The Moment Liège-Bastogne-Liège Was Won

Remco Evenepoel goes clear on La Redoute, Tom Pidcock gives chase and will manage to get onto his back wheel but he won’t last long. From here on Evenepoel’s biggest rivals were the rain and the cold but he stayed away to take a prestigious second consecutive win in Liège.

Normally the run down to Bastogne lets a breakaway form and that’s it. But Tadej Pogačar crashed, an incident with Mikkel Honoré which seemed to involve a pothole and a double puncture for the Dane, taking Pogačar with him although it all happened before the TV coverage started and none of the photo agencies seem to have any images either for now. Pogačar rode back to the peloton and it looked like it could be a Milan-Sanremo repeat where an early crash proved without incident. Alas he’d soon quit out of precaution, went to hospital and was later diagnosed with a fractured scaphoid that requires surgery. He was due to take a break, just not this kind.

Absent the UAE team, Soudal-Quickstep took over as the climbs approached. It signalled intent but also a linear race, to discourage attacks and shrink the peloton prior to an inevitable Evenepoel attack. Still Jan Tratnik, Magnus Sheffield and Valentin Madouas gave them the slip but the latter pair couldn’t or wouldn’t stay with Tratnik’s pace and the Jumbo-Visma rider built up a minute’s lead.

Tratnik’s not an explosive rider but is a tractor who can ride hard for hours and his presence up the road was a menace for Quickstep, they seemed to be burning through riders all while the Slovenian rider was opening up a gap. Yet this wasn’t the Wolfpack in all its ferocity: Mauro Schmid was ill but started, Julian Alaphilippe a late pick and so on. Besides their toil delivered a roll call of victims: Enric Mas, Mikel Landa, Alexey Lutsenko and plenty more were ejected, while the likes of David Gaudu and Neilson Powless were left dejected thanks to allergies and punctures.

If Tratnik was taking time on the breakaway and peloton alike he was still out solo while both groups in front and behind of him weren’t using so much energy and having shredded the breakaway soon had only Simone Velasco of Astana for company. Meanwhile Soudal-Quickstep also had the relative good fortune where if one of their riders was in trouble on a climb there were able to get back on the descent and do another pull which in turn spared the next rider. Some teams with more riders could have tried to turn the screw here so that the likes of Alaphilippe and Vervaeke were ejected for good but it was also something people could observe on TV but harder to spot in the group especially as the rain started to fall and concentration on the wheel in front become ever more important, especially on the frantic descent to Remouchamps and the start of the La Redoute climb.

Ilan van Wilder led at the start of the climb and set such a pace that it looked like the Strava KoM was bound to fall. As the gradient began to bite and Evenepoel stayed seated while everyone else was standing on the pedals. An uprising felt inevitable. Evenepoel’s winning move came in three parts: his first attack on La Redoute lasted two seconds as his rear wheel skidded on the white paint so he sat back down. He went again and opened up a gap but hadn’t quite made the break and Tom Pidcock got across to him on section across to the “new” climb to Cornémont. Pidcock shook his head to say he wouldn’t work. If the Briton was feeling fine was this the right move because he had team mates behind, or the wrong one as a sprint with Evenepoel might suit? An academic question as the third and final part of the attack came and Evenepoel shed Pidcock to go solo, leaving the Ineos rider to get caught by the valiant Trek-Segafredo tandem of Skjelmose and Ciccone.

Game over? Never say never but it’s Evenepoel’s modus operandi, to get a gap and turn on the power to stay away. It’s exactly how he won the previous year although then the move was a surprise, this time it was expected, and yet nobody could follow either. Once away he stayed strong on the climbs and the flat but took things safe downhill and in the bends, it seemed the only risk he was taking was wearing white shorts on a rainy day.

If Evenepoel had things sewn up, the race was far from done. A sizeable group formed behind as Ben Healy was making moves. Almost too many but he kept making them and must be the revelation of the spring. He got clear on the Roche-aux-Faucons climb with Santiago Buitrago and towards the top a resurgent Pidcock bridged across. As good as Healy is, he’s said out loud he can’t sprint and finished two seconds behind Pidcock and Buitrago… who somehow ended up on the wrong side of Evenepoel for the podium ceremony.

The Verdict
A race sans Tadej Pogačar means we wonder if he could have been a factor in the finale, presumably, probably even if he’d been looking more tired of late but to speculate further is to waffle about Liège. Pogačar’s absence didn’t unlock the race of course, it left Remco Evenepoel without competition. Pogačar or not, the plan was always to attack on La Redoute as Van Wilder told Belgian TV afterwards. Inevitable yet also impossible for his rivals, nobody could follow when he launched and the only rider who could get across to him soon after was ejected minutes later. So we got Liège but no more baston as Evenepoel’s biggest enemies then became the wet roads and the cold in case he ran out of energy. He didn’t and for once Patrick Lefevere had something to smile about, his spring season saved again.

As the final spring classic with the obvious name winning it’s the how and why that keeps it interesting. Until recently Liège felt as tiring for spectators as the riders because the contenders tried to save energy for a late move, only here things happened with 30km to go and that’s been late compared to many other races. The exception this season was Sanremo which supplied a thrill for the final 6km. There’s always next year for Pogačar to spring on the Cipressa.

Now all roads lead to Rome as the Giro d’Italia awaits Evenepoel. Clearly his training has gone right and his team mates seem boosted by their leader. He’ll take even more confidence into the race but the start is still two weeks away and the finish is in five weeks. Which raises a nagging, background alarm bell because we’re already expecting a duel in May with another Slovenian in Primoz Roglič rather than, say, six riders in search of a maglia rosa. It only takes one crash or suchlike from these two and in place of an afternoon, the suspense for three weeks could vanish. Plus there’s a shadow over Tour de France as Tadej Pogačar begins his tilt at the race from rehab rather than rest.

All photos via ASO/Maxime Delobel

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

  1. Such a shame we still didn’t see Pogagar vs. Evenepoel… Liege last year was already cancelled at the last minute. Looking forward to watch it in the late season : Lombardia ? Worlds ?

