LIEGE, Belgium: Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic pipped an already celebrating Julian Alaphilippe to the line on Sunday (Monday in Manila) at cycling’s top Belgian one-day classic Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
The epic 257km run through the Ardennes culminated with four of the hottest racers in the world contesting the finish, with Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar and Swiss Marc Hirschi also in the mix.
Alaphilippe moved left from a lead position to knock Hirschi and Pogacar out of contention but as the Frenchman raised his arms, Roglic continued racing and beat the Frenchman over the line.
The world champion was later relegated to fifth by race officials, and was as embarrased as he was apologetic.
“That is the first and last time you’ll ever see me celebrate too soon,” he said.
“I’m really sorry for Hirschi, I have seen the images and I swerve. That won’t happen again either.”
Hirschi was in forgiving mood.
“He moved, hit my wheel, that can happen,” said Hirschi.
That left three Slovenians in the top four with Pogacar second and Matej Mohoric fourth behind Hirschi.
The win marks a redemption for Roglic, who led the Tour de France for two weeks before a final-day meltdown. Instead of going under, the former ski-jumper can now close his season with a prestige win.
“It’s unbelievable. It was so close. It goes to show you can never stop believing and never stop pushing until the last centimetre,” said the 30-year-old Roglic.
“It was the first time I did the oldest race in the calendar. It was on my wish list to win a Monument. I’m super happy I managed to win,” he said.
Former soldier Alaphilippe took the defeat on the chin and also praised the winner.
“We have a great winner in Primoz Roglic,” he said.
“I made a mistake and I have to take full responsibility for it,” said the Frenchman who might have been more embarrassed without the decision to strip him of second place.
“The only thing to do is get on with the next race now,” said Alaphilippe, who rides for Belgian team Deceuninck-Quick Step.
Belgium’s Gren van Avermaet is likely to miss the rest of the season after falling at around 100km from the finish.
His CCC outfit said later on Sunday the 2017 Paris-Roubaix winner suffered various injuries including breaking three ribs.
The five Monuments are the very long one day races with Milan-San Remo, Paris Roubaix, the Tour of Flanders and the Giro Di Lombardia.