Liège-Bastogne-Liège: Pogacar Soloes to 6th Monument, Brown Takes the Sprint for Her First

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Glory for Pogacar

LIÈGE, Belgium (April 21, 2024) — A brilliant Liège-Bastogne-Liège performance on Sunday saw Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) take the win as he proved far too strong for his rivals in La Doyenne. After a jubilant Pogacar raised his arms aloft on the Quai des Ardennes in Liège, he was followed over the finish line by Romain Bardet (Team dsm-firmenich PostNL) 1’39” behind in second and Mathieu Van der Poel (Alpecin – Deceuninck), who headed a bunch sprint for third. Pogacar blasted away from his rivals on La Redoute and went on to secure his sixth Monument title, matching the tally of World Champion Van der Poel.

21/04/2024 – Liège Bastogne Liège – Liège / Liège (254,5 km) – POGACAR Tadej (UAE TEAM EMIRATES) – Remporte Liège Bastogne Liège 2024 – © A.S.O./Gaetan Flamme

254.5km of tough racing ahead

The full contingent of 175 riders on the entry list started the 110th edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, departing from the Quai des Ardennes at 10.10am, with 254.5km of tough racing awaiting the peloton over the hard climbs of the last Monument of the spring.

4 + 5 = 9

Gil Gelders (Soudal Quick-Step), Rémy Rochas (Groupama – FDJ), Lilian Calmejane (Intermarché – Wanty) and Paul Ourselin (TotalEnergies) were the four riders who attacked early and they led by 15″ at km 3.5. Fabien Doubey (TotalEnergies), Enzo Leijnse (Team dsm-firmenich PostNL), Christian Scaroni (Astana Qazaqstan Team), Iván Romeo (Movistar Team) and Loïc Vliegen (Bingoal WB) then joined the early breakaway at km 6. Danny van der Tuuk (Equipo Kern Pharma) valiantly chased for several kilometres to join them, though his efforts were eventually unsuccessful, so it was a group of 9 determined riders who stayed clear.

21/04/2024 – Liège Bastogne Liège – Liège / Liège (254,5 km) – © A.S.O./Gaetan Flamme

UAE Team Emirates at the front

Pogacar’s UAE Team Emirates colleagues rode with him at the front of the peloton, ensuring they were in control, whilst the bunch was 3’ adrift of the breakaway after 30km of racing. That gap was slightly reduced to 2’35” by km 52, but then steadily grew – and as the breakaway left Bastogne with 155km of racing to go they had a lead of 4’10”.

Crash causes a split

With 100km to go the 9 rider-breakaway’s gap was down to 1’10” and the riders faced cross-head winds as they made their way north from Bastogne to Liège. Mathieu Van der Poel (Alpecin – Deceuninck) was just behind a crash which involved three riders, Chris Hamilton, Toon Clynhens and Junior Lecerf. Van der Poel was not impacted by that first crash, before another big accident in the bunch with 98km remaining saw him lose ground as the peloton was split in two. A large group was delayed by that crash, notably including Van der Poel and Valentin Madouas. Ahead, the group including Pogacar continued its efforts before approaching the Mont-le-Soie climb.

The breakaway is caught

Leijnse, Calmejane, Vliegen and Romeo could not keep up the pace on the Mont-le-Soie ascent and soon the remaining escapees were chased down. As the surviving breakaway riders started the Côte de Wanne ascent their lead on the peloton was just 14″, but early on that climb they were swallowed up by the peloton. Gelders, Rochas, Scaroni, Doubey and Ourselin caught by the bunch on the first slopes of the Côte de Wanne, at km 166.

Pidcock stops then counter attacks

A mechanical problem for Tom Pidcock (INEOS Grenadiers) saw him stop for a bike change and temporarily fall behind the Van der Poel group. There were around 50 riders in this trailing group – including Van der Poel and Simon Yates (Team Jayco AlUla) – which continued to lose ground, with a 1’10” deficit at km 174, as the UAE Team Emirates kept the pressure on up front. Pidcock recovered and then launched out of the Van der Poel group on the Côte de Stockeu to try to join the Pogacar group and he was followed in that move by Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain – Victorious) and Mauri Vansevenant (Soudal Quick-Step). Rémy Rochas and Romain Grégoire (Groupama – FDJ) also managed to join Pidcock and Vansevenant’s chasing group and 71km from the finish the peloton was all back together.