    • I still feel like we haven’t seen Remco tested. Sure the Worlds, but there was a definite choice to let him go vs not being able to stay with him. Healy again impresses but needs to do some sprint training this offseason. A pity Pidcock didn’t stick with Remco.

  2. The dominance of the big five is simply unbelievable – it’s not that they win most of the big races it’s the way they win (I know I’m stating the obvious) – how can any of the riders that are their contemporaries or over 22 years old manage to reach their level? I cannot see a single rider in that age range getting close consistently – including Pidcock – Arnaud De Lie is next hope to disrupt the hierarchy.

    Remco almost never looked to be at full gas which is hard to believe in a race that hard and long.
    But without any of the other big5 for all the different reasons, it ends up being damp squib.
    Thought it was so strange every team bar one (including Ineos) just sat and waited for the inevitable.

    • Worth noting with Pidcock he is still trying to mix MTB and Road at the moment, so probably has a level or two to come though I doubt he’ll ever have an engine to match the big 5.

      • Is Pidcock doing any MTB this year? He’s down to tide Tour de Suisse and TdF which means he can only do Nové Město before the World Chamionships.

        • If he wants ranking points, then he’ll have to – and to avoid a poor starting position for the Worlds.
          I’ve seen elsewhere that he’s down for the SKF French Cup, Swiss OKK Series, followed by the Nove Mesto World Cup the next 3 weekends.

    • I think Pidcock might have some success against these guys in the future. He won SB going clear and held off the chase. He’s now come 3rd and 2nd post a concussion / related recovery protocol – that has to affect his top end and maintaining that level, and have left him playing catch up now at least a bit. Given a clear run I can see him being there.

      • It’s a fair point and I’d love to be proved wrong but I just don’t see it.

        He’s the same age as Remco, a year younger than Pog and huge distance behind both – and while he’s younger than both WVA and MVDP, it doesn’t feel like he’s making huge gains year on year and in cyclocross even his coach seemed to insinuate his size means he’ll always be down on power to them.

        He won SB because the others weren’t there and MVDP was out of form and the dominance of his win was not similar to Pog’s nor even Remco’s yesterday.

        The only time I’ve seen him compete on the road with any of the big 5 is Brab/Amstel 2021 against a WVA who’d already done an entire classics campaign.

        There’s a scenario where he has a year of incredible form or WVA/MVDP grow old and leave the way for him while Remco/Pog concentrate on Grand Tours – but I think it’s far more likely De Lie or similar will come through to challenge the best and move ahead of Pidcock meaning he’ll hopefully nab a few Monuments in his career but never challenge consistently like the big 5.

        It’s hard to say on his Grand Tour future as there’s currently next to no evidence he can compete there. Again I hope I’m wrong on all fronts but personally if Ineos still have the highest budget of any team I’m a bit confused why they’d continue to see Pidcock as their great hope.

        • Perhaps he needs to spend a bit of time in the gym with Sir Chris Hoy?! I mean that, not being flippant.

          I’d love to see Pidcock clean up a bit more, but I equally accept your valid points. Time will tell for both of us! It’s fine margins all round isn’t it? – I know bridging those takes a lot of effort but some (more) wins are surely there for him. No Pidcock isn’t the extreme genetic freak Pogacar and Evenepoel are, but he is still an extreme genetic freak and capable of a great deal (more) I am sure.

        • Well, if he could “nab a few Monuments” (as in “more than a couple”) it would be a success career and justify quite much to have him as a leader at INEOS for one-day racing.
          Winning a single Monument can salvage a whole season for a team, even one specialised in the Classics (ask QS); it wouldn’t perhaps be enough for Ineos given their budget, but the one-day department would be fine.
          If he won 3 Monuments here and there in the next 10 years, Ineos would have a good 30% of their job done.
          Only 15 riders *in the whole history of cycling* could win more than five Monuments across their whole career, and winning 5 Monuments would put him in the league of all-time greats in the Classics like Bettini, Bartoli or Gilbert (or Van Steenbergen or Hinault if you prefer). Van Petegem, Magni, Tchmil, Tafi sit at three… Kristoff or Degenkolb won 2 each, Van Avermaet or Alaphilippe just one.

          • Yes – I know all this and I agree.

            I’ve said before I’ve see him as a Kwiatowski equivalent/upgrade, Kwiato is an excellent rider and has Milan San Remo and the Worlds to his name. Pidcock is also a brilliant rider who has the potential to win big but given the current competition if he ends with three monuments that will be a huge success.

            The problem is Kwiatowski had similar potential to win three monuments (given a little extra luck) but he’s only ever been a luxury rider/super domestique at Sky/Ineos – whereas Pidcock seems to lined up as something more which I don’t see him having the current potential to fulfil, despite his marketing potential.

            Pidcock may far exceed what currently seem like his capabilities , but even if he did what Gilbert did and even further – that surely wouldn’t be enough for the team with the highest budget and TDF ambitions, unless they find their Tour contender and Pidcock becomes their classics leader. Even as a classics leader though he’s not really looking like he’ll be knocking on the door of the big5 anytime soon.

          • oldDave – I think Pidcock sees himself as a GT rider. I guess the focus on the classics is that it fits with his CC/MTB schedule but it’s not his career ambition.

          • I agree – but do you see him competing with Remco, Pog or Vineg on current evidence… plus Ayuso and others coming through…

            He may prove us wrong but I can’t see a chance he’ll be on their level in GC races, let alone TT with any of the above three – despite the transformation Geraint and Wiggo went through I still don’t see Pidcock winning the Tour in the near future.

  3. Curious: was it a thing in the past (maybe it’s not a thing now) for riders to parachute in from altitude for a monument and then go back to their mountain top? Is it thought of as unsporting to target a single race like this–coming in fresh compared to all others–during a fairly long hiatus from racing?

    • It’s more recent, certainly. But for some big targets it’s been going on for some time. I still keep thinking of the riders who came back from altitude to ride the GP Le Samyn, as if it’s widespread now.

      But in context, returning from altitude isn’t always advantageous, just as it can take a while to adapt to altitude, some riders can find they struggle relatively back at sea level after leaving altitude Evenepoel says he doesn’t have this problem and flew back a couple of days after Vervaeke and Serry because of this. There are a lot of variables, Pogačar after all had all this success without going to altitude this year.

