Van Vleuten solos to victory at Liège
Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) attacked on the Côte de la Redoute with 26km of racing still remaining and soloed to victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Sunday. Floortje Mackaij (Sunweb) came in second, over 90 seconds down, and Demi Vollering (Parkhotel Valkenburg) took third, a few seconds behind her.
The world time trial champion showed her power as she built a lead of over two minutes on a strong group of chasers, taking her first win since Strade Bianche in early March, having had to make do with the second step on the podium at Flanders, Amstel, and Flèche.
“My words for today were ‘when I go, don’t look back, attack, commit and go’ and that’s what I did!” said van Vleuten.
The peloton was soaked with cold rain for the majority of the 139-kilometer race; the last in the trio of Ardennes races. The conditions made for attritional racing, with the mercury never making it much over 7 degrees Celcius.
A breakaway pair of Leah Kirchmann (Team Sunweb) and Maria Novolodskaya (Cogeas Mettler) went clear after over an hour of racing, and held out until the iconic Côte de la Redoute, at which point a select group including Lizzie Deignan, Elisa Longo-Borghini (both Trek-Segafredo), Anna van der Breggen, Annika Langvad (both Boels-Dolmans), Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott), Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-Sram), Cecilie Uttrup-Ludwig (Bigla), and van Vleuten made contact.
Van Vleuten wasted no time and attacked almost immediately, and went over the climb with a 20-second gap. Deignan reacted first and gave chase, going clear of the remainder of the peloton, with Langvad and Longo-Borghini following. Langvad and Longo-Borghini bridged to Deignan, but even as a trio they were unable to peg back van Vleuten, who steadily grew her gap to nearly two minutes.
With 5km to go, the chase groups came together, but van Vleuten was all-but guaranteed victory thanks to the substantial lead she had built.
Mackaij attacked from the chasers in the final kilometer to take second place, while Vollering led home the race for third, making an all-Dutch podium.