Jakob Fuglsang tamed “La Doyenne”, showing his class to win the final spring classic. The Danish rider took his first career Monument after a late push by his Astana team set up his solo victory. Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton - Scott) also
solo’d to her first win in Liège, in the third edition of the Women’s race. Here’s how their battles played out...
After winning the first two editions of Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes, UCI Road World Champion Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans), was the day’s hot favourite, fresh from her fifth consecutive victory at the Flèche Wallonne.
This year’s men’s winner of Flèche Wallonne – along with Milano-Sanremo and Strade Bianche – Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step), was also a favourite, with his main “spring” rival, Fuglsang. Other
big GC names were alongside them: Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain - Merida), Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) and Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale).
Under a grey, showery sky, the men passed km0 of the 105th edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the oldest Monument with the first edition raced in 1892. Most of the peloton focused on the new finale in the heart of Liège, 15km after
the last climb. With several early attacks animating the race a group emerged and by 25km, the peloton allowed the gap to grow as high as 10'30", but after 40km, Deceuninck-Quick Step and Lotto Soudal set the chasing pace. By the top of the day’s
first climb, the Côte de La Roche-en-Ardenne, the lead was 6'45". The attack made it to Bastogne, but the return to Liège is tougher, with ten climbs in the last 150km.
Meanwhile, in the Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes, Maria Novolodskaya (Team Cogeas–Mettler–Look) and Leah Kirchmann (Team Sunweb) took a 1’10” advantage on the peloton with 62km remaining and still had 40” on the
peloton by the last two climbs. But on the Côte de La Redoute, 32km out, the day’s other favourite, Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton - Scott) launched her attack, closed the gap and went solo, gaining an advantage of 35” on a group
of nine riders, including Van der Breggen.
Van Vleuten was attacked, first by Lizzie Deignan (Trek Segafredo), soon joined by team mate Elisa Longo Borghini and Annika Langvad (Boels-Dolmans), then by the other followers – but with her advantage extended to 2’ by the entry to Liège,
she continued solo to win her first Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes. Floortje Mackaij (Team Sunweb) came 2nd and Demi Vollering (Parkhotel Valkenburg) dominated the sprint to complete the all-Dutch podium.
Annemiek van Vleuten said: “Sarah Roy and Moniek Tenniglo did an epic lead out into La Redoute, I was super safe there, I didn’t have to do anything, then when we hit the bottom, I knew some girls were maybe out of position and I just went!
This was really high on my list and to finish off my spring with another win... I’m super happy.”
Back in the men’s race, the gap had increased to around 8’ at the Côte de Saint-Roch, which Julien Bernard topped first, before the Frenchman went solo then led a group of four to around 1’ away from the accelerating peloton. Some
big names abandoning included previous winners Daniel Martin and the UCI Road World Champion Alejandro Valverde.
On the Côte de la Haute-Levée the race exploded, with many favourites attacking, catching Bernard and unifying the peloton. Tanel Kangert (EF Education First) and Omar Fraile (Astana) attacked on the Col du Rosier, the day’s longest
climb. The duo were joined, forming a 10-man group, 30" ahead atop the Col du Rosier.
On la Côte de la Redoute, Kangert went away, followed by Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe) and caught by Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) and Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) on the final climb, La Roche-aux-Faucons. Astana drove the bunch to catch them,
then launch captain Jakob Fuglsang. Only Michael Woods (EF Education First) and Davide Formolo (Bora-Hansgrohe) could follow him, 15” away with 15km remaining.
The Dane dropped them at 13km. On the approach to Liège centre, Fuglsang ‘saved’ a frightening slip on a wet road, and continued solo to win the first Monument of his career. Davide Formolo finished second at 29” with team mate
Maximilian Schachmann winning the group sprint to complete the podium.
Fuglsang said: “I knew my finish line was on the top of the climb, I couldn’t wait for the finale. I followed Woods when he attacked and, when he remained with me, I noticed he was on the limit. There I gained on him and a few meters on Formolo
too, I told myself to go and give everything. I had a scary moment on the finale, a little bit of adrenaline before the finish line. My wife told me I would have won, she was right.”
Fitting combinations of class, determination and taking their opportunities ensured that a Danish man and a Dutch woman each powered to solo wins in this spring’s enthralling final Monument.