Liege-Bastogne-Liege: Gerrans grabs glory

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April 28th, ’14.  Australia’s Simon Gerrans has achieved what has until now been unattainable, the Orica GreenEDGE rider has at last won an Ardennes classic.  In a hectic finish that saw several riders vying for the win, Gerrans grabbed the win in the sprint ahead of Alejandro Valverde of Movistar and Michal Kwiatkowski of Omega Pharma-Quick Step.

April 28th, ’14.  Australia’s Simon Gerrans has achieved what has until now been unattainable, the Orica GreenEDGE rider has at last won an Ardennes classic.  In a hectic finish that saw several riders vying for the win, Gerrans grabbed the win in the sprint ahead of Alejandro Valverde of Movistar and Michal Kwiatkowski of Omega Pharma-Quick Step.

 

Despite the good weather for the 100th edition of cycling’s oldest race, two notable riders were absent from the starting line up; with Carlos Betancur of AG2R La Mondiale and Chris Froome of Team Sky both pulling out of the race with illness.  The break of the day featured six riders:  Marco Minnaard of Wanty-Groupe Gobert, Pieter Jakobs of Topsport Vlaanderen, Matteo Bono of Lampre-Merida, Jaco Venter of MTN-Qhubeka, Michel Koch of Cannondale and Pirmin Lang of IAM Cycling.  The six riders built a maximum advantage of 15.50mins after 70km of racing.  

Two key crash victims back in the bunch during the chase were Tinkoff-Saxo’s Roman Kreuziger and Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Jan Bakelants, with the latter keeping a look out for Michal Kwiatkowski.  Both were back up on their bikes though, and both made it to the finish.  Much of the chasing for the first 130km was done by the Garmin-Sharp and BMC Racing teams as the race for the breakaway and the peloton turned into a war of attrition.  On the climb of La Redoute the breakaway lost much of its impetus, splintering and losing all but 1.40mins of its advantage.  After falling victim to a crash, Jan Bakelants headed off the other end of the race, trying to break away from the peloton, his efforts were in vain though and mechanical trouble sealed his fate and sent him back out the back end of the peloton again.

Eventually only one rider was left at the front of the race, Lampre-Merida’s Matteo Bono, and with Movistar and BMC both having numbers in the peloton it was only a matter of time before the inevitable catch was made.  But the attacks continued with Domenico Pozzovivo twice featuring in breakaway moves.  The first came to nought and a decent sized peloton headed towards the final graded climb of the day; the Cote de Saint-Nicolas.  With Movistar, BMC Racing and Orica GreenEDGE forcing the pace, Pozzovivo decided to try his hand again and this time he was joined by Katusha’s Damiano Caruso.  The pair of them worked hard together, going for broke in the final kilometres; and it looked like they’d struck gold as the previously organised peloton began to simply look at each other.  

The duo only had a handful of seconds, with the gap hanging around the 10-12 seconds margin, but going into the final climb the pair were still clear and it looked like we were in for a quite real possibility of an upset.  But as we learned last year the final climb to Ans is crucial, and so it proved to be again.  Under the kite with 1km to go Caruso and Pozzovivo still led but the peloton behind were getting desperate and the gap began to dissolve.  It looked like a repeat of last year, with Daniel Martin of Garmin-Sharp – defending champion – dancing away from the peloton to join the two leaders.  For the first time in years it looked like the Irishman would do a back-to-back repeat victory.  Then in a cruel twist on the final corner Martin crashed as the chasers behind him caught on, and also caught the breakaway pair.

Through the final turn Alejandro Valverde led out the sprint but it was Gerrans who decided to go early.  It was a decision that paid off, as the Australian national champion finished about a bike’s length ahead of his opposition.

Results:
1st:  Simon Gerrans (AUS) Orica GreenEDGE
2nd:  Alejandro Valverde (SPA) Movistar 
3rd:  Michal Kwiatkowski (POL) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
4th:  Giampaolo Caruso (ITA) Katusha
5th:  Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) AG2R La Mondiale
6th:  Tom Jelte Slagter (NED) Garmin-Sharp
7th:  Roman Kreuziger (CZE) Tinkoff-Saxo
8th:  Philippe Gilbert (BEL) BMC Racing Team
9th:  Daniel Moreno Fernandez (SPA) Katusha
10th:  Romain Bardet (FRA) AG2R La Mondiale

For more results click here.

By:  Ed Wright

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