The same but different: Remco Evenepoel’s second solo attack in 12 months in Liège-Bastogne-Liège once again netted the Belgian victory in cycling’s oldest one-day race and once again ‘saved’ his team’s Spring Classics campaign.
But apart from being clad in World Champion’s kit and a year older, Evenepoel’s second Liège victory also comes barely a fortnight before he heads to the Giro d’Italia and as such, it acts as a massive morale booster to the Soudal-QuickStep star and his team before the next major challenge of his career.
Evenepoel was delighted, as he pointed out in his post-Liège interview with race TV, to be able to have claimed such a major victory win again in his first event of 2023 on home soil.
But apart from providing the inside line to the interviewer on his latest triumph in La Doyenne, his return to the Giro d’Italia in a bid to add a second Grand Tour to his second Monument was always going to come up for discussion. And Evenepoel agreed that winning in Liège was an ideal kind of omen – as well as an opportunity for a little indulgence.
“Last year, I had lots of time to enjoy the Liège victory, and this year I don’t,” he pointed out, “but I talked it through with the team nutritionist and asked if I won could I have some chips, and they said yes. So it’s frites on the menu this evening.”
As for managing to clinch a second triumph in Liège, Evenepoel said simply, “It’s amazing. It was a super long, hard race with difficult conditions, and there was the brutal crash Tadej [Pogačar] and some others had, I just hope they are ok.”
“I have to thank my team for this great victory, working for me from the start so hard. This victory belongs to them as well. And I’m just so happy to get two out of two here in Liège.”
Evenepoel’s team was forced to take almost full responsibility for the race after UAE Team Emirates logically switched strategies following Pogačar’s abandon. But they stepped up to the grid, with Julian Alaphilippe making a colossal effort on the Côte de Wanne and again, in lesser measure, on the Haut-Levée, Louis Vervaeke then taking over and Ilan Van Wilder giving Evenepoel the final support he needed before blasting up off on the Côte de la Redoute.
Evenepoel said that he had heard, rather than seen, Pogačar’s crash – “It was a horrible noise,” he related, before adding, “You never want that to happen to anybody. All my support and best wishes for a speedy…
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