Alejandro Valverde, once again, left it late on Sunday before launching himself to victory on the steep Ardennes slopes where he overcame Dan Martin in the final straight before adding a fourth Liège-Bastogne-Liège to his palmarès.
Valverde, who had already won the Tours of Andalucía, Catalonia and Basque Country this season in addition to a fourth successive win at Flèche Wallonne just four days ago, completed the 258-kilometre course in six hours 24 minutes and 27 seconds to become the second most successful rider in the Belgian monument with just one title fewer than the great Eddy Merckx.
Revivez le dernier kilomètre ! / Relive the last kilometer! pic.twitter.com/hejWvfKzoE— Liège-Bastogne-Liège (@LiegeBastogneL) April 23, 2017
In an emotional interview afterwards a tearful Valverde paid tribute to Michele Scarponi who was killed on Saturday after being hit by a van while training and said he would donate his €20,000 winnings from Liège-Bastogne-Liège to the former Giro d'Italia winner's family.
"My first words are to dedicate this victory to Michele Scarponi, who was a great friend of mine," Valverde said. “The prizes from this victory go to Michele Scarponi's family. This is the most special of my four wins on Liège-Bastogne-Liège, due to the circumstances.
"We worked a lot from kilometre 0 before getting the win with a strong attack in the final. It's a race for the books of history after a perfect week. I think we were all at the limit in the end. Martin went very strong, I calculated my distance and decided I could go 500 metres from the finish. It was my time, I never doubted even when [Michael] Albasini jumped in my wheel. I was able to catch Martin, take a breath for five seconds, and then sprint to the finish”.
Martin, meanwhile, vowed to return next year and try and win the race he loves most.
“I will return here in 2018 and try again to win, as I love Liège-Bastogne-Liège, it’s basically the race I watched on television since I can remember," Martin said in a team statement.
"I’m not sad after my second place, because I got beaten by the better rider. Instead, I am very satisfied with the fact the team showed once again how strong it is. Quick-Step Floors was a major player in the spring classics, we got many great victories and other good results, and I think we can look behind at our campaign with huge pride.”
Michal Kwiatkowski of Team Sky who rolled across the line three seconds behind Martin to take third spot.
Van der Breggen completes historic hat-trick
Meanwhile, earlier in the day Anna van der Breggen, the Dutch Olympic road race champion, completed a historic victory as the Boels-Dolemans rider won the first edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes.
For the second race running, Van der Breggen rolled across the line ahead of team-mate Lizzie Deignan with Katarzyna Niewiadoma taking the third spot on the podium. Van der Breggen completed the 135km course in three hours 42 minutes and 17 seconds, 17 secs ahead of Britain's Deignan with Niewiadoma of Poland a further 2 secs back.
Van der Breggen later tweeted her thanks to team-mates for delivering her and Deignan to the line before completing her "once in a lifetime one-two-three" before using her profile to push for increased coverage of women's cycling, adding: "hopefully next year it will be possible to watch all these great races on television".
Van der Breggen, 27, has now won three races in succession after also winning the Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne Féminine.
What is this race and why should I care about it?
Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the second one-day race in the Ardennes region within days, is the fourth monument of the season and the oldest of all – La Doyenne– having started in 1892.
The course, put simply, is a brute. Although there are just 10 recognised climbs, the route offers riders few opportunities to recover between the short, but vicious, climbs that pepper the course. Within the final 36 kilometres of the 258km route three nasty little climbs – Côte de La Redoute, Côte de La Roche-aux-Faucons and Côte de Saint-Nicolas – all with average gradients in excess of 8 per cent will test the riders and end the hopes of those not strong enough to stay within distance of the key protagonists.
Alejandro Valverde, a three-time winner at the race, will arrive off the back of an impressive win at La Flèche Wallonne and will start as most people's favourite. With similar characteristics to Flèche, Liège-Bastogne-Liège will no doubt play out in a similar way as the strong puncheurs spend much of the day keeping their powder dry before the race lights up in the final metres.
In addition to Valverde, another former winner Dan Martin, the Birmingham-born Irishman riding for Quick-Step Floors, will be one of the main contenders while Team Sky's double act of Michal Kwiatkowski and Sergio Henao are looking strong and capable of upsetting the Movistar rider in the final race of the spring classics campaign.
On Thursday morning it was announced that Simon Yates, the young British climber, has made a change to his racing calendar and will now spearhead Orica-Scott's Tour de France challenge alongside team-mate Esteban Chaves rather than the Giro d'Italia with his twin brother Adam. As a result of this, Simon will now race Liège-Bastogne-Liège and could be someone to watch out for at the business end of the race.
When is Liège-Bastogne-Liège?
