The Moment Liège-Bastogne-Liège Was Won

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The top of La Redoute doesn’t mark the end of the climbing and just when everyone else wanted a breather, Remco Evenepoel attacked with 29km to go and try as they might, nobody could even follow him. He stayed away to take a solo win in the race of his dreams.

Sylvain Moniquet was the first to attack, a local from Lotto-Soudal and he was joined by five others and in turn the group swelled to 11 riders including Harm Vanhoucke and Bruno Armirail, these two arguably a class above their fellow escapees for the day. They got six minutes on the trip down to Bastogne with Quick-Step’s Tim Declerq among the workers on the front of the bunch.

Declerq dropped off with under 100km to go, the roads had become hillier and a different cast of characters took over, riders like Luis Leon Sanchez of Bahrain. The eleven man rider was splintering and down to seven riders and three minutes once the Wanne-Stockeu-Haute Levée trilogy down.

As riders took up the full width of the road on the fast descent towards the Col du Rosier, there was a touch of wheels towards the front of the bunch and suddenly it seemed as if half the peloton was felled at 70km/h with riders flying into the ditch and woodland. Sport suddenly turned into carnage, this was what Italians call a “maxi-crash”.

Bahrain had been on the front and seemed to avoid trouble the best, although Dylan Teuns was briefly delayed. A little further back Alejandro Valverde was among those chasing and he’d get back. Julian Alaphilippe and his rainbow jersey couldn’t be seen. Then TV replays found him in the ditch, stuck between a rock and a pine tree as Romain Bardet made his way down to help out his fellow auvergnat.

The Bahrain team stayed on the front and at one point one of them shouted “piano“, the universal peloton language for taking it easy as they took stock of the incident. This could only last so long and soon enough the Gulf team got back to work and used their numbers. Mikel Landa launched five attacks. None of them though was vintage Landa, the bicycling Zorro who slices the peloton to ribbons with his rapier attacks. But this did weaken rival teams as rivals responded and the likes of Sep Kuss and Carlos Verona were being sapped. Bahrain tried more moves with Poels, the same again.


Onto La Redoute, named after the fortifications once built at the top but today a tribute to Philippe Gilbert who grew up at the foot of the climb and raced up for the last time today. The breakaway had split to pieces with former soldier Bruno Armirail leading solo over the top.

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A lot of riders mistakenly think you should attack on the hardest part, but in reality you hurt people on the slightly flatter section that comes after this
– 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1991 winner Moreno Argentin on La Redoute

Many of the Ardennes climbs are irregular, get to the top and there’s no reciprocal descent awaiting. La Redoute is a typical example, the climb proper ends with a left turn and the road levels out but the work isn’t done as it kicks up again soon after. And this was just where Evenepoel attacked. He launched with such power that the riders on his wheel just seemed powerless to follow him when this was the one vital job and they all knew it. Quick-Step had lost their co-leader so any Evenepoel move was going to be all-in, Alaphilippe was not sitting tight to launch later on. This was the obvious place for him to attack too, to build up a lead ahead of the Roche-aux-Faucons climb while others hesitate; rather than suffer the darting attacks of the climbers.

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Movistar and Bahrain had riders to spare for the chase but they began to waive, as hard as they chased they couldn’t claw back time on Evenepoel. They needed to bring the gap back to 20 seconds at the foot of the Roche-aux-Faucons climb so that any jack-in-box attack could spring across the gap. But 35s was too much, arguably only Primož Roglič, Tadej Pogačar and Julian Alaphilippe could close a gap that wide but the first wasn’t racing, the second didn’t start and the third wouldn’t because he’s a team mate even if was still in the race.

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Bahrain led up the climb, deploying Jack Haig to set the pace but the gap didn’t close much. Over to the false flat with its horrid concrete section that feels slow no matter what and Dylan Teuns and Aleksander Vlasov made powerful attacks and after a flurry of moves they were within 16 seconds of Evenepoel. But that was the problem, no closer. They had a wall to scale but had brought a ladder that too short: they could get to within 16 seconds but no nearer.

Evenepoel was solo and on his training roads and on the descent in Liège looked almost certain to win. Then Wout van Aert made it back to the chasers, a huge ride for him but fatal to chase effort because they all he’d grill them like a waffle in Liège if they chased hard.