        • Possible yes, typically for sleeping in and after 2-3 weeks it can result in a boost to the red blood cell count as part of the “sleep high, train low” idea, but they’re noisy, stuffy and sleep is bad inside so there are negatives too.

      • To counter-argue a little, while they sleep on top of Teide, in the Parador, they train on the lower roads. 😉 Not much different flying to Europe for a few days racing?

    • I’m sure I heard a mention in commentary of an ‘altitude hotel’ in Denia. Obviously Denia is right next to the sea so this is presumably a hotel that has been set up with an expensive air conditioning unit that can recreate the effects of altitude. Or it gas tents in the rooms. Or I misheard.

    • Evenepoel is not going back to altitude after Liege. He is going to stay and train at sea level at the coast of Spain, in Denia. With trainingexcursions in the middlemountains (1000 m, max. 1400 m). But to retain the effect of height a bit, he will sleep in a hypoxic room.

      • Well, he might stay low but not going altitude?
        From @Tovarishch*s link above, it seems going to Denia is about the same as going altitude…:
        “The so-called ‘hypoxic rooms’ are found in Denia at the Syncrosfera Hotel, a four-star establishment founded by Russian former pro rider Alexandr Kolobnev.”

  4. It’s impressive that the long(ish) raid is becoming the norm in the classics with the “big 5” – almost preempts other teams sending riders up the road in the last 100-40km, although I was hoping for Ineos, DSM etc. to try more than they did today.

    In terms of challenging Evenepoel, it’s a shame that Jumbo decided to not send Roglic, WVA or Vingegaard. Understand why each of them weren’t at the race, but each seem capable of winning (or have already!). Given his ongoing challenges in the monuments, I Imagine that WVA might be frustrated at Evenepoel’s relatively “easy” routes to winning.

    • Yes, her triplé seemed even more likely. Van Vleuten says her power output is the same as it’s been before, but she’s not getting the results because her rivals have improved. Sort of bodes well for more races to come although if SD Worx rule everything it’s not so exciting.

      • I feel like I’ve heard this line–“I’m just as good as always, but the others are now better”–more times than it can possibly be true.

        • Yes, and it always seems to be aging riders who say it.
          It’s right up there with (again an aging rider, usually bigging themselves up in the hope of being the team’s leader in a grand tour), ‘My numbers in training are better than ever’… shortly before they perform poorly.

      • More a factor for one-day classics than stage races but I think half a dozen racers now believe they can beat AVV and that in itself provides a power boost.

  5. I was disappointed that a Tyke couldn’t match Evenepoel in the rain, but I still won a few quid on Pid, good lad. Hopefully Pog’s scaphoid isn’t too messed up- I damaged mine in a wine influenced fall last summer (not off a bike) and it still isn’t right, but I’m ancient and untalented. Remco unsettles me- for historical reasons I don’t feel totally comfortable with riders who race selectively and win the few events they enter. But he was impressive today, even when cornering at quarter speed.

    • Your comment is tendentious, and wrong too. In 2023, Evenepoel has the most competitiondays and competitionkm of all the big stars : Pogacar, VDP, Van Aert, Vingegaard and others. He competes since january (San Juan) and competed in 3 GC-tours. Only one “one-day-classic, because he is starting in the Giro in just two weeks. Last year, he prepared Liege by competing in the Basque Tour, the “brabantse Pijl” and the “Fleche Wallonne”. After Liege he had a long rest, while not riding the Giro or the Tour. Next year, because he is going to compete in the Tour de France, Evenepoel will participate in more one-day races during spring. Probably San-Remo (after Tirreno or Paris-Nice), Brabantse Pijl or Amstel, Fleche Wallonne and Liege. To take a long rest and preparing the Tour from mid May.

  6. “his first attack on La Redoute lasted two seconds as his rear wheel skidded” glad you saw that because that’s what i imagined at the time but the commentators didn’t mention it.
    The other teams like trek or ineos if they wanted to win needed to send riders ahead in the 20 km before La Redoute to tire out the quickstep team. Inexplicably ineos took over the front for several km’s before La Redoute in order to give van Wilder a break which he then used to kill them up the climb.

    You can never quiet tell with the wide angle lens but on the fast chase to La Redoute it seemed to me that the quickstep boys were really making use of the camera bike. Almost surging to get even closer behind it.

    • I saw it too. By that first slippery and failed attack a few hundreds meters before his second attack, Evenepoel would have had more advance on Pidcock before the top/turn of la Redoute. Pidcock would not have had a chance to come back then.

    • There’s a very simple answer: if you have a camera moto in front of the (QS-led) peloton, then put one in front of Tratnik. Why was the camera behind him, but in front of the chasing group?

      • The motorbikes (and cars) must have the reflex to increase the gap when that happens. And the “regulators”, jury members, etc. must be much more vigilant to make sure that everything happens correctly (to the point of fining, suspending or even banning those who don’t follow the rules).

        And should also be possible to use more drones & such, I suppose…

          • osbk67, in this instance, that’s not the case. If one group has a moto in front of it, which is fairer: that the other group has a moto in front of it, or behind it?

          • What about the third group? What about the front group when it splits? What about an echelon with half the group in the gutter? How many race motos does it take to solve this problem?

          • Sometimes the race falls apart in 10 or more groups, and sometimes people come back to the front even from the the 6th group or further down. There is no way there can ever be enough motorbikes to cover this (not to mention most of the motorbikes want to be at the front, and everyone wants less rather than more motorbikes in the race).

          • But far more often, you see two main groups competing, and one has a moto on front and one has a moto behind.
            They could at least stop that.

    • It is getting ever so more oftne we see this, unfortunately. And it isn’t even allowed at all:
      At the front of the race, these motor-cycles shall keep ahead of the photographers’ “screen” and shall never position themselves between the commissaires’ car and the riders.
      They may not move in between two groups of riders unless authorised to do so by the commissaire.”
      NB. The above goes for photographers’ motor-cycles, but would apply to camera-bikes as well.
      For camera-bikes, they are – in theory – not allowed to film riders or groups full frontal:
      Cameramen shall film in profile or 3/4 rear view. They may not film as they overtake the bunch unless the road is wide enough.
      In the mountains and on climbs, filming shall be carried out from behind.”

