Valverde sees off his rivals easily to claim third Liege title
Spain's Alejandro Valverde wrapped up a remarkable Ardennes classics season when he won Liege-Bastogne-Liege yesterday, four days after triumphing on the Fleche Wallonne.
The Movistar rider, who finished second in the Amstel Gold Race last Sunday, outsprinted a reduced group of top guns at the end of a hilly 253-kilometre ride.
France's Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quick Step) took second, with another Spaniard, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), third.
Rodriguez's team-mate, Dani Moreno, attacked in the final kilometre, but fell short as Valverde easily beat his rivals to claim his third Liege title.
The 2009 Tour of Spain champion, whose late kick also earned him a third Fleche Wallonne title on Wednesday, completed his second Fleche and Liege double after 2006.
"I did not panic when Moreno attacked. I could not be happier," the 35-year-old told reporters.
Several pre-race favourites were effectively ruled out of contention in a crash about 40 kilometres from the finish.
Ireland's Dan Martin and Nicolas Roche, the Cannondale-Garmin and Team Sky leaders respectively, were involved, with defending champion, Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE), also hitting the tarmac.
As a result of the pile-up, only about 40 riders were left in the peloton chasing breakaway riders Michele Scarponi of Italy (Astana) and Colombian Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE).
Both were reined in with about 25 kilometres left and Czech Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo), Italian Gianpaolo Caruso (Katusha) and Dane Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) found themselves ahead of the pack.
But they never managed to open a decent gap and when the peloton caught up, Valverde stayed calm, covering his rivals' accelerations as he waited for a sprint.
Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali also tried his luck near the finale to avoid a sprint, but the Italian simply did not have his best legs to have a real shot at victory.