The Verdict
A thrilling finish with the relatively long range attack. Sadly the race was shaped by the mass crash, this wasn’t just a racing incident as it forced an unwanted and unwarranted selection. It left the Bahrain team able to soften the race… only to miss the winning move but nobody else could follow Evenepoel. The race had settled into a format with riders staking everything on the Roche-aux-Faucons climb, Evenepoel’s move on La Redoute broke with this and La Doyenne is all the better for this.

For Evenepoel, a win in the race of his dreams, “Ever since he’s started racing he told me about Liège, Liège, Liège” his girlfriend said to Belgian TV. It was his first go in the race and aged 22 becomes the youngest Monument winner since a 21 year old J-P Monséré won Lombardia in 1969. Yet still an unknown quantity, in his fourth season as a pro and his limits are unknown. The chaotic tactics of the Brabantse Pijl gone, he had a plan today and one built on improved foundations you could see today his descending has improved. The high mountains are all that stand between him and a grand tour win but that’s for another day.

Finally a spring-saving win for Quick-Step too. The team, including Evenepoel, have been on the receiving end of a verbal roasting in the Flemish newspapers and this gives Patrick Lefevere the last laugh, albeit at the cost of his other star rider reportedly with broken ribs, a fractured shoulder blade and a collapsed lung.

Intermarché-Wanty management will be even happier thanks to Quinten Hermans taking second place and another podium: they finish the spring classics as best Belgian team thanks to a big result for Hermans who’s been handy in the Basque Country and Ardennes but never reached this level yet.

The all Belgian podium was completed by Van Aert in only his second day of racing in April and his first time racing to Liège. A podium finish ends a successful campaign despite the long Covid interruption, taking the Omloop and E3 in March before last weekend’s second place in Roubaix and now knowing he can come back to Liège for the win.

That’s it for the spring classics, it’s Sporza to forza as the Tour de Romandie starts on Tuesday marking the World Tour calendar’s move into the Alps and the Giro now less than two weeks away.

43 thoughts on “The Moment Liège-Bastogne-Liège Was Won”

  1. Sporza to forza? Genious!
    What a win, by the way. I remember Bartoli’s 1997 win, that was something, but this is even better. Absolutely unbelivable.

  2. Remco deserves this. He finally ascends to the very top tier. Don’t understand why Movistar let Landa chase so badly, letting Remco get out of sight, even tho Movistar had numbers.

      • Bahrain too made this mistake. Easier said than done* but with Evenepoel the trick seems to be to let him attack but close him down, then he’ll go again and this repeats 3-4 times by which time he’s cooked.

        * this time he told Belgian TV he saw his power numbers and did some of his best ever numbers so he was able to put in a big sprint at the top of La Redoute when others needed a moment to recover.

    • To me the Empire is and has always been Sky/Ineos, even if they have been out-of-character lately.

      I welcome the return of QuickStep to the top step of Monumental podiums, breaking up relative recent UAE/Bahrain/Ineos dominance, WVA and MvdP notwithstanding.

  3. Excellent write-up and style as always. Thank you!

    Small type at the end:
    “and now (not know) knowing he can come back to Liège for the win.”

  4. Superb ride from Evenepoel.

    He’s not my favourite rider but expect to see him winning many more races with these kind of attacks and similarly one week races, he’s a special talent although it’s hard not to wonder whether missing a sprint or top climbing legs might mean he wins less in the long term than he’s expected to. The commentary tried to play down expectation on whether he can transfer to GrandTours or not, which is fair as he should celebrate yesterday for now, admittedly though should he not win a grand tour nor become a serial winner in the vein of Boonen, you get the sense an impressive palmares of one day and week races will leave people disappointed? Seems pretty unfair but I guess that’s what hype does…

    He’s also unfortunate to be in the era of Pog on the Grand Tour front…

    Although I do think he should go to the TDF this year, the TT length suits him as do the more gradual climbs, plus his form is clearly good. I firmly expect Pog to walk away with this years race unless he crashes but having Remco there will make things more interesting.

    Just out of interest why did this race get ‘a moment it was won’ and not Roubaix?