21/04/2024 – Liège Bastogne Liège – Liège / Liège (254,5 km) – POGACAR Tadej (UAE TEAM EMIRATES) – © A.S.O./Gaetan Flamme

Pogacar explodes on La Redoute

The teams were fighting for prominence at the front of the peloton ahead of the Côte de La Redoute climb. Then Pogacar exploded on La Redoute at 34.5 km from the finish and was only followed initially by Richard Carapaz (EF Education – EasyPost), who eventually could not stay with him. As he went over the summit of Côte de La Redoute Pogacar was 8″ clear and he increased his advantage on the descent. That lead increased to 50” within 4km after La Redoute, Pogacar confidently leading the way ahead of a group including Vansevenant, Bernal, Carapaz, Van Gils and Lutsenko.

Counter attack

Several more riders joined the chasing group, namely Healy, Grégoire, Benoot, Vlasov, Skjelmose, Almeida, Hirschi, Bardet, Cosnefroy and Paret-Peintre. Irish champion Healy and the leader of the dsm-firmenich team Bardet set out in pursuit of Pogacar, joined in the chase by Grégoire and Cosnefroy, but they were still 1′ behind the race leader as they reached Côte des Forges. Bardet attacked for second on the final Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons climb and made it on to the podium again after his 3rd place in the Doyenne in 2018. Van der Poel completed the 2024 Liège-Bastogne-Liège podium securing third in a bunch sprint to the line. Maxim Van Gils in 4th and Aurélien Paret-Peintre in 5th completed the top 5.

21/04/2024 – Liège Bastogne Liège – Liège / Liège (254,5 km) – BARDET Romain (TEAM DSM-FIRMENICH POSTNL), POGACAR Tadej (UAE TEAM EMIRATES), VAN DER POEL Mathieu (ALPECIN-DECEUNINCK) – © A.S.O./Gaetan Flamme

Romain Bardet: “I’ve never felt so strong on a bike”

“I thought about 2018 in the finale, yes. In this race I was too often frustrated by missing good opportunities. This time, after the decisive attack on La Redoute, we had to be there in that second fight and get rid of as many rivals as possible. I had goosebumps on Roche-aux-Faucons because it’s a climb that I really like. I knew it was going to be important because I have already seen in the past that at this point we could take advantage of the situation. At that point 5 seconds can be enough, you just need to not break down mentally. It was to be expected that Tadej Pogacar would attack on La Redoute and we saw how strong he was. I knew at that moment that I was going to fight for the podium. I always believed it was possible, otherwise I would have stopped already. If I continue, it’s simply because I’ve never felt so strong on a bike. But my competitors are even stronger. In any case, finding myself on the podium between Pogacar and Van der Poel will make a beautiful photo that I can frame for my son.”

21/04/2024 – Liège Bastogne Liège – Liège / Liège (254,5 km) – VAN DER POEL Mathieu (ALPECIN-DECEUNINCK) – © A.S.O./Gaetan Flamme

Mathieu Van der Poel: “I’m really happy to end up on the podium”

“I’m happy with that. We came back to the front after a long pursuit and I already felt my legs were tired a bit. But even with the legs from Roubaix or Flanders it would have been hard to follow Tadej. I’m realistic enough, I know that if Pogacar has a good day I can’t follow him even with my best legs. You never know, he could have a bad day, or at least I hope he can! He was impressive again today. I think my Classics season was already more than successful. I’m really happy to end up on the podium here today. Everybody has their races and I did what I had to do in mine.”

Tadej Pogacar: “I’m full of emotion”

“Two years ago just before Liège Urska’s mother passed away and last year I broke my hand, so the last two years were really difficult. I was riding for Urska’s mother today and I’m really happy that finally I can again win in this beautiful race. Thanks to all the team that worked for me today, because it was amazing teamwork and I couldn’t have done it without them. I’m full of emotion. We rode hard on the climbs and safe on the downhills and on La Redoute we did exactly what we’d said. From then on it was suffering to the finish. After these kind of long races it’s really special to come home solo, also with my national champion’s jersey it’s beautiful to come like this to the finish.”

