Wout Poels wins Liege-Bastogne-Liege
Team Sky’s Wout Poels won his first monument and the first for Team Sky when he took victory in the 2016 Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
He becomes only the fifth Dutchman to win the race, which had to be rerouted after snowy conditions saw the original route unsuitable. Poels followed Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge) when he made his move on the final climb at the Côte de la Rue Naniot and managed to hold him off in the sprint to take the win.
The conditions were poor at the start of the race and when reports came in of heavy snowfall on the Côte de la Roche-en-Ardenne – the first climb – the race was rerouted to avoid it, knocking 5km off of the total distance faced.
By the time the race was rerouted the breakaway had already been established and had a lead of 8’45” over the peloton, which was a mass of jackets, rain capes and warm headgear rendering many riders unrecognisable.
There were seven riders in the breakaway which included Alessandro De Marchi (BMC) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) along with Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff), Paolo Tiralongo (Astana), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Argon 18) and Jeremy Roy (FDJ).
Etixx-QuickStep took up the mantel of controlling the peloton’s chasing effort, keeping the break at a reasonable distance with the help of the Movistar team who were working for Alejandro Valverde. Together the two teams managed to break down the break’s lead and with 80km remaining the gap had come down to just under 4′ as the snow began to get worse, although it wasn’t settling on the road.
On the Col du Rosier Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie) attacked the peloton which had whittled down the lead to just 2′ as he tried to get up to the remnants of the break. The break itself was fracturing on the climb as De Marchi attacked his companions at the summit. De Marchi was joined by Edet and De Gendt and the trio managed to increase their advantage on the peloton to 1’50” as the rest of the break sat up to be caught.
With no movement on the Côte de La Redoute the race exploded as it approached the Côte de La Roche-aux-Faucons with Andriy Grivko (Astana) attacking the peloton and forcing Etixx-QuickStep to pike on the pace on the descent which saw Edet, De Marchi and De Gendt caught.
Grivko was caught on the approach to the Côte de Saint-Nicholas but he tried to go again on the climb with Michael Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) and Carlos Betancur (AG2R) following suit. As the climb continued Betancur accelerated again to try and drop the other riders with Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) amongst the chasers who were unable to keep up.
Romain Bardet (AG2R) attacked at the top of the climb with Diego Rosa (Astana) and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) tried to go with him, but the attacks were futile and as the race approached the Rue Naniot there were 25 riders trying to get a good position.
The group stayed together for the first part of the climb but with 300m to the summit Albasini made his move and quickly got a gap over the others whilst Samual Sanchez (BMC), Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) and Poels the only riders able to follow him.
No chase from the peloton or chasing group materialised as the quartet began to eye each other up, with Powls taking the initiative and leading into the final bend. Albasini was in a good position to win in a sprint on his wheel but he was unable to come around Poels who took the win.
1. Wout Poels (Team Sky – Ned) 6:24:29″
2. Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge – Swi)
3. Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida – Por)
4. Samuel Sanchez (BMC – Spa) +4″
5. Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha – Rus) +9″
6. Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin – Fra) +11″
7. Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff – Cze) +12″
8. Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha – Spa)
9. Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo – Ned)
10. Diego Rosa (Astana – Ita)