Team Sky claim first Monument as Wout Poels wins Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2016

Dutchman sprints to victory from four-man group after new climb proves crucial in exciting finale

Wout Poels won Liege-Bastogne-Liege from a four-man move as Team Sky finally claimed their first Monument win.

Poels outsprinted Michael Alabsini (Orica-GreenEDGE) after the Swiss rider forced a selection on the new, cobbled Rue Naniot climb.

Albasini did much of the pace-setting, but after discarding his gloves before the final left-hand bend the Dutchman opened the sprint up and claimed victory in Ans.

Team Sky claimed their first ever Monument win at Liege-Bastogne-Liege thanks to Wout Poels (pic: Sirotti)

Bad weather arrived as expected, causing a slight change to the route after 45km, and changed the race into what was in many respects a battle of attrition.

A seven-man break forged a lead from the 15km mark, with Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) and Alessandro de Marchi (BMC Racing) offering their considerable firepower to the move.

Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Paolo Tiralongo (Astana), Cesare Benadetti (Bora-Argon 18), Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff) and Jeremy Roy (FDJ) were also present, and the gap grew as big as nine minutes.

Movistar and Etixx-QuickStep were near omnipresent at the front of the peloton though and, despite the snowy conditions for much of the first half of the race, keeping the leaders in check.

By the time the Cote de La Roche-aux-Faucons was being climbed, with more than 20 kilometres to race, the peloton had come back together however.

Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) was one of the highest-profile riders brought down in a crash, with no shortage of surface water even after the sleet and rain briefly eased, but Etixx-QuickStep took charge of the bunch and kept the pace high.

Movistar opted to defend from the front meanwhile, sending Carlos Betancur up the road with less than 20km to ride, just as the weather took another turn for the worse.

When the Colombian’s short-lived dig was brought back, Andriy Grivko (Astana) was next to try his luck before Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) went to the front and started pulling hard.

On the Cote de Saint-Nicolas it was Betancur who attacked again, but again his move was countered and it was Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) who made the more telling acceleration – thinning the bunch in the process.

Over the top and onto the new finishing route, it was Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) and Diego Rosa (Astana) with a gap – though the Russian’s uncertainty on a short, cobbled street slowed his momentum.

Gaps had formed further back, and the peloton was lined out, but there was still a decent-sized group of riders in contention as they reached the new cobbled climb of Rue Naniot.

Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep) led the way up the climb, with Jon Izagirre (Movistar) on his wheel before Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE) took over and upped the pace further.

The Swiss rider’s effort thinned the bunch further, and served to earn a four-rider move a gap – Albasini joined by Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), Samuel Sanchez (BMC Racing) and Wout Poels (Team Sky).

Albasini still led the quartet under the flamme rouge, but there was plenty of looking over shoulders at the encroaching peloton and little co-operation.

Poels finally took over the pace-setting inside the final 500 metres, with Zakarin trying to bridge across, but the quartet stayed clear as they rounded the final left-hand bend.

Poels opened the sprint out, followed by Alabasini, but the day’s efforts took their toll on the leaders and the Dutchman celebrated a huge victory for Team Sky.

Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2016: result

1) Wout Poels (NED) – Team Sky – 6.24.29hrs
2) Michael Albasini (SUI) – Orica-GreenEDGE – ST
3) Rui Costa (POR) – Lampre-Merida
4) Samuel Sanchez (ESP) – BMC Racing +4”
5) Ilnur Zakarin (RUS) – Katusha +9”
6) Romain Bardet (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +11”
7) Roman Kreuziger (CZE) – Tinkoff +12”
8) Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP) – Katusha – ST
9) Bauke Mollema (NED) – Trek-Segafredo
10) Diego Rosa (ITA) – Astana


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