Simon Gerrans has become the first Australian to win cycling’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege race.
The Orica-GreenEDGE rider timed his attack to perfection on Sunday’s tough uphill finish in Ans at the end of 263km of racing.
“It’s an incredible victory, it’s a dream come true to win Liege-Bastogne-Liege,” the 33-year-old said.
“It unfolded perfectly with me in the final. Everybody was really tight coming into the finish and I was perfectly placed to finish it.”
Spanish Fleche Wallonne winner Alejandro Valverde took second place, with Poland’s Michal Kwiatkowski coming home third in the 100th edition of one of the five so-called monuments of cycling.
Before the race, the 2012 Milan-San Remo winner Gerrans admitted he wasn’t as well suited to La Doyenne (the oldest race) as he was to the Amstel Gold Race.
Gerrans’ best previous result had been a sixth place in 2009, whereas he had three times finished third at Amstel.
But while all his major rivals raced at Fleche on Wednesday, Gerrans was resting and it paid off.
“It’s incredible, I don’t know what I feel right now,” he said.
“It’s a really tough race at the end, so thanks to my team. They got me to the final. I didn’t have good legs but I kept going and thanks to the team I could win.”
In a thrilling finale pure climbers Julian Arredondo and Domenico Pozzovivo attacked on the Roche-aux-Faucons climb just over 20km from home.
They held their lead for almost 10km before a determined but reduced peloton of around 30-35 riders caught them.
Italian Pozzovivo attacked again, though, on the final categorised climb, the Cote Saint-Nicolas, alongside compatriot Gianpaolo Caruso.
They gained a gap of 12 seconds before the true attacks for home behind them started to eat into their lead on the final uncategorised ramp in Ans.
Last year’s winner Dan Martin made a break inside the final kilometre and caught Pozzovivo as Caruso kicked again.
But on the final tight left-hand bend, Irishman Martin incredibly crashed leaving Caruso out in front but with three chasers closing quickly.
Valverde brought Gerrans and Kwiatkowski up to Caruso’s wheel with just a couple of hundred metres left but at that point the Australian knew he had the best sprint finish.