  7. I have never seen a rider like Evenepoel whose countenance shows zero signs of distress. He always looks as though he is on a ride through the park.

    • Yesterday Christian Prudhomme even said he was in the car behind Evenepoel and it didn’t look like he was going that fast because of his style, not rocking on the pedals and a bit upright at times too, but then he looked at the dials in the car and saw the speed and was quickly corrected and his driver, an ex-pro, was appreciating Evenepoel’s lines.

  8. An incredibly easy win for Evenepoel. He never looked bothered that Pidcock could momentarily hold his wheel and seemed to take it incredibly easy even when still pulling out a lead.
    I don’t particularly like that he races so selectively and sparingly but its hard to hold anything against him when he looks like a million dollars on the bike. Hopefully he’ll do the Worlds, Vuelta and Lombardia head to head v Pogacar. And take on more of the classics next year.

    • Evenepoel hasn’t been that unraced this season. Compare him to Nibali in 2013 and 2016 and the entire difference between them is Nibali raced Milan San Remo, a pair of early Italian one day races and went to Trentino (now the Tour of the Alps of course) before Liege and the Giro. Functionally one short stage race (yes Remco skipped Paris-Nice/Tirenno-Adriatico but he raced Catalunya)

      • If you include Cyclocross they are all on about the same (Pogacar has the fewest) but Pidcock, Van Aert and MVDP were very busy in December.

        • You could argue the cyclocross racing doesn’t help as much to train the long efforts, but helps with explosivity and fast-twitch. Van Aert definitely wasn’t as explosive in cyclocross this year, having done more training camps focusing on training for classics – MvdP had the jump on him every time the raced (Wout’s sprint win against Matthieu being at least in part due to Matthieu having a pedal clip failure). Pidcock has a very very good sprint for a little guy too – CX influence?

      • This is a great point INRNG. I didn’t know that. Thank you.

        I find with quite a lot of these discussions we have in circles on here that it’s usually the second answer that’s more valid (or maybe I’m just being daft and fitting them to my narrative) – but like Richard S, I was also longing for Remco (and Roglic) to have raced more at the one days against the big fish this year (even if I understood why neither had) and now you’ve pointed out he’s in fact raced more days, it made me realise maybe we’re both actually mulling over/wanting the same thing I’ve rambled on about here one too many times already (and will happily take any abuse for bringing up again) – the best racing against each other at the biggest races more often. Admittedly this problem is exacerbated by the current big five being so far ahead of the rest that if only one of them turns up you’re seemingly destined for a procession at some point during any monument – but it would be nice if one rider is out of form or injured or has a mechanical that it be less of a disappointment than both Roubaix and Liege have ended up being. It’s a fair response for anyone to say grow up and be patient as well as point out there are extreme versions of an alternate approach that have their own problems, but it would be cool if there was a way to make a race like this years Flanders possible more regularly.

        Doesn’t change that it’s a golden generation and I feel privileged to watch them even if I find Remco the Robot exceptionally dull to watch unlike the other four.

        On a separate point – I enjoyed Amstel because I like Pogacar and find his attacks magical, but was aware most other people likely found the last 30km a bit boring similar to Liege today – across the internet you can see quite a few people bemoaning Pogacar and Remco for steamrolling the opposition but personally I think that’s a little unfair and would defend both: from my point of view a long range attack at any of StradeB/Flanders/Roubaix is usually still very entertaining as the routes are so mesmeric and other stuff is happening – whereas a long range attack at both Amstel and Liege (and some other races) is less so because in truth the races themselves aren’t actually that great and need something outrageously brilliant to fire (MVDP ’19 most obviously)… in the case of both this year I feel like the race deserves more of the flak than the riders or even calendar. A grand tour can hide it’s chilled stages behind later fireworks so they almost become a pleasant interlude, a one day race can’t and needs more engineered chaos for the sleepier years to still hit.

        For me at least of the Monuments Roubaix is king, Flanders and Lombardia are usually excellent, MSR is poor but has the benefit of being the first and a guaranteed ten minute flourish, Liege is usually the weakest in recent years aside from ’21/’22.

        • It was Pogacar who surprisingly forfeited his employer’s stagerace, the UAE….. because Evenepoel had the intention to participate (! or ?). Evenepoel did even win that race.

        • I don’t think Liege is as bad as it gets accused of being. The scenery of the Ardennes is certainly no worse than the various nondescript villages and farms showcased by the Flemish classics. It could be better though. The organisers having falling into the, seemingly unavoidable to bike race organisers, trap of thinking the more hills in the finale of a race the better it will be. Liege has the ingredients of a very good finish. You have an iconic climb – La Redoute – where the likes of Evenepoel and Pogacar can make their moves. After that I would maybe have one more short climb, as well as maybe a slightly less hilly approach. The idea being that dropped riders and teams could reform into a peloton and chase down the escapees. In an ideal world you’d have WVA, MvdP, Pidcock et all working to chase down Evenepoel and Pogacar in what would be an exciting pursuit. Instead the climb after climb after climb approach has the effect of underlining the superiority of whoever has ridden off and breaking up any chase. I fully expect there to be another climb added to the route somewhere between La Redoute and Liege next year.

        • Joking but not totally lacking some meaningful background, either. No stage in stage racing held until now had a comparable level of effort and intensity as most one-day races tackled by the Vans or Pogi until now, not to speak of Monuments. But when you count “race days”, they sum the same.

          However, an evaluation of an athlete’s season is better done, well, at the end of that season…

      • Not a very much valid point. It would apply if anything to MvdP and WVA, who obviously had to recover from the CX season, but Pogacar raced more. Three days less, yes, but the 19 of them were real racing, whereas San Luis (7 days)… Roglic is probably on par with Remco.

