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The world champion looked to be on the way to victory with a strong acceleration only for the Tour de France champion to kick from off his wheel to win by half a wheel.
David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) crossed the line third.
“I’m without words. I love this race, and to win like this against those names is incredible,” Pogačar said after the race.
When asked if he was “the king of cycling,” Pogačar countered, “I don’t know about that … but I am living cycling dreams.”
Pogačar could not race Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday after a COVID-positive in the team bubble. The UAE-Emirates team was cleared to race Friday night, giving Pogačar the opportunity to better his third place at last year’s race and win his first monument.
“We were really disappointed we could not start Flèche because we had really good riders for the race, it would have been a good opportunity,” Pogačar said. “We were really motivated for today, so we’re really happy it went like this. Now, time with family and rest. The restart and prepare for the Tour de France.”
The final five that contested the sprint had gone clear after a searing attack from Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) at around 14-kilometers to go on the final climb of the race.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), racing on his 41st birthday, was forced into leading out the sprint going into the final kilometer. Woods moved first before Alaphilippe came up from fourth-wheel with a stinging surge. However, Pogačar chose the perfect wheel to follow and came around the Frenchman in the final 50 meters to snatch victory from beneath his nose, scoring a narrow win.
“I knew Alaphilippe would go longer, so I stayed behind him and I was just lucky in the end that it was a good wind for me because I was coming with speed,” Pogačar said. “It’s unbelievable.”
The result will make for a grim deja vu for Alaphilippe, who lost out on victory at last fall’s Liège after his wayward sprint and early celebration saw him finish fifth.
Defending champion Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) couldn’t match the pace when the race lit up on the Roche aux Faucons climb and led a strong chase group, but never made it back into contention.
Early moves start on the Stockeu
Astana-Premier Tech started the early attacks at 80km to go with a pair of riders hitting out over the Côte de Stockeu only to be pulled back. Veterans Philippe Gilbert (Lotto-Soudal) and Greg Van Avermaet were next to try short attacks.
Another wave of moves over the long Rosier climb saw a trio go off in pursuit of the day’s early breakway of seven, with Mark Padun (Bahrain Victorious), Mark Donovan (Team DSM) and Harm Vanhoucke (Lotto Soudal) chasing down the early escapees.
Ineos Grenadiers play the numbers but miss the selection, Roglič dropped
After Deceuninick-Quick-Step had done much of the controlling all day, Tao Geoghegan Hart and three of his Ineos Grenadiers cohorts cranked the tempo in the bunch over the climb of the Redoute, reeling in scattered riders from the day’s early attacks.
Ineos kept numbers on the front through to the Côte des Forges at 25km to go before Geoghegan Hart, Richard Carapaz and Adam Yates again surged to pull clear a strong selection of around 10.
Carapaz attacked soon after the front group came together and went away solo. The Ecuadorian built a strong gap but was caught on the final climb of the Roche-aux-Faucons as Deceuninck-Quick-Step and UAE-Team Emirates cranked up the pace.
The winning selection was made at the top of the steep climb. Woods put in a searing turn of pace on a tough ramp with Pogačar, Alaphilippe, Valverde and Gaudu countering. The fivesome initially dangled just seconds ahead of the bunch, but Gaudu and Alaphilippe picked up the pulling to make the escape stick.
Roglič struggled to respond to the acceleration as two UAE-Team Emirates riders sat on his wheel.
The Jumbo-Visma leader put the motor into the chase, but with the attack group of five working together well and UAE Emirates disrupting the chase for Pogačar, the defending champ saw his chances dashed, finishing 13th.
Results provided by ProCyclingStats.
