Tadej Pogacar broke clear to win his second Liege-Bastogne-Liege. GETTY IMAGES

An emotional Tadej Pogacar took the Liege-Bastogne-Liege Classic in style on Sunday for his sixth cycling Monument triumph, and fired a warning shot to his rivals before the upcoming Giro d'Italia and Tour de France.

Pogacar's victory saw him move level for the most monument wins among active riders with Dutch star Mathieu van der Poel who finished third. Second went to rejuvenated Frenchman Romain Bardet, but no one came close to the Slovenian who made his solo break for glory with just over 30km to go.

As the 25-year-old - who won in 2021 and fractured his wrist in last year's race - crossed the line, he pointed to the sky in tribute to the mother of his girlfriend, pro rider Urska Zigart, who died on the eve of the 2022 event. He said afterwards, "It was an emotional day of riding for me. Not just because of my hand but also because two years ago just before the race Urska's mother died, so I was riding for her today."

Ahead of Pogacar's Giro d'Italia and Tour de France double bid, the 25-year-old blew the opposition away on the 254km route in the Ardennes forests which marks the end of the spring classics. Paris-Roubaix and Tour of Flanders winner van der Poel, bidding to become the first man since Eddy Merckx in 1975 to win three of the major one-day races in the same season, could not match his force.

Veteran Bardet, looking like his old self, broke clear himself but finished one minute and 39 seconds behind the Pogacar with van der Poel winning the bunch sprint for third at 2:02. The victory margin was the biggest since 1980, when Bernard Hinault won by over nine minutes in a snowstorm.

Pogacar's six Monuments comprise two Liege-Bastogne-Lieges, three Tour of Lombardy triumphs and the 2023 Tour of Flanders. The UAE Team Emirates rider recalled, "Coming in alone was great, it's really special to come in alone on such a long race. It's a beautiful race and I'm happy to win it again." He added that he had "no regrets" about skipping La Fleche Wallonne in midweek in favour of altitude training. 

This was a seventh win in just 10 days of competitive racing for Pogacar, who starts his Giro d'Italia debut on 4 May as he seeks to match Marco Pantani's Giro-Tour double of 1998. Pogacar won the Tour in 2020 and 2021, but finished runner-up to Jonas Vingegaard in both of the last two editions.

Vingegaard, defending Liege-Bastogne-Liege champion Remco Evenepoel and 2020 winner Primoz Roglic all missed the race after they were caught up in a mass pile-up at the Tour of the Basque Country earlier this month.

Both Vingegaard and Evenepoel are doubtful for the Tour having both suffered multiple fractures, but Roglic is expected to return within weeks after escaping with cuts and bruises.