Evenepoel writes history at 2023 Liège–Bastogne–Liège
He had to wait a couple of months for it to happen, but Remco Evenepoel finally got his winning picture in the coveted rainbow jersey. Just like last year, the Belgian arrived alone at the finish of the 2023 Liège–Bastogne–Liège – this time with an even bigger gap on his opponents – after another huge exhibition of panache on the roads of cycling’s oldest Monument, adding further sheen to an already glistening reputation.
All eyes were on Remco Sunday afternoon, and the 23-year-old didn’t disappoint in his first outing since the Volta a Catalunya. As expected, Soudal Quick-Step controlled the peloton much of the day, the entire squad working tirelessly for the World Champion until he decided to make his big move.
Unsurprisingly, this came with more than 30 kilometers to go on La Redoute, the same place he went clear last year, when he won the race on his debut. Evenepoel surged away from the depleted field just before the top, but took a cautious approach on the descent, which allowed one rider to join him. It was only for a brief moment though, as on the unclassified Côte de Cornemont, which came next, he rode him off his wheel and was never seen again.
Remco powered through the rain, while behind a regrouping took place, but despite having the numbers the group didn’t stand a chance, as Soudal Quick-Step’s World Champion kept riding imperiously and increasing his lead on the streets of Liège, which roared with applause. At the finish, where he had more than a minute on the chasers, Evenepoel became the first holder of the rainbow jersey since 1987 to win Liège–Bastogne–Liège and the first rider in 25 years to take back-to-back victories here.
“I’m really happy! Winning this Monument in this jersey is unbelievable. I’m super grateful for the incredible amount of work my teammates did today, this was the plan and we executed it perfectly. It wasn’t an easy race, but they controlled it from the start, keeping the gap of the breakaway in check and bringing back the escapees before La Redoute. Ilan rode a hard pace from the bottom of the climb, and then I knew if I went that not a lot would be able to follow. In the end, only Pidcock could do it, but not for so long, so our plan worked out well. It was risky because of the rain which made the roads slippery, but I remained calm and focused.”
“This is a big boost ahead of the Giro d’Italia. The recent altitude training camps went really well, and this victory, which shows that my form is there and feeds my confidence. I’m happy also for taking the victory in all-white today. Together with the team we wanted to do something special, so we decided to go for the white bib shorts. Now I have a nice picture to hang on the wall. It’s a big win for us, we’re going to celebrate it, and afterwards I’ll try to recover well and continue my preparations for the next goal”, Remco said after signing off The Wolfpack’s 22nd victory in a Monument.
2023 Pro Men’s Liège–Bastogne–Liège Video Highlights
Demi Vollering realises Ardennes trilogy with win in Liege
Six years after Anna van der Breggen, Demi Vollering became the second woman to achieve the Ardennes trilogy. After winning the Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne, the Team SD Worx rider was now also the best in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. “This was the most difficult of the three. Especially because I put a lot of pressure on myself to achieve this unique series,” Vollering said at the press conference.
In the Ardennes classic, Team SD Worx once again showed a rock-solid collective. Beyond the Côte de Stockeu, five riders managed to escape with Marlen Reusser defending the interests of the Dutch WorldTour formation. On the steepest part of the illustrious Côte de la Redoute, Reusser pulled through after which she left her fellow escapees behind. She managed to build a lead of up to a minute on the way to final climb the Côte de Roche-aux-Faucons. Led by Trek-Segafredo, the gap narrowed.
On the Roche-aux-Faucons, the best in the race were able to catch Reusser back, after which a group of six riders formed: Vollering, Reusser, Van Vleuten, Longo Borghini, Chabbey and Realini. On the spur of this Ardennes slope, Vollering stepped up the pace and managed to escape together with Elisa Longo Borghini. In the remaining ten kilometres, the pair were able to stay out of the grip of the chasers, after which Vollering claimed victory in the sprint. Reusser completed the success for Team SD Worx by finishing third.
Photo – (c) Getty Images / GettySport
“Last night I hardly slept because I was quite nervous for this race,” Vollering told afterwards. “I really wanted to win today because I knew this was a unique opportunity to achieve the hat-trick in the three hill classics. You don’t get the chance to do that every year. I wanted this so badly… Look, now, at Tadej Pogacar who, after his wins in the Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne, was knocked out early in Liège by a crash. I definitely realise that I put in a special performance.”
Vollering recorded the 14 wins this season for Team SD Worx and in no fewer than seven of those races, two riders from sports manager Danny Stam’s team were on the podium. Vollering herself set a unique series with victories in Strade Bianche, Dwars door Vlaanderen, Amstel Gold Race, Waalse Pijl and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. She also came second in the Tour of Flanders (behind teammate Lotte Kopecky) and in the Brabantse Pijl. The big step the Zuid-Holland has made this year is that as a super favourite, she also knows how to finish it.
Vollering: “In Liege, I definitely had the feeling that everyone wanted to gear the race to me. It’s a situation I sometimes had problems with last year, but which I have made steps in. Of course it does help to have this team behind me. All the girls rode super strong and also expressed full confidence in me. Then you want to get the win for them as well.”
Marlen Reusser was amazed by her third-place finish. “I had a tough week, so I was a bit worried that my legs would not be good,” the Swiss rider indicated. “To my own surprise, I was in the breakaway of six riders and felt I was riding better and better. After I was left alone on the Redoute, it was still super far to the finish. I knew I couldn’t keep this up. Fortunately, Demi took over. With a first and third place in the results, we rode another perfect race.”
The Tour de France Femmes is Vollering’s next big goal. First, Vollering still rides the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta, Itzulia Women, Vuelta a Burgos, Tour de Suisse and Dutch Championships on the road. Vollering: “Before the Tour, I will also go on altitude training. These achievements are of course a huge motivation to work even harder during that training camp to be even better at the Tour.”
2023 Pro Women’s Liège–Bastogne–Liège Video Highlights
Top Photo – Photo credit: ©Luc Claessen / Getty Images