Without Tadej Pogacar, fallen, Remco Evenepoel wins again the Liège-Bastogne-Liège | Sports

Remco Evenepoel, on the attack.
Remco Evenepoel, on the attack.JASPER JACOBS (AFP)

As in the Fleche Wallonne, on Wednesday, 26-year-old Demi Vollering shows Tadej Pogacar the path of the Ardennes triptych, victory in the three races of the week, Amstel, Fleche and Liège. The queen of the Ardennes, attacks on the Rock of the Hawks. Only Elisa Longo Borghini resists her. Fast, explosive, resistant, fast, Anna van der Breggen’s student, who, already retired, guides her from the car, resolves the duel in a sprint on the last straight. But Pogacar, already a winner at Amstel and Flecha as well, cannot imitate her on Sunday. He doesn’t even get to raise the expected duel with Remco Evenepoel the Slovenian. Before even reaching Bastogne to turn back towards Liège, Pogacar, 24, disappears from the scene amidst a resounding noise that horrifies Remco, 22. The best one falls. He breaks his scaphoid, one of the small bones in his wrist. He retires. He had never fallen before. Never since he was a god had he broken a bone. There is no duel. There is no fight. The last monument of the spring of all wonders leaves the taste of small frustration and admiration. Liège-Bastogne-Liège is now only a matter of two, of the peloton, who pursues without hope, and of Remco Evenepoel, dressed in white and on his chest a ring of five colors, the rainbow of the world champion, blue, red, black, yellow, green, the five colors of the Olympic rings, and the number one bib, and when he accelerates in La Redoute the roads open before him like the Red Sea parted, and he passes. Those who try to follow him die.

It’s raining. It’s cold. The road skids, and the rear wheel of the Specialized zigzags away from him as he rises up in the saddle and only Tom Pidcock, who would rather die than leave him a meter, sticks to his wheel. Pidcock is a brave one, one who tried to follow Pogacar in the Amstel and in the Strade Bianche, where neither Pogacar nor Remco were, he went alone as the Slovenian and the Belgian always do. He is one with a good engine. Afraid of falling, Remco does not get up again, he does not even seem to speed up the ascent to the Cornémont chapel, a false flat on which he maintains his speed without further ado, as fast as Pidcock, and everything he is, if he even won in Alpe d’Huez, he is unable to follow his wheel, and he tries. Remco is already alone, as he likes, the squad is already there, so even, so grouped, behind him, further and further away. There are 30 kilometers left, the same ones that remained in 2022 when, also absent Pogacar, the duel that does not arrive, Remco flew away. His first Liège, his first victory. His love at first sight with the Dean. With La Redoute. The most important point of the battle. This is where the team has taken him, Serry, Alaphilippe, Vervaeke, pulling, he, the fourth, and his wheel, the peloton in single file, and the most eager –Pidcock, Buitrago, the Irishman from Birmingham Ben Healey, 22 years old, crooked head on the bike, crooked helmet, and legs that look like nothing, and a unique will and courage, a 21st century Chiappucci—sticking to his wheel. Neither Mas nor Landa, the two Spaniards with the most possibilities, between them. The Majorcan’s stomach ached; to Alava, the soul. The two quit. Only Ion Izagirre, tougher than anyone, was seen in front. He finished 16th, the last of the group that, 1m 48s behind Remco, sprinted for eighth place. Pidcock was second, at 1m6; Buitrago, third, Healey fourth.

The last kilometers, the slope of the Forges, the terrible Roca de los Falcones, he walks calmly. Prudent in the descents, without pedaling, a tourist enjoying the calm despite the hubbub of a crowd that acclaims him, and he raises his chest, full of joy – “what a pride, to win the most beautiful race wearing the most beautiful jersey” , he says, “what a prize, the photo of my victory in my room, the photo I wanted the most” -, and in the last straight line, between the canals of old Liège, between the Meuse and the Ourthe, he stands on the bike, raises his arms, asks the public to shout more, directs his chants with his hands like an orchestra conductor, and crosses the finish line raising one finger and then two, two Lieges in two participations.

Pogacar underwent surgery on the same Sunday, in Ghent, on his wrist. With a splint he will start training soon. For another two months he will not compete again. He will arrive well to the Tour. Apart from the very large photograph, Remco, who returned to the continent a few days ago after three weeks training on Teide, made another wish, that the team nutritionist let him have mussels and chips for dinner, which is very good for his microbiota. On Monday he will fly to Calpe, his home, where he will finish preparing for the Giro (May 6-28), his big goal. Until the Glasgow World Cup, in August, or Lombardy, the last monument of the year, in autumn, his paths will not cross again. The duel does not come. The desire increases.

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