Bardet attacks!
Betancur is brought back by Kwiatkowski and Albasini. Kreuziger's there too in this group of around 30 riders. Ilnur Zakarin now comes to the front for Katusha.
Now a select bunch has reformed as they hit this urban climb, the Cote de Saint-Nicolas. And Betancur again attacks!
That trio is being reeled in, but the pack is strung out and there aren't many riders left... it really will be a case of the survival of the fittest out there.
Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) has come to the front - he's in a leading trio with Grivko and Betancur, who has been caught. The peloton is just a few seconds behind.
It's Grivko who's edged ahead. We've approaching the penuiltimate climb, the Côte de Saint-Nicolas (1.2km at 8.6%).
The pack has really strung out here under Etixx's pressure. Betancur's advantage is still small but it's a factor. Astana now send a rider to the front on a downhill drag.
And the rain has returned - such demanding conditions out there... Tim Wellens will regret having thrown away that cape.
Good tactics from Movistar - that attack by Betancur has forced Etixx to lead the chase: they have five riders on the front of the pack.
ATTACK: Carlos Betancur - the only rider in shorts, it seems - bounds clear. Interesting to see Movistar anticipate what may follow and send their former Paris-Nice winner up the road.
Over the top now for the pack, with Etixx still in control. Rider ratings: ***** Alejandro Valverde **** Julian Alaphilippe, Dan Martin, Enrico Gasparotto *** Simon Gerrans, Joaquim Rodriguez, Michal Kwiatkowski, Dani Moreno ** Rui Costa, Diego Ulissi, Warren Barguil, Romain Bardet, Vincenzo Nibali * Tim Wellens, Roman Kreuziger
Sky have Wout Poels there near the front, while Tinkoff have Roman Kreuziger. Both Alaphilippe and Martin are there for Etixx, being paced by Pieter Serry, while Valverde and Gasparotto are a bit further back.
We're onto the third last climb of the day, the Côte de La Roche-aux-Faucons (1.3km at 11%). Wellens ditched his rain cape right before the climb and then danced on the pedals. It looked like he was going to break clear - as he did for both the Fleche and Amstel - but he's dropped back to allow Etixx to take up the slack.
Wanty-Group Goubert have come to the front for their man Enrico Gasparotto - and young Frenchman Warren Barguil is right there for Giant-Alpecin, as is Belgian Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal).
Edet and De Marchi - the two last survivors of the break - have been caught by the peloton. Game on!
CRASH: Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) has gone down with Angel Vicioso (Katusha). That's the Spaniard's second crash of the day and he's being paced back on. Majka will probably pull out - there's no way he'll get back into the fray. Etixx-QuickStep have now picked up the tempo on the front of the pack.
Andrei Grivko's cameo is over - he and De Gendt have been consumed by the pack. Edet and De Marchi have 20 seconds to play with. Three climbs to go, then the final rise to Ans.
It's all about to come back together - it's Grivko, not Kangert, who is that Astana counter attacker. He's not far off the leading trio, while behind all the chasers were reeled in by the pack. Sky now have a rider on the front. De Gendt, having caught the leaders, has been dropped, so Grivko will catch him first - in fact, he just has.
ATTACK: Astana send a man up the road - it could be Tanel Kangert. Four riders in pursuit. And two more...
De Gendt is riding in pursuit of Edet and De Marchi but it's all coming back together. Laengen is the next to be caught by the peloton, which is just 42 seconds down on the leading duo. De Gendt has actually caught the leaders. And the sun is out again.
The last time it snowed during Liège-Bastogne-Liège was during a particularly brutal 1980 edition of the race where Bernard Hinault led just 21 riders (from a field of 174 participants) home. The Frenchman won by almost nine-and-a-half minutes, picking up frostbite in two fingers in the process (talk about a badge of honour). More than half the starters had abandoned after just one hour of racing, while only one-third of the field were still in the race an hour later – and the race had not even reached Bastogne on the outward leg.
Edet and De Marchi crest the summit of the Redoute with 1:01 over the pack. De Gendt is next to pass. It's snowing now.
