A late attack by Amanda Spratt threatened to leave the rest of the race behind, but it was a determined surge from Anna van der Breggen that decided the victory in Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
“It was quite hard, [Amanda] did really good,” said van der Breggen. “I was there with Megan in the second group, but Canyon-SRAM was there with a lot of riders as well. So it was a bit of a gamble, whether we were going to ride or not.”
“You don’t want to react too early, because that’s really hard,” said van der Breggen. “But you don’t want to be too late, so it was quite tactical. And in the end, it was just really hard. I was happy I could catch her on the penultimate climb.”
Spratt held a gap of 50 seconds at the base of the Cote de Saint-Nicholas before van der Breggen launched a big attack off the front of the chasing group. She initially had Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervelo-Bigla) for company before dropping the South African and setting off after Spratt solo.
Van der Breggen bridged over to Spratt with five kilometres left in the race, with the pair arriving at the final rise into the line together. The Dutch star was able to drop the Australian and had enough of an advantage for a proper salute in the final few metres.
“[Amanda] is in great form,” said van der Breggen. “When I caught her, she was straight on my wheel. I know that finish climb is pretty hard and she had already done quite an effort up front, but you never know. Still, I felt good today, so I was quite sure I could drop her on that last climb.”
The early break of three was kept well in hand by the peloton, waiting until the race hit the major climbs in the back half of the course.
The situation stayed steady approaching the first major climb of the day, the Cote de La Vecquee, cresting with 60 kilometres remaining. The main bunch hit the ascent with a high pace that only increased, splitting the peloton whilst bringing the break within reach.
The race reformed with 50 kilometres remaining, with tensions beginning to mount the race split again with the anticipated attacks over the Cote de La Redoute. A strong group of favourites formed behind a lone leader who jumped away, Pauline Ferrand-Prevot of Canyon-SRAM.
Quickly taking 40 seconds over the peloton the former world champion led the race onto the often decisive climb of the Cote de La Roche-aux-Faucons. Ferrand-Prevot was swallowed up by an elite chasing group, formed out of attacks over the steep climb.
It was from there that Spratt launched her bid for victory, with 18 kilometres left of the course. She quickly built up a lead, maxing out at a timed advantage of 55 seconds. The Cote de Saint-Nicholas provided the launchpad for van der Breggen to leap across to Spratt, with the race decided on the final rise to the finish line.
— Liège-Bastogne-Liège (@LiegeBastogneL) April 22, 2018