    (No biggie obviously!! Very thankful for what we get, especially as strangely this was a slightly less eventful Roubaix than normal… personally I regularly think Liege-B-L is the weakest of the monuments, always okay rather than spectacular – Roubaix and Lombardia are my faves with Strade Bianchi despite not being a Monument now being easily comparable. I love MSR’s final ten minutes but think it’s absurd to have 6hours of nothing and ten minutes of action, Flanders has never been my love even if I’m aware it’s most other people’s but they all seem to have something more magical about them than LBL. The spark of Pog/Rog/Alap made 20/21 shine this year seemed a little less exciting despite Remco’s incredible ride)

    • If MSR didn’t have 6-hours of nothing, then the 10-minutes would be super boring… the whole point of making the riders do 290km before the finale is to create those conditions.

      • I really don’t think that’s the case… and I wouldn’t say those ten minutes are that special, enjoyable and I like it each year but at the same time I’ve seen plenty of grand tour stages with similar finishes and similar excitement, plus women’s races at half the distance (I realise the difference between male/female peloton standards creating differences in race types) – between them and races with more obstacles, I think I’d swap something more interesting into those 6hours and be fine were the last ten minutes to be marginally less exciting every so often…

        • It’s a one day race… With a very easy finale… If you didn’t have 270-280km in the legs it would be a boring bunch finish each time.

          • Apologies, I gave a terrible reply here.
            Yes I know that the distance has an effect on the finale.
            I’m saying the finale is not good enough to warrant the boredom.
            There are plenty of other races with more features and less boredom than MSR – the excitement of those ten minutes cannot outweigh what has come before.

            I also think people generally vote with their feet – I’ve noted a few people saying LBL is their fave classic but looking at the comments here, there’s a lot fewer than other races and I wonder if I’m not the only one who could take or leave LBL.

            MSR is the first big race of the year so I think gets an inflated viewership but I can’t imagine many new/old cycling fans would now watch MSR over SBianchi given the choice.

    • I got the feeling Evenepoel could beat even Pogacar in an old school Tour de France, one with two long time trials and most mountain stage finishes on ski stations with bus-friendly single digit gradients. Of course, there’s little chance of there being such a Tour de France, unless a French Evenepoel equivalent arrives out of nowhere.

    • I really hope that if Evenepoel doesn’t have the climbing ability to win grand tours he’ll realise that early rather than flogging that dead horse as so many others have.
      He could focus on the one-day races and win plenty in the manner that he did yesterday. Being a multiple monument winner is so much more impressive than accumulating a load of GT top tens/fives/podiums.

      • Yes, and he can still try to continue winning a decent number of short stage races, too, especially the serious ones. In one-day racing there’s life beyond the five Monuments, also. And the Worlds, of course.
        Sure, it’s a pity that he looks to be really struggling on road surfaces different from asphalt (it’s partly due to his weight, but it’s a lot about handling skills). It’s a factor that limits your career as a one-day racer and hence always creates a pressure of sort to go and try GTs, especially if you aren’t a serial stage hunter. Let’s hope he can improve a little.

        However, a rider like Gilbert was already great even before winning those two further cobbled Monuments (which made him historical) – but that sort of career, even excluding cobbles, would be more than satisfactory for Evenepoel, especially if you throw in some short stage races.

  5. Even in that photo it look like Powless could have stayed close enough to catch him on the descent. He then might have blown on the last climb but I think he could still have held on for 2nd and if he stays with Remco he likely outsprints him. I know, that’s all easier said than done. I couldn’t tell if it was tactics or legs.

    • Didn’t INRNG mention there’s no descent after that? I can’t remember from the race.

      TBH I generally find if a rider doesn’t stay with another rider when they’ve chased like that, invariably it means they can’t… the picture is probably deceiving and a small gap might as well be a mile when Remco is going that hard… or you’re right and he made a tactical misjudgement, just seems like that might be the less likely of the two options. Either way he lost.

      • Some of his power data were made public and apparently he went pretty much as hard to catch Remco as he then went in the final sprint, which makes me think that oldDAVE’s first conjecture is probably spot on.

        • It goes down briefly. What Mr. IR refers to is the lower % climb after the really hard part which continues to drag up, but that’s where Remco went, not the steep section. Powless really just had to go another 10 seconds.

          • I didn’t watch the race again, but surely it might be interesting to check those times and exact places. Anyway, just as in a sprint (as I said, Powless effort was comparable to his final dash to the line), when you go full gas for 20″ at some 800 watts… well, then it’s over. You can’t go on for a couple of seconds more, let alone ten.

          • 10 seconds??? Yeah right? I saw the spot where Powless was chasing Remco. To catch him he was going to have to put in another monster effort… far beyond 10 seconds at the pace he was going. It looked like Powless was at the limit already.

            I’ll watch it again, but I completely disagree. Remco put on a monster performance. As someone else said it would have required Pogacar to chase him down. Roglic also could have done it (or Alaphallippe – but for obvious reasons can’t – teammate/huge crash).

            Sorry, Powless is a very solid rider but not in the same class as Remco.

          • Re: Anon
            Remco isn’t known until now for a bursting surge of sort, indeed, but it’s equally sure that he went all-in, which many riders still may look at as suicide if the finish line isn’t close. You must be able to do it, but also be willing, and at a deeper level than simple rational decision when that’s the level of effort involved.

            However, it surely couldn’t be done for Powless, according to his real data; OTOH, he had all the other necessary merits, just lacked legs.

            The rest either didn’t have the power, or couldn’t grab the moment and be where they should when they had to. Which, in part, is due to what I consider a certain lack of field depth in the current high-to-top zone of the contenders, not only in mere physical terms but also probably in technical ones (all very relative, of course).

  6. random question… were there any young riders aside from Remco that caught people’s attention? I noticed the Cycling Podcast mentioning keep their eyes out for younger potential grand tour contenders coming through at LBL and given there wasn’t a huge amount to talk about aside from Remco/Wanty/WVA&thecrash at this years event, with a lot of the competition seemingly a level below Remco, were there any other smaller stories? There isn’t a single name I was surprised to see in the top20.

    On the other teams – Ineos seemed to have no one to compete, was it a mistake not bringing Turner/Sheffield? Or not sending someone up the road earlier? Guess the headwind made that tough. Geraint felt like he was on domestique duty, I wonder if that’s his role from now on?

    I didn’t see anything about McNulty, Hindley or Rodriguez Cano, was expecting to see them somewhere, assume they were caught in crash. I’m hoping Cano goes to TDF this year.

    Assume Simmons didn’t ride, but if WVA can get over these climbs could Simmons in future? I was expecting a big Spring from him but he’s been completely absent?

    Feel like we’re seeing the twilight of a few biggish riders this year… Mollema, Nibali, Fuglsang, Thomas, Poels, Landa are all hard to imagine winning these kind of races or stage races as they have done or been close in the past.

    I guess the crash influenced everything, I’ve come away wanting more than we got from yesterday.

  7. Lots of tweets poking at Remco’s forearm position on the bike during his solo bid. It looks similar to that of Tim Wellens, which has been mentioned here before, but is perhaps even more extreme.

  8. What a race! Great analysis Inrng and thanks for another great Classics Season.

    Very sorry to Alaphillippe (and the other fallers), wish him a speedy and full recovery – that would have hurt big-time.

    That attack was impressive. Hats off to the kid.

  9. INRNG – just out of interest have you noticed less traffic/comments to you LBL previews/reviews over the years? There’s an obvious upsurge here in interest during the TDF but can you rank just by your views the general interest in each classic, even if that’s only in your readership? Would be very interested to know how many hits you get before an after the big five races.

    Assume Lombardia would be last because of it’s time of year, although I wonder if the post race gets more views than the pre race as it’s usually a decent race so might grab people’s attention after.

    MSR probably gets a lot of interest as it’s the first, but maybe more interest in the preview rather than the post as there’s less nuance to be picked apart after?

    Roubaix surely would be top with Flanders and MSR fighting for second.

    LBL I assume is fourth as it has the benefit of being in the classics season to rise above Lombardia?

    • I don’t look at traffic or count comments here, sorry. I can sense the urge to rank races but for me we can hopefully enjoy them all, if not most, and there are good and bad editions from year to year.

      I think the race struggles a bit because it’s the last of the classics, a fatigue can set in. The Amstel probably suffered from this before it switched weekends from Liège. But it’s all relative, Liège is still an exceptional race with >250km on some very tough roads and open to classics contenders and grand tour contenders alike and this in itself brings in a wide audience, especially as it’s often shown on the same channels that show the Tour de France.

