Primoz Roglic and Julian Alaphilippe served up another incredible dose of emotions in a finish that will not be forgotten anytime soon at Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
Sunday’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege set the scene for another wave of bittersweet emotions, as the Frenchman, on his first outing in his rainbow stripes, fought hard across the 257km hilly course making and following attacks.
Spring classics legend Greg Van Avermaet of CCC abandoned the race on the return to Liege after falling to a crash with some road furniture alongside Britain’s Adam Yates. Van Avermaet was taken to hospital and has fractured his ribs and vertebrae after the central reservation in the road was not marked, causing three riders to collide into it, adding to a long list of recent disasters.
'That's nasty!' Head-on crash with road sign takes out riders in Liege-Bastogne-Liege
Rival team leaders Tadej Pogacar, Marc Hirschi, Roglic, Mathieu Van Der Poel, and Max Schachmann were mostly sheltered by their respective teams, while Alaphilippe suffered early after being involved in a crash and repeatedly having to work his way back to the peloton and towards the front to stay in contention.
Alaphilippe among the riders caught up in massive crash
On the one hand, it would have been a hard fought victory for the Frenchman had it worked out, but in typical Alaphilippe style, he was to make a mistake and lose it all just metres from the line by darting across the line of Pogacar and Hirschi, and then celebrating too early opening the door for Roglic to waltz through, subsequently demoting him from second to fifth.
He said: “I started my sprint at 200 meters to go, but then I made that mistake, for which I take full responsibility. I am aware that my swerve caused a problem to the other riders and I apologise for that, but I want to underline that I didn’t do it on purpose. I accept the jury’s decision and all I can do now is focus on the next races.”
Is this the best finish in Monument history? Watch Roglic's famous win and Alaphilippe's howler
Roglic on the other hand, played the perfect race, taking advantage of the strong Killer Wasp team surrounding him as Tom Dumoulin and Paul Martens worked hard on the front during the final climb for the 30-year-old to counter the attacks and stay with the breakaway group, giving it everything over the line.
After only a world championships time trial between Sunday’s race and the emotional trauma of losing the Tour de France to Slovenian rival on the final day, Roglic was delighted to win his first monument on his debut at Liege-Bastogne-Liege and fourth time at a monument, summing up his emotions with this great quote.
I finally managed to win something.
Sunweb’s Marc Hirschi and UAE-Emirates' Tour de France star Tadej Pogacar were superbly supported by their teams throughout the six-hour race across the vast forested Ardennes region in damp grey, autumnal conditions.
Reaching second and third respectively on the podium may seem disappointing, when the margin for winning was so close, it was out of their hands with Alaphilippe’s veering mistake.
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If Hirschi and Pogacar, both aged 22, have a Tour de France, a La Fleche Wallone victory and a national championship between them so far in this season spanning three months, it’s encouraging to see what they are capable of and there will be many more Liege-Bastogne-Liege victories up for grabs in the coming years.
Today, Roglic can celebrate, Hirschi and Pogacar can take some pride in more impressive performances which will shape them in future races with monument podiums not to be sniffed at, and Julian Alaphilippe won’t be making that mistake again.