Remco Evenepoel has won Liège-Bastogne-Liège for a second consecutive year after mounting an attack on La Redoute, with Tom Pidcock and Santiago Buitrago rounding up the podium after an unfortunate early crash that saw Tadej Pogačar fracture his wrist. In the Femmes race, Demi Vollering outsprinted Elisa Longo-Borghini to complete the Ardennes Triple.
Liège-Bastogne-Liège is the oldest of the five monuments, also called La Doyenne ("The Old Lady”), and is held in the French-speaking Ardennes region in Belgium. It's one of the hilliest — and most challenging – races on the calendar.
The day started sunny, with a flurry of early attacks in the women’s race. By La Redoute, one of the most preferred places to attack, as we had seen last year and would see again later today, SD Worx’s Marlen Reusser built out a lead in the front and preserved it over the penultimate climb on the Cote des Forges.
However, in the final stages at Roche-aux-Faucons with its many sloping gradients, Reusser’s lead began to slip away, with Trek-Segafredo’s Elisa Longo-Borghini and Canyon Sram'a Elise Chabbey catching her, before teammate Demi Vollering joined the pack as well.
That group was soon slimmed down to just Longo-Borghini and Vollering, with a lead of 20 seconds on the rest and set for a decisive sprint before the finish line. The Dutch rider kept her calm and managed it coolly, going past the Italian in the final seconds.
Vollering, who had already won at Amstel Gold and La Flèche Wallonne in the previous week, with her victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège became only the second women ever after Anna van der Breggen in 2017 to complete the prestigious set of Ardennes Triple victories.
“It is unbelievable,” Vollering said. “I felt the pressure as it is not everyday you have the chance to do the treble. I really wanted to bring home this victory.”
However, there was no such sweep in the men’s race for UAE Team Emirates’ Tadej Pogačar, who got caught in an early and unusual crash with Mikkel Honoré, suffering multiple fractures in his left wrist, after just 84.5kms of the Belgian monument.
Instead, on a rainy end to the day, it was the rainbow jersey of Soudal Quick-Step's Remco Evenepoel taking victory in Belgium’s Wallonia region, with over a minute's gap to INEOS Grenadiers’ Tom Pidcock and Bahrain Victorious’ Santiago Buitrago, who came second and third respectively, ahead of EF Education-EasyPost's Ben Healy.
This year’s edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège was more or less being tipped to be a head-on duel between Pogačar and Evenepoel, who won the 2022 race… and raised a few eyebrows today morning after turning up in white shorts, and of course getting a cheeky mention ahead of the race from Pogačar himself.
— Katie (@medicinexthings) April 23, 2023
Pogačar, a two-time Tour de France winner, was coming off the back of winning the Amstel Gold last Sunday (after some routine drafting controversies), and the La Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday — seeming almost unbeatable, with viewers keen to watch the two riders take each other on.
Had the Slovenian not been unfortunately forced to abandon his race, he could’ve become the third man to complete the Ardennes sweep so, after the late Davide Rebellin in 2004 and Philippe Gilbert in 2011.
However, it was the Belgian Evenepoel who made his history in the race, becoming the first man in more than a quarter of a century to defend his title and win back-to-back editions since Michele Bartoli, as well as the first reigning world champion to win La Doyenne since Moreno Argentin in 1987.
— Liège-Bastogne-Liège (@LiegeBastogneL) April 23, 2023
It was Jumbo-Visma's Jan Tratnik who moved early, leading the pack through the iconic Spa. But Evenepoel steadily made his way to the front, before launching his decisive attack on the climb of La Redoute — the same place where he won the race last year on his debut of the monument.
Although Pidcock continued to stick with the world champion for a while, Evenepoel put his head down and was soloing clear after the climb.
“To make it two out of two in Liege is an amazing feeling – especially to do it in this beautiful jersey, which gives me a lot of pride. It’s magic,” Evenepoel said.
“It was a super tough race in hard conditions because of the rain and the roads were quite slippery near the end. But the work of my team was fantastic. They pulled off a great show right from the start. We stuck to our plan despite the attack from Jumbo-Visma. I knew the climb after La Redoute would be key and that’s where I wanted to make the difference.”
After La Redoute, it was Evenepoel on his own for the final 29 kilometres, with Britain's Pidcock and Irishman Healy trying to chase him down, before Colombian Buitrago joined in on the action and beat Healy in a sprint.
It would have been a simple processional ride from there on to Liege for Evenepoel, if not for the rain which threatened to ruin his race, the Belgian's rear wheel almost stepping out and forcing him into a great save.
.@EvenepoelRemco became the first rider since 1998 to win back-to-back editions of Liège-Bastogne-Liège after another incredible solo attack! 💪🏆
— GCN Racing (@GcnRacing) April 23, 2023
Tom Pidcock, after getting his first-ever monument podium, said: “Of course this was hard, there are no easy races now, and I measured my effort on La Redoute so I knew I could close the gap on the descent. But the next climb [the Cote de Cornémont] I was on the limit and I knew I could either commit full gas and maybe end up for nothing, or wait a bit and try and go for second. And I still got second, so I think the plan paid off.”
The Colombian Buitrago, after the race said that he didn't feel well halfway through the race, and almost didn't finish. Healy, meanwhile, said that he was bittersweet, as although he was disappointed to miss out on the podium places, he also added that a week ago, he wouldn't have believed that fourth place at Liège would come as a disappointment.
As for Tadej Pogacar and his crash, Evenepoel said he had heard a terrible noise when it happened and saw that someone had crashed pretty badly. “I want to show all my support to Tadej and I hope he gets well soon. But that’s racing – and I’ve had moments like this in my career,” he said
While Evenepoel would be setting his sights at the famous pink jersey of Giro d'Italia now, we will be left ruing the missed opportunity of getting to see him and Pogačar battle it out for the monument win at Ardennes. Anyone hoping for Pogačar to surprise everyone by showing up at Il Lombardia?
The results for Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes 2023:
The results for Liège-Bastogne-Liège men's 2023:
Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.