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Monday, April 24, 2023

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2022 Tour de France | 2022 Giro d'Italia

It is the privilege of the gods to want nothing, and of godlike men to want little. - Diogenes

Tour de France: 2020

Bill & Carol McGann's book The Story of the Tour de France, 2020: The Tour During Covid-19, Better Late Than Never is available in both Kindle eBook and Audiobook versions. To get your copy, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

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Liège-Bastogne-Liège reports

We posted the organizer's report with the results.

Here's the report from winner Remco Evenepoel's Team Soudal Quick-Step:

He had to wait a couple of months for it to happen, but Remco Evenepoel finally got his winning picture in the coveted rainbow jersey. Just like last year, the Belgian arrived alone at the finish of Liège–Bastogne–Liège – this time with an even bigger gap on his opponents – after another huge exhibition of panache on the roads of cycling’s oldest Monument, adding further sheen to an already glistening reputation.

Evenepoel wins in Liège again. Sirotti photo

All eyes were on Remco Sunday afternoon, and the 23-year-old didn’t disappoint in his first outing since the Volta a Catalunya. Soudal Quick-Step controlled the peloton much of the day, the entire squad working tirelessly for the World Champion until he decided to make his big move.

Unsurprisingly, this came with more than 30 kilometers to go on La Redoute, the same place he went clear last year, when he won the race on his debut. Evenepoel surged away from the depleted field just before the top, but took a cautious approach on the descent, which allowed one rider to join him. It was only for a brief moment though, as on the unclassified Côte de Cornemont, which came next, he attacked and was never seen again.

Remco powered through the rain, while behind a regrouping took place, but despite having the numbers the group didn’t stand a chance, as Soudal Quick-Step’s World Champion kept riding imperiously and increasing his lead on the streets of Liège, which roared with applause. At the finish, where he had more than a minute on the chasers, Evenepoel became the first holder of the rainbow jersey since 1987 to win Liège–Bastogne–Liège and the first rider in 25 years to take back-to-back victories here.

“I’m super grateful for the incredible amount of work my teammates did today, this was the plan and we executed it perfectly. It wasn’t an easy race, but they controlled it from the start, keeping the gap of the breakaway in check and bringing back the escapees before La Redoute. Ilan rode a hard pace from the bottom of the climb, and then I knew if I went that not a lot would be able to follow. In the end, only Pidcock could do it, but not for so long, so our plan worked out well. It was risky because of the rain which made the roads slippery, but I remained calm and focused.”

“This is a big boost ahead of the Giro d’Italia. The recent altitude training camps went really well, and this victory, which shows that my form is there and feeds my confidence. I’m happy also for taking the victory in all-white today. Together with the team we wanted to do something special, so we decided to go for the white bib shorts. Now I have a nice picture to hang on the wall. It’s a big win for us, we’re going to celebrate it, and afterwards I’ll try to recover well and continue my preparations for the next goal”, Remco said after signing off The Wolfpack’s 22nd victory in a Monument.

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Here’s the report from fourth-place Ben Healy’s Team EF Education-EasyPost:

Just a few weeks ago, very few people could have picked Ben Healy out of the peloton, and even fewer would’ve guess that he would finish fourth at one of the toughest monuments on the calendar – Liège-Bastogne-Liège. But he did just that and surprised even himself along the way.

“If you’d asked me a couple weeks ago that I'd be disappointed with a fourth place at Liège, that's pretty crazy,” said Ben Healy with a big smile on his face after the finish. “Fourth is a nice result I think.”

It was another attritional race at Liège-Bastogne-Liège with the peloton slowly whittling down over the 258-kilometer route. The team did a marvelous job shepherding Ben Healy, Neilson Powless and Esteban Chaves all day. Unfortunately, a poorly timed mechanical took Neilon out of contention while Mikkel Honoré was forced to abandon after crashing with 85-kilometers to go. He has a concussion and is currently undergoing further medical examination to assess elbow and shoulder injuries.

The peloton goes up the Cote St. Roche.

