Liege-Bastogne-Liege: Wout Poels hands Team Sky first Monument win
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 24/04/16 6:40pm
Wout Poels handed Team Sky their first win in a Monument classic by sprinting to victory at Liege-Bastogne-Liege on Sunday.
The 28-year-old Dutch rider formed part of a four-man lead group on the final climb of the day and then beat Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge) into second place and Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) into third after almost six and a half hours of racing.
Defending champion and pre-race favourite Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) didn't follow the decisive attack and was unable to catch back up, eventually finishing in the main group 12 seconds down in 15th.
Riders crossed the line soaked to the skin after being battered by a combination of driving rain and blizzards throughout the 248km race, which had to be reduced by 5km from 253km due to snow on the road in the early part of the route.
Poels said: "It's unbelievable. I'm really happy and I still can't believe I won Liege-Bastogne-Liege. It's a really nice victory - that's for sure."
Liege-Bastogne-Liege, also known as 'La Doyenne' or 'Old Lady', is the oldest of cycling's one-day classics and the fourth of the season's five prestigious 'Monuments'.
Team Sky had previously achieved five podium finishes in Monuments in their six and half years in professional cycling - most recently Ben Swift's second place at Milan-San Remo last month and Ian Stannard's third place at Paris-Roubaix a fortnight ago - but a win had otherwise eluded them until Poels' winning sprint.
The Dutchman had to fight hard to join the decisive escape, which formed when Albasini accelerated up the steep and cobbled Cote de la Rue Naniot, with about 3km to go, and took Costa with him.
Poels joined them just after the summit along with Samuel Sanchez (BMC Racing) and although the quartet built up a small lead, it seemed inevitable that the main group would reel them back in.
However, a combination of tired legs and a gradual climb to the finish rendered the chasers impotent and allowed the front four to sprint for victory between themselves.
Poels, who had done very little work to keep the leaders clear, led out the sprint and capitalised on the energy he had saved by comfortably holding off Albasini to hand Team Sky the biggest one-day win in their history.
Chris Froome was part of Team Sky's squad, finishing 10min 31sec down on Poels in 112th.
1 Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky, 6:24:29
2 Michael Albasini (Sui) Orica-GreenEdge, same time
3 Rui Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida, st
4 Samuel Sanchez (Esp) BMC Racing, +4sec
5 Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha, +9
6 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff, +12
7 Joaquim Rodriguez (Esp) Katusha, st
8 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, st
9 Diego Rosa (Ita) Astana, st
10 Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana, st