Daniel Martin of Ireland won the hilly Liege-Bastogne-Liege race on Sunday, pulling away from Spain’s Joaquim Rodriguez in the uphill stretch to the finish to take cycling’s oldest classic.
Martin made sure he would not be beaten by Rodriguez’s sprint and made his move at the right moment with such a strong kick he had time to look back and celebrate by waving arms before crossing the line.
“I didn’t want to wait for the sprint and that is why I went at that point,” Martin said.
Alejandro Valverde, another Spaniard, beat the other members of a breakaway group to take third place.
It was a team victory for Garmin-Sharp after Canadian Ryder Hesjedal had set a stifling pace to keep the breakaway group of six out of the clutches of the chasing group.
“The team protected me all day,” Martin said.
At 26, this was the biggest victory of Martin’s career, capping a sterling spring season in which he also won the Tour of Catalonia and finished fourth in the Walloon Arrow on Wednesday last week.
Martin finished the 261km race in 6 hours, 38 minutes, 7 seconds. Rodriguez was three seconds back while Valverde, a two-time winner of the race, was six seconds behind.
World champion Philippe Gilbert could not live up to his status as favorite and took seventh place.
In the overall WorldTour, Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara holds a big lead over Slovak Peter Sagan, even though both riders sidestepped Sunday’s race.
Despite several breakaways over the first 10 hills, the favorites were still together with only the St Nicolas climb to go.
Canadian Ryder Hesjedal broke away with 12km to go, and started the last climb about 20 seconds ahead. Daniel Moreno, who won the Walloon Arrow, crashed on that climb, taking away any chance of making it a four-day double. Hesjedal was caught at the top and a half-dozen riders sped for the finish, where Martin prevailed.