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"It's quite cool huh? I'm just this little guy from the Netherlands and now I'll be in Team Sky's history books forever!"

Photo: Sirotti




27.04.2016 @ 22:40 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

When Wout Poels crossed the finish line at Liege-Bastogne-Liege after a brutally cold and wet 260 kilometres on Sunday afternoon, he readily admits that he couldn't believe he'd just won the oldest one-day race of them all.


He had to ask carer Marek Sawicki, the first person he saw, if he really had done it, before he was whisked off to the podium to celebrate Team Sky's first ever Monument win.


"I couldn't believe it!" he telss "I said to Marek 'I've really won it?!' and he was like 'Yeah yeah yeah!' Then all the press were there and I thought they wouldn't be here if I'd come second or third (laughs)!"


Eventually, after the long process that's involved in winning a race of such magnitude, Poels made it back to the bus to see his delighted team-mates.


"Oh it was so nice," he continues. "I came in and everybody was screaming! It was so good to see them. I'd had to do the podium, doping control, press, another press conference - I had no control I was just told where to go (laughs)! It was a really nice experience actually, although I don't know if I'd want to do it every day. But on Sunday I was like, 'Yes! I'll speak to everybody!'


"It was so nice to eventually celebrate with the guys though. We're on the road for so long together, we all help each other in the races, and I really wanted to thank them."


And the celebrations didn't end there for the 28 year old: "When I got home after the race my brother had arranged a party in the local pub and it was so busy! It was nuts. Everyone was singing and my fan club were there too. It was so cool - a really nice experience.


"On Monday people were saying to me, 'we were jumping up and down, screaming at the television!' - people I really don't know! I went on a late night chat show in Holland too, one that I always watch when I'm at home, and I was sat on the set thinking this is unbelievable."



The weather played its part on the day, with snow and rain falling along the course, but Poels didn't need any help keeping cool as he bided his time before launching an attack inside the final few kilometres on the cobbled Cote de la Rue Naniot climb.


"Usually I don't like the cobbles so much but maybe next year I'll ride Paris-Roubaix? (laughs) We did a recon of that climb and it was really difficult, especially after 250km, but I just tried to go as hard as possible up it and we rode away. For me that was perfect."


Three men went with Poels , including Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge), who on paper looked to be the favourite for the final sprint.


"I have to say in a small group I'm quite fast, especially with climbers," opines Poels , "but Albasini is fast! You'd usually expect attacks to fire in the final kilometres but everyone was on the limit by then. I led Albasini into the corner and went straight away. I was hoping for the best and went full gas to the finish line - and did it!


"I only started to think I could win the race really late in the day - inside the last 30km or so, maybe after La Redoute. At that point I was feeling really good and thinking that I could perhaps make the top five again like I had at Flèche Wallonne."



Michal Kwiatkowski had started the day as leader but the team threw their weight behind Wout in the closing stages when the Pole selflessly thought the Dutchman would be the better bet.


"Kwiato was the leader and Chris [Froome] and I were the protected riders," clarifies Poels . "We had a few predetermined points in the race where we checked where everybody was and Kwiato was really honest - in the final he said he didn't think he would be good enough and we decided to ride for me. Kwiato then put everything he had behind me, Lars Petter [Nordhaug] was there for me, Swifty did a great ride - all the boys did a really good job."


The victory crowned a fantastic start to the season for Poels, who had already won the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and a stage at the Volta a Catalunya.


"I've got five victories already - in April!" he chuckles. "My maximum in previous seasons was around two wins! First up I won the time trial in Valencia. I've never won a TT before and it was the first race of the season too. Then I won the GC there, my first as a professional, having won a stage in the yellow jersey and I thought, 'Woah, this is going good!' Now I've won a Monument - amazing."


Not just any Monument either, but the team's first - an achievement Poels admits he wasn't aware of until after the race.


"I really didn't know that! The team has won so much already: the Tour three times, the TT World Championships - almost everything! But I didn't know we had never won a Monument.


"It's quite cool huh? I'm just this little guy from the Netherlands and now I'll be in Team Sky's history books forever!"



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