Voeckler is about to be caught by the Movistar train on the Redoute, although he has a man dressed as a giant duck brandishing a Belgian flag. The cock of Wallonia, indeed.
There are loads of caravans on the side of the road because we're approaching the showpiece climb of the day, the Côte de La Redoute (2km at 8.9%). Edet has ridden clear and has De Marchi in pursuit. Further back, Roy has dropped Tiralongo.
Roy and Tiralongo are 30 seconds behind the leaders - Edet, De Marchi, De Gendt and Laengen - now as the rain starts to pound down again. Voeckler is a further 25 seconds back and the peloton is at 1:30.
There is no major showpiece finale as such, the race finishing in the Liège suburb of Ans after a punchy rise to the finish (1.4km at 5% but peaking at 10%). And this year, something a little different: the Stockeu climb (which boasts a statue of Eddy Merckx, the race's record five-time winner) has been taken off the menu and a new uphill cobbled climb, the Cote de la Rue Naniot (600m at 10.5%) comes just 2.5km from the finish. This curveball should shake things up and provide the ingredients for an unpredictable finale. Now it just depends on what the cycling cooks come up with...
The major gripe held against the previous two Ardennes classics is that all the action came down to the final kilometres on the Cauberg and Mur de Huy. Well, Liège-Bastogne-Liège is a little different in that there is a series of late climbs which can play a huge part in the outcome of the race: the Cote de la Redoute (2.1km at 8.4%), the Cote de la Roche aux Faucons (1.5km at 9.9%) and the Cote de Saint-Nicolas (1km at 11.1%), which all come in the last 38km.
Voeckler catches and passes Brutt. The weather is so localised - here the road is dry in patches. Tiralongo and Roy are next on the list for Voeckler.
Four riders have jumped the pack on this climb. That trio led over ahead and have build up a small lead with Tiralongo in pursuit.
We're onto the sixth climb, the Col du Maquisard (2km at 5%). The break is beginning to fracture, with Edet, De Gendt and De Marchi edging ahead.
We're hearing that Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) has withdrawn after a crash. Another Frenchman, Arthur Vichot (FDJ) has also called it a day, as have IAM pair Jarlinson Pantano and Vincente Reynes.
Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie) is riding chasse papate between the break and the pack. The French veteran has about 40 seconds on the back so is within a minute of the break, who have dropped Pavel Brutt of Tinkoff. So just the seven men out in front now.
Martin and Alaphilippe represent real opposition for Valverde and means Etixx have two strong cards to play – perhaps in tandem – should they keep things in check during the race. Martin led briefly on the Mur de Huy before fading on Wednesday, but perhaps he was keeping something back for the big one. Other names to consider are 2014 champion Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge), former world champion Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and the in-form Italian Enrico Gasparotto (Wanty-Groupe Goubert) – although there's no space for local favourite Philippe Gilbert (BMC) who struggled in the past two races with a fractured finger.
Movistar are the team to beat, but Etixx-QuickStep have options. Irishman Dan Martin won this race in 2013 and almost doubled up a year later, crashing on the final bend after apparently riding over a rogue biro lying on the course. Martin warmed up with a solid third place in the Flèche Wallonne behind Valverde and 23-year-old team-mate Julian Alaphilippe, and he'll have high hopes of getting Etixx a first Monument win since Niki Terpstra's victory in the 2014 Paris-Roubaix.
Break tumbling down now - just 1:40 for the eight leaders. The weather improved, the sun came out, but now it's wet again. As variable as Ryder Hesjedsl's form out there today.
And another snow snap from one of the earlier climbs...
Despite that earlier spill - and the horrific conditions - Chris Froome still appears to be in the race.
Yates and Calmejane have called it a day, but Voeckler continues to try and make the break count. He's got about 50 metres over the pack. Meanwhile, the break crests the summit of the climb with Nicolas Edet taking the spoils. The gap is down to 2:40.
