Movistar Team leader (2nd) beaten by Gerrans (OGE) in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, most regular in Ardennes trio after winning in Huy plus fourth in Amstel
The splendid condition by Alejandro Valverde did not lead the Spaniard to glory in the 100th edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the final classic of the Ardennes trio over 263km and ten rated climbs. The Movistar Team’s leader took 2nd in Ans behind Simon Gerrans (OGE), after yet another great job by the telephone squad from the very beginning of the race.
Iván Gutiérrez covered Valverde’ back by pushing at the front of the bunch for more than hundred kilometers, keeping the day’s early attempt of six riders under control after they reached almost 17 minutes’ advantage. Imanol Erviti and Jesús Herrada later took command through the first chain of climbs (Wanne, Stockeu and aute-Levée) and saved Valverde precious energy in the section prior to La Redoute, the first key climb with 45km from the finish. From there, Ion Izagirre entered several little escapes to keep Valverde calm and pick up both pace and nervousness, the pace not really splitting in the Roche-aux-Faucons nor in Saint-Nicolas, which the Blues tackled up-front thanks to a strong turn by Gorka.
Gilbert (BMC) launched the group with his final attack through Ans and chased down a prior attempt by Pozzovivo (ALM) and Caruso (KAT). Valverde, on his wheel, led the sprint out to eventually being beaten by Gerrans. Alejandro’s fifth podium in the ‘Doyenne’ -won in 2006, 2008; 2nd in 2007; 3rd in 2013- completes his first part of the season, having gathered a world-leading eight victories and 19 top-ten places in just 27 days of competition, up to third in the WorldTour standings after becoming again the most regular in the Ardennes trio (4th, 1st, 2nd.)
REACTION / Alejandro Valverde: “This second place leaves me happy, especially after such a week, including the victory in the Flèche. Everyone asks you to win, but we’re taking about Liège-Bastogne-Liège – it’s extremely difficult to make it. People may be accustomed to see me winning, but I’m really happy with this 2nd spot. One, two and four in these three classics – I don’t think there are many people who can achieve that. I think I rode well today, I kept the position I had to, but there was so many people fighting for victory today, so nervous and out of control. I must be thankful towards the Izagirre brothers, because they calmed things down pushing at the front. The team was sensational, just like every day.
“At the final slope, I had to measure well my sprint because many people were still strong enough to contest it. You can always think: ‘Maybe if I had jumped a bit earlier, I could have dropped Gerrans.’ But you never know. He’s a super fast rider and we must congratulate him. He caught my wheel and was superior in the sprint. When it comes to myself, this is the end of the first part of the season, and I’m really, really happy with what I achieved. Eight wins, two podiums in the classics, three second places in País Vasco… I can’t ask for much else. Now I’ll spend three or four days off the bike, training on a softer regime afterwards and later starting to think about the Tour, with an altitude training camp and the Critérium du Dauphiné.”