2021 Liège-Bastogne-Liège: Classical Tournament ends, Tadej Pogačar beats the world champion.
On April 25th, the 107th Liège–Bastogne–Liège came to an end in Belgium. In the women's competition, Demi Vollering (Team SD Worx) sprinted to victory, Annemiek van Vleuten (Team Movistar) ranked second, and Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) finished third. In the men's competition, the talented young player Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) sprinted to overtake Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) and won the championship. World champion Julian Alaphilippe was second, and breakout player David Gaudu (FDJ) finished third.
As one of the most important spring classics, this year's Liège–Bastogne–Liège has attracted a large number of star drivers to participate. Even Tadej Pogačar, who is known for his overall performance ability, also came to the stadium with UAE Team Emirates. A few days ago, UAE Team Emirates was affected by the epidemic and had no choice but to leave the stadium. Therefore, Tadej Pogačar will definitely hold back this time and prepare to test his skills in the classical arena. Just like the name of the race, the drivers will start from Liège, pass through Bastogne, and then return to Liège. The track is close to 256km in length, and the organizing committee has marked 11 climbs. Classical races have never been easy to complete.
Similar to the previous classic races, after the start of the race, the drivers started to attack and soon formed a large-scale breakout group. In this regard, the main car group still holds a laissez-faire attitude, and the rhythm is gentle. After the start of the race 15km, the breakout group has opened a gap of more than 5 minutes with the main car group.
After riding the first 50km, the advantage of the breakout riders once reached more than 10 minutes. In the main car group in the rear, teams such as Quick Step and Team Movistar alternately control the rhythm in the front. The field is very harmonious, and the main players of each team are retaining their strength. Until about 130km from the finish line, the breakout group still held a 7-minute lead. Taking this as a node, the main vehicle group speeded up the pace slightly, gradually narrowing the gap between the two groups. Shortly after leaving Bastogne and heading towards Liège again, there was still about 100km away from the finish line, and the main car group was only about 6 minutes behind.
In the final 80km, Team Astana couldn't sit still, and several drivers including Luis León Sánchez launched an attack. Although this brought the group's rhythm faster, it did not pose a threat to several championship enthusiasm. Soon, their offense was completely resolved, and all the drivers who tried to escape were chased back. After making some adjustments, teams such as Quick Step and Jumbo-Visma also responded. Several teams led by Philippe Gilbert and Wout Van Aert attacked back on the slope.
During this period of time, the atmosphere on the field gradually became tense. For the major "rich" teams, the real fight is about to begin. At the same time, the breakout group in the front is still leading by about 4 minutes.
After a period of tug-of-war, with only about 60km left in the game, the situation on the field began to change. On the one hand, the lead of the breakout group was reduced to about 2 minutes and 40 seconds; on the other hand, Alex Aranburu (Team Astana) in the main car group attacked again, but was recovered again. Then Mark Patton (Bahrain Victorious), Mark Donovan (DSM) and Harm Vanhoucke (Lotto Soudal) launched a counterattack and took advantage of the situation to widen the gap with the main car group, forming the second group, trying to catch up with the few people who broke out earlier. After 10km, they had already thrown away the big group behind them for 1 minute and worked very hard.
Soon, the breakout group, the pursuit trio, and the main vehicle group temporarily formed a balance of power. The lead of the breakout group relative to the main car group has been hovering around 2 minutes and 40 seconds; while the chasing trio is caught in the middle, unable to advance or retreat. After that, the Quick Step and INEOS teams took control of the field one after another, and obviously started to speed up. The lead of the breakout group was rapidly reduced. At the same time, more and more drivers were left behind from the main car group, and a large-scale crash occurred in the middle and rear part, but fortunately, it did not affect several popular drivers. In the last 30km, almost all the drivers who broke through earlier were recovered. Primož Roglič, Alejandro Valverde, Julian Alaphilippe and others also joined forces to launch an attack, but were resolved by the train of the INEOS team.
In the last 20km or so, Tao Geoghegan Hart launched several attacks, tearing the group to pieces, and overtaking the last few breakout drivers. Just when everyone wanted to take a breath, Richard Carapaz continued to attack. This time he walked very resolutely. He kept a gap of about 15 seconds with the group behind him, and was recovered after supporting about 7km alone. At almost the same moment, Primož Roglič appeared to be struggling behind the group, and in front of the group, Woods, Tadej Pogačar, Julian Alaphilippe, David Gaudu and Alejandro Valverde, who launched the attack, formed a championship group and went straight to the finish line.
In the final stage, INEOS, who had a lot of actions in the second half, "successfully did not score." They attacked and pursued many times in the rear, but they still couldn't chase the people in front. Primož Roglič and Maximilian Schachmann, who were slowing down, also joined forces in the pursuit, but none of them were effective. There is always a gap of about 15 seconds between the two groups. Although it is short, it cannot be crossed. In the end, Julian Alaphilippe took the lead in the sprint, and Tadej Pogačar clenched his opponent's rear wheel and staged a lore at the last moment. French driver David Gaudu finished third, and veteran Alejandro Valverde unfortunately finished fourth and lost his chance to be on the podium.