Albasini takes second in the snow and sleet of Li?ge-Bastogne-Li?ge
Multiple Tour of Romandie stage winner Michael Albasini continued his impressive run of form through this year?s classics season by sprinting to second for ORICA-GreenEDGE in a truly epic 102nd edition of Li?ge-Bastogne-Li?ge today.
After covering over 250kilometres in the snow and sleet Albasini attacked on the final climb of the race – a short, steep and cobbled climb with maximum gradients of 15% – and held on at the front to lead into the descent and the final kilometres.
Wout Poels (Team-Sky) and Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) were with Albasini through the s-curve that led into the finishing straight, each rider was now at their limit after 253kilometres of racing.
Poels was the first to attack with Albasini following. The pair gained a slim advantage on Costa with the Sky rider just beating Albasini to the line for the victory.
The Swiss stalwart was exhausted but happy with the result.
?It was really tough out there,? said Albasini. ?In those kinds of conditions you are always thinking about staying as warm and dry as possible especially towards the end.?
?We had stripped off some layers going into the final and then it snowed again, it was really demanding. It was close at the end, I felt good and I tried a couple of times to get away but I didn?t quite have the legs in the last few metres.
?Maybe it?s too soon to be happy about second place but I think in the days to come I will pretty happy about it.?
Sport director Matt White was overjoyed with the result and performance of Albasini, another hard worker for the Australian outfit.
?Michael (Albasini) thoroughly deserves this result,? said White. ?Like Mathew (Hayman) he is someone who is always working for others and this was one of his opportunities to be team leader and he really produced an epic performance.?
?The conditions were so hard today – wind, snow and rain it was never more than six degrees all day long. So many riders abandoned that just to finish the race would be impressive but Michael is a hard man and when he has got good legs in a good position he is going to produce the goods.?
White praised the team on what was a tough day on the road.
?The team rode well throughout the race,? continued White. ?We still had four guys up there going into the last 35kilometres and we all knew Michael was our protected rider. They did a great job keeping him at the front for as long as possible.?
?Li?ge-Bastogne- Li?ge is a super hard race at the best of times but today was beyond that.
“I?m over the moon for Michael. He is a traditional bike rider and I think he is one of the few guys in today?s race who can actually thrive in such adverse weather conditions.?
How it happened:
The riders signed on for today?s Li?ge-Bastogne-Li?ge in freezing cold temperatures kitted out in full winter clothing with the firm guarantee of an arduous 253kilometre race ahead.
As the flag dropped seven kilometres outside of Li?ge the peloton upped the pace and the attacks duly began to form.
Twenty kilometres later and a group of eight riders had broken away and began to develop a lead over the bunch, after 43kilometres of racing the group had a nine-minute advantage on the peloton.
Throughout the build up to the race the forecasted heavy snow and low temperatures looked set to have an effect on the day?s events and this proved to be the case after an hour of racing.
Due to the adverse snowy conditions the race organisers changed the route with a deviation between kilometres 45 and 75 before the riders tackled the first climb, La Roche-en-Ardennes. The leaders were still nine minutes ahead going into the altered section of the parcours.
With 125kilometres to go and on the second climb of the day, the Cote Saint-Roch, the lead group still had eight minutes over the peloton.
The wintry conditions made racing difficult and forced many riders to abandon, a crash in the peloton with under 100kilometres left to race saw more riders call it a day.
Half the field were left on the road with 85kilometres to go and the advantage of the eight leaders was now down to four minutes.
It started to snow heavily again with 70kilometres to go as the race hit the Cote de la Haute-Levee climb. Team Movistar were leading the chase at the front of the peloton steadily closing the gap to the leaders.
With the breakaway now only two minutes ahead, Thomas Voeckler (Direct-Energie) broke from the front of the peloton and began to bridge the gap to the leaders.
Only four riders remained together at the head of the race as Voeckler began to pass the dropped escapees. With 40kilometres to go the peloton were still two minutes behind the group of four leaders.
Voeckler was caught by the Movistar led peloton on the Cote de la Redoute leaving only Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) and two companions up the road less than a minute ahead.
The field came back together with under 25kilometres to go, with Chris Juul-Jensen and Albasini working at the front for ORICA-GreenEDGE alongside Etixx-Quickstep and Lotto-Soudal.
With sleet and snow falling and the last two climbs still to come the final twenty kilometres were set to be brutal for the peloton, now made up of around forty riders.
Inside the last ten kilometres, on the Cote de Saint Nicolas, tentative attacks were beginning to spring from the peloton, Albasini was ever present at the front for ORICA-GreenEDGE never more than second or third wheel at this point.
A selection of around twenty riders headed into the final climb of the day inside the last three kilometres and Albasini attacked. Cresting the climb at the front and powering away on the descent Albasini had three riders with him going into the finale.
Poels and Costa were hung onto Albasini?s wheel as they hit the final 500metres and with the peloton closing behind Poels attacked managing to gain one or two metres. Albasini reacted valiantly but could not quite close the gap on the line, coming home in a hard fought second place.
ORICA-GreenEDGE are in action again on Tuesday 26th of April at the 2016 Tour of Romandie.
1. Wout Poels (Team-Sky) 6:24:29
2. Michael Albasini (ORICA-GreenEDGE) ST
3. Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) ST