The 18th WorldTour race of the year – and its 12th one-day race following the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Strade Bianche, Milan-Sanremo, Dwars door Vlaanderen, E3 Harelbeke, Ghent-Wevelgem, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne – starts its roll through the neutralised section in Liège at 10.10am (9.10am BST) on Sunday April 23, 2017, before racing proper gets under way 15 minutes later at about 10.25am (9.25am). The race should finish in Ans – on the outskirts of Liège – at around 4.30pm (3.30pm BST) depending on the speed of the bunch.
How long is this year's Liège-Bastogne-Liège?
The race is 258 kilometres long, and here's what the profile looks like ...
How can I watch the race?
Those with subscriptions to Eurosport are in luck, their coverage of the race runs from 1pm through to the race's conclusion at around 4pm.
What's in it for the winner?
The winner will trouser a cheque – or a bank transfer – to the value of €20,000 while the second-placed rider gets €10,000 and the rider on the third step of the podium €5,000. Each rider in the top 20 will take home something, even if it's only €500. Here's the breakdown ...
With Liège-Bastogne-Liège being a WorldTour event, there are also points on offer that will go towards a riders' overall rankings ...
What teams will ride Liège-Bastogne-Liège?
As with all WorldTour races, each of the 18 teams that make up the top-flight of professional cycling receive an invite and in the case with Liège-Bastogne-Liège all are contracted to race . Here are the teams that will present themselves on the starting line on Sunday morning ...
- Ag2r-La Mondiale
- BMC Racing
- Dimension Data
- Lotto NL-Jumbo
- Quick-Step Floors
- Team Sky
- UAE Team Emirates
In addition, race organisers ASO offered wildcard spots to ...
- Aqua Blue Sport
- Cofidis, Solutions Crédits
- Direct Énergie
- Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij
- Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
- Wanty-Groupe Gobert
- WB Veranclassic Aqua Project
Who are the bookmakers' favourites for the race?
- Alejandro Valverde: 9/4
- Dan Martin: 6/1
- Michal Kwiatkowski: 6/1
- Rui Costa: 14/1
- Sergio Henao: 16/1
- Tom Dumoulin: 18/1
- Michael Albasini: 18/1
- Rigoberto Urán: 20/1
- Greg van Avermaet: 22/1
- Warren Barguil: 25/1
- Odds as of April 18, 2017 from www.bet365.com
Who are Telegraph Sport's picks for Sunday's big race?
What does the provisional startlist look like?
Ag2r-La Mondiale:Romain Bardet (Fra), Mikaël Cherel (Fra), Axel Domont (Fra), Cyril Gautier (Fra), Quentin Jaurégui (Fra), Pierre Latour (Fra), Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita), Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra).
Astana:Pello Bilbao (Spa), Dario Cataldo (Ita), Jakob Fuglsang (Den), Andriy Grivko (Ukr), Tanel Kangert (Est), Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz), Luis León Sánchez (Spa), Nikita Stalnov (Kaz).
Bahrain-Merida: Yukiya Arashiro (Jpn), Grega Bole (Slo), Enrico Gasparotto (Ita), Tsgabu Grmay (Eth), Ion Izagirre (Spa), Wang Meiyin (Chn), Luka Pibernik (Slo), Giovanni Visconti (Ita).
BMC Racing: Damiano Caruso (Ita), Alessandro De Marchi (Ita), Floris Gerts (Hol, neo-pro), Amaël Moinard (Fra), Samuel Sánchez (Spa), Michael Schär (Swi), Dylan Teuns (Bel), Greg van Avermaet (Bel).
Bora-Hansgrohe: Cesare Benedetti (Ita), Patrick Konrad (Aut), Rafal Majka (Pol), Jay McCarthy (Aus), Jose Mendes (Por), Gregor Mühlberger (Aut, neo-pro), Lukas Pöstlberger (Aut, neo-pro), Pawel Poljanski (Pol).
Cannondale-Drapac: Simon Clarke (Aus), Davide Formolo (Ita), Alex Howes (US), Toms Skujins (Lat, neo-pro), Tom-Jelte Slagter (Hol), Rigoberto Urán (Col), Davide Villella (Ita), Michael Woods (Can).
Dimension Data: Igor Antón (Spa), Mekseb Debesay (Eri, neo-pro), Omar Fraile (Spa), Nathan Haas (Aus), Jacques Janse van Rensburg (SA), Ben O'Connor (Aus, neo-pro), Serge Pauwels (Bel), Jaco Venter (SA).
FDJ: Arnaud Courteille (Fra), Odd Christian Eiking (Nor, neo-pro), Rudy Molard (Fra), Cédric Pineau (Fra), Kévin Reza (Fra), Anthony Roux (Fra), Benoît Vaugrenard (Fra), Arthur Vichot (Fra).
Katusha-Alpecin: Jose Goncalves (Por), Pavel Kochetkov (Rus), Maurits Lammertink (Hol), Alberto Losada (Spa), Tiago Machado (Por), Matvey Mamykin (Rus, neo-pro), Rein Taaramae (Est), Ángel Vicioso (Spa).
