Martin Wins Liege-Bastogne-Liege
The hostilities began early. Bart De Clercq (Lotto-Belisol), Vincent Jerome (Europcar), Jonathan Furneaux and Pirmin Lang (IAM Cycling), Frederik Veuchelen (Vacansoleil-DCM), and Sander Armee (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) detached themselves from the peloton in the first 10 km. The bunch did not lift a pedal to stop them, and the sextet’s lead had ballooned to more than 14 minutes by 44 km. Katusha then went to the front to peg the lead at about 12 minutes.
Movistar, BMC, Lampre-Merida, and Astana took turns grinding away at the lead. When the escapees headed north from Bastogne, they led the field by a shade more than 10 minutes. The fugitives’ advantage had dropped to about six minutes on the Cote de Wanne (160 km) and to 2:56 on the Col du Rosier (185 km). Saxo Bank-Tinkoff led the pursuit on the Rosier, with Astana doing the pacemaking on the Col du Maquisard (197.5 km).
On the Maquisard, Armee was dropped from the break. De Clercq suffered a mechanical and needed a bike change. The Belgian rejoined the leaders, but with 50 km left, their lead was down to 1:28.
Sky took over at the front of the peloton, with Lampre-Merida, Ag2r-La Mondiale, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, and BMC riding hard on their heels. With 41 km left, one minute separated the bunch from the break. One km later, Andrey Amador (Movistar) crashed on a left-hand turn, taking out several Cofidis riders and causing a split in the peloton, with the back third of it caught up in the mishap or delayed by it.
On the Cote de la Redoute, the break’s advantage was down to 0:30. Behind, David Lopez (Sky) attacked from the peloton, and Rui Costa (Movistar) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) joined him. Eventually, Alberto Losada (Katusha), Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Mathias Frank (BMC), Pierrick Fedrigo (Francaise des Jeux), and Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Merida) joined the trio to create an octet.
Lopez attacked his companions, and Bardet and Cunego joined him. Laurens Ten Dam (Blanco) bridged up to the chase group. The leading trio then waited for the chasers, and the merge took place with 30 km left.
BMC chased hard and cut the gap to 0:10 with 28 km left. Three km later, the field was together. BMC, Ag2r-La Mondiale, and Astana led the field to the Cote de Colonster (244.5 km).
At the base of the climb, Costa attacked, creating a 10-rider lead group and splitting the peloton. Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff) attacked, and Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) followed him. Behind, Philippe Gilbert (BMC) led the chase, with Valverde on his wheel. Pierre Rolland (Europcar) attacked and formed a chase group of seven, which was soon reeled in.
Near the summit, Hesjedal attacked and led Rigoberto Uran (Sky), Costa, Contador, Igor Anton (Euskaltel-Euskadi), and Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha) by 0:07 with 14.4 km remaining. Behind, Astana led the peloton.
On the approach to the Cote de Saint Nicolas (256 km), the Giro d’Italia champion led the chasers by 0:17. The bunch reeled in the chase group.
At the base of the Saint Nicolas, Hesjedal led the bunch by 0:20. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) led the peloton up the climb. Daniel Moreno (Katusha) crashed and misaligned his handlebars, taking one of the Russian squad’s options off of the table. At the summit, Hesjedal led the bunch by 0:08.
Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale) attacked from the peloton, and Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida), Martin, and others joined the Colombian. Valverde, Gilbert, and Nibali formed a chase group that eventually numbered 20 riders. The leaders were now Hesjedal and Martin (both from Garmin-Sharp), Betancur, Scarponi, Rodriguez, and Valverde.
Hesjedal pulled hard for Martin. With one km to go, Rodriguez burst into the lead. Scarponi tried to get to terms with the Spaniard, but could not do so. Martin could, however. He drew level with the Katusha man and powered away from him with 350 m left.
Liege-Bastogne-Liege is the last major event of the spring classic season. The Tour of Romandy begins this week, and the Giro d’Italia starts on May 4. Many of today’s riders will ride both races. How will they fare? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!
Read our recent interview with Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner Dan Martin in which he's prophetic regarding Liege-Bastogne-Liege and shares his unique perspective on racing.