Wout Poels produced a perfect ride in poor conditions to win Liege-Bastogne-Liege, achieving Team Sky’s first-ever Monument triumph in the process.
Poels pulled ahead with Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), Michael Albasini (Orics GreenEdge) and Samuel Sanchez (BMC Raing) as the race crested the penultimate climb, and then kept pace with his rivals on the long drag into Ans.
Once the quartet had rounded the final corner, Poels then unleashed his sprint and held off a late response from Albasini to seal Team Sky’s biggest-ever one-day win.
The victory was also the biggest of Poels’s career and came at the end of a cold, wet and wintery 102nd edition.
“It’s unbelievably,” he said. “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!
“To be able to win the first Monument for the team, especially a team like this, is really special. I’m riding with the best riders in the world. It’s a huge win for the team and also for myself.”
Poels was also able to talk us through the final sprint, which marked him out as the strongest man in the race.
“I know I’m quite fast but I also knew that guys like Albasini were quick too. After 260km no sprint is the same. I think everyone was really tired from the cold, rain, snow and everything else the weather threw at us today. I did a good sprint and luckily it was enough to win Liege-Bastogne-Liege!”
”It was a really hard day due to the weather. You had to stay warm and I had prepared well to cope with that, especially in terms of clothing. It’s amazing to win Liège, it’s like a dream come true after my bad crash three years ago. The doctors told me that I could probably not do this job anymore but I fought. From two years ago, I started getting a good feeling on the bike, but it was some days worse, some days better. Now, I’ve got much more stable condition and I’m really happy with that. I’m a much more solid and complete rider now with less ups and downs. Liège is a monument I would watch on TV when I was a child. To win it is incredible.
”I liked the final cobbled climb and knew it suited me well. I looked at the guys around me who looked strong although I was worried that the others would catch us. After a first attack that didn’t pay off, I decided to go flat out after the last corner with 250m to go.
”I can’t believe that I’ve won it. It was a tough edition so I’m really proud. You always dream of winning a race like this one but to do it in these conditions is even more special.
”It makes a difference to have a strong team protecting you. Before I was spending too much time in the back of the peloton, spending too much energy to get back into position. Now I’m staying closer to the front at the important moments, and I’ve got a really strong team around me, too.
”The team is of course happy. It’s great to show that we can do well on Classics as well as on Grand Tours. I’ll be alongside Chris on the Grand Tour but hope to one day, maybe next year, have an opportunity to be a leader. I still have to prove I can do well.
“Maybe, Chris is obviously really outstanding at that and it’s a whole different area. But this could speed up my progress in that direction for the future about that.
“Liège-Bastogne-Liège is a monument. I had already done it twice without ever getting results. So you canimagine what it means to me to win. Everything was decided on the new cobbled climb. I hope that they will keep it in the future. The others with me were strong but I knew that the sprint would be hard. My first attack on the Cote de Ans was not strong. Then after the last corner, I launched the sprint and I realized that no one could pass me.
“We went for it on the new cobbled climb. I really like that one now. And we got a really good gap. The others were looking really strong, but I knew it was a long drag to the finish, and that was good for me.
“I did one little attack, not a really hard one and then I was afraid the bunch would come back, so when we hit the final corner, I went for it again with 150 metres to go. I thought ‘let’s see what happens.’”
“Sky is mainly for the general classification of stage races, even though that wasn’t the case today. At QuickStep I was training well with Tom Steels, but now I’m working with Tim Kerrison, I’m maybe riding a little bit harder.”
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