A strong breakaway group formed; Alexander Gontchenkov and Maurizio Fondriest from Roslotto, Gabriele Colombo, Gewiss, Mauro Gianetti, Polti, Enrico Zaina, Carrera and Lance Armstrong, Motorola. Their maximum lead was 1 minute 12 seconds at 50 km to go, mostly hovering between 40 and 50 seconds.
On the climb of Cote de Ben-Ahin, km 195, Gontchenkov attacked, Armstrong countered and Rous was the only rider able to go with Armstrong. The final decision came about 300 metres from the finish, on a 20 per cent incline, when Armstrong attacked and Rous had no answer.
1. Lance Armstrong (USA) Motorola 4.40.00 (42,960 km/h) 2. Didier Rous (Fra) Gan + 0.08 3. Maurizio Fondriest (Ita) Roslotto + 0.54 4. Mauro Gianetti (Sch) Team Polti + 1.00 5. Gabriele Colombo (Ita) Gewiss + 1.08 6. Enrico Zaina (Ita) Carrera + 1.13 7. Alexander Gontchenkov (Ukr) Roslotto + 1.21 8. Laurent Brochard (Fra) Festina + 1.42 9. Stephane Heulot (Fra) Gan + 1.50 10. Davide Rebellin (Ita) Team Polti s.t. 11. Stefano Della Santa (Ita) Mapei + 1.51 12. Richard Virenque (Fra) Festina + 1.52 13. Francesco Frattini (Ita) Gewiss 14. Pascal Richard (Sch) MG-Technogym 15. Pascal Herve (Fra) Festina 16. Laurent Madouas (Fra) Motorola 17. Maarten den Bakker (Ned) TVM 18. Luc Leblanc (Fra) Team Polti 19. Giorgio Furlan (Ita) Saeco all s.t. 20. Francesco Casagrande (Ita) Saeco + 2:00 21. Piotr Ugrumov (Rus) Roslotto 22. Daniele Sgnaolin (Ita) Roslotto + 2.05 23. Francisco Cabello (Spa) Kelme-Artiach + 2.08 24. Zenon Jaskula (Pol) Brescialat 25. Marco Zen (Ita) Roslotto 26. Felice Puttini (Sch) Refin-Mobilvetta 27. Eugeni Berzin (Rus) Gewiss 28. Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank 29. Bo Hamburger (Den) TVM 30. Claudio Chiappucci (Ita) Carrera + 2.13 31. Missaglia s.t. 32. Merckx + 2.14 33. Cuesta s.t. 34. Noe + 2.17 35. Vasseur + 2.20 36. Rue 37. Poulnikov 38. Bugno 39. Peron 40. Joncker 41. Riis 42. Cattai 43. Pellicioli all s.t. 44. Zulle + 2.38 45. Fincato + 2.49 46. Cenghialta s.t. 47. Massi + 2.53 48. Sorensen + 3.08 49. Roux + 3.55 50. Verbeken s.t. 51. Bontempi + 4.01 52. Bettin s.t. 53. Podenzana + 4.02 54. Frigo + 4.52 55. Calzavara + 4.57 56. Donati + 5.06 57. Dufaux + 7.50 58. Felix Garcia 59. Robin both s.t. 60. R. Petito + 9.35 61. Coppolillo +10.00 62. Dotti +11.08 63. Piccoli 64. Sierra 65. Borgheresi 66. Garcia Alonso all s.t. 67. Saligari +10.53 68. Verdonck +19.14 69. Artunghi 70. Hennebert 72. Laukka 73. Goubert 74. Julich 75. Totschnig 76. Bolts 77. Siboni 78. Heppner 79. Salmon 80. Bouwmans 81. R. Diaz 82. Chiurato 83. Breukink 84. Q. Rodrigues 85. Montoya 86. Vidal 87. Barbero 88. Simeoni 89. Meinert 90. Velo 91. Baguet 92. Streel 93. Voskamp 94. Uslamine 95. Simon all s.t. 96. Guerini +19.43 97. Santaromita s.t. 98. Canzonieri +19.45 (182 starters, 98 classified)
The first serious attack after a rapid start came after the cote de Filot (km33.5) when Richard Virenque (Fr, Festina) went full pelt down the hill taking with him neo-pro Marco Della Vedova (It, Brescialat). The gap on the peloton built up quickly, reaching a maximum 5.45 at km60. The peloton eventually began to chase on the initiative of Mapei.
On the first ascent of the mur de Huy (km93.5)Virenque dropped Della Vedova. At the summit, when the peloton was at 2.15, six riders began a counter-attack -- Evgeni Berzin (Rus, Gewiss), Simone Borgheresi (It, Mapei), Andrea Peron (It, Motorola), Davide Rebellin (It, Polti), Michele Coppolillo (It, MG) and Marco Zen (It, Roslotto).
Only Borgheresi pressed home the counter-attack, joining up with Virenque before they were swept up at 125km by a peloton that came together before the second ascent of the mur de Huy. On the climb, Milan-San Remo Gabriele Colombo (It, Gewiss) attacked. By the summit (km130) four others had joined him -- Maurizio Fondriest (It) and Alexandre Gontchenkov (Ukr) of Roslotto, Enrico Zaina (It, Carrera), and Mauro Gianetti (Team Polti). On the descent they were almost immediately joined by Lance Armstron (USA, Motorola) and Didier Rous (Fr, GAN).
This seven-man lead group built a lead that oscillated for a long time between 15 and 30 seconds. Behind, three of the teams not in the break, MG, Festina and ONCE combined efforts nthe chase. But the break began to pull out a more serious lead: 48 secs at the Cote de Pailhe (km147.5) and 1.15 at km160. But on the climb of the cote de Bohissau (km174.5) the gap was brought back to 28 secs, largely because of the efforts of the Festinas Pascal Herve, Jean-Cyrille Robin and Laurent Dufaux.
Onthe cote d'Ahin, 12km from the finish, Gontchenkov attacked and Armstrong reacted bringing the seven together again... at which point Armstrong counter-attacked with only Rous able to follow him. On the steepest part of the last climb of the Huy, 400m from the finish, Armstrong launched a devastating attack that Rous couldn't respond to.
"I certainly didn't regard today's race as a training race [for Liege- Bastogne-Liege]; I know it's an important race," said Armstrong. But I wasn't looking to win today, I didn't join the break for that, simply to test myself for Sunday. The circumstances decided otherwise and I'm very happy. But it doesn't change anything, Liege-Bastogne-Liege remains a major objective and I certainly didn't use up my strength today. My legs responded very well, and I still think they'll be in good shape on Sunday."