Liege - Denmark's
Jakob Fuglsang ended a run of near-misses by clinching cycling's final
spring one-day classic at Liege-Bastogne-Liege on Sunday, with a win or
bust 20km solo break.
After finishing runner-up three times at the Fleche Wallonne and
third in the Amstel Gold Race this month, Astana's Fuglsang completed
the 256km course in 6:37:37, well clear of Davide Formolo and
Maximilian Schachmann in second and third.
"It's an amazing feeling and a great way to finish off these three
classics," he said after soloing from the summit of the final climb.
"I don't know why it took me so long, maybe I had to grow up," said the 34-year-old.
He also revealed that pre-race favourite Julian Alaphilippe, who he
finished behind on both his previous two races, had wished him luck when
he himself had run out of steam.
"I looked at Alaphilippe to see if he had the legs, and he said to me
'I hope you win', so I knew he was running on empty," Fuglsang
He then decided to go all in when EF's Canadian leader Michael Woods,
third here last year, attacked from a small group on the final climb.
"When Woods went I knew it was the right moment," he said. "Now you have to die, now you have to go for it."
When asked his feelings on Fuglsang's win-or-die attitude, runner-up Formolo raised a smile.
"For me, it was mainly dying," said the Italian.
"I was just missing a few metres to stay with Jakob, but that's cycling."
But Fuglsang, a former mountain bike champion, had a brush with
disaster just 5km from home after sliding on white markings on the
"It gave me the adrenalin rush I needed to get to the line," Fuglsang said.
Bora rider Schachmann was magnanimous in defeat too.
"He deserved the win," said the fast-rising 25-year-old German, who has four stage wins so far this season.
"I'm pretty happy having gone on the last climb with (Adam) Yates, (Vincenzo) Nibali and Woods, I'm proud."
Despite looking fresh after the race, Schachmann admitted he had suffered on a cold, wet day with 73 riders failing to finish.
"The weather was extreme at three degrees and it rained for I don't know how many hours," he said.
The well-wrapped peloton that embarked Sunday morning through the
winding Ardennes forests soon lost former winner Dan Martin and a
frozen-looking world champion Alejandro Valverde who both pulled out
A group of six ambitious riders launched a long-range escape from
13km, swiftly racking up a 10-minute gap before the last survivor Julien
Bernard was caught 70km out.
Veterans Greg Van Avermaet and Philippe Gilbert then attacked from deep, but only succeeded in losing energy and the initiative.
With 11 climbs left, there were a string of escapes all reeled in by
the team Alaphilippe, winner of Milan-San Remo and the Fleche Wallonne.
The Frenchman edged Fuglsang after a two-man break in the Fleche and
the pair also escaped together in the Amstel Gold before being caught in
the last 400 metres.
This time Alaphilippe was dropped on the sharper section of the final
climb when Fuglsang's lead was still just a handful of seconds.
Yates bided his time in the elite group over the final 100km but just
missed out on the podium as Schachmann edged him on the line, leaving
the Briton with a respectable fourth place.
On their final race in Sky colours before the switch to a new sponsor
next week, former Liege winner Wout Poels came 10th, while Michal
Kwiatkowski was 12th, just 1:29 adrift.
Results from the Liege-Bastogne-Liege one-day cycling classic on Sunday:
1. Jakob Fuglsang (DEN/Astana) 256 km in 6hrs 37mins 37sec
2. Davide Formolo (ITA/BOR) at 27sec.
3. Maximilian Schachmann (GER/BOR) 57.
4. Adam Yates (GBR/MIT) 57.
5. Michael Woods (CAN/EF1) 57.
6. David Gaudu (FRA/FDJ) 57.
7. Mikel Landa (ESP/MOV) 57.
8. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA/BAH) 1:00.
9. Dylan Teuns (BEL/BAH) 1:05.
10. Wouter Poels (NED/SKY) 1:26.
11. Tim Wellens (BEL/LOT) 1:29.
12. Michal Kwiatkowski (POL/SKY) 1:29.