Ireland’s Dan Martin (Garmin Sharp) launched a perfectly timed attack to win the 2013 Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
The Birmingham-born nephew of Triple Crown champion, Stephen Roche, swept past world number one, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), within sight of the finishing line for the biggest win of his career.
Fresh from overall victory at the Volta a Catalunya, and a fourth-placed finish at Wednesday’s La Fleche Wallonne, Martin used his form to devastating effect to win the 99th edition of La Doyenne.
Having timed his attack to perfection, Martin had time to luxuriate in his victory, solo-ing across the line with his arms in the air and a smile as wide as the Meuse.
Just seven kilometers earlier, victory had looked assured for Martin’s team-mate, Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp), who began the ascent of the often-decisive Cote de Saint Nicolas alone.
The Canadian, who appears to have timed preparation for the defence of his Giro d’Italia crown in a fortnight’s time to perfection, had time trialed off the front of an elite breakaway, headed by Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff), to ride onto the 8.6 per cent slopes of the St Nicolas with 20 seconds in his pocket.
Just over a kilometre later, and with the summit still to be reached, Hesjedal’s lead had been reduced to nine seconds, forcing Martin to try and slow the bunch.
Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale) launched an attack as feisty as his attempt to win La Fleche Wallonne, but was soon joined by Martin, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), and Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida).
This elite quartet swiftly reeled in Hesjedal, who performed an instant role reversal, and began working for Martin, ensuring that his now five-strong group stayed ahead of a chasing group that included newly-crowned Giro del Trentino champion, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and world road race champion, Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing).
Just 200 metres from the flamme rouge, Rodriguez launched his attack, and while Betancur, Scarponi, and Valverde looked at each other, Martin found the strength to respond.
‘Purito’ held off the belated challenge of the aforementioned trio to finish second, while Valverde mustered a better sprint than his exhausted companions to finish third.
With victories in a WorldTour stage race, and a Monument Classic added to his palmares, Martin is enjoying his best season ever.
Liege Bastogne Liege 2013 – result
1) Daniel Martin (IRE) – Garmin-Sharp – 6.38.07
2) Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP) – Katusha + 3″
3) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar + 9″
4) Carlos Betancur (COL) – Ag2r-La Mondiale – ST
5) Michele Scarponi (ITA) – Lampre-Merida
6) Enrico Gasparotto (ITA) – Astana +18″
7) Philippe Gilbert (BEL) – BMC Racing – ST
8) Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) – Garmin-Sharp
9) Rui Costa (POR) – Movistar
10) Simon Gerrans (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE