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Photo ©: Schaaf

Liège-Bastogne-Liège Cycling News for April 24, 2006

Edited by Anthony Tan

I'll just keep pedalling, says Boogie

By Brecht Decaluwé

Rabobank's Michael Boogerd played his card at the Côte de Sprimont, getting himself in a break with Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver from Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears. It looked promising - very promising, in fact - until they were caught with less than five kilometres to go.

Nevertheless, the Dutchman added another top-five placing to his palmarès this Spring: "It came as a surprise to me how we got into that break, taking a few metres on top of the Côte de Sprimont, but when you get an opportunity like that, you can't hesitate," Boogerd said.

"When the others caught us, I looked around and saw that everybody was very tired; I was even able to catch up with them. With that knowledge, maybe I should have spared myself for an attack on the Côte de Saint-Nicolas. But that's done for now, I'll just keep pedalling," the always smiling Dutchman said. "Erik Dekker did a lot of work for me and on La Redoute, I didn't suffer."

Bettini did what he had to do

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And Lefevre hopes he'll stay

By Brecht Decaluwé

Quick.Step-Innergetic team manager Patrick Lefevre wasn't on the winning side in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but didn't look too disappointed after the race, speaking pragmatically on the day's events: "Bettini rode a nice race; he did what he had to do.

"On the Côte du Sart-Tilman, he caused pain to everybody with his acceleration. Sadly though, they got caught and so he lost a lot of energy for the sprint. There he was in the right wheel, he was just not strong enough to overtake Valverde. Maybe the team should've had somebody else in the break of twenty riders, though I noticed most of them were team leaders so you can't expect miracles from the guys," said the Belgian.

Cyclingnews also asked Lefevre about the team's performance and the future of some riders in the team: "For the team, the balance after the Spring Classics is positive with victories rolling in right from Qatar to Paris-Nice and the Tour of Flanders. Now, I will take three days [off] to have a fresh mind; afterwards, I'll start the negotiations with the riders for next season. We all know that there are some teams with massive budgets. If I'm offering 100 [thousand] Euro to Bettini, and somebody offers him 200 [thousand] Euro, we'll shake hands with Bettini. We acknowledge his value for the team: the man has eight classics on his palmarès, so we're hoping that he will stay."

Horner had the legs to win

Romandie? "Absolutely!"

By Anthony Tan & Brecht Decaluwé

Before the start of La Doyenne, Davitamon-Lotto's talented American Chris Horner said his team was strong, but didn't have an outright leader. But as the race unfolded, he became that man.

"Well, it's better to have an outright leader and the team walks away with the win. But the form's been good for me all week so far although outside of the bubble of the top ten guys, and unfortunately it's the win you're trying to get, or at least the top ten," he told Cyclingnews somewhat fortuitously in Liège's Place Saint-Lambert. "So, hopefully, the legs are better than they have been the last two races; I'm not complaining, the form's good, but it needs to be that one or two percent better and then I'm there."

Continued Horner: "The way we're approaching it is to wait until we get down to Stavelot, and from there, the racing's going to start. If a big break goes off, of course you've got to have someone in it, but you don't have to have anyone in a group of five. So the best thing to do is to keep routine until 100k to go, and with three, four climbs to go, that's when the real racing will start. We have a very strong team, we just don't have the favourite, and hopefully we can win by having the numbers versus having one superior rider."

Asked if he thought a similar scenario may happen like last year, the 34 year-old said it was possible, but again, only after Stavelot, which signalled 84 kilometres to go. "It can't happen before that, I don't think... the teams will still be too strong - but after that, you have two or three guys from one team, and that's not enough to chase. So then it would take three or four teams to chase together, and the problem with that is asking three or four teams to chase that most likely has one person up the road!" he laughed.

In fact, just about everything Horner predicted turned out to be true. One would think he's ridden this race a dozen times before, but before yesterday, 2001 was the only other time he's ridden Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Also interesting was that he didn't predict a clear favourite; even though Alejandro won, he wasn't head and shoulders above the rest like he was at Flèche Wallonne.

"There's a lot of favourites; there's absolutely no-one who's a hands-down favourite, though - I don't see it. It's not like those years where Bettini was on top of his form or Bartoli's on top... there's no-one like that - not today. There's 10 guys that are all on the same page and on top of that, they don't have super super strong teams here; maybe four teams with super strong teams and that's it - it'll be an exciting race, I think."

Exciting La Doyenne certainly was, and commendably, Horner rode a fantastic race to finish eighth: "I'm happy with my performance today. The team was supporting me 100 percent; Bjorn Leukemans told me that he wasn't super strong, so he helped me today.

"I had the legs to win here, but if I wanted to win, I needed to get in a smaller break. The problem is that you can't react to every attack, you need to gamble; maybe I should've been there with Boogerd and Rodriguez," the exhausted American said to Cyclingnews at the finish line.

With his form and confidence now on the up, it wasn't surprising to sense an air of anticipation in Horner's voice about this week's Tour de Romandie. "Romandie suits me better, absolutely," he said.

"A Classic is not my ideal race... I mean, I'm still ridin' good, it's just not my 100 percent preference because of the way the climbs come on; I'm not good at the shorter climbs, the stop-start racing. Here, you're going anaerobic, then you're stopping, then anaerobic again, then stopping... and that's not my best way of racing. I'm much better at going into the last climb hard for 50k and then the last climb it splits - that's what suits me best. This style doesn't suit me so well, so like at Flèche and Amstel, I was in the red so much at the bottom of the climb, then by the top, I was fine - but I had missed the move by then!" Horner laughed.

Sergeant: "We miss a striker"

By Brecht Decaluwé

A former Liège-Bastogne-Liège winner turned Davitamon-Lotto directeur-sportif, Dirk De Wolf, had a few words to say on yesterday's team's performance: "Certainly, it wasn't bad; Horner was great, Leukemans and Van Summeren were good. The only annoyance is that Evans disappointed today; last year, he was riding better this time of the year, the Tour de France is coming soon, we still hope he can reach his best form there."

Marc Sergeant, also a manager/directeur-sportif from Davitamon-Lotto said: "I noticed that most of the riders in the finale were young guys, except for Boogerd and Bettini. We're missing a striker, someone that can rack up a victory today," the Belgian said.

"Evans was a disappointment," echoed Sergeant, "just like in the Brabantse Pijl. He was complaining about a headache this morning. Besides that, he's also suffering an eye problem when he gets very tired."

To make matters worse, the Belgians in general had a very quiet day at the office, the best Björn Leukmans in 41st place. However, Sergeant was protective of his Belgian riders: "Leukemans was there in the finale and worked for Horner, but I think he will not be too excited. Van Summeren was very disappointed that he couldn't take that step forward this year; still, he shouldn't worry too much. The guys are not all called Tom Boonen."

Jaksche on the up

By Anthony Tan & Brecht Decaluwé

German Jörg Jaksche told Cyclingnews at the start of the race he was hopeful of a good performance after being struck by illness earlier in the season. "In Tirreno, I was second [overall], then I was a little bit sick so I didn't race; now, I've started racing again, so I'm at the point of getting back in shape. I hope I'm in shape for this race, but I'm good, I'm content," he said.

"I think together we have a strong team, so we have some possibilities to do well; it's always the race and the legs that decide the classement, so we have to see how everyone feels, how the race is developing and then decide," said Jaksche on the team's chances.

"It's always difficult to predict the race because it's often based on a matter of seconds and the different tactics of the teams. Anything can happen. [The strategy's] mainly just to stay in the front; if you feel good, you have to wait, wait, wait and then attack at the right moment - like in every race!" he smiled.

As it turned out, Liberty Seguros-Würth was one of the best-represented teams in the final kilometres with Jaksche, Kashechkin, Etxebarria and Vinokourov all there, but for one reason or another, none the boys decked in navy blue and white made the top ten, with Andrey Kashechkin their best-placed rider in 11th spot.

Jaksche was in the front group right up until five kilometres to go, but ended up in 44th after Paolo Bettini's acceleration on the Côte de Saint-Nicolas shelled a number of contenders, including himself. "I worked hard on the Côte de Saint-Nicolas until Bettini accelerated, then it was over for me. I'm happy about my performance today, because I feel my fitness level is going to the right direction," he said, whose next appointment is the Tour de Romandie, starting tomorrow.

"Ya, I think I can do good. As I said, I was sick, but now I've recovered from my illness and I think I can do well; I'll try, we will see."

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