Resurgent Remco Evenepoel on Sunday won the Liege-Bastogne-Liege cycling classic after his Team Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl leader Julian Alaphilippe was rushed to a hospital following a mass crash.
In his first appearance in the race, the 22-year-old Belgian Evenepoel dropped his rivals 30km from the finish of the epic 257km run through the Ardennes forest to seal a career landmark solo triumph in 6 hours, 12 minutes, 38 seconds.
Quinten Hermans was second, while Wout van Aert was third for an all-Belgian podium.
Twelve riders followed Evenepoel over the line adrift by only 48 seconds.
“It’s crazy,” the winner said. “My first ever Liege and I win it.”
“I wanted to explode the race on the Redoute [a climb in an industrial neighborhood outside Liege] and then I managed to cling on,” said the former soccer apprentice who was double junior world champion in 2018.
Riding the final kilometer through Liege, Evenepoel looked behind to see the extent of his advantage before savoring the moment.
Evenepoel was billed as the great future hope of cycling until he plunged into a ravine two years ago while leading the prestige Tour of Lombardy.
“I thank everyone who believed I would get back to my best level,” he said of his long convalescence.
Annemiek van Vleuten of the Netherlands won the women’s race for the second time after going solo in the Cote de la Roche-aux-Faucons. She won ahead of Grace Brown and Demi Vollering.
“It’s like good wine, the strength comes with age,” said the former world champion, who is 39.
Additional reporting by AP
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