Remco Evenepoel wins Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 1st attempt

6 Comments

LIEGE, Belgium — Cycling rising star Remco Evenepoel posted the biggest win of his career with a solo victory in cycling’s oldest classic – the Liege-Bastogne-Liege race – as Belgian riders swept the podium places.

A versatile rider widely regarded as one of the most promising talents of his generation, Evenepoel triumphed in “La Doyenne” at his first attempt, aged 22.

Evenepoel, who recovered from an horrific crash at the 2020 Tour of Lombardy, raised his arms and buried his face in his hands as he added his name to a list of winners that includes the likes of cycling greats Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault.

“It’s my first Liege and I won, it’s a dream come true,” said Evenepoel, who rides for the Belgian outfit Quick-Step-Alpha-Vinyl. “Finishing alone, with a lead of almost one minute in my favorite race, it’s unbelievable.”

Quinten Hermans won the sprint for second place ahead of Wout van Aert.

Evenepoel made his move with 29 kilometers left when he attacked on a narrow and steep stretch of road from a chasing group including other pre-race favorites.

Using his strong time-trial skills, Evenepoel produced an impressive solo effort to catch the remaining breakaway riders then reached the finish line alone.

Evenepoel came to prominence during his first pro season with the Deceuninck-Quick Step team in 2019 when he won the prestigious Clasica San Sebastian ahead of Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet. He also secured a silver medal in the time trial at the world championships that year.

His career was put on hold for several months following a crash in Italy that left him with a fractured pelvis and a damaged right lung. Evenepoel crashed inside the last 50 kilometers on a downhill stretch, hitting a bridge wall and going over it into a ravine.

“I’ve been suffering mentally and physically a lot the last year and a half and finally this year, I feel that everything is going well, everything is getting stable and I’m getting to the best Remco again,” Evenepoel said. “I think today I’ve been showing the best Remco since turning pro.”

Liege-Bastogne-Liege is one of the “monuments” of cycling – the five most prestigious one-day events in the sport – along with the Tour of Flanders, Milan-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Lombardy.

Tadej Pogacar was a among the favorites but did not defend his title after withdrawing for personal reasons. World champion Julian Alaphilippe was forced to abandon the race after getting caught in a mass crash with about 60 kilometers left.

Annemiek van Vleuten of the Netherlands won the women’s race for the second time after going solo in the Cote de la Roche-aux-Faucons. She won ahead of Grace Brown and Demi Vollering.

“It’s like good wine, the strength comes with age,” said the former world champion, who is 39.

Australia’s Jay Vine wins Tour Down Under

4 Comments

ADELAIDE, Australia — Australia’s Jay Vine defended his overnight lead to win the Tour Down Under, the first event of the 2023 World Tour.

Simon Yates of Britain won the final stage and moved up from third to second place on overall standings. Vine came in second on the stage to secure the biggest win of his career in a stage race.

The UAE Team Emirates rider took the overall tour lead when he finished second in Stage 2 and third in Stage 3. He came into the final stage with a 15-second lead on general classification.

The 70-mile stage involved four laps of a 15.5 mile-circuit through the Adelaide Hills before finishing just beyond the summit of Mount Lofty.

Yates led the crucial attack on the ascent less than 1.2 miles from the finish, but Vine jumped onto his wheel and Australian Ben O’Connor also joined in.

O’Connor led out close to the finish line, Vine briefly passed him but Yates came over the top to claim the stage win. Vine retained his overall advantage and claimed the title in his debut appearance in the Tour Down Under.

The 27-year-old made his name in e-Sports before being signed by the UAE team after winning the academy program on the Zwift online platform. He won two stages of the Vuelta a Espana last year and the Australian Time Trial title.

“It’s pretty incredible to be standing here and wearing this jersey,” Vine said. “The way we drove that was first class. My guys were incredible.”

The final stage featured a breakaway of 13 riders but Vine’s UAE teammates led the chase by the peloton and put their rider in a position to contest the win.

Yates again rode an aggressive race but had to be happy with the stage win.

“We came Down Under with a lot of ambition. We put a lot into it and we didn’t come away with the overall but we can walk away pretty happy,” Yates said. “Obviously Jay Vine is a massive talent and the crowd will be happy with a local winner.”

France’s Coquard wins Tour Down Under Stage 4; Vine leads

5 Comments

ADELAIDE, Australia — French cyclist Bryan Coquard won Stage 4 of the Tour Down Under for his first-ever World Tour win, while Australia’s Jay Vine retained the overall tour lead by 15 seconds with one stage remaining.

Coquard is a lightweight sprinter who has had 49 wins in a decade-long career but had never won on the World Tour until he cleared out near the finish to claim the 82-mile stage by a margin of about just over 100 feet.

Vine was among the leading group that shared Coquard’s winning time and who retained his lead on general classification over Britain’s Simon Yates and Germany’s Phil Bauhaus. The race concludes with Stage 5, which ends atop 2,329-foot Mount Lofty.

“It’s a long time that I’ve waited for this win, 10 years,” said Coquard, who rides for the French Cofidis team. “I never really expected and I’m very happy and relieved with this win.”

While the stage was flat and suited sprinters, it had its challenges. Cross-winds and occasional gradients made the stage difficult and confounded some riders.

After an early breakaway by Jonas Rutsch and former tour winner Daryl Impey of South Africa, the peloton broke into two groups with Vine and other tour leaders among the leading group.

The leading group stayed together around the last, sharp bend towards the finish and Coquard bided his time until his late sprint left other riders flat-footed.

“It was pretty stressful,” Vine said. “There was one point there, I thought we were going to have an easy day and I was happy, smiling, waving to families on the side of the road.

“Then, 45 kilometers in it was on and it was on until the end so it was a very hard day. There was a lot more calorie expenditure than I was planning.”