Team Sky firsts
- First win: Greg Henderson (Tour Down Under Classic 2010)
- First ProTour win: Chris Sutton (Tour Down Under 2010, stage six)
- First semi-Classic win: Juan Antonio Flecha (Omloop Het Niuewsblad 2010)
- First British win: Russell Downing (Criterium International 2010, stage two)
- First Grand Tour stage win: Bradley Wiggins (Giro d’Italia 2010, prologue)
- First stage race win: Ben Swift (Tour de Picardie 2010)
- First WorldTour stage race win: Bradley Wiggins (Criterium du Dauphine 2011)
- First Grand Tour win: Bradley Wiggins (Tour de France 2012)
- First Monument win: Wout Poels (Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2016)
Poels has proved himself a valuable addition to the Team Sky roster since joining from Etixx-QuickStep last year, but it was Michal Kwiatkowski expected to lead their Ardennes Classics charge.
With Sergio Henao – a multiple top-ten finisher at the Ardennes Classics – withdrawn from competition, it seemed even more likely it would be former world champion Kwiato leading the Sky charge.
But Poels stepped up in style when the team needed him – proving Team Sky’s strength in depth and justifying Brailsford’s confidence that the British team can challenge year-round.
The Dutchman, 28, has already proved a valuable return for Sky, with stage wins at the Tour of Britain and Tirreno-Adriatico last year, alongside a leading role as domestique for Froome at the Tour de France.
This season he stepped it up further, winning two stages and overall at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, alongside a stage win at the Volta a Catalunya.
He was in good shape ahead of Liege-Bastogne-Liege, too, finishing fourth at La Fleche Wallonne in Kwiatkowski’s absence.
When Kwiatkowski took a big pull on the front of the peloton on the Cote de Saint Nicolas, it became apparent the Pole would not be the man leading Team Sky in the finale though.
And Poels seized the initiative in perfect style – planting himself on Michael Albasini’s wheel in the race-winning selection and sprinting to victory.
Team Sky’s reaction in the team bus said it all – this victory has been a long time coming.