Race Report: A crazy final 30 kilometres brought five men to the fore to sprint it out for the Liège victory. The five were of top quality: World champion Julian Alaphilippe, four time Liège winner Alejandro Valverde, Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar, French hope David Gaudu and Canadian Michael Woods. It was the Slovenian ‘wonder boy’ Pogačar who disappointed the others in Liège.
It was close, but obviously the win was Pogačar’s
Tadej Pogacar won Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2021. The UAE Team Emirates Slovenian was the best of a leading group of five after almost 260 kilometres, which had escaped on the Roche-aux-Faucons at 13 kilometres from the finish. Pogačar beat World champion Julian Alaphilippe on the line. David Gaudu was third, ahead of Alejandro Valverde and Michael Woods.
Could it be the winning bike?
The break of the day eventually formed with Tomasz Marczynski (Lotto Soudal), Loic Vliegen, Lorenzo Rota (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Laurens Huys, Mathijs Paasschens (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB), Serghei Chernetski (Gazprom-RusVelo) and Aaron Van Poucke (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise). The seven managed a maximum lead of 11 minutes.
Double for Roglič?
Still spring in Belgium
In the peloton, it was the teams you would expect that led the pursuit. Deceuninck – Quick-Step, Jumbo-Visma, Movistar, UAE Team Emirates and Israel Start-Up Nation each had men at the front. It was an extra special day for the Movistar team, as leader Alejandro Valverde celebrated his 41st birthday. The Spaniard was, not surprisingly, the oldest rider at the start. The youngest was 19-year-old Ben Tulett from Alpecin-Fenix.
Break of the day
The peloton were not hanging about
A first action from the peloton came more than 80 kilometres from the finish, when Luis Léon Sánchez and Omar Fraile put in a strong effort. On the Hate-Levée there was more action from former winner Philippe Gilbert and Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet, but they couldn’t get away. The Col du Rosier saw more action and as a result, the lead of the front riders quickly decreased.
The iconic Cote de St Roche
Harm Vanhoucke, Mark Padun and Mark Donovan joined forces after the Rosier. They escaped from the peloton and tried to chase the leading group. In the peloton there were punctures for Wout Poels and Enric Mas, and others, but they were back on the Côte de Desniè, 48 kilometres from the finish. There the difference between the breakaway and the peloton was down to 3 minutes. The Vanhoucke group was still between them on the road to La Redoute.
Movistar, Deceuninck, UAE and Jumbo were in control of the peloton
Huys, Rota, Vliegen and Marczynski were the last out front from the early break. In the peloton, INEOS Grenadiers took over. The British team set the pace, thinned the favourites group to thirteen and caught the Vanhoucke group at the top. World champion Alaphilippe, Bauke Mollema, Marc Hirschi and Jakob Fuglsang were among the riders who had missed the move, but everything came together again. On the penultimate climb, the Côte de Forges, Tao Geoghegan Hart and Adam Yates pulled the peloton into a thin line.
Wanty had two riders up front
Yates and Jonas Vingegaard pulled back the last escapees at the top, and so the real final could start. The top men were in attendance: Pogačar, Carapaz, Haig, Vansevenant, Wellens, Higuita, Gaudu and Hermans. Missing: Alaphilippe, Roglič and Valverde. In the leading group, Carapaz attacked. The Ecuadorian took 25 seconds on the Pogačar group, which Roglič and co were able to join. Carapaz started the final climb of the Roche-aux-Faucons (1.3 km at 11%) solo with a 17 second lead.
There were some fans roadside
The next attack came from Davide Formolo, who took back Carapaz. After that it was Michael Woods who put in a strong pull on the front. Defending champion Roglič had no answer. The Slovenian could only watch Woods, Alaphilippe, Pogačar, Valverde and Gaudu ride away. Roglic ended up in a large chase group that was already 20 seconds behind the leading group.
Woods and Alaphilippe wanted to test Gaudu, Pogačar and Valverde, but the five stuck together. The Roglič group came to within 15 seconds, but lost more and more ground on the descent towards Liège. As a result, the gap grew towards half a minute when entering town. The win would come from these five escapees.
Bingoal also had two in the break
Before the finish, Woods tried to surprise his fellow escapees, but Alaphilippe closed the gap. Valverde then let himself be pushed to the front in the finishing straight, after which he let the pace completely stop. At 250 metres from the finish, Valverde started his sprint, but he was passed by Alaphilippe and Pogačar. The Slovenian was just fast enough to push his wheel over the line first.
Movistar for the birthday boy – Alejandro Valverde
Third place went to Gaudu ahead of Valverde and break instigator Woods. Marc Hirschi was sixth, Tiesj Benoot seventh and Bauke Mollema eighth, two seconds ahead of the chasing group.
Roglič and Hirschi kept their powder dry
Woods was the strong-man of the group
Liège’21 winner, Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates): “I’m lost for words. I love this race, and to win here, against these great names, it’s incredible. I knew [Julian] Alaphilippe would go for a long sprint and I stayed behind him and I passed him in the end. It was the right wheel for me to follow. It’s incredible. We were really disappointed [not to participate in the Flèche Wallonne] and we were really motivated today. We are really really happy. Now I can rest, spend some time with my family and prepare for the Tour de France.”
The win for Pogačar
Second, World champion, Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step): “I came with the ambition to get the best result possible. My team did a great job. I tried to handle the finale the best I could. It was really hard in the Roche-aux-Faucons. Then, we worked well until the last 2 kilometres. I was focused on the sprint, I didn’t want to attack or to play games with someone going off the front. I was in a good position but Tadej played it smart, coming from behind. Congratulations, it’s a great victory. I prefer to win but I took a really nice victory on Wednesday in the Flèche Wallonne.”
1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates in 6:39:26
2. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
3. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
4. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar
5. Michael Woods (Can) Israel Start-up Nation
6. Marc Hirschi (Swi) UAE Team Emirates at 0:07
7. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) DSM
8. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
9. Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) BORA-hansgrohe at 0:09
10. Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain Victorious
11. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) INEOS Grenadiers
12. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana-Premier Tech
13. Primoz Roglic (Slo) Jumbo-Visma
14. Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) BikeExchange
15. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis
16. Davide Formolo (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
17. Jack Haig (Aus) Bahrain Victorious at 0:12
18. Adam Yates (GB) INEOS Grenadiers at 0:37
19. Michael Matthews (Aus) BikeExchange at 1:21
20. Patrick Konrad (Aut) BORA-hansgrohe
21. Alex Aranburu Deba (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech
22. Toms Skujins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo
23. Aurélien Paret Peintre (Fra) AG2R Citroën
24. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal
25. Krists Neilands (Lat) Israel Start-up Nation
26. Warren Barguil (Fra) Arkea-Samsic
27. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) BORA-hansgrohe
28. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma
30. Omar Fraile Matarranz (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech.