Liège: First Belgian podium since 1976
By Kevin Kemp
Podium at 108. Liège-Bastogne-Liège: Quinten Hermans (Intermarché – Wanty – Gobert, left), Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, center) and Wout van Aert (Jumbo – Visma) | Photo: Cor Vos
25/04/2022 | (rsn) – No Belgian has come on the podium in Liège-Bastogne-Liège since Philippe Gilbert (Lotto Soudal) won in 2011, but on Sunday there were three in the 108 edition. Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) won the Walloon monument after 257.2 kilometers ahead of the sensational second place Quinten Hermans (Intermarché – Wanty – Gobert) and top favorite Wout Van Aert (Jumbo – Visma), as well as the winner at the start of “La Doyenne “.
“I do not know if this has ever happened before,” the 26-year-old Hermans commented on the Belgian podium in an interview with sports portal Sporza. It existed, but it was 19 years before the birth of the cycling cross specialist: In 1976, Joseph Bruyère triumphed over Freddy Maertens and Frans Verbeeck. Hermans did not care: “There were two superstars next to me on the podium, being here with them is a huge honor for me.”
Evenepoel youngest winner in 54 years
The focus of the ceremony was the youngest Liège winner since Valère van Sweevelt in 1968. However, the 22-year-old Evenepoel was not in the mood for historical comparisons. “It’s nice that there are three of us on the podium as Belgians, but the most important thing for me is that I won,” he said shortly after winning his first monument.
His serious fall on the Lombardy Tour in 2020 caused a crack in the super-talent’s career, which had only been going on until then. “I suffered a lot mentally and physically after the fall. But I have shown the best Remco since then. I am proud to have won here, ”he said happily.
Van Aert does not give his feather a ten out of ten
The third man on the podium did not look quite so pleased. After having to jump around Flanders due to a corona disease and first returning to the track in Paris-Roubaix, Van Aert had his last chance to win a monument in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, which he had included in his race program with short warning.
At 108. Liège-Bastogne, Quinten Hermans (Intermarcheé – Wanty – Gobert, 2nd from the left) won the pursuers’ sprint for second place | Photo: Cor Vos
“I had a good spring. But my goal was to win a monument – and I did not succeed. Of course, I can make good excuses for that, but unfortunately it was not a ten out of ten, “analyzed the Belgian champion, who surprisingly had to let his cross-opponent Hermans take the lead in the sprint in the chasing group. »It was the swans’ sprint. My legs no longer wanted to and Quinten came strongly past. I was afraid that more people would sprint past me and I would miss the podium, “Van Aert said.
Hermans: Second on second start in a monument
Hermans, who only competed with his second monument ever and was the only one of the 3 best who did not make his debut in Liege, was the sensation of the race, also for himself. ”It was a real elite group that I was joking with. It scared me to be there, “he admitted. The Belgian is a road professional in his third year, but he was absent for a long time due to illness or injury. Hermans also had to give up on the fourth day of the Basque Country Around, where he due of illness finished third in the sprint in the second stage, first returning to race at the Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday.
“I needed the race to be good here,” said the Intermarché pro, who won a World Cup race for the first time last winter at the Fayetteville World Championship track. On the road, he has so far been particularly convincing in intermediate difficulty races, where he has been able to show his sprint strength. “I’m fast, but dying swans sprinted here. So that does not mean that I will win the mass sprint in the future, ”he concluded.