Poels wins Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic

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LIEGE, Belgium (AP) Dutch rider Wout Poels attacked near the end and held off Swiss veteran Michael Albasini to win the Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic on Sunday for the biggest win of his career.

With four riders left in the home stretch on slippery roads, the 28-year-old Poels pulled away with about 250 meters to go, and the Team SKY rider had enough of a lead to sit up in his saddle and raise his arms as he crossed the line.

Albasini finished ahead of Portuguese cyclist Rui Costa, with 2008 Olympic road race champion Samuel Sanchez of Spain crossing in fourth place.

Spanish rider Alejandro Valverde was looking to win the Ardennes double for a second year after his midweek victory in the Walloon Arrow, but finished out of contention in 15th place.

A group of eight riders led for most of the 248-kilometer (154-mile) course, which was shortened by 5 kilometers (3 miles) due to snow and heavy rain along the route.

But with about 30 kilometers to go, most of that group was caught, leaving only Frenchman Nicolas Edet and Alessandro De Marchi out in front.

In driving rain, they managed to reach the top of the Col de la Redoute together, but were both caught with some 25 kilometers remaining.

Valverde was among the favorites, having become the first rider to win the Walloon Arrow four times after racing to a third straight title Wednesday.

Valverde had his eyes set on a fourth win here on the eve of his 36th birthday. Inside the last 20 kilometers, he urged his teammates to accelerate but Valverde struggled near the back of the group when some 20 riders entered the last few kilometers and he finished 12 seconds behind Poels.

With one kilometer left, Albasini attacked first, with Costa, Sanchez and Poels just behind him.

But Poels timed his attack just right to win the grueling race in 6 hours, 24 minutes, 29 seconds.