    • He didn’t race in one-days or classics (except Liege) because he will start soon in the Giro. Therefore he had to stay as long as possible on altitude. Last year he did the Brabantse Pijl and the Flèche Wallonne…. because he had no competition in may. I’m sure he will participate next year in more (semi)classics as Milano, the Brabantse Pijl or the Amstel and in the Flèche as well. Because afterwards he will get a lot of rest. ….. just competing again half or even end june. As I mentioned before, Evenepoel has this year already more days of competition and more competitionkilometers than most topriders. F.i. Pogacar, VDP, Van Aert, Vingegaard….. A bit surprising, isn’t it?

      • I don’t feel concerned nor short-changed that a 22-year-old races a relatively selective programme in the spring. A year is a usually a small part of a career.

  9. Great write-up Mr. Ring, laced with the casual puns. Love it.

    You’re missing an “on” in the first sentence, and in the last sentence “instead” would probably need to be “in the space of”

  10. “…the only risk he was taking was wearing white shorts on a rainy day.”
    Yes! And I noticed that he duely changed to black for the podium 😂

      • Slavic languages are a problem as there seems to be no consistency in where the stress lies but I blame Sean Kelly for the problems with Pogacar’s name!

        • Enjoyed this.

          Although when clicking was expecting it to be pronounced markedly different in Slovenian to what I say and have heard everyone else say, but kinda sounded pretty similar?

          Pog-a-char (phonetically) with a lingering ‘a’ and a little less emphasis on the ‘ch’ than an English language speaker would usually put.

          For all the mispronounced foreign names out there I’m not sure this is the worst offender! (I’m usually terrible with all names including English ones)

          • It took a couple of goes but I think I got it by copying the phrasing of the USA retort “back atcha” – or else, copy Rob Hatch in the commentary- he makes a point of getting the pronounciations right.

        • I’m not a native Slavic speaker, but the languages I’m familiar with put the emphasis on the first syllable. However, my teacher said that due to the Italian influence in Slovenia, they put the emphasis on the second to last syllable.

          • There is Italian influence in the region of Slovenia bordering to Italy, but that’s it. The region where Pogačar comes from was the blueprint for the standard slovenian language and I’m always surprised when I visit, how eloquent the people there are. Off course, it’s just their local dialect. As Slovenia is so small (the furthest two points of the border are 260km apart) there is a foreign influence in every regions dialect. And the variations are substantial. To illustrate, Kristijan Koren from Primorska (near ITA), basically does not understand what Simon Špilak from Prekmurje (near HUN) is talking about.

        • What always amazes me is that once commentators are pronouncing something wrongly, they carry on with it, even when other commentators constantly show them the correct pronunciation. Kelly will not be changed on Pogacar, and Blythe and Kirby still say Kwiatoffski.

    • I heard Alaphillipe pronounce it as if Tadej was an automobile in the post-race interview. I can understand that his colleagues see him that way.

    • Assuming 0 represents normal stress and 1 represents accentuated stress, then a 3 syllable word possesses the following pronunciation permutations:
      But, since 111 corresponds to uniform accentuation, 111 is essentially a loud version 0f 000, so can be credibly discounted. A 3 syllable word therefore has 7 possible stress combinations, and the probability of randomly guessing the correct pronunciation will be 1/7.
      (In general, an n-syllable word will have (2^n) – 1 possible stress arrangements.)

      • Not to be too pettifogging but stress is only one part of pronunciation. There are stress patterns within a syllable and different sound values (tonemes and phonemes). Even within the same language: I was on a project once in Spain with people from about 8 different countries (Spain, France, Taiwan, China, UK, Germany, US, Turkey) all using English as a lingua franca. By far the hardest for this American English speaker to understand were the folks from Stoke and Leeds.

  11. A more pessimistic view on the moment the race was won: when Pogacar hit the tarmac.

    We’re certainly in a special era but it does mean that if only one of the big five is in the race we pretty much know who’s going to win, it’s just a question of exactly how. Women’s racing was in a similar position not many years ago. Now, despite Vollering’s success this spring, the competition is more open. These things go in, er, cycles.

  12. I wonder if Remco Evenepoel will come to regret not being in France this July. Even if Tadej Pogacer heals quickly and well he is very likely to be off the bike until early June, maybe longer. These sorts of recovery stories tend to run & run (footballer’s metatarsals….) and must affect performance. The picturesque Italian hilltop villages in May are often filled with with wet elephant traps where deft bike handling is an important skill, perhaps not an ideal parcours for Remco.

    • Indeed, the stretch in Italy is not ideal for Evenepoel. His bike skills are better than a few years ago, but still below average (descents and turns). But he has made the choice because of the TT in Italy this year (and the lack of TT in France). Next year the stretch will suit him better in the Tour the France (less narrow roads, less steep climbs, less sterrata, more TT).

      • IIRC the original decision to do the Giro was made by Patrick & Remco before the 2023 parcours of any grand tours were known, not after. But of course then when the parcours became known that for sure was not giving them much reason to change the planning…

      • Two stages in Catalunya and the general in the UAE. But he never crossed the line as a winner wearing the world champions jersey…… while he had to wear the “best youth” jersey in Catalunya. Evenepoel was very frustrated he wasn’t allowed to wear his rainbow jersey. So, in Liège, it was the first time he crossed the line in winning position wearing “the” shirt.

    • Dutch Eurosport came up with the statistic that everyone that started in the rainbow jersey with nr 1 in Liege has won up till now. This was the fourth time it happened apparently.

      • This was such an intriguing and juicy bit of statistics I had to look up who the three were. Or two, actually, since one obviously had to be Eddy Merckx…

        Moreno Argentin (1986->1987)
        Eddy Merckx (1971->1972)
        Ferdinand Kübler (1951->1952)

      • Not quite. Hinault won the legendary Niege-Bastogne-Niege edition in 1980 and Worlds at Sallanches later that year. Both considered among the most dominant one-day wins.

        In 1981 he was unable to defend L-B-L in the rainbow jersey.

        • Something lost in translation with that. Kwiatkowski rode but didn’t win in 2015, presumably wearing the rainbow jersey from his Worlds win in 2014.

          I’ll stop looking but I’m sure there’s more. I’d be surprised if Lemond didn’t race L-B-L in 1984 for a start. Criquelion probably too.

