Apart from Valverde, no other cyclist has been able to win a Ardennes twice except Ferdi Kubler in 1952.
Alejandro Valverde of the Movistar team, boasts 8 Classics win. At 35, he carried the flame of the Classics riders to victory and brought honor to his injured peers – Philippe Gilbert from BMC, Tom Boonen of Etixx-QuickStep and Fabian Cancellara of Trek Factory Racing, as he rode to victory during the Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He has also managed to win the Fleche Wallone three times, much to the delight of those who bet on sports in the EU, and elsewhere.
This is also his third win at the Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Soon the Movistar leader will be at the top of the podium as the most famous of Ardennes racers, should he bag one or two more great races. 2015 has seen Valverde capturing the ninth Ardennes ‘double’, the second in history, after Ferdi Kubler. This, after pulling off his first victory only 9 years ago.
Valverde’s dominant stance delights fans at the Ardennes shows in Belgium
Valverde however has been criticized for having little strategic perception. For all his effort and speed, he’s won 5 medals in World Championships but none gold. Even at Amstel, too, he never managed to nail a Palmares, as all his efforts took him close, but never quite, to victory. However, Flèche Wallonne is another story. He surprised everyone, once again.
He positioned himself perfectly at the Mur. He rode at a pace that left his rivals way behind. He seemed to have deftly calculated the exact amount of energy he would need to take him to victory. Then also at Liège, he admitted that foolhardy or not, he would attempt to overtake Dani Moreno. A gamble that had his mobile betting cycling fans in ecstasy, as he won the race in style.
Therefore with a new-style finish for Flèche Wallonne pocketed, he went on to Liège-Bastogne-Liège knowing his every move would be under scrutiny. But Valverde wasn’t the only one being closely followed at Liège. French hopeful, Julian Alaphilippe, made a name for himself at Ardennes in the Flèche Wallonne.
So he decided to have a go at Liège-Bastogne-Liège for the first time. It seems his popularity even overshadows that of team mate Michal Kwiatkowski, in what he has been able to achieve. He is the second in history, after Iban Mayo, in 2003, to end up on the podium, as a first timer. Though he was disappointed by not winning, in retrospect, he feels he has achieved a lot.
Alaphilippe pleased with coming in 2nd after all
This year’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège saw a few changes too. First, 10 kilometers were cut from the 123 km race. Second, there were a lot more successive climbs than the norm. This made it harder for the riders to reassemble at each climb. Apart from those two changes the race was pretty much the same as it has always been in recent years.
Well right up ’til the bikers hit Côte de Stockeu, that is. Then came some serious action with Astana fans hollering as they bet on their favorite teams, under EU gambling laws, to spur on their teams to win some. Michele Scarponi and Tanel Kangert were sent up the road. Maneuvers between teams of the race favorites really livened things up a bit. Astana went on, without any doubt, to do their very best.
So all in all, this year’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège, which was far from being a vintage edition, had the right conditions and the aggressive approach to be considered one of the best in recent years. Pity the
event had to be marred by a major crash, just 40 km from the finish line. Youkiya Arashiro of the Europcar’s team was sent to hospital, having suffered the most injuries. But unlike his rival, Valverde, ended up on a podium instead of a stretcher.