The Moment of Grace

LIÈGE, Belgium (April 21, 2024) — After two runner-up positions in 2020 and 2022, Australia’s Grace Brown finally got her first Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes victory. The FDJ-SUEZ rider played her cards exactly like she did four years ago, breaking away midway through the race to play for the win in the final. Lizzie Deignan managed to upset her that day, and a powerful trio with Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl-Trek), Demi Vollering (SD Worx-Protime) and Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon//SRAM) seemed poised to do so this year after linking back from the bunch. Yet, on the final sprint in Liège’s Quai des Ardennes, Brown managed to defeat Longo Borghini and Vollering to deservingly raise her arms in victory.

21/04/2024 – Liège Bastogne Liège Femmes – Bastogne / Liège (152,9 km) – BROWN Grace (FDJ-SUEZ) – © A.S.O./Billy Ceusters

140 riders took the start on the 8th edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes at 13:45. There was one non-starter: Barbara Malcotti (Human Powered Health). The 152,9-kilometre ride from Bastogne to Liège was tackled on steady, sunny conditions and against cross-head winds that slowed the riders down. A breakaway attempt by Cofidis’ Spela Kern and Arkéa-Samsic’s Titia Ryo failed to stick ahead of the Côte de Saint-Roch (km 15,8 – 1 km at 11,2%), where Sarah Gigante (AG Insurance-Soudal Team) took off to establish herself solo at the front. Stina Kagevi (Coop-Repsol) went clear from the peloton at kilometer 39, as did Sara Martín (Movistar Team) and Kim Cadzow (EF Education-Cannondale) a bit later on. At the foot of the Côte de Mont-le-Soie (km 59,7 – 1,7 km at 7,9%), Gigante held a 1’45” gap on Kagevi, 2’20” on the duo behind and 2’55” on a peloton that was about to pick up the pace.

21/04/2024 – Liège Bastogne Liège Femmes – Bastogne / Liège (152,9 km) – GIGANTE Sarah (AG INSURANCE – SOUDAL TEAM) – © A.S.O./Billy Ceusters

A strong nine-woman group in the lead

Martín and Cadzow overtook Kagevi on the Côte de Wanne (km 67,9 – 3,6 km at 5,1%), but were quickly reeled in by the bunch before the Côte de Stockeu (km 74,5 – 1 km at 12,5%), atop which Gigante’s lead had plummeted down to 1’00”. It was on this climb and the following descent that an eight-woman group took off with Mischa Bredewold (SD Worx-Protime), Lucinda Brand (Lidl-Trek), Eva van Agt (Visma | Lease a Bike), Élise Chabbey (Canyon//SRAM), Mikayla Harvey (UAE Team ADQ), Grace Brown (FDJ-SUEZ), Flora Perkins (Fenix-Deceuninck) and, again, Cadzow. They linked up with Gigante on the Col du Rosier (km 92,9 – 4,4 km at 5,9%), where Cofidis’ Julie Bégo set off in pursuit from a bunch where no team took the reins. Five kilometres from the Côte de la Redoute (km 119 – 1,6 km at 9,4%), the nine riders in the lead held a 30” gap on Bégo and 3’00” on the peloton.

21/04/2024 – Liège Bastogne Liège Femmes – Bastogne / Liège (152,9 km) – © A.S.O./Billy Ceusters

Three favorites managed to catch up

Lidl-Trek took on the helm in the bunch ahead of La Redoute. It was on this climb where Chabbey, Cadzow and Brown dropped the rest of her breakaway companions, who were brought back one by one by the peloton. The front trio held a 1’00” gap at the foot of the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons (km 139,6 – 1,3 km at 11%). Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl-Trek) unleashed a powerful acceleration there – one that only Demi Vollering (SD Worx-Protime) and Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon//SRAM) could match. They joined the head of the race with 9 kilometres to go, and had a scare with 7 left to race as Brown missed a left-hand turn and nearly crashed. Despite the Canyon//SRAM riders’ repeated efforts to go clear, the six women in the lead made it together to the final straight in Liège’s Quai des Ardennes. Niewiadoma led out with Longo Borghini on wheel two. For a moment, the Italian national champion seemingly had the win in her pocket, yet Brown managed to overtake her in the final 100 meters.