          • My mistake sorry – rainbow jersey _and_ wearing number 1. So not Kwiatkowski etc., but I stand by Hinault who was and didn’t defend.

        • An odd memory blackout indeed from the Dutch commentators who presumably know cycling history far better than I do!

          Alejandro Valverde and Paolo Bettini were the first names (after Merckx) that came to my mind, but they never won La Doyenne and the Worlds the same year or LBL in two consecutive years.

          I think it would be a safe bet to say that we´ll have to wait 15-20 years before we´ll see the next occasion – but it probably isn´t entirely inconceivable that Tadej Pogacar may think otherwise . (The hard part for him would be the World Championship, not winning LBL two years in a row…)

  13. Which of Pogacar, Evenpoel, Roglic, Vingegaard, Van der Poel and Van Aert is not in the “big five”?

    (I know the answer, of course, but I think it really should be a big six)

    • He’s going up the levels and this year but he’s on a 10% win rate for his career compared to 15-25% for the others. But it’s not all statistics of course and in qualitative terms at the moment he belongs in this bracket because of what he’s been doing since 2022 but add more names and along comes Fabio Jakobsen and others.

      • My personal and completely arbitrary criteria for the Big Five/Six/Seven is wins in any two of Monuments/World Road Championships, Grand Tours, Cross Worlds and MTB Worlds, with more than one win in one or both of the two categories…

        For me it’s about versatility, as it always was until Indurain and 7* came along. Hinault, Fignon, Kelly and Lemond all showed it.

        Pogacar, MVDP, WVA and Evenepoel are clearly there, as is Roglic although he could time out without another big win, and pales a little by comparison with the relative youngsters.

        Pidcock of course has the potential, but is not quite there yet.

        Vingegaard needs validation outside the Grand Tour/s, which are not enough in isolation. At least to me.

        • True, I forgot about that as I didn’t watch it.
          And I’m not sure how often Evenepoel has beaten the others.
          But I still think Roglic is some way behind the likes of Pogacar, and always will be, whereas I think Evenepoel will continue to improve. But we’ll see.

        • Also, Roglic hasn’t done it in grand tours against the best riders, which is very telling, and has one monument (which was achieved against the best riders).
          The rest of his victories are in lesser stage races, and only in two of those (2021 Tour of the Basque Country and this year’s Volta a Catalunya) did he beat any of the others in this group who were not team mates of his.
          (Despite what some modern commentators will claim, the stage races are lesser in quality than GTs and monuments, as can be seen by comparing the lists of winners.)

    • I would have neither Vingegaard nor Roglic in the “Big Five”. They’re both big threats to anyone for their target GTs, but Vingegaard only because he’s a super climber on a really big team; and Roglic because he’s a very good climber, with a good punch, on a good team. Neither Vingegaard nor Roglic have ever shown an ability to ride the whole peloton off their wheels on races outside their speciality, have they?

      • Completely agree – and zero offense meant to vingegaard or roglic – especially roglic, i am a huge fan.

        But, in my opinion there is a big 3 or 3.5. Remco is right behind Van Aert, Pogacar and VdP – these 3 guys have, at their peak, just smashed the group. Remco is fast, but he has a limit.

        • My personal and arbitrary criteria for membership of the Big Five/Six/Seven is wins in at least two of the Monuments/World Championships, Grand Tours and CycloCross/MTB Worlds categories, and and least two wins in one or both of those two categories.

          On that basis Pogacar and MVDP sail in with multiple wins in two categories, WVA and Evenepoel are there but a step back, and Roglic is there but needs another such win to maintain his place.

          Pidcock needs a Monument or road Worlds to join them, but clearly has that potential. Until then it’s potential, others have had their setbacks too and it’s a cruel, pitiless sport.

          Vingegaard isn’t there and may not get there. Unless he broadens his range he’s among the one-dimensional greats who followed Hinault, Fignon, Kelly and Lemond as versatile champions. I’d like to think interest and depth in the sport is broadening again, and the Big Three/Five are leading the way.

          According to my opinion.

          • Interesting criteria – and I’m almost exactly on the same page, here are my top-3 – all are bona fide top-3 in my opinion: I’ll start by listing their main palmares items.

            ~ 4 Monuments, 2 yellow jersey’s, 4 total GT podiums, a unique spring treble (Flanders, Amstel, Fleche)
            ~ 3x Cyclo Cross World Champ, 5x Belgian National Cyclocross Champ, multiple World Cup/B-Post/Superprestige series’ and race winner, 1 Monument, TdF Green Jersey, 6-time Spring Classic winner, 3x Belgian National Road/TT Champ
            ~ 5x Cyclo Cross World Champ, multiple World Cup/B-Post/Superprestige series’ and race winner, 4 Monuments, 4-time Spring Classic winner, 2x Dutch National Road Champ

            It is obvious which is which. Pogacar, WVA, VdP, respectively.

            I include WVA also because he has done some absolutely epic rides in his day – usually in the spirit of being the best domestique in the history of domestiques. 2022’s Yellow Jersey owes at least the sleeve to WVA – I highly doubt Tadej would have lost that win without WVA. Also, I see WVA not being the selfish leader that VdP is, which has in my mind put him firmly at the top. At the very least WVA is a clear number 3, head and shoulders above Remco, but honestly, I put him firmly in the same 5-star level as VdP and Pogacar.

            What a great debate, I completely respect differences of opinions to my own. Inrng, thanks for this great forum.

          • I love Kwaitkowski, but he isn’t dangerous anymore.

            However, when he was at his peak he was a lot like WVA – very dangerous in a one-day race and when riding as a domestique, he could shred the entire peloton.

      • But who has shown an ability to dominate outside their specialty? For someone like Pogacar that looks more and more like road racing in general, maybe CX if he ever gets serious about it. Flat cobbles uncertain but then he was thought to be too small for Flanders not so long ago. But I doubt he’d dominate match sprint or trials. Perhaps a better metric is breadth of “specialty”.

