(Reuters) -Remco Evenepoel won the Liege-Bastogne-Liege one-day race on Sunday, claiming his maiden Monument classic after launching a brutal attack on the penultimate climb of the day.
The 22-year-old, the first Belgian to win the oldest classic race in 11 years, attacked near the top of the Cote de la Redoute, 30km from the finish, and never looked back.
His compatriots Quinten Hermans (Intermarche-Wanty Gobert Materiaux) and Wout van Art (Jumbo-Visma) took second and third places respectively, after 257.5 kilometres.
Evenepoel’s win came after his Quick-Step Alpha Vynil team mate Julian Alaphilippe went down heavily in a huge pile-up. The world champion fell into a ditch 62km from the line and was taken away in an ambulance.
French TV channel France 3 reported that the rider was conscious and had broken ribs.
“I hope everyone in the crash is okay,” said Evenepoel, who burst into tears of joy after the finish.
“It’s the race I’ve been dreaming of winning since I started cycling,” the former Belgium Under-16 football player said.
“I wanted to blow things up in the Cote de la Redoute and I managed to do it and was able to make the move stick.”
Behind Evenepoel, who is regarded as one of the biggest talents of the new generation, his rivals failed to organise a proper chase.
Evenepoel caught up with the riders from the breakaway one by one and dropped the last of them, France’s Bruno Armirail, at the foot of the final climb, the Cote de la Roche aux Faucons.
After a few riders tried their luck solo to catch Evenepoel, the reduced group of chasers settled for a sprint finish, 48 seconds behind.
One of the pre-race favourites, two-time Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar, was not at the start after the death of his mother-in-law.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Clare Fallon)