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Quick-Step’s Bob Jungels solos to victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège

Pete Muir
22 Apr 2018

Jungels makes it 27 wins for Quick-Step this season

Quick-Step’s Bob Jungels pulled off a 20km solo breakaway to win the 2018 Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

The Luxembourger attacked on the Roche-aux-Faucons climb and managed to hold off a chasing pack of big names to clinch the 27th win of the season for the Belgian squad.

The story of the race

The 104th Liège-Bastogne-Liège set off from the Belgian town in blazing sunshine to take on the course’s 260km and almost 5,000m of climbing.

Ahead of them were 11 punchy climbs, most of them in the second half of the race, with the highest point at around 500m.

After several attempts to form a break, eventually nine riders got away, including two from Aqua Blue. The only representatives from the WorldTour were from Cofidis and BMC.

The breakaway managed to pull out a gap of around six minutes, which was dragged back to a more manageable four minutes by the 100km-to-go mark.

Back in the main bunch, the pace was controlled by UAE Team Emirates in the service of Irishman Dan Martin (a previous winner at Liège in 2013). Quick-Step also did their time on the front, looking after their young French star, Julian Alaphilippe, winner of La Flèche Wallonne a few days previously. 

During the early part of the race, Team Movistar, with four-time previous winner Alejandro Valverde, seemed to hang back and let the others dictate the pace. Having narrowly lost out at La Flèche Wallonne, Valverde plainly wanted to save himself for a fast finish. At stake was a chance to match the five Liège victories of Eddy Merckx.

At around 85km to go, Aqua Blue’s Danish rider Caspar Pederson pulled away from the breakaway and set off on his own to get some valuable screen time for his Irish team and their single-chainringed 3T Strada bikes.

He was eventually re-caught by the breakaway, which started to fracture as the climbs piled up, eventually leaving five riders. They managed to hold on to an advantage of three minutes as they passed through the 50km mark.

As the break hit the bottom of the most famous climb of the race – La Redoute at 38km to go – it had a 1min 40sec gap on the peloton, which started to come down rapidly as the big names started to push for position on its 9% average slopes.

Gathering at the front of the peloton were favourites such as Alaphilippe, Martin, Bahrain Merida’s Vincenzo Nibali, Team Sky’s Michal Kwiatkowski, AG2R’s Romain Bardet, and last year’s winner, Movistar’s Valverde.

None of the favourites felt strong enough to attack their rivals on the Redoute, and by the time the peloton was safely over the top, the breakaway was allowed to stretch back out to a 100-second gap.

With 25km to go, more potential winners started to fight for position at the front of the peloton, including Lotto-Soudal’s Tiesj Benoot, Sunweb’s Michael Matthews, and Education First’s Rigoberto Uran.

The last scraps of the breakaway were finally mopped up with 23km to go.

On the climb of Roche-aux-Faucons, Nibali put his Bahrain-Merida team on the front of the pack and told them to lift the speed, stretching out the peloton. The big names clung on, and then the attacks began.

First off the front was Quick-Step’s Philippe Gilbert. He was quickly brought back, and then Sky’s Sergio Henao had a dig. Next up was Quick-Step’s Bob Jungels, who was first over the top of the climb and managed to put some space between himself and the pack on the descent. 

With 18km to go, the peloton began to split into smaller groups, and eventually a chasing group of about 20 big names formed at around 20 seconds behind Jungels.

With the favourites all watching each other, Jungels managed to pull the gap out to 28 seconds with 15km to go. Eventually Valverde could wait no longer, and he attacked the rest of the pack, but to no avail.

Dan Martin equally tried to split away from the rest, but Quick-Step always managed to pull back any attacks, while their teammate Jungels pulled out the gap to 38 seconds at the 10km-to-go mark.

With 8km to go, Dan Martin’s race came to a premature end with a badly-timed mechanical, while Jungels continued to time-trial his way to a 50-second advantage.

Lotto-Soudal’s Jelle Vanendert broke off from the pack at 6km to go, to start to chase down Jungels, and soon the Luxembourger’s gap had been reduced to just 19 seconds.

As Jungels clung on to his lead, behind him Valverde and Alaphilippe started attacking each other, attempting to close the gap to Vanendert.

With a flat run-in, Jungels – a talented time-triallist – managed to increase his lead again, and eventually finished 37 seconds ahead of Education First’s Mike Woods and AG2R’s Romain Bardet to give Quick-Step their 27th win of the season so far.