        • If Pogacar can win GTs against the likes of Roglic and Vingegaard and their super-strong team, winning ITT and mountain stages, AND ride Van der Poel, Pedersen and Van Aert off his wheel in the Tour of Flanders and every other puncheur in the hillier classics and monuments (Strade Bianche, Fleche Wallone, etc.), and come 6th in a WC, I think he’s got quite a breadth.

          Roglic could have breadth, but he doesn’t seem to have the strength and stamina for the very long, punchy races (??).

  14. I can’t be the only one who thought this, but the moment the race was won in my opinion was the second that Pogacar opened the car door…. until that point, there was always a question he would hop back on his bike, catch the group, and blitz Remco.

    I’m partly kidding, great race, Remco is a machine, but I put Pogacar on another level to him. Remco has 2 monuments, 1 GT win and a worlds to Pogacars 4 and 2 (TdF x 2 trumps any Vuelta’s too). If Remco would line his schedule with Pogacar, I can’t see him competing at all with Pogacar… just my opinion.

    • Not the biggest Evenepoel fan here but I think that’s a little harsh on Remco. Yes the race turned into something of a damp squib when Pog crashed out, but that’s not on Remco, who put in a dominant performance.

      • Not trying to be harsh, and I could be completely wrong, but I don’t think Remco could have stuck with Pogacar.

        The only caveat is Pogacar has been in this peak, or close to it since early March (Paris-Nice), so week 6-7 is sort of when he was likely on the downside of the peak. Perhaps, Remco coming into form would have been a match. But, I doubt it.

        Anyways, this is purely debate, I really hope Remco would go toe-to-toe with the Big-3 sometime.

        • Pogacar is a great and versatile champion but I don’t think Evenepoel’s L-B-L win was any less definitive than any of Pogacar’ wins this season.

          We’ll never know, but I guess Evenepoel could not have dropped Pogacar, and nor could he have outsprinted him.

          • Agreed – a Monument win is a Monument win regardless of who you beat. You still have to conquer 250-300km, 200 riders, 20+ teams and at least a dozen riders who could win on their day.

          • Agree with all the above.

            Despite disliking Remco, he deserves a lot of credit for an incredible repeat performance this year. He did nothing wrong and rode excellently whether Pog was or wasn’t there.

            I suspect had Pog been there he’d have followed and beaten Remco in a sprint but there’s no guarantee as Remco’s attack and final 30km were spectacular and may well have broken Pog – so either way it was a top level ride and he’s rightly earned the respect that comes with it.

            I actually makes me think of MVDP in Flanders because his ride for 2nd was near equally amazing to Pog’s victory and would’ve won the race in almost any other year. I personally feel like we saw two rides for the ages in one day there and cannot stop thinking about how incredible that race truly was.

      • Agreed. The guy beat the crap out of everyone. Not his fault that Pogacar got taken out even if the cause of the crash was his teammate? This talk of the top guys reminds me of “The Aliens”..the name given to the top MOTOGP guys awhile back, as if they had some higher-power than the rest. In their case it was most likely the moto they used, but thank gawd that doesn’t count for much other than advertising copy in pro cycling. 🙂

        • Not in the case of Stoner though. He was winning despite his bike – which was powerful, but handled poorly. Melandri and Hayden had the same bikes as Aliens – HRC and Ducati works respectively, but couldn’t match their alien teammates (Melandri coined the term apparently).

          Stoner’s performance was particularly alien-esque, given how much other Ducati riders struggled – notably Melandri and Elias, both excellent riders with good track records.

          • Stoner was good, one of those who could ride around the bike’s problems while making good use of things like the Ducati’s power. He could (and did) win on anything, just like any of the “Big Five” would do if they traded bike/equipment sponsors. Some of ’em even manage to win despite having to race on SRAM! 🙂

  15. In all the conversations above and looking at other cycling websites, despite the classics possibly getting less great post Flanders, there seems to be a near universal excitement in what we were lucky enough to see – a generational Flanders but more importantly: a grand tour contender or contenders going head to head with classics riders in the biggest monuments.

    I know I’m stating the obvious and joked the other day about who would be interested in Tour of the Alps now… but it’s seems like Romandie is the race suffering that fate. A few years ago Romandie felt important but it’s extremely hard to care or follow right now after the come down from Spring. You can even see in the comments here and elsewhere people are still talking about Spring or the big five with next to zero mention of other races aside from the Giro.

    It just feels as cycling fans like we’ve just seen a glimpse of cycling perfection and now want more and It’s really hard to go back to a secondary stage race with any interest – even if I and the other diehards will likely watch still!

    Despite Pogacar being the rider that may have broken the floodgates and many other GT contenders riding LBL over the years and Wiggo even riding Roubaix, I feel like Nibali is probably the rider that deserves most credit as the precursor to this generation. His MSR victory had a similar feeling of elation and excitement to what we’re experiencing now.

    I realise older cycling fans (like myself) may come in and point out it’s nothing new or that a lot of these riders do race head to head more often than we think – but I’m pretty convinced from extremely unscientific research of talking to friends and following various cycling websites/chats that even in a golden era of cycling this spring was a revelation and high point for all – and in a perfect world *most* would like to see it replicated more often.

    How we encourage or develop riders who can/want to ride Grand Tours and Classics rather than wait for freaks of nature like Pogacar is the big question and how we then have more weekends with either the gravitas of Flanders, Roubaix, Liege or uniqueness of Strade Bianchi is the next conundrum.

    • More or less agree with much of the above, but…

      Romandie pretty much never was a huge race. It’s right at the bottom end of the second tier of stage racing (the 1st being obviously GTs), as I showed elsewhere – and it was just a prep race more often than not. Of course, we had great editions, and sometimes great podia, too. As it usually happens with races, it can have better moments, as it had in its very first years until the early 50s, or later in the 70s, or even, more recently, in the second half of the 10s.

      But it’s just fine that it doesn’t get any huge interest as such. It’s a *subplot* which will be properly watched by those who want to see what happens in cycling below the floating island of the Big 3/4/5/6, or are eager to track some single athletes whom you may happen to be interested in. In the grand scheme of the season calendar of stage racing, it plays the role which a flat stage plays in a GT. You just won’t expect that everybody will be watching all the time. Full stop. Some rest time physio-psychological rest time in required for spectators and top riders, too.

