Simon Gerrans claimed what he described a “most beautiful” victory after a breathtaking finish in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
The Orica-GreenEdge rider came out on top against Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma – QuickStep) after he timed his finish perfectly to out-sprint his competitors.
The tough drag up to Ans saw a thrilling conclusion when defending champion Dan Martin (Garmin – Sharp) crashed on the final corner when in a good position to reclaim the title.
“I had some beautiful ones over the year, but Liège-Bastogne-Liège is special for me,” Gerrans said. “Since I turned professional, I raced it every year, and I always dreamed of winning it. I worked for it for so long. It’s probably the most beautiful win of my career.”
The Australian champion added the one-day classic title to his already impressive list of honours including three Grand Tour stage victories and the Milan – San Remo.
Earlier, it looked as if Italian Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha) or compatriot Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R-La Mondiale) broke clear from the group on the Cote de Saint-Nicolas.
The pair, however, could not keep the elite chasing group at bay and were caught before the final corner where Martin lost his back wheel and fell hard and out of contention on the famous left-hand turn.
Attacks were few and far between as the overall favourites were content to watch out for one another so a relatively large group was together heading into the finish.
In the start of the race - the last of the Ardennes as well as the Spring classics – six riders broke clear and opened up a massive 15-minute gap at one point and Cannondale's Michel Koch succeeded claiming the prize money when he was the first to turn at Bastogne.
The Peloton closed in with OPQS, BMC Racing, Movistar and Lotto Belisol organising and driving most of the chase. Team Sky experienced a tricky day without Tour de France winner Chris Froome whose chest infection forced him to pull out prior to the race.
After the Cote de la Haute-Levee the pace increased with Garmin – Sharp and Europcar in the midst of the action. That caused a few incidents including Sky's David Lopez and world champion Rui Costa of Lampre – Merida.
A three-man group of Warren Barguil (Argos - Shimano), Jan Bakelants (OPQS) and Julian Arredondo made a late push up the Cote de La Redoute but it was eventually a larger group who set up for the thrilling finish.
“To win any Liège-Bastogne-Liège is special but the fact that it’s the 100th edition, it probably really puts my name in the history of the race,” Gerrans said. “That’s a special feeling and an honour.”
Gerrans was the first Australian to take stage races at all three Grand Tours – the Giro d'Italia, the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana – and his his Liege-Bastogne-Liege win adds to his win in the Tour Down Under earlier this season.
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