Ans - Wouter Poels said winning
Liege-Bastogne-Liege was a "dream come true" almost four years after
a crash almost ended his career.
The 28-year-old Dutchman suffered a
ruptured spleen and kidney, three broken ribs and bruised lungs in a crash on
stage six of the 2012 Tour de France.
"Some doctors were saying it would be
better to stop riding a bike, so now to win Liege is really amazing: like a
dream come true," said the Team Sky rider.
More known as a specialist climber whose
previous best results came at stage races of up to one week, Poels hopes this
win will help him take the step up to Grand Tour leader for his team.
"I hope I can go next year maybe in a
Grand Tour for my own chances," said Poels, who will be one of Chris
Froome's chief lieutenants at July's Tour de France.
"I don't know if it will be the Tour
- Chris is outstanding in that. I also have to show I can do that, I hope with
this victory I can speed up (the process to becoming a Grand Tour leader) a
little bit - we'll see."
Poels had come fourth in Wednesday's Fleche
Wallonne, already his best ever result in a one-day classic, and before the
race Froome - who came home 112th, more than 10 minutes back - had said he
would be riding for Poels and Polish team-mate Michal Kwiatkowski.
When the race got to the business end after
more than six hours of riding through cold, snow, rain and hail, Poels showed
great maturity and strength in riding at the front, ensuring he could react
when Michael Albasini launched his attack in the final 3km.
Only Poels, Ruis Costa and Samuel Sanchez
managed to follow it.
In the sprint finish, Sanchez had no
strength left, Costa faded and Albasini didn't have the kick to overtake Poels
who had struck out for home first.
"You always hope for a really nice
victory, you dream about it but that you can win it now on a day like this is
really amazing, it's a really special feeling," said Poels.
"So I'll enjoy it!"
He added: "When I passed the finish
line I really couldn't believe it.
"It's an amazing feeling, an amazing
victory, the highlight of my career!"
Switzerland's Albasini revealed he'd
initially expected to be riding to help Australian team-mate Simon Gerrans, the
2014 winner in Liege.
"At the end I was still there and he
wasn't feeling good so it was up to me to make the race," said the
"I tried to stay with the leading
positions to cover any attacks.
"On the cobbles I knew I was going to
just ride at my own tempo. Sometimes it's easier to just follow your own tempo
(than that of others).
"I was surprised that I was the
strongest, although in the end I think I was one of the strongest and not the
strongest because the strongest won!"
While the favourites including defending
champion Alejandro Valverde failed to match the attacking move by Albasini,
Costa denied that it was a surprise result.
"At the end there was no Valverde and
no Purito (Joaquim Rodriguez) but there were other guys," said the
29-year-old Portuguese, world champion in 2013.
"With the day and the weather we had
it was really the best vying for victory at the end."