LIEGE, Belgium — World champion Remco Evenepoel put on an impressive attacking display to win Liège–Bastogne–Liège for the second year in a row with a solo effort as his main rival Tadej Pogacar crashed out of cycling’s oldest classic with a fractured wrist.
Back to racing after three-weeks of altitude training, Evenepoel was the strongest in the tough rainy conditions to remain unbeaten in the prestigious hilly event. The versatile Belgian had triumphed at “La Doyenne” at his first attempt last year.
“It’s amazing, it was a super tough race,” the 23-year-old Evenepoel said. “I’m just so happy to take two out of two here in Liege.”
Earlier, Demi Vollering completed a prestigious hat trick of wins in the Ardennes classics as she claimed victory in the women’s race. The 26-year-old Dutch rider also triumphed in the Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne this year, following in the footsteps of her sports director at the SD Worx team, Anna van der Breggen, who also achieved the feat in 2017.
Following a terrific start to the season, two-time Tour de France champion Pogacar also aimed for the rare triple but had to abandon the race after 85 kilometers (53 miles) because of his crash. Pogacar’s UAE Team Emirates said he suffered fractured bones in his left wrist requiring surgery.
Team doctor Adrian Rotunno said Pogacar broke “his left scaphoid and lunate bones. The scaphoid will require surgery which he will undergo this afternoon with a specialist hand surgeon here in Genk.”
It was unclear whether the injury would prevent Pogacar from taking part in the Tour de France, which starts July 1.
“I send him all my support, all my strength. I hope he is well,” said Evenepoel, who rides for Soudal Quick-Step. “It’s a shame he couldn’t finish the race, but that’s part of the competition. Anyone can fall, I’ve experienced that too.”
Evenepoel’s career was put on hold for several months following a crash at the 2020 Tour of Lombardy that left him with a fractured pelvis and a damaged right lung. He recovered well from the accident and became world champion last year.
Without Pogacar to derail his plans in the finale, Evenepoel attacked 33.5 kilometers from the finish line, once the last breakaway riders were caught. In the steepest part of the Cote de La Redoute, only Tom Pidcock was able to follow.
Evenepoel made the most of another climb to try another move with 30 kilometers left when he noticed that Pidcock was struggling, and this time the British rider could not hang on to his wheel.
“With the new climb, after La Redoute, I knew I had to go all out to drop everyone,” Evenepoel said. That’s where I made the most difference, I think.”
Using his strong time-trial skills, Evenepoel then produced an impressive solo effort through roads lined with fans shouting his name and lighting flares. As he approached the finish, Evenepoel gestured to urge the fans to make more noise and crossed the line with his arms wide open.
Chasers crossed more than one minute behind, with Pidcock securing a second-place finish in a sprint ahead of Santiago Buitrago.
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.
He will now turn his focus to the Giro d’Italia next month, where he will be among the main contenders.
Liège-Bastogne-Liège 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.
Vollering outsprinted Elisa Longo Borghini to win the hilly 142.8-kilometer race for the second time in her career and claim a fifth win this season. Vollering’s teammate Marlen Reusser was third, 22 seconds off the pace.
Longo Borghini and Vollering attacked from a reduced group of riders in the final ascent of the day and built a 23-second lead coming into the last five kilometers. Longo Borghini launched the final sprint 150 meters from the finish line but Vollering’s raw power was too much for her to handle.