      At the same time, it’s obvious this is race which institutions need to support, because, to start with, it’s important that it’s there just in case any top rider decides to give it a try as Froome or Quintana did, which on turn helps the race itself that year and creates more occasions for, well, occasional duels (Evans-Contador-Valverde in 2006 was nice). Then, it’s also important that riders who are provisionally or definitely on a secundary status can get an option to ride for an objective of sort, which must be a lesser one, in a sense (or the big names would go all in for it!), think Zakarin or Kreuziger whose “real value” would be measured through no or few wins, wasn’t it for this “ATP Masters 1000” races. Not to speak of, well, short stage races specialists, like Klöden or Porte.

      All the above means that a sustainable system should include events which don’t survive on viewership alone, do *not* absolutely need vast public interest to go on. We often name tennis as a promising sport model – well, there the pyramid of TV audience is even more brutal than in cycling. There’s Wimbledon, then the rest of the Slams which are a third or fourth part of Wimbledon (much worst than Giro vs. Tour), then the Masters 1000 whose audience is often very very modest even in the host country, even for finals. Roma is one of the most meaningful Masters 1000 and on Italian TV the audience for *the final* struggled to hit the 500 K mark (half of a typical first week sprinter stage at the Giro). Yet, nobody is questioning that the tennis system as a whole is quite much working decently since it was established with this sort of structure at the beginning of the 90s, at least if we speak of economic sustainability of events (but it’s reportedly taking a toll on players…).

    • This Spring was great, but, well, Spring Classics very much often are… which is why we who’re fond of them just can’t understand why people apparently love the TDF ^___^

      However, one of the best things in cycling is variety, so why spoil it? We’re going to have more than enough top racing (hopefully) once the Giro starts… in a little more than a week time.

      If one was to evaluate racing only checking audience figures, most Spring Classics, however great, would be gone, and we’d be trying to fill all the calendar with the real big hitters among general public, that is, mountain stages… only in order to discover than when you’ve got a lot of that, people don’t watch. In fact, viewers still prefer Classics over the most similar things to GT mountain stages, which would be the mountain stages at Pa-Ni, Ti-Ad, Catalunya etc.

      So, apparently, it’s not at all about any recipe or magic formula which you can just carboncopy through more and more weekends.
      The lesson we can learn is that luckily the Classics weren’t just shut down when some supposed stakeholders in cycling thought that the goods lied only in GTs (or one of them).
      Same now.
      You could have Pogi riding more and more weekends, but he’d run out of gas and the show wouldn’t be there anymore.

      I’m with you about generating a pressure of sort about top specialists, well, specialising less, if possible. Just a little. Why the heck wasn’t Vingegaard racing at the côtes Classics? As fans, the only thing we can do is making it more and more clear that such attitude makes of you a “lesser rider”, so to say, irrespective of winning or not the n-th TDF. Which is, in a way, the opposite process when compared to what Lance age started doing to the sport. Valverde and Nibali racing so very very little at Flandres is still a shame, even if I share your opinion re: Nibali.
      (At least, most Classics specialists still do GTs stage hunting, and they add, oh they add, to the quality of the show).

      • “As fans, the only thing we can do is making it more and more clear that such attitude makes of you a “lesser rider”, so to say, irrespective of winning or not the n-th TDF. Which is, in a way, the opposite process when compared to what Lance age started doing to the sport.”
        A pleasant change from the myopic focus on LeTour and stage races in general. Very welcome IMHO…wonder how long it’ll last?

    • “A few years ago Romandie felt important but it’s extremely hard to care or follow right now after the come down from Spring”

      Maybe just because nothing of significance has happened in a 7km Prologue and a lame stage 1 so far. Also not really big contenders on the startlist. And we are already one Yates down after day 1.

    • Absolutely, Romandie-what? This classics season was epic – on the men’s and women’s side – I love this part of the cycling season more and more each year. Nowhere else on the planet do you have the battles and variety of courses from cycling. Biathlon/Cross Country skiing is close but not as much variety as cycling.

  16. Was n’t it Geraint Thomas who said to win the Tour meant living like a monk for 6 months? So the likelihood of seeing a Tour winner doing all the Spring classics is not very high, which makes Pogacar’s achievements all the more remarkable.

  17. Re: motorbikes, experienced pilots can reduce the impact of staying in front of a group, not only keeping distance, but also swinging (smoothly and safely) from one side to the other of the road, which both because of aero reasons and “geometrical” ones will introduce some downsides from whomever bases his riding on “following the moto’s slipstream”. Of course, you need motos to be driven by people with a specific in-depth experience in riding with/for a bicycle race.

    • Some of these motor drivers don’t seem to always get it, but other than UCI hiring a crack team of guys, it seems a mix of amateurs and pros. IMHO the best control is probably to make the drivers and riders aware of the penalties if they get caught doing too much drafting and then make an example of a few early in each season to set a standard for what they can get away with. Just like the refs in any sport there are always going to be subjective calls and subsequent whining about fairness/objectivity.

      • In GB there is the National Escort Group who are specifically trained for escort duty (including carrying photographers) on cycle races. In addition in Wales they have to go through a safety accreditation. Do other countries have similar schemes?

      • I’m so glad to have ranting Larry and his 50y of experience in moto riding and filming, he’s the guy who can distinguish between pros and amateurs ion the camera bike by just watching in his armchair. he knows exactly how to accelerate a moto after a corner to avoid slipstream, he knows how to swing left and right on a 5m pathway in belgium, he knows where exactly has to be in a dynamic race situation, so that never ever a moto is instantly caught in front of a group, cause, of course, passing riders by mot are also haram.
        And he’s only an example of too many armchair moto experts I’m so sick and tired of.

        • So funny when people rant about commenters for supposedly not knowing, and they just prove, as Greg does her, that it’s actually them barking about what they don’t know at all, namingly in this case… Larry’s background. Nailed it.
          Yet, I must admit that being such an information already well-known here, the most probable thing is that Greg is just (s)trolling by. Luckily, we now have a brand new post and then the Giro will soon start.

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