      • Thank you for taking the time to reply – makes perfect sense and it’s just my personal obsession with cycling growing/reaching a bigger audience driving the enquiry but perfectly sane to just enjoy things as they come! You do enough to enhance my enjoyment of each race with the writing here to not worry about the ins and outs of the calendar!!

    • There seems to be an interest in ranking the classics, especially the so-called Monuments. But why? They’re all awesome races, each bringing something unique to the table. Personally, I like MSR least — amazing scenery, season opener, but not very selective. PR has 2 faces: wet it’s an awesome race (’81, ’84…) dry I find myself wishing for a little vertical gain. The vertical gain in LBL and Lombardy maybe makes them more favorable to the GT specialists, so these races are not so clearly delineated from the northern classics like, say, Flanders or PR, either in type or in winner. But I wouldn’t try ranking them.

      • Same here. As Monuments they’re all together as the biggest races, not necessarily the best, and in large part because of their exceptional distance. I suspect Paris-Roubaix and the Ronde will top many people’s lists but ranking them is likely to tell us more about the person doing the ranking than the races. But often the E3 is the best classic of the season, or late Strade Bianche can be great too, in part because of a lack of pressure and the sheer fatigue from distance.

  10. One way of looking at a race is the quality of the winners and this year’s winner was a stand out. Winners for previous two years were Pogacar and Roglic. These are strong names to have on your winners board.

  11. Brilliant victory. Now he has lived up to the hype.
    Riders still haven’t realised that these days you have to chase down those lone attacks by strong riders – they are no longer just going to be brought back by the bunch.
    Had a few of them worked together and ridden hard up the Roche-aux-Faucons, they might have caught RE. When they did this on the small climb with about 10km to go, they took back a lot of time, but then they sat up.
    I’m thoroughly enjoying the attacking style of many riders, and it might be even more interesting if the pack alters their tactics in order to try to counter this.

    • Generally agreed (and very much on what you add below), yet take into account that most riders have a reduced number of bullets they can shoot. Inrng’s ladder example above is very well chosen. It was Contador I think who on Spanish ES definitely called Remco’s victory precisely as soon as he saw that flurry of attacks, although the advantage was briefly going down (along the lines of “what we’re seeing means that Evenepoel just won the race unless he crashes”).
      Insisting very very soon on a concerted effort with short but serious turns by most captains, even on flat terrain, would perhaps have worked better, but it’s very hard to organise, even more so when you think that you can rely on gregari, and close to impossible when there’s a hard climb in-between.
      The only persons who can close on something like that these days are those who hold a personal option to win, but that’s precisely why they’ll be reluctant to work – because they don’t want to be an even lesser version of Van Aert while at the same time they all dream of becoming Q. Hermans (surely, that way most of them will end up being irrelevant and invisible, which is no good at all; in that sense, albeit desperate, Vlasov’s move can be appreciated).
      However, it must be added that most riders there don’t have the tactical nous which was more common in other generations, and is still there to be seen a little more often in cobbled Classics.
      We’ve got a lot of young guns… and, well, they race as young guns, for good and ill.

      • Also generally agreed, but they should know that they can’t rely on domestiques when they only have a tiny number of them – it needed concerted work by many riders to bring back someone as strong as RE.
        It seems to happen just as often in cobbled races – see DVB in Paris-Roubaix – and in any other kind of race.
        I find it hard to see why if the riders cannot work this out for themselves, DSs haven’t figured this out – it’s not that difficult to agree to work together.
        As for it being about ‘young guns’, well, the older riders seem no better – and Valverde’s largely made a career racing in this manner (he lost a host of races by refusing to work).
        If you let someone who is strong ride off the front and then don’t chase them, they’re likely to win. It’s that simple.

        • If they can’t work together, it’s because it may be simple but it’s not that easy 😉

          It happens everywhere and with every sort of riders, somebody is just more prone to end up in this situations than others (be it single rider, like Valverde, indeed, or categories).

  12. Also, van Aert losing in the sprint shows why it’s better to work to catch the person(s) in front even if you think you won’t win the sprint.

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