Irish rider Daniel Martin (Garmin Sharp) confirmed the form that saw him take a close 4th place at Fleche Wallonne by winning the oldest race in cycling, Liege Bastogne Liege. Jumping from Joaqium Rodriquez (Katusha) with a strong attack with 300 metres to the finish line, Martin had enough time to celebrate his victory as Rodriquez rolled in a few metres behind, his head down due to the effort.
199 riders rolled out of Liege to take on the 261.5km race. Playing to the somewhat standard format of all bike races, a group of six riders forced their way off of the front of the group after ten kilometres. The group soon got a large lead, up to a maximum of just over 12 minutes before BMC, Movistar and Katusha started to put riders on the front of the peloton to bring them back.
It was not until the iconic Cote de La Redoute that the real race started. Lopez (Team Sky) put in a big attack on the climb to force a small group of good riders off of the front. Their advantage was short lived as BMC set a fast tempo on the front of the peloton.
Ironically it was the new climb of the Cote de Colonster, which many argued had made the race easier, where the final selection was really made. First Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff), then Pierre Rolland (Team Europcar), put in significant attacks which shattered the peloton. Ryder Hesjadal (Garmin Sharp) then launched a soft attack that saw him going clear, with a maximum of 28 seconds advantage.
Hesjadal’s advantage was soon eroded on the Cote de Saint-Nicolas, seeing him caught by a group containing Martin, Rodriquez and Valverde (Movistar) amongst others. Astana and BMC had missed this move, which left them chasing hard on the front of the peloton. On the final run in, a long false-flat drag up to the finish, numerous small groups were spread on the road. Martin, Uran Uran, Rodriquez and Valverde were the major names in the lead group. With the now caught Hesjadal working on the front to keep their advantage.
Going under the one-kilometre-to-go banner Rodriquez put in a massive attack, which looked to be the race-winning move. The only rider able to respond was Martin. He clawed his way back to Rodriquez and then with the cool head of someone with much more age, Martin attacked with 300 metres to go, which was too much for the Spanish rider.
1 Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Sharp 6:38:07
2 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha 0:00:03
3 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:09
4 Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) AG2R La Mondiale
5 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida
6 Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:18
7 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team
8 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp
9 Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Movistar Team
10 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge