Poels expecting bigger role in future after Liege win

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Ans (Belgium) (AFP)

Wouter Poels believes his position in Team Sky will change after having won Sunday's Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the fourth Monument race of the season.

Poels outsprinted Swiss rider Michael Albasini and Rui Costa of Portugal at the end of the gruelling 248km race through the Ardennes in freezing conditions with snow, hail and rain.

He led Sky to the British team's first ever Monument victory in only their seventh season, and now Poels expects his star to rise within the squad.

"It's a key moment. I was already doing really good for my position inside the team," said the 28-year-old Dutchman.

"For the next few races it won't change a lot, I will go to the Tour (de France) to work for Chris (Froome) again.

"But for next year in the Classics I'll have a little bit of a different position, so that's a good thing."

The end to the race was altered slightly from previous years, introducing a steep 600m cobbled climb that was crested 2.5km from the line.

That was where Albasini attacked with only Poels, Costa and Samuel Sanchez able to follow.

"We went on the new cobbled climb so I like that one: they can keep that one!" joked Poels.

"We had a really nice gap (over the peloton). I looked at the others and they were also looking strong.

"I knew there was a long drag to the finish which after 250km is tough.

"I did a little dig (in the final kilometre) but not a strong one.

"I was a little afraid the bunch would come back but we had enough (of a gap).

"I just went full (gas) in the last 250-metres to see what happens and nobody came any more. It was a really nice feeling."

It was also a crucial win for Sky who despite all their Tour de France success -- Bradley Wiggins in 2012 and Froome in 2013 and 2015 -- had never before mastered the major one-day classics.

"It's also really important for the team to win a really nice classic," added Poels.

"I think the team is also really happy with it. It's really nice when you win races, no matter where.

"The good thing is to show we can do the Classics as well as Grand Tours."

- Albasini mistake -

Albasini said he'd made a slight mistake in the final 250-metres as he'd failed to select the right gear.

"I thought I was the strongest but maybe I did too much in the final," said the 35-year-old, who was third in last year's Fleche Wallonne.

"In the sprint I had a too small gear. You can't do a sprint with agility in 250 metres, I should've changed gear earlier.

"That was a mistake in the end but he (Poels) did a great sprint.

"After 250km it's freshness that counts more than a sprinter's ability.

"He was already ahead of me in Fleche (Poels was 4th, Albasini 7th), he's in great form.

"Right now I can't be happy but in two-three days I will think that I had a great race and that I'm one of the best in the world."

Former world champion Costa said he was satisfied with what was his first podium finish in a Monument race.

"On the Saint-Nicolas (climb 6.5km from the finish) everyone started attacking and it became very tough," said the 29-year-old.

"I felt I had good legs to be in the right place on the last climb on the cobbles.

"But I also realised Albasini was going really well and would be tough to beat.

"I tried to keep up, as I saw the group falling behind I felt I could go on the last climb, but Poels deserved it."

Costa added: "It was a tough day with the rain, cold and snow, the toughest I can remember.

"I've always said Liege is one of my favourite Classics, so I'm very happy to be on the podium.

"Of course it's always better to win but a podium is very good."