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90th Liège-Bastogne-Liège - CDM

Belgium, April 25, 2004

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Commentary by Chris Henry, with additional reporting from Jeff Jones

10:15 CEST   

Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner)
Photo ©: CN

Welcome everybody to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the final World Cup classic before the mid-year break and the start of the grand tours. Today's Liège-Bastogne-Liège is the 90th edition of the race, known as the "Doyenne" because it is indeed the oldest classic. After the gritty Flemish classics and the pavé of Paris-Roubaix, this past week has seen the climbers come to the fore for the Ardennes races, many of whom are slowly honing their form for the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France.

Italy's Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) returned to the top step of the podium in a big way at Amstel Gold last Sunday, taking his first World Cup victory since 1997 (when he won two). Rebellin has always been a consistent finisher, but found himself more often than not missing the extra edge to take victory. Not the case this week, as he doubled up his effort and won the mid-week Flèche Wallonne in another display of pure climbing power. He outsprinted compatriot Danilo Di Luca (Saeco) in the final 100 metres of the dreaded Mur de Huy to take his second win in four days.

Rebellin is no doubt one of the favourites for today, but to say he will be a marked man is an understatement. Di Luca too is ready, but needs to find the strength to break through just as Rebellin did and make the winning move. There's a very strong field on the line today, including defending champion Tyler Hamilton (Phonak), Italian champion and two-time winner Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step-Davitamon), another two-time winner Michele Bartoli (CSC), Michael Boogerd and Erik Dekker (Rabobank)... The list goes on. At 258 kilometres and with longer climbs than featured at Amstel Gold Race, L-B-L is truly one of the toughest one day races of the season.

10:39 CEST   
The race has started on time in beautiful spring conditions. The temperature was already around 15 degrees this morning in Liège's Place Saint-Lambert with blue skies and little wind. A little good weather goes a long way and the riders were in a good mood before setting off southward to Bastogne. The voice of Tour de France speaker Daniel Mangeas once more bellowed through the air, introducing the riders and getting the large crowd on hand excited for the day's racing.

10:58 CEST   
Well it appears Saeco's Danilo Di Luca will not rank among the favourites today. The Italian did not start this morning, the only rider not to begin the race as planned, leaving 193 others to set off from Liège. No word yet on the reason for Di Luca's forfeit.

11:28 CEST   
The first attack of the day came at kilometre 13, with Belgium's Jurgen Van de Walle (Chocolades Jacques) trying a solo flyer. He stayed away a few kilometres but was unable to shake the peloton.

11:35 CEST   
Race organisers have announced that four teams underwent routine doping tests before the start: US Postal Service, Phonak Hearing Systems, Alessio-Bianchi, and Brioches La Boulangère. All riders were declared fit to start today's race.

11:48 CEST   
Danilo Di Luca was suffering from a fever this morning, hence his decision not to take the start in today's race. HIs teammate Mirko Celestino is a capable leader as well, and could still keep the Saeco team in the thick of things today.

11:54 CEST    44km/214km to go
One hour of racing so far, after the official start was given at 10:50, and the peloton has covered 44 kilometres. A number of riders have tried to establish an early break but the fast-moving field has prevented any moves from going clear.

12:13 CEST   
Later today, around 3pm CEST, we'll be joined by Alessio-Bianchi's Scott Sunderland. Scott is currently enjoying a break from competition after helping Magnus Bäcksted to victory in Paris-Roubaix two weeks ago. He's got plenty of experience in the spring classics, including L-B-L, and he'll offer a pro's perspective on today's race as our guest commentator.

12:28 CEST    72km/186km to go
At last a break has managed to go clear. Just before the 70km mark, Van de Walle tried another move, along with Bram Tankink (Quick.Step), Laurent Lefèvre (La Boulangère), Inaki Isasi (Euskaltel-Euskadi), and Marcel Strauss (Gerolsteiner). They've got a small gap on the main field, which is still moving quickly and profiting from the minimal wind and warm weather.

12:37 CEST    75km/183km to go
Raivis Belohvosciks (Chocolades Jacques) has managed to bridge the gap to the first successful break of the day, making it six riders up front. They're working well together to build a gap ahead of the main field.

12:50 CEST   
Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Team CSC)
Photo ©: CN
Cyclingnews spoke with Team CSC's Kurt-Asle Arvesen before the start in Liège. The Norwegian is looking forward to today's race, where he will be playing a
team support role.

"The weather is good which is perfect for me," he told us. "I feel better than at Amstel and Flèche where I had some stomach problems. Now that's passed and I feel really good and I hope to to a good job for the team today. I think we have a strong team so we'll see. It's a hard race and a long race.