Lotto-Soudal:Sean De Bie (Bel), Bart De Clercq (Bel), Thomas De Gendt (Bel), Tomasz Marczynski (Pol), Rémy Mertz (Bel, neo-pro), Tosh Van der Sande (Bel), Jelle Vanendert (Bel), Tim Wellens (Bel).
Lotto NL-Jumbo: Enrico Battaglin (Ita), Floris De Tier (Bel), Steven Lammertink (Hol, neo-pro), Bert-Jan Lindeman (Hol), Paul Martens (Ger), Bram Tankink (Hol), Antwan Tolhoek (Hol, neo-pro), Alexey Vermeulen (US, neo-pro).
Movistar: Carlos Betancur (Col), Imanol Erviti (Spa), Jesús Herrada (Spa), Daniel Moreno (Spa), José Joaquín Rojas (Spa), Marc Soler (Spa), Rory Sutherland (Aus), Alejandro Valverde (Spa).
Orica-Scott: Michael Albasini (Swi), Simon Gerrans (Aus), Damien Howson (Aus), Daryl Impey (SA), Christopher Juul-Jensen (Den), Roman Kreuziger (Cze), Adam Yates (GB), Simon Yates (GB).
Quick-Step Floors: Gianluca Brambilla (Ita), Eros Capecchi (Ita), David de la Cruz (Spa), Laurens De Plus (Bel, neo-pro), Dries Devenyns (Bel), Dan Martin (Irl), Enric Mas (Spa, neo-pro), Petr Vakoc (Cze).
Team Sky: Tao Geoghegan Hart (GB, neo-pro), Michal Golas (Pol), Sebastian Henao (Col), Sergio Henao (Col), Peter Kennaugh (GB), Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol), Gianni Moscon (Ita, neo-pro), Diego Rosa (Ita).
Trek-Segafredo: Fumiyuki Beppu (Jap), Andre Cardoso (Por), Gregory Daniel (US, neo-pro), Fabio Felline (Ita), Michael Gogl (Aut), Ruben Guerreiro (Por, neo-pro), Jesús Hernández (Spa), Jarlinson Pantano (Col).
Sunweb: Warren Barguil (Fra), Tom Dumoulin (Hol), Lennard Hofstede (Hol, neo-pro), Sindre Lunke (Nor, neo-pro), Michael Matthews (Aus), Soren Kragh Andersen (Den), Sam Oomen (Hol, neo-pro), Albert Timmer (Hol).
UAE Team Emirates: Matteo Bono (Ita), Rui Costa (Por), Louis Meintjes (SA), Matej Mohoric (Slo), Manuele Mori (Ita), Simone Petilli (Ita, neo-pro), Oliviero Troia (Ita, neo-pro), Diego Ulissi (Ita).
Aqua Blue Sport: Mark Christian (GB), Stefan Denifl (Aut), Conor Dunne (Irl), Aaron Gate (NZ), Michel Kreder (Hol), Daniel Pearson (GB), Lars Petter Nordhaug (Nor), Lawrence Warbasse (US).
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits: Yoann Bagot (Fra), Guillaume Bonnafond (Fra), Jérôme Cousin (Fra), Nicolas Edet (Fra), Luis Angel Maté (Spa), Anthony Perez (Fra), Stéphane Rossetto (Fra), Julien Simon (Fra).
Direct Énergie: Lilian Calmejane (Fra), Fabien Grellier (Fra), Romain Guillemois (Fra), Jonathan Hivert (Fra), Bryan Nauleau (Fra), Perrig Quemeneur (Fra), Romain Sicard (Fra), Thomas Voeckler (Fra).
Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij: Tim Ariesen (Hol), Martijn Budding (Hol), Jeroen Meijers (Hol), Oscar Riesebeek (Hol), Nick van der Lijke (Hol), Etienne van Empel (Hol), Sjoerd van Ginneken (Hol), Pieter Weening (Hol).
Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise: Aimé De Gendt (Bel), Benjamin Declercq (Bel), Kevin Deltombe (Bel), Eliot Lietaer (Bel), Thomas Sprengers (Bel), Dries Van Gestel (Bel), Preben Van Hecke (Bel), Kenneth Van Rooy (Bel).
Wanty-Groupe Gobert: Jérôme Baugnies (Bel), Thomas Degand (Bel), Fabien Doubey (Fra), Guillaume Martin (Fra), Xandro Meurisse (Bel), Marco Minnaard (Hol), Andrea Pasqualon (Ita), Dion Smith (NZ).
WB Veranclassic Aqua Project: Sébastien Delfosse (Bel), Thomas Deruette (Bel), Gregory Habeaux (Bel), Christophe Masson (Fra), Olivier Pardini (Bel), Dimitri Peyskens (Bel), Ludovic Robeet (Bel), Antoine Warnier (Bel).