Gerrans wins Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic
BRUSSELS -- Simon Gerrans of Australia relied on his power sprint finish to beat Alejandro Valverde and Michal Kwiatkowski and clinch the 100th edition of the Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic, the oldest on the books.
Last year's winner Dan Martin crashed on the final corner onto the finishing straight, opening the door for Gerrans to win the second major one-day race of his career after the 2012 Milan-San Remo race.
"It unfolded perfectly for me in the final," said Gerrans. "I was well placed and fortunately I had the legs to finish it."
Valverde could never move out of Gerrans' slipstream on the uphill finish and failed to get the Ardennes double after winning the Walloon Arrow on Wednesday.
In a disappointing race, the favorites played the waiting game until late, and Philippe Gilbert paid the price, finishing only eighth.
With some 40 riders still bunched together with a few miles to go, it was bound to be an unpredictable finish.
Martin had just caught up with Gianpaolo Caruzo of Italy and looked in prime position for victory when his back wheel slipped away on the final turn. Gerrans and the other leaders swept by and the Australian soon seized the lead he would not relinquish.
"A finish is always unpredictable," said the first Australian to win cycling's oldest classic.
After winning the Tour Down Under in January and finishing third last week in the Amstel Gold Race, victory on Sunday pushed Gerrans into second place in the UCI World Tour with 264 points, trailing leader Alberto Contador, who has 308. Valverde is third with 262 and Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara, who did not race on Sunday, was another 2 points back.
Belgium's King Philippe had given the ceremonial start sign to mark the 100th edition of the race.
It is one of the five 'monuments' in one-day cycling, which also includes Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and Tour of Lombardy.
But while the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix proved spectacular races this season, the 263-kilometer (163-mile) race through the hills and woods of southern Belgium remained in a slumber until late on when the last of outsiders in ill-fated breakaways were caught.
From Monday, all attention centers on the multistage races with the Swiss Tour de Romandie and the three-week Giro d'Italia, which starts May 9.
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Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press
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