Four of the biggest names in cycling in 2020 battled it out for the win as Liege-Bastogne-Liege came down to the most dramatic of finishes.
Julian Alaphilippe thought he'd won it as he crossed the line with his arms raised, but the Frenchman didn't see Primoz Roglic coming up on his inside to snatch victory by the finest of margins.
World Champion Alaphilippe was subsequently relegated to fifth by the commissaires in any case after cutting across the line of Marc Hirschi during the sprint in a move that took both Hirschi and Tadej Pogacar out of contention.
“I started my sprint at 200 meters to go, but then I made that mistake, for which I take full responsibility," Alaphilippe said in a statement released on Sunday evening.
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.
However, regardless of the relegation, the dramatic photo-finish will live long in the memory as Roglic took not only a stunning victory but also his first win at the oldest of cycling's five monuments.
"It was an amateur mistake," Eurosport and GCN presenter Dan Lloyd said. "You should never raise your arms before the finish line. I might expect that of a youngster like Hirschi, but not the World Champion!"
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While fans may wince at Alaphilippe's loss, some can rejoice as Roglic's Tour de France heartbreak is somewhat redeemed by ticking off his first monument victory on his wish list.
The exhausted looking Slovenian said: "It was just unbelievable, it was so close just never stopped believing and kept pushing to the last centimetre and I'm super happy that I managed to win.
It’s just incredible feeling because it was really a long period for me away from home and I'm super super happy and proud of the whole team and everyone. I finally I managed to win something.
"It was actually the first time I did the oldest race in the whole calendar and it was on my wish list to win a monument."
Alaphilippe suffered early on in the 257km race after he was involved in a crash with 80km to go at a slippery, downhill hairpin where a number of riders including Arkea Samsic's Warren Barguil, and Movistar's Matteo Jorgenson went down with some scrapes and scratches.
The 28-year-old got back into the bunch quickly, but went through two bike changes and a shoe change before he was set up perfectly by his Deceuninck-QuickStep team pushing the pace at the front of the pack prior to starting the final climb into Liege.
Alaphilippe among the riders caught up in massive crash
Once the peloton caught up with race leader Micheal Schar of CCC, who led much of the race before the final climbs and was caught at the top of Col du Maquisard with 37km to go, Sunweb and Deceuninck-QuickStep started to push on with Team Ineos’ Michal Kwiatkowski, UAE-Emirates’ Tadej Pogacar, heading towards the front of the peloton.
Next to attack was Michael Albasini of Mitchelton-Scott with 25km to go on the penultimate climb of Côte des Forges, but as the group of 173 riders summitted the climb, he was swallowed up as Astana’s Luis Leon Sanchez attacked, and with him, Alaphilippe and Rui Costa of UAE-Emirates.
Allaphilippe, whose best result here in was second in 2015, attacked with 12km to go on the final climb of Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons, but his big-hitter rivals who remained to the finish couldn't be shaken off and the group gained 20 seconds, only shedding Team Ineos’ Michal Kwiatkowski.
The breakaway quartet's lead of 20 seconds was being eaten away by the peloton with 800m to go. Alaphilippe, Roglic, Hirschi, and Pogacar were joined by Bahrain-McLaren’s Matej Mohoric as they approached the line. As Mohoric looked to increase the pace, Alaphilippe responded with what looked like a panicked response cutting across the paths of Hischi and Pogacar, leaving Roglic free on the right-hand side to swoop in across the line first.
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Sunweb's Hirschi said: "It's my second time here now, but I didn't expect that and I will try and come back to win. I look forward to next year."
UAE-Emirates' Pogacar said: "A bit mixed feelings after that finish, I felt really good today and the team really worked hard for me. Then at the finish I felt good, I started sprinting and saw myself in good position and I saw the line and I said to myself 'I go for the win, I go for the win' and then one moment just changed everything to 'I'm going to crash, I'm going to crash'.
I stayed on the bike, finished in fourth place and then they disqualified Alaphilippe so I have mixed feelings right now. But it was a really pleasure to race here.
"Last year was my debut, I finished in 18th, and I felt super good at the race so to be here and in the final to battle for victory was really amazing and for sure I want to come back and fight again."
Two of the race favourites CCC's Greg Van Avermaet and Mitchelton-Scott's Adam Yates were forced to retire early after being involved in a crash with some road furniture at 97km to go, along with Bora-Hansgrohe's Jay McCarthy.