This year’s edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège was one for the toughest of the tough with rain bouncing off the road for most of the day which ultimately made the tricky finale even more difficult and dangerous.
Van Avermaet was well-positioned in the first chasing group behind solo leader and eventual winner, Jakob Fuglsang (Astana Pro Team) at the top of the Côte de la Roche-Aux-Fauchons with 15 kilometers to go but, was unlucky on the fast descent back into Liège, crashing and subsequently losing contact with those riders vying for a podium finish.
The day started with an eight-rider breakaway going clear and the peloton allowing their advantage to extend out to a maximum of 10 minutes 30 seconds in the opening 40 kilometers, of the 256-kilometer long race.
By the time the race reached the halfway point, after making the u-turn in Bastogne and going over the top of the first two of the days 11 steep climbs, the peloton looked in control with the gap to leaders pulled back to inside seven minutes.
CCC Team moved up to the front of the bunch as the race started to heat up approaching the Côte de Mont-Le-Soie and as a result of this increase in pace behind, it wasn’t long before the early leaders began to feel the pressure.
The final rider from the breakaway was caught with just under 70 kilometers to go by a reduced main bunch, which still included De Marchi and Van Avermaet, and shortly after, as more riders rejoined the back of the group, other riders started to make moves off the front.
De Marchi was one of those who attacked and ten kilometers later, the Italian was part of a ten-rider front group that was sitting 40 seconds ahead of the peloton on sloped of the iconic Côte de la Redoute.
With those teams who missed out on the move chasing hard, everyone in De Marchi group except Kangert (EF) was caught by the chasing bunch and after more attacks on the Côte de Forges, three riders were able to join him heading towards the final and potentially the toughest climb.
It was on the slopes of this ascent 1.3-kilometer long climb, which had an average gradient of 11 percent that the decisive move that saw Fuglsang take the win was made and Van Avermaet showed the determination that he is known for, pushing hard to try to close the gap.
However, after being involved in a crash on a slippery corner, he was forced to ride his own pace to the finish line ultimately finishing almost seven minutes back while De Marchi was CCC Team’s first rider across the line in around 40th place.
Quotes From the Finish Line
Greg Van Avermaet:
“We were working hard to come back to the leading group in front of us and we were all working well together but unfortunately on the last corner Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) crashed in front of me and I couldn’t avoid it. There was nothing I could do and from that point on my race was done. At first, I thought it was a bigger crash but after a couple of minutes I got back on my bike to try and see how I felt, and some of the initial stiffness went away which was good.”
“Of course, it’s a disappointing end to my Classics season, I was expecting more from this race and I was happy with how I was feeling but in the end, we didn’t get the result I think the team deserved. We did a good job together. The guys were great at bringing De Marchi and me into position for every climb and we were able to cover almost ever move so, I think we can take some positives away from that. It is just a pity about the crash.”
Sports Director, Valerio Piva:
“Greg’s group was almost catching the small group in front and I think, if the crashed hadn’t happened, there was definitely a chance for a top ten finish or better. The crash happened on the descent towards the finish, at the point where we also saw Fuglsang almost go down. We knew we needed to pay attention there but unfortunately, around three or four riders went down with him on that corner. It is, of course, a pity and disappointing because he was looking good and the team was really present in all of the moves. I am happy with how the team rode. It is a shame that at the end of a race like this, one which had a lot of dangerous moments in the rain, that it was at the last moment that Greg crashed. Thankfully, he has no serious injuries and that is important for us to remember.”
“Looking away from the crash, Greg was looking good today. He was there until the Côte de la Roche-Aux-Fauchons when the big favorites attacked and while we knew it wasn’t possible for him to follow the moves there, he was still in the first chasing group behind and still in a position to do a good result. Top ten here was definitely possible and this crash, unfortunately, took that away from us.”
CCC Team doctor. Dr. Michel Cerfontaine:
“Fortunately, after an initial examination, it looks like all of Greg’s injuries are superficial. He came down heavily on his right side and has some bruising. He also suffered abrasions on his right hip and knee as well as a cut on the right elbow. We don’t expect him to have to make any changes to his race program at this time and after a few days everything should be fully healed.”
One-day race: Liège > Liège (256km)
Top 3: 1. Jakob Fuglsang (Astana Pro Team) 2. Davide Formolo (BORA – hansgrohe) 3. Maximilian Schachmann (BORA – hansgrohe)
CCC Team Top 3: 41. Alessandro De Marchi 52. Greg Van Avermaet 77. Jonas Koch