21/04/2024 – Liège Bastogne Liège Femmes – Bastogne / Liège (152,9 km) – BROWN Grace (FDJ-SUEZ), LONGO BORGHINI Elisa (LIDL – TREK), VOLLERING Demi (TEAM SD WORX – PROTIME) – © A.S.O./Billy Ceusters

Demi Vollering (SD Worx-ProTime): “I went too late in the final sprint, and it was a mistake”

Anything could happen today in the final kilometres. It could go one way or the other. I tried to stay sharp. Elisa [Longo Borghini] was also alone, so I assumed he would jump on anything. In the final sprint, I went too late. I stayed a little bit too long on the wheels and it was a mistake.

It was a really easy race. We rode slowly because of the headwind. Some girls attacked, and we kept it cool. We closed the gap, so I don’t believe that we let it grow too big. I think the team did a really good job – Femke and Blanka rode all day to protect us, then Niamh [Fisher-Black] took over in La Redoute. All three pulled afterwards, as Mischa [Bredewold] dropped from the break to help us out. It’s a pity that she couldn’t stay in the front group, because it would have been very nice. Anyway, I believe my teammates did a great job today.

Regrets about the Classics campaign? I have regrets mostly about this race. Amstel Gold Race got down to become a criterium race due to the circumstances. La Flèche Wallonne Femmes was easier than normal too, with several climbs left out of the course. I was feeling very well that day, but Kasia [Niewiadoma] was stronger in the Mur de Huy. As for today, I made a stupid mistake, because I was on a position to win and I didn’t. This would leave a hangover feeling that will take a couple of days for me to overcome.

I didn’t think about pressure during the race. It’s before and after the race when you realize that you come away with nothing. During the race, everybody is nervous – that’s normal, and even good. It’s more inbetween the races that you feel bad about not having won anything.

This will make me angrier ahead of La Vuelta Femenina 24 by Carrefour.es. Two years ago, I felt really bad about getting away with nothing from the Ardennes, and the last year I made the triple. What happened this week can give me some extra energy for the future.

Elisa Longo-Borghini (Lidl-Trek): “I got a bad client in Grace Brown – chapeau to her!”

It was a very long sprint. Kasia [Niewiadoma] had a gap and I could close it. I launched my sprint with 200 meters to go, and in the last 75m Grace overtook me. I have to say I’m satisfied, as I came here aiming for a good result and I had good legs. My team and I did our best today and, even if it is a bit disappointing to be second, it is what it is. Congratulations to Grace [Brown], as she was the fastest today.

To be fair, I always believed we would catch the breakaway because I was supported by a very strong team. My Lidl-Trek teammates rode really hard onto the Roche-aux-Faucons, and I just had to finish off the work they did. I was sure we would catch the women at the front, but there was a chance that some of them would stick with us as the terrain to the finish in Liège was quite rolling. Unfortunately, I got a bad client in Grace… but again, chapeau to her.

Maybe I was the strongest today, but in cycling the strongest does not always win. Victory can go to the fastest, or the smartest, or the best at taking corners… This is what makes cycling fantastic, in my opinion. I don’t think I did too much – I just did what I had to do.

Grace Brown (FDJ-SUEZ): “I was confident I could win the final sprint”

We know that quite often a really strong breakaway goes in middle section of this race. The plan was for me or one of my teammates to be in that break. It was finally me who made it. We worked well together and built very decent gap that surprised me. I knew that, if the break survived, it was going to be a long day for me. I was in there just to get a head start ahead of the climbs, so I didn’t have to drive it. Some other riders were more motivated than me to pull. As the peloton was not riding fast, we didn’t have to push hard at the front.

Once we got over La Redoute with a group of three I thought we definitely could make it with the front group to the finish. I felt I was on the limit in the last climbs, but once I survived La Roche-aux-Faucons I knew everything was downhill to the finish. Even when the three riders came from behind, I believed I was the strongest sprinter on the group and I was confident I could win the race on the final sprint.

In the closing kilometres, I was mainly managing the late attacks from Canyon//SRAM. As they were playing one-two moves, I gambled a bit on which ones to follow. I tried to play it patiently as Kim [Cadzow] chased Kasia [Niewiadoma] down with Elisa [Longo Borghini] on her wheel. I was hoping I could come around them in the final meters. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t… and this time it did!

This is probably the biggest win of my career so far. I have had many 2nd places in many good races, but this is the first Monument me and my team have won. It’s an exciting page on the history books for both me and my team. My next race will be La Vuelta Femenina 24 by Carrefour.es, and then I will take a little break.

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