Soudal Quick-Step set a brutal pace on the front and by the time the bunch got to the lower slopes of La Redoute only a small group of favorites were left including Ben and Esteban. Eventual race winner, Remco Evenepoel launched his attack near the top of the climb creating a small gap to the riders behind. Ben Healy struggled near the top of the climb, finding himself in the third group on the road.

Over the next thirty kilometers, Ben Healy displayed his racing instincts that have been a staple of his Ardennes campaign and moved himself up into the second group on the road. With 13-kilometers remaining, Ben launched another attack and formed a small group of three that would go to the line to fight for the remaining podium positions.

Coming into Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Ben Healy had turned heads with a pair of second place finishes at De Brabantse Pijl and the Amstel Gold Race. But the young twenty-two-year-old had been on stellar form all spring, taking wins at the GP Industria & Artigianato and Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali. Now, with another top result, Ben is hungry for more.

“It’d be nice to come back and compete for a win at a race like this,” said Ben. “But as I said, if you had told me two weeks ago I would’ve bitten your hand off for it.”

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Here’s the report from fifth-place Valentin Madouas’ Team Groupama-FDJ:

On Belgian soil this Sunday, the Groupama-FDJ cycling team and Valentin Madouas completed the 2023 Ardennes Classics’ campaign in a great way. Following mixed results in the Amstel Gold Race and the Flèche Wallonne, the outcome proved much more satisfying in the fourth Monument of the season, Liège-Bastogne-Liège. At the end of a gruelling race, dominated by Remco Evenepoel like last year, Valentin Madouas managed his efforts perfectly and eventually broke away in the last kilometres to secure fifth place on the day. This major performance puts an end to a lively spring, during which he still took a podium on the Strade Bianche. It is now time for a deserved break before starting the preparation for the second part of the season.

The peloton steams across Belgium. Sirotti photo

Started almost two months ago, the Spring Classics’ campaign was about to come to an end this Sunday. As usual, it was up to Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the oldest of them all, to bring it to a close. For the Groupama-FDJ cycling team, it was also about finishing the Ardennes’ trilogy in style after a few setbacks over the past week. Still far from his real level due to allergies, David Gaudu was nevertheless at the start of Liège, but as a domestique for once. “He didn’t want to go home,” insisted Philippe Mauduit. “He told us that he wanted to stay with the guys, adding: “All year round, they work for me, so I want to do it for them here in Liège”. It was good that he did it. It’s a way to show his gratitude to his teammates.”

And so that’s what the French climber did for the first part of the race, while his teammate Lars van den Berg embarked on the day’s breakaway with Johan Meens (Bingoal WB), Ruben Apers (Team Flanders-Baloise), Jason Osborne (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Mathis Le Berre (Arkéa-Samsic), Paul Ourselin (TotalEnergies), Georg Zimmermann (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), Fredrik Dversnes (Uno-X), Simone Velasco (Astana Qazaqstan), Alexandre Balmer (Jayco AlUla) and Héctor Carretero (Equipo Kern Pharma). At the head of the race, the young Dutchman enjoyed a maximum lead of four minutes, but despite the abandon of Tadej Pogacar before the halfway point, the pace increased sharply in the bunch with a hundred kilometres left to go.

David Gaudu and Matthieu Ladagnous delivered their last efforts for Valentin Madouas, who then hesitated to open the race from far, with 85 kilometres to go. “I wanted to try to anticipate on the côte de Wanne, but when I saw that the pace was high in the bunch behind, so I sat up”, he explained. “There was no point wasting energy foolishly. I just had to save myself for the final. I focused on staying well positioned and keeping energy for La Roche-aux-Faucons”.

The riders covered the Wanne-Stockeu-Haute Levée sequence without major attacks occurring, but the selection proved already important from the back. Valentin Madouas still had three teammates at that point, and even found Lars van den Berg back at the top of the côte du Rosier. Approaching the last fifty kilometres, barely sixty men remained within the bunch, and there were even less after crossing the côte de Desnié, the last climb before heading to la côte de La Redoute. As in the last edition, this is where the victory was decided. Remco Evenepoel attacked as he approached the summit, and soon after got rid of his last rival Tom Pidcock to fly away for a solo victory.

