The 103rd Liège-Bastogne-Liège started without the rain or snow of the previous two editions, but the racing was no less furious because of it. The traditional long-leashed breakaway, comprising Bart De Clercq from Lotto-Soudal, Nick van der Lijke of Roompot, Tiago Machado of Katusha-Alpecin, Anthony Perez and Stéphane Rossetto from Cofidis, Mekseb Debesay of Dimension Data, Aqua Blue's Aaron Gate and Fabien Grellier from Direct Energie, got away after only around ten kilometres, setting about establishing that long leash on the way to Bastogne ahead of a - you guessed it - Movistar-led peloton.
That peloton would be tested rarely until Liège hove into sight, the earliest move coming on the Côte de Bellevaux from Orica-Scott, the team that tried hardest to animate the race. It was former winner Simon Gerrans who made the acceleration, and followed by Mickael Cherel attempted to get some space ahead of the main group. The pair would fail, and were caught pretty soon after as Debesay got dropped from the break, briefly getting lost on the twisty Belgian roads (perhaps the most I've been able to empathise with a pro cyclist, even if my getting lost on a bike comes less from fatigue and more from a crippling lack of sense of direction).
The race was quiet and mobbed by green Ms for a few more kilometres, the Col du Maquisard providing the launchpad for the next bit of attacking, Pierre Latour of AG2R starting a move that attracted Di Marchi from BMC, Movistar's Betancur, Quickstep's Brambilla and Bora's Benedetti and the Dimension Data duo of Omar Fraile and Nathan Haas. Orica uncharacteristically missed this move, so it was Kreuziger, in addition to the attack of Sebastian Henao of Sky who brought them back on La Redoute. Still there were no dangerous moves, nothing that a concerted chase would have any difficulty following.
On the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons there were yet more dangerous-looking, but unsubstantial moves, Sergio Henao and Roman Kreuziger making efforts that again, were recaptured pretty quickly. Tim Wellens made an attack before the Côte de Saint-Nicholas, recapturing the final fragment of the break in Rossetto, but as with most Tim Wellens attacks, he never got out of sight of the peloton. Nor did a Cannondale-powered group of eight as Woods, Albasini and Henao started attacking on the final categorised climb.
Over the top of the climb, Davide Formolo got the most dangerous gap and turned his headtube towards Ans, but a solo move in the last five kilometres of this race never looked like a clever idea - he didn't get more than ten seconds' advantage as the peloton hit the flamme rouge and Dan Martin attacked in a copy of his failed move of three years ago, sprinting from the back half of the peloton to open a large gap, going ahead of Formolo in the last few hundred metres. There was just one rider who could spoil the party and drain the Guinness, and that rider did so, making his move out of the peloton to reach Martin's wheel just as he began to flag, staying in the slipstream for just a second before moving out in front. He hit the last hundred metres with victory in his grasp, arms in the air as Martin, dejected, was forced to settle for second.
The two maintained a gap on the next group, with Michal Kwiatkowski beating the impressive Michael Matthews for third, with Ion Izagirre fifth. Jakob Fuglsang got fifteenth for a tragedy-stricken Astana team.
This is Valverde's fourth Liège win and he repeats his Flèche-Liège double of two years ago. This is becoming his banner year, and considering that he celebrates his thirty-seventh birthday on Tuesday it is hardly surprising that shock that somebody of his age can demonstrate this sort of form is being felt but the debate on Valverde has been had and had again, and there's scant reason to continue striking it up even as he furnishes his trophy cabinet more and more.