Alejandro Valverde won his fourth Liège-Bastogne-Liège classic in Ans, Belgium, today and immediately dedicated the triumph to former Giro d’Italia champion Michele Scarponi who was killed in a collision with a truck yesterday.
“This victory is for Michele Scarponi, my friend,” said the Movistar rider who turns 37 in two days’ time.
“I will donate my prize-money to the family,” said the Spaniard, who won a record fifth Flech Wallone on Wednesday to add to victories in the Tour of the Basque Country and Vuelta a Murcia.
Valverde caught Ireland’s Dan Martin 250m from the finish and outkicked the Quick-Step Floors rider as they turned left onto the traditional finishing straight to win cycling’s oldest classic comfortably in 6:24:27.
Martin, who also finished second to Valverde at Flech Wallone, jumped away from the leading group on the uncategorised climb before the finishing straight to catch and pass Cannondale-Drapac’s lone leader Davide Formolo.
Valverde set off in pursuit and caught the Irishman as they neared the crest of the hill and, for the second time in four days, the latter simply had no answer to the Spaniard’s acceleration.
Poland’s Michal Kwiatkowski – who won Strade Bianche and Milan-San Remo this season – brought the remnants of the front group home in third.
Formolo attacked on the Côte de Saint-Nicolas, which comes about five kilometres from the finish, and had a 10-second lead as he went under the one-kilometre kite.
But the Italian ran out of steam as first Martin and then Valverde passed him.
The day’s main break consisted of seven riders – Tiago Machado (Katusha), Anthony Perez (Cofidis), Stéphane Rossetto (Cofidis), Bart De Clercq (Lotto Soudal), Nick van der Lijke (Roompot), Fabien Grellier (Direct Energie) and Aaron Gate (Aqua Blue) – who went clear within the first 10km of the 258km race.
But their day was numbered after numerous accelerations by the peloton on the Cote de la Redoute, one of the final climbs, cut their lead down to almost nothing.