In a good position starting this iconic hill, Valentin Madouas went for a conservative approach. “In La Redoute, I managed my way up so as to never be too far from a large group”, he claims. “We knew that it was going to come back after and that we would have to give everything we had in La Roche-aux-Faucons”. Behind the world champion in the lead, it was therefore a group of around twenty riders that was set to fight for the remaining places on the final climb. Ben Healy and Santiago Buitrago moved on the hardest part of the slope, then were joined by Tom Pidcock on the following false flat. Always in control with his pace, Valentin Madouas hesitated to imitate the Brit. “I almost regret not having jumped across on the last false flat after la Roche-aux-Faucons”, he said at the finish. “I had good feelings and I’m almost a little frustrated with that. It was very tactical for the podium, and everyone was very strong”.

Three men then broke away for the podium, but the Breton remained focused. “We then tried in the final with Guillaume [Martin]”, he said. “We waited for the right moment, and we went together”. The duo worked well and were able to get to the final stretch playing for the top-5. In the sprint, Valentin Madouas actually secured the fifth place. “It was a tough race, the Soudal-Quick Step put a high tempo throughout the whole day, and I think we couldn’t do much better,” he added. “We just came across a stronger rider. We rode well, we can’t really have any regret”.

A year after his podium in the Tour of Flanders, the man from Brest therefore grabbed a top-5 on the other Belgian “Monument”. No Frenchman had achieved this double performance for sixty years. “The balance for this spring is alright”, explained Valentin, who was sick on the Ronde this year. “There have been ups and downs. Unfortunately, I crashed on two of my objectives, the Strade Bianche and the Amstel Gold Race. Every time, I managed nice comebacks, but it is quite frustrating. This top-5 in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, however, is my best result in the race and it is a very good performance to end this Classics campaign”. “This fifth place allows us to finish the Ardennes trilogy on a good note and with optimism”, concluded Philippe. “We shouldn’t look for excuses or rewrite the past, but the three crashes on the Amstel, Romain’s illness and David’s illness certainly did not help. In spite of it all, we saw that the guys were combative, and until today, they put all the energy they had to join the fight. This fifth place from Valentin rewards all the work that has been done. Of course, we came here with much higher ambitions than these, but given the circumstances, I would be tempted to say that we have to be satisfied with it”. A large part of the group will now observe a good recovery phase before preparing the summer objectives.

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And here’s the Liège-Bastogne-Liège report from seventh-place Tiesj Benoot’s Team Jumbo-Visma:

Tiesj Benoot has finished seventh in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Despite the absence of Sam Oomen and Tosh Van der Sande, Team Jumbo-Visma rode well, led by a strong Jan Tratnik.

Sam Oomen and Tosh Van der Sande had to withdraw from the 109th edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège due to positive corona tests. As a result, Team Jumbo-Visma lost two key riders to assist the leaders Benoot and Valter.

A lead group of 11 riders opened up a gap of around four minutes on the peloton, rapidly closing with 100 kilometres to go.

The leaders ride through the town of Stavelot. Sirotti photo

Jan Tratnik showed his Giro d'Italia form and accelerated firmly in the peloton with 85 kilometres to go. Magnus Sheffield and Valentin Madouas tried to follow, but they had to let the 33-year-old Slovenian go. Tratnik rode alone towards the lead group, with only Simone Velasco able to follow his pace. The duo was eventually caught by the peloton at La Redoute, where Evenepoel attacked 30 kilometres from the finish.

"The plan was to anticipate possible attacks", sports director Maarten Wynants said. "Unfortunately, Jan had already been caught by the peloton on La Redoute. He lost too much energy earlier in his solo pursuit of the lead group. He showed his good form today. He's all set for the Giro."

Benoot was part of the second group chasing the world champion. "Fifth place was the best I could do with Pidcock, Healy, and Buitrago still ahead of us. It turned out to be seventh place; I can't be unhappy with that. It was my fourth time at Liège, but it had never been so tough", the Belgian said.

"We coped well with Tosh and Sam retiring from the race", Benoot added. "Michel, Gijs and Attila rode strongly. For a moment, I thought Jan could get on the podium, but Evenepoel was too strong. I went very deep today, so I will now take some rest for a while. It has been a long spring."

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