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Pogacar celebrates after a particularly emotional triumph

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Pogacar celebrates after a particularly emotional triumph

Tadej Pogacar waved excitedly to the audience during his triumphal journey on the Quai des Ardennes, then pointed both fingers to the sky. Riding through the Ardennes, the Slovenian cycling star once again showed his top class and won the difficult spring classic Liège-Bastogne-Liège for the second time in memory of his fiancée’s deceased mother. After one of his feared attacks, Pogacar single-handedly took victory after 254.4 kilometers on Sunday, leaving his rival for the somewhat tired world champion Mathieu van der Poel no chance. Van der Poel took third place, a long way behind second-placed Frenchman Romain Bardet.

“It was an emotional day for me. I thought of Urska’s mother when we had to go home two years ago. And last year when I broke my hand. The last two years have been very difficult for me. I drove for Urska’s mother and am very happy that I was able to win this beautiful race,” explained Pogacar. Two years ago, the Slovenian had to leave Liège after the news of the sudden death of Urska Zigart’s mother, herself a cyclist.

For Pogacar, the dress rehearsal for the Giro d’Italia, which begins on May 4th, was an impressive success. The 25-year-old, who reduced his racing program in the spring, is aiming for the Giro and Tour de France double this year. The last time the Italian climbing king Marco Pantani, who died in 2004, achieved this was 26 years ago.

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In any case, the form is correct. With 34.8 kilometers to go, Pogacar easily pulled away from his rivals on the up to 15 percent steep Cote de la Redoute, the third to last of eleven toxic climbs, and confidently drove towards his second victory after 2021. In doing so, the exceptional driver also settled a score from the previous year, when he fell in the Ardennes classic and was out for weeks with a broken scaphoid bone. At the tour he was ultimately uncompetitive against Jonas Vingegaard. This time the signs are reversed. Vingegaard is currently out of action after his serious fall in the Basque Country.

Classics king van der Poel, who had dominated the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, was unable to stand up to Pogacar. At the Amstel Gold Race a week ago, the Dutchman no longer seemed so fresh. “MvP” also made mistakes in terms of racing tactics. After staying far back in the field, he temporarily lost touch after a mass fall in the field a good 100 kilometers from the finish – similar to Amstel winner Thomas Pidcock. The race to catch up took energy, perhaps too much energy against a fresh Pogacar, who achieved their seventh win of the season on their tenth day of racing.

The German professional cyclists couldn’t even do that together this season. The only two German representatives, Jonas Koch and Georg Zimmermann, also had no chance in Liège. This means Nils Politt from Cologne, who did not start in Liège, is the only bright spot so far this season with third place in Flanders and fourth place in Roubaix.

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