Remco Believers are having their say today. Their man, Quick Step’s Remco Evenepoel, the wunderkind of Belgian cycling, has been scrutinized for every misstep he’s taken in his long but seemingly also budding career in cycling. He spent much of the previous two seasons dealing with crashes which, at a minimum, limited his hopes for a breakthrough win. He also saw a major stage race title slip through his fingers just two weeks ago at the Itzulia Tour of the Basque Country. But today, he corrected course.
Today, Evenepoel broke away from the elite field on the biggest stage, coming over the top of the Cote de la Redoute, to win the oldest and most revered of the non-cobbled spring classics, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, alone in his glory. His win gave him a monument at the ripe age of 22 years plus a couple months, the sixth-youngest in that category behind Eddy Merckx, as well as the second-youngest rider to win this event, after Jean-Pierre Monsère in 1969.
Even more brilliantly, he did so in his first attempt at the race, having missed last year’s edition recovering from injury. Even last year’s winner, the absent Tadej Pogacar, had one past attempt in his legs before breaking through at an age just a few months older than Evenepoel. The rising tide of young superstars continues.
Behind him, Quinten Hermans of Intermarché-Wanty scored a brilliant and shocking second place, outkicking favorite Wout Van Aert, who he knows well from the duo’s time on the cyclocross scene, including representing Belgium as teammates. Hermans is a prolific winner or near-winner in ‘Cross, but his previous best effort on the road was a victory in the Route du Sud. He rode well in that same Basque Tour, third on one stage, though, so his form carried him into the bunch and his sprint did the rest.
The other major story, unfortunately, was a heavy crash at 52km to go which saw World Champion Julian Alaphilippe suffer what might be significant injuries, having fallen into a wooded embankment. Something like half the peloton was caught up in this high-speed disaster, and Alaphilippe ended up next to a large tree. DSM’s Romain Bardet climbed down the bank to help the stricken Quick Stepper, a noble act that bears mentioning for sure. Ala is said to be conscious and stable at the hospital and there are no speculative reports of major injury, so fingers crossed for now.
Of course, this partly explains how Evenepoel was free to attack when he did, and for Quick Step, that is turning some very rotten lemons into lemonade. Their spring has been labeled an all-time disaster, but that label can get dropped definitively now as they have once again walked away with one of the four monuments decided in the last month-plus. Maybe not the one people expected, but let’s not quibble.
1. EVENEPOEL Remco QST 6h12’38” 280 2. HERMANS Quinten IWG 48” 170 3. VAN AERT Wout TJV 48” 145 4. MARTINEZ POVEDA Daniel Felipe IGD 48” 125 5. HIGUITA GARCIA Sergio Andres BOH 48” 112 6. TEUNS Dylan TBV 48” 100 7. VALVERDE BELMONTE Alejandro MOV 48” 90 8. POWLESS Neilson EFE 48” 80 9. HIRSCHI Marc UAD 48” 70 10. WOODS Michael IPT 48” 62 11. HAIG Jack TBV 48” 54 12. MAS NICOLAU Enric MOV 48” 46 13. FUGLSANG Jakob IPT 48” 42 14. VLASOV Aleksandr BOH 52” 38 15. BARGUIL Warren ARK 01’36” 34 16. ARMIRAIL Bruno GFC 01’36” 32 17. STANNARD Robert AFC 02’30” 30 18. MOLARD Rudy GFC 02’30” 28 19. MEURISSE Xandro AFC 02’30” 26 20. PACHER Quentin GFC 02’30”
Bastogne - Liège 142.5 km / Liège - Liège 257.1 km
Final spring classic day for this year. The oldest one, the longest one.
Expected finish: 12:15-12:45 CEST / 16:35-17:20 CEST
Ardenners of the Day: Annemiek Van Vleuten & Wout van Aert
Still think AvV is the strongest. Cavalli and Volllering for the podium but will have too wait a year for the win.
There are three wonderkids, only Wout is starting today. You do the math.