ATTACK: Two Direct-Energie riders have jumped clear of the Movistar-led pack: first Lilian Calmejane and then Thomas Voeckler. They're joined by Adam Yates of Orica-GreenEdge - but they're struggling to make any leeway, with Astana leading the chase.
Chris Froome was going to ride La Doyenne back in 2014 but pulled out at the 11th Hour because of a chest infection. If you don't recall this then you may recall images of the Sky rider using an inhaler a week later during the Tour of Romandie, which he won after controversially obtaining a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) certificate to treat his illness with a powerful corticosteroid. The last bona fide Tour champion to win Liège-Bastogne-Liège was Bernard Hinault in 1980 although Andy Schleck triumphed in 2009, which goes to show that lean, climbing whippets in the mould of Froome can perform in the Ardennes. But while it's unlikely that the Briton will provide anything more than support for team-mate Michal Kwiatkowski, his presence does add some glitter to proceedings. Froome isn't the only Grand Tour contender to look out for, either, with the likes of Romain Bardet (Ag2R-La Mondiale), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Richie Porte (BMC) all scheduled to start.
Meanwhile in a more clement neck of the European woods, Przemyslaw Niemiec of Lampre-Merida has won the opening stage of the Tour of Turkey. Watch the Polish veteran take the spoils below...
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We're onto the fifth of 10 categorised climbs, the Col du Rosier (4.4km at 5.9%). The gap is down to 3:45 as Movistar continue their pursuit of the break. A victory today would put Valverde alongside Moreno Argentin with four Liege victories, one behind Eddy Merckx's record tally of five.
The fourth Monument of the year is also the last major one-day race before the Grand Tour season kicks off with May's Giro d'Italia. The challenging, hilly course traditionally attracts many of the kind of riders we'll be seeing a lot more of in the longer three-week stage races – including, this year, and for the first time since 2008, the man tipped to win his third yellow jersey in July. Team Sky's Chris Froome comes to the Belgian lowlands after an altitude training camp on Mount Teide in Tenerife and has been drafted into the squad following the loss of Sergio Henao, the Colombian who has been withdrawn from racing owing to on-going issues surrounding his biological passport.
The riders pass through the second feedzone at Stavelot. Hope they like soggy sandwiches...
It's really miserable out there now as the rain and sleet pounds down and tears apart the peloton! Stay tuned for a raft of withdrawals - it looks like a bad dream.
We're onto the Côte de la Haute-Levée (3.6km at 5.6%) and... it's started to rain again! Many of the riders in the peloton currently taking their jackets off will soon regret such slapdashery...
Wednesday's win on the Mur de Huy saw Valverde beat Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep) for a second year running – and the French youngster also finished behind his rival in last year's Old Lady. While a clear pattern is emerging it certainly means the rest of the field will be fully aware that Valverde and Alaphilippe are the men to beat. Hopefully this will mean they adapt accordingly. The current efforts to stem Valverde's indomitable run are obviously not working so the opposing teams will have to be bold and take the fight to Movistar earlier. This could mean a break in which the 35-year-old Spaniard doesn't feature actually sticks this time round. Or perhaps some kind of counter attack that may catch Valverde out near the finish. But one thing's certain: letting the race come down to the final steep rise to the line in Ans is like giving Valverde a cupcake and hoping he doesn't eat it.
Movistar control the peloton still and Valverde looks very comfortable. Interestingly, only Carlos Betancur looks to be wearing shorts - everyone else in the entire peloton seems to have opted for full leg-ins. Spanish veteran Valverde claimed his third successive Flèche win on Wednesday and is now targeting a third Flèche-Liège double of his career and a second in as many years. Finish on the podium and he'll become the most feted Ardennes rider in history. In short, is Roger De Vlaeminck can be called Mr Roubaix then Valverde really should be known henceforth as Señor Ardennes.
The leaders are onto a cobbled section ahead of the next climb. The gap has stablised at 4:20. And it looks like Chris Froome has had a little tumble at the back of the peloton - nothing serious, but he's on the side of the road remounting his steed.
