Valverde times sprint perfectly to win Liege-Bastogne-Liege
LIEGE, Belgium (AP) Alejandro Valverde timed his attack to perfection to win the Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic for the third time in his career on Sunday, clinching the Ardennes double after his midweek victory in the Walloon Arrow.
The 35-year-old Spaniard waited until 500 meters (yards) from the line to chase down countryman Dani Moreno. After overtaking Moreno, Valverde then held off a challenge from Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe - who also finished second behind him in Wednesday's Walloon Arrow.
Valverde, runner-up last weekend in the Amstel Gold Race, last won Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 2008. A handful of riders have won it three times and only Belgian great Eddy Merckx has won it more with five.
''I can't quite believe it, I really saved myself for the final sprint,'' Valverde said on French television through a translator. ''It's true that I was the big favorite and everyone was watching me, but I managed to respond in the right way at the end.''
Spaniard Joacquim Rodriguez was third, while Portugal's Rui Costa was fourth ahead of Czech rider Roman Kreuziger, with all timed in 6 hours, 14 minutes, 20 seconds.
Kreuziger, Jakob Fuglsang of Denmark and Italian Giampaolo Caruso led the chasing pack - which included Tour de France Vincenzo Nibali of Italy and Valverde - by about 15 seconds with 16 kilometers (10 miles) remaining, but Nibali and about a dozen others caught them with about 5 kilometers (3 miles) to go.
As it began to rain harder under overcast skies, Moreno was the first to attack with about 900 meters remaining, and Valverde waited a short moment before going after him.
Once in front, Valverde's experience carried him over the line with no other rider managing to mount a serious challenge in the closing seconds.
The race was marred by a big crash about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the end that saw a dozen riders tumble to the left and fall into the grass. Defending champion Simon Gerrans, 2013 champion Dan Martin and veteran Frank Schleck - the Amstel Gold Race champion in 2006 - were among those to fall.
Gerrans did manage to get back into the saddle. But another crash just minutes later saw him land flat on his back and curtailed the Australian's chances of a repeat win.