Stage Rank Name Team Time 1 POGAČAR Tadej UAE Team Emirates 6:39:26 2 ALAPHILIPPE Julian Deceuninck - Quick Step 0:00 3 GAUDU David Groupama - FDJ 0:00 4 VALVERDE Alejandro Movistar Team 0:00 5 WOODS Michael Israel Start-Up Nation 0:00 6 HIRSCHI Marc UAE Team Emirates 0:07 7 BENOOT Tiesj Team DSM 0:07 8 MOLLEMA Bauke Trek - Segafredo 0:07 9 SCHACHMANN Maximilian BORA - hansgrohe 0:09 10 MOHORIČ Matej Bahrain - Victorious 0:09 11 KWIATKOWSKI Michał INEOS Grenadiers 0:09 12 FUGLSANG Jakob Astana - Premier Tech 0:09 13 ROGLIČ Primož Team Jumbo-Visma 0:09 14 CHAVES Esteban Team BikeExchange 0:09 15 MARTIN Guillaume Cofidis 0:09 16 FORMOLO Davide UAE Team Emirates 0:09 17 HAIG Jack Bahrain - Victorious 0:12 18 YATES Adam INEOS Grenadiers 0:37 19 MATTHEWS Michael Team BikeExchange 1:21 20 KONRAD Patrick BORA - hansgrohe 1:21 21 ARANBURU Alex Astana - Premier Tech 1:21 22 SKUJIŅŠ Toms Trek - Segafredo 1:21 23 PARET-PEINTRE Aurélien AG2R Citroën Team 1:21 24 WELLENS Tim Lotto Soudal 1:21 25 NEILANDS Krists Israel Start-Up Nation 1:21 26 BARGUIL Warren Team Arkéa Samsic 1:21 27 KELDERMAN Wilco BORA - hansgrohe 1:21 28 VINGEGAARD Jonas Team Jumbo-Visma 1:21 30 FRAILE Omar Astana - Premier Tech 1:21 31 HIGUITA Sergio EF Education - Nippo 1:21 32 CLARKE Simon Team Qhubeka ASSOS 1:44 33 KNOX James Deceuninck - Quick Step 1:44 34 TEUNS Dylan Bahrain - Victorious 1:45 35 GEOGHEGAN HART Tao INEOS Grenadiers 1:47 36 HERMANS Quinten Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux 2:42 37 HERRADA Jesús Cofidis 2:42 38 DONOVAN Mark Team DSM 2:43 39 KAMP Alexander Trek - Segafredo 3:06 40 VAN AVERMAET Greg AG2R Citroën Team 3:06 41 SIMON Julien Team Total Direct Energie 3:06 42 ROTA Lorenzo Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux 3:06 43 PICHON Laurent Team Arkéa Samsic 3:06 44 BARCELÓ Fernando Cofidis 3:06 45 CONCI Nicola Trek - Segafredo 3:06 46 WIRTGEN Luc Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB 3:06 47 GESINK Robert Team Jumbo-Visma 3:06 48 COSNEFROY Benoît AG2R Citroën Team 3:06 49 TUSVELD Martijn Team DSM 3:06 50 HONORÉ Mikkel Frølich Deceuninck - Quick Step 3:06 51 SBARAGLI Kristian Alpecin-Fenix 3:06 52 ROSA Diego Team Arkéa Samsic 3:06 53 ZAKARIN Ilnur Gazprom - RusVelo 3:06 54 TULETT Ben Alpecin-Fenix 3:06 55 SCHELLING Ide BORA - hansgrohe 3:06 56 JORGENSON Matteo Movistar Team 3:06 57 POWER Robert Team Qhubeka ASSOS 3:06 58 VALGREN Michael EF Education - Nippo 3:06 59 GESCHKE Simon Cofidis 3:06 60 POZZOVIVO Domenico Team Qhubeka ASSOS 3:06 61 ARU Fabio Team Qhubeka ASSOS 3:06 62 MOLARD Rudy Groupama - FDJ 3:06 63 COSTA Rui UAE Team Emirates 3:06 64 FERRON Valentin Team Total Direct Energie 3:06 65 ALMEIDA João Deceuninck - Quick Step 3:06 66 SEIGLE Romain Groupama - FDJ 3:06 67 SÁNCHEZ Luis León Astana - Premier Tech 3:06 68 VANHOUCKE Harm Lotto Soudal 3:06 69 HAMILTON Chris Team DSM 3:06 70 IMPEY Daryl Israel Start-Up Nation 3:06 71 VERONA Carlos Movistar Team 3:06 72 VANENDERT Jelle Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB 3:06 73 JUUL-JENSEN Christopher Team BikeExchange 3:06 74 HAMILTON Lucas Team BikeExchange 3:06 75 NIEVE Mikel Team BikeExchange 3:06 76 FERNÁNDEZ Rubén Cofidis 3:06 77 HENAO Sergio Team Qhubeka ASSOS 3:06 78 LATOUR Pierre Team Total Direct Energie 3:06 79 PADUN Mark Bahrain - Victorious 3:06 80 VANSEVENANT