Remco Evenepoel won the Liege-Bastogne-Liege cycling classic on Sunday, retaining his title after his rival Tadej Pogacar broke his wrist in an early fall.
World champion Evenepoel broke away with 30km to go when Tom Pidcock refused an offer to work together.
Evenepoel shrugged, powered away and finished the 258km race in 6hrs 15min 49sec with Pidcock second 1min 06sec behind, outsprinting Santiago Sanchez in third.
The Soudal-Quick Step rider won the race last year in a similar manner, and on both occasions was enthusiastically cheered home by the crowds.
“It’s magnificent to win here again, above all in this beautiful jersey,” said the 23-year-old Belgian, pointing at his world champion’s rainbow striped jersey.
Pogacar’s fall robbed fans of a rare head-to-head with Evenepoel. The Slovenian was taken to hospital to undergo surgery to repair the fractures to his wrist.
Team UAE announced later Sunday that the surgery had been a success.
“He will travel home tomorrow for recovery and rehabilitation,” the team said.
Evenepoel said he was stunned by his rival’s crash.
“You never like to hear that horrible sound, see another rider fall,” said Evenepoel, who fell into a ravine on the Tour of Lombardy in Italy three year ago, breaking his pelvis.
“The road was slippery, I send him my best wishes,” Evenepoel said.
Pogacar’s crash came 85km into the race and instead of remounting, the 24-year-old headed straight to the team car.
He is not scheduled to race again until the Tour de France in July.
Pogacar, who has won 12 races so far this year, fell when the rider in front of him punctured and hit the tarmac at top speed.
Evenepoel’s team set a fast pace that eventually split the peloton and made his first attack at around 50km out, with Pidcock letting him go before catching him on the descent.
Ineos rider Pidcock said he had cut his losses when Evenepoel dropped him, and decided to bank on second place rather than gamble and come away with nothing.
“I was on the limit and I knew I could either commit full gas and maybe end up with nothing, or wait a bit and try and go for second. And I still got second, so I think the plan paid off,” he said.
“He asked me to work with him but I didn’t quite have enough in the tank. Remco was just too strong for me today.”
Sunday’s race took place in overcast and rainy conditions with blustery winds for a run through the Ardennes forest over 11 short, steep hills.
The race is known as one of cycling’s five one-day Monument races alongside Milan-Sanremo, Paris-Roubaix, the Tour of Flanders and the Tour of Lombardy.
Demi Vollering of the Netherlands sealed a hat-trick of Ardennes classic victories by winning the women’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege earlier on Sunday.
The 26-year-old continued her great form to follow up her success in last weekend’s Amstel Gold Race and the Fleche Wallonne four days ago.