LIEGE, Belgium (VN) — Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and four other riders were disqualified from Liège-Bastogne-Liège after steering off course during the race on Sunday.
According to race officials, Valverde and others rode onto a shortcut designed to allow photographers’ motorcycles to safely pass ahead of the peloton after coming off the decisive Redoute climb with about 32km to go.
“When things do not go well, there’s nothing you can do. I didn’t have the best legs at Amstel and Flèche, but today the sensations were good. Just at the start of the Redoute, Voeckler crashed and I couldn’t avoid him. I fell and my gears got twisted,” said Valverde. “I had to stop and wait for Madrazo, who gave me his bike. I wasn’t far behind, but we came to an intersection and went the wrong way.”
ASO official Gilles Maignan told VeloNews that Valverde was riding behind motorcycles after a mishap on the climb up La Redoute in a bid to regain contact with the front group.
Valverde followed the motorcycles onto the detour rather than taking a wider loop that was about 600 meters longer.
“We do not know if they did it with purpose or not, but the rules state that riders must trace the entire race route,” Maignan told VeloNews. “They followed motorcycles onto the detour.”
Other riders disqualified were Valverde’s Movistar teammates Angel Madrazo, José Rojas and Pablo Lastras as well as Laurens De Vreese (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator).
The disqualification put a rather dubious end to Valverde’s Ardennes classics return.
Despite not riding for the win at Amstel Gold Race or Flèche Wallone, the Spanish rider had big hopes coming into Liège, which he has won twice before.
Valverde was suffering in the cold and rain before puncturing on the decisive climb up La Redoute. After swapping bikes with Lastras, Valverde tried in vain to regain contact and found himself off-course.
“I probably could have come back, but my options were limited because I was on Angel’s bike, which is a lot smaller than mine,” he said. “It’s too bad, things didn’t go well this week, but I am happy with the first part of the year. Now I will take a little break and prepare for the Tour.”