Mauri Deceuninck - Quick Step 3:45 81 BAKELANTS Jan Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux 4:15 82 OWSIAN Łukasz Team Arkéa Samsic 4:15 83 MADOUAS Valentin Groupama - FDJ 4:15 84 MERTZ Rémy Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB 4:15 85 MONIQUET Sylvain Lotto Soudal 4:15 86 GODON Dorian AG2R Citroën Team 5:02 87 BERNARD Julien Trek - Segafredo 5:02 88 JANSSENS Jimmy Alpecin-Fenix 5:02 89 LUTSENKO Alexey Astana - Premier Tech 5:02 90 CHERNETSKI Sergei Gazprom - RusVelo 5:02 91 MARCZYŃSKI Tomasz Lotto Soudal 5:02 92 VLIEGEN Loïc Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux 6:17 93 VAN POUCKE Aaron Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise 6:58 94 OOMEN Sam Team Jumbo-Visma 6:58 95 BURGAUDEAU Mathieu Team Total Direct Energie 7:56 96 PEREZ Anthony Cofidis 7:56 97 VELASCO Simone Gazprom - RusVelo 7:59 98 ARNDT Nikias Team DSM 7:59 99 HOWES Alex EF Education - Nippo 7:59 100 DE BOD Stefan Astana - Premier Tech 7:59 101 GOLDSTEIN Omer Israel Start-Up Nation 7:59 102 GILBERT Philippe Lotto Soudal 7:59 103 SPRENGERS Thomas Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise 7:59 104 BOOKWALTER Brent Team BikeExchange 7:59 105 LADAGNOUS Matthieu Groupama - FDJ 7:59 106 LAMMERTINK Maurits Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux 7:59 107 CAICEDO Jonathan Klever EF Education - Nippo 7:59 108 O'CONNOR Ben AG2R Citroën Team 7:59 109 POELS Wout Bahrain - Victorious 7:59 110 ARMÉE Sander Team Qhubeka ASSOS 7:59 111 DOUBEY Fabien Team Total Direct Energie 7:59 112 KANGERT Tanel Team BikeExchange 7:59 113 EG Niklas Trek - Segafredo 7:59 114 LEDANOIS Kévin Team Arkéa Samsic 7:59 115 BENEDETTI Cesare BORA - hansgrohe 7:59 116 MAS Enric Movistar Team 7:59 117 MEURISSE Xandro Alpecin-Fenix 9:32 118 SERRANO Gonzalo Movistar Team 9:32 119 SCHÄR Michael AG2R Citroën Team 9:32 120 HOLLENSTEIN Reto Israel Start-Up Nation 9:32 121 GRELLIER Fabien Team Total Direct Energie 9:32 122 MOLLY Kenny Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB 10:28 123 PAASSCHENS Mathijs Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB 10:28 124 DUNBAR Eddie INEOS Grenadiers 10:28 125 HUYS Laurens Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB 10:28 126 HERREGODTS Rune Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise 12:13 127 FABBRO Matteo BORA - hansgrohe 12:13 128 MERTENS Julian Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise 12:13 129 ARCAS Jorge Movistar Team 12:13 130 RIES Michel Trek - Segafredo 12:13 131 CARR Simon EF Education - Nippo 12:13 132 LAENGEN Vegard Stake UAE Team Emirates 12:13 133 RIOU Alan Team Arkéa Samsic 12:13 134 ROWE Luke INEOS Grenadiers 12:13 135 GOŁAŚ Michał INEOS Grenadiers 12:13 136 APERS Ruben Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise 12:13 137 GUERNALEC Thibault Team Arkéa Samsic 12:13 138 SERRY Pieter Deceuninck - Quick Step 12:13 139 CRADDOCK Lawson EF Education - Nippo 12:13 140 VERMAERKE Kevin Team DSM 12:13 141 GRIGNARD Sébastien Lotto Soudal 12:13 142 HOFSTEDE Lennard Team Jumbo-Visma 12:13 143 ROCHAS Rémy Cofidis 12:13 144 STRAKHOV Dmitry Gazprom - RusVelo 12:13 145 BENNETT Sean Team Qhubeka ASSOS 12:13 146 VAN DER SANDE Tosh Lotto Soudal 12:13 147 COLMAN Alex Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise 12:37
Results provided by ProCyclingStats.