A little indication of how bad the weather was earlier this morning. Thankfully, they seem to be much better now - indeed, some of the stretches of road have even dried out...
One of those BMC riders is that man Alessandro De Marchi, who is currently riding on the back of the break as they crest the summit of the Cote de Wanne after a pretty wooded section of the climb. The Italian actually powers through to cross the line in third place. Back in the pack, it's still Movistar controlling things.
This wouldn't be such a huge surprise... although it's hard to tell until we see some aerial pictures of the peloton. It might be a slight exaggeration on the part of BMC to make their riders look more heroic in comparison to their rivals.
The break is onto the third climb, the Côte de Wanne (2.8km at 7.4%). They have 4:30 over the pack and the sun is definitely shining through the grey rainclouds.
There's some blue sky now and the odd ray of sunshine - so perhaps the worst of the bad weather is behind us? That said, they're heading back towards Liege now after the outward loop and so there's no banking on it! The gap has dropped below the five-minute mark.
There were no dramas over the second climb of the day, the Côte de Saint-Roch (1km at 11.2%). There was a bit of a crash a bit ago back in the pack, with several riders hitting the deck including Angel Vicioso (Katusha) and Alexey Vermeulen (LottoNL-Jumbo).
The leaders have already completed the first of 10 categorised climbs: the Côte de La Roche-en Ardenne (2.8km at 6.2%). It was Jeremy Roy who led them over the top, while Movistar controlled things in the peloton for their man Alejandro Valverde, the defending champion and race favourite.
One-hundred kilometres left for the leading group, who have 5:45 on the pack. Seven riders initially broke clear after 13km before Stake Laengen managed to bridge the gap to make it eight.
One rider gave up early on today: Julien Loubet (Fortuneo Vital Concept). No surprise, with the temperature currently 1 degrees Celsius...
Around five kilometres have been lost today because of a detour around one of the earlier, unclassified climbs. The change came after 45km, with the riders picking up the original route 30km later. There's no change to the major part of the course, with all those 10 classified climbs remaining untouched and still very much on the menu.
So, those eight riders in the breakaway are: Paolo Tiralongo (Astana), Alessandro De Marchi (BMC), Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Jeremy Roy (FDJ), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) and Cesare Benedetti (Bora Argon 18). It's hard to make them out because they're all in rain/wind capes because of the dour conditions. The gap is six minutes.
It appears that that link to the Facebook chat with Sean Kelly didn't work earlier, so take two...
One rider you wouldn't expect to see in a cold, wet, one-day spring classic in the Ardennes is two-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome - but the Team Sky rider is indeed here, helping out his team-mate Michal Kwiatkowski, who is one of the riders to watch today. Will be go the distance? It's unlikely, but stranger things have happened.
Shades of that freezing Milan-SanRemo from 2013 out there today...
We join the race now live with the riders having completed around 135km of a course that has been slightly tweaked owing to the foul weather. A group of eight riders have over seven minutes on the pack - and there's some big names here, with the likes of De Gendt, Tiralongo, De Marchi all involved...
Before we pick up the race live I'll be doing a quick Facebook chat with cycling legend and Eurosport commentator, Sean Kelly - a two-time winner here at Liege. We'll be starting at 12:45 for the chat, so tune in...
It's an undulating 253km route through the Belgian Ardennes featuring 10 categorised climbs but numerous other ascents, including the punchy rise to the finish in Ans. Conditions are far from ideal: wet, miserable and even a bit sleety. Nice...
It's also the third and final race in Ardennes Week after last Sunday's Amstel Gold Race (Enrico Gasparotto) and Wednesday's Fleche-Wallonne (Alejandro Valverde). If those races were a bit subdued, there's high hopes that Liege-Bastogne-Liege will spice things up a little.
Hello and welcome to live coverage of the fourth monument of the season, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, otherwise known as La Doyenne, or Old Lady. It's the oldest one-day race in the pro calendar and the last hurrah of the spring classic season before the Grand Tours get underway with next month's Giro d'Italia. So, without further ado...