Pogacar breakaway wins Belgian classic for Slovenian

Tadej Pogačar has proved too strong for Mathieu Van der Poel as he won the Liège–Bastogne–Liège cycling classic with a solo breakaway.

Pogačar attacked 35 kilometres out to win cycling's oldest classic for the second time, after victory in 2021, and made up for last year when he broke his left wrist in a crash.

"I'm happy that I can finally win this race again," the 25-year-old Slovenian said. "It's beautiful to finish like this."

The two-time Tour de France champion waved to the crowd as he approached the finish line well clear crossing in six hours, 13 minutes, 48 seconds. French veteran Romain Bardet finished second 1:39 behind and Van der Poel led a mass sprint to the line to finish third 2:02 back.

Michael Matthews was the best-placed Australian in 36th, four minutes, 46 seconds adrift of Pogačar. Jai Hindley was the next best, in 52nd, 7:25 further behind.

Liège–Bastogne–Liège is one of the five "monuments" in one-day cycling with the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, the Tour of Lombardy and Milan-San Remo. Van der Poel won Roubaix two weeks ago.

The 254.5-km trek, starting and finishing in the eastern Belgian city of Liège in chilly conditions, featured 11 small hills and played to Pogačar's elite climbing skills. He pulled ahead in a small group with Van der Poel one minute behind.

Van der Poel's group caught Pogačar with 70 km remaining to form a main peloton. But with Pogačar's UAE Team Emirates setting a fast tempo at the front, Pogačar attacked again and no rival could catch him.

He clocked 6 hours, 13 minutes, 48 seconds with Bardet 1:39 behind and Van der Poel 2:02 back.