"My main thing is to take care from the middle of the race and the first part and not really the finale. If I'm feeling good then of course I'll be there but I have to be ready from Bastogne.

"Bartoli and Basso are our main captains today. Jackshe is in really good shape but with a broken arm it's quite difficult. We'll see with him."

(Commentator's note: Jaksche broke his arm in an unfortunate low-speed collision with another rider after returning from training last Saturday prior to Amstel Gold.)

13:06 CEST    89km/173km to go
The six leaders are continuing well with their effort, tackling the Côte Saint-Roch with a lead growing to five minutes. The next listed climb, the Côte de Wanne, doesn't come until kilometre 154.

13:19 CEST   
Cyclingnews' Jeff Jones is on the scene at L-B-L today, and he offers this description of the finale of the parcours:

After 255 km of tough racing through the Ardennes, the riders face one final challenge in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Although the 10th and last labelled climb is the Côte de St Nicolas with 5 km to go, the finish in Ans is also uphill.

At the 2 km to go mark (following the descent from St Nicolas), there is a short 250m rise followed by a 250m descent. Then the riders are on the rue Walthere Jamar, which is a daunting prospect for anyone trying to save themselves for a sprint. The next 1.2 km is all uphill at a gradient of about 5-6%, getting slightly steeper at the top. Finally with 250m to go, there is a left hand turn onto the finishing straight (rue Jean Jaures), which is flat.

13:23 CEST    102km/156km to go
The six leaders have reached Bastogne with a lead of nine minutes over the main field. Their effort has been perfectly managed thus far and the peloton, once it let them go, will now ride a steady tempo to make sure the advantage doesn't get too far out of hand. There's a long way to go in this race, even if they are turning to head back north to Liège. The serious climbing is very much concentrated in the second half of the race.

Crédit Agricole's Christophe Moreau has found the going a bit too tough and has abandoned. Moreau has had a rough start to the season after a knee injury in a January training camp. He's been back in the peloton this month but still lacks the condition to contest the biggest races like L-B-L.

13:33 CEST   
Peter Van Petegem (Lotto-Domo)
Photo ©: CN
An update from the Cyclingnews car on the parcours indicates that as the main field hit the Côte Saint Roch, double L-B-L winners Paolo Bettini and Michele Bartoli were both looking strong at the head of the field. Bettini pulled out of Wednesday's Flèche Wallonne early, but is very much a man to watch in today's race. Bartoli too has shown good form this spring but has not quite had the legs to finish with the leaders in the finale. Perhaps today things will turn around.

13:41 CEST   
Lotto-Domo's Serge Baguet was in good spirits when we spoke to him at the start today in Liège. "I'm feeling alright," he said. "My role will be to be there as long as possible for Van Petegem, and hopefully I can go deep in the finale."

Baguet said that the team morale is good and he is feeling very positive as a result of today's beautiful weather.

Van Petegem appeared focused as usual at the start, and he could pick up some more World Cup points today. The World Cup lead is currently held by Tour of Flanders winner Steffen Wesemann (T-Mobile), just ahead of Milan-San Remo winner Oscar Freire (Rabobank).

14:03 CEST    120km/138km to go
Michael Boogerd (Rabobank)
Photo ©: CN
As the break hits the 120km mark, the reaction is starting to come from the big teams in the main field. Rabobank in particular, but also Phonak and T-Mobile have begun a steady chase to chip away at the time gap.

Rabobank's Michael Boogerd is one of the heavy favourites today. He was second to Davide Rebellin at "his race", Amstel Gold last Sunday. This week he's back, having skipped Flèche Wallonne to focus just on today. Boogerd was third in L-B-L a year ago.

"Liège is very difficult," said Boogerd before the start. "It can explode on St Nicolas but it also can happen on La Redoute or La Vecquée. You always hope that you are in the right break."

14:13 CEST    129km/129km to go
The break of six is now a break of five, as Chocolade Jacques' Raivis Belohvosciks has dropped off the pace. He still has his teammate Van de Walle in the move, which is facing increasing pressure from the main field behind.

14:31 CEST    142km/116km to go
The break's lead is falling rapidly now, down to just over six minutes. They're past the halfway mark and the next climb, the Côte de Wanne, is about 10 kilometres away. It's a 2.8 km rise with an average gradient of 4.9%.

14:37 CEST    150km/108km to go
The bunch is getting restless now as the gap to the leaders tumbles and no attacks begin. Belohvosciks, who dropped off the lead group, is now back in the main field.

14:49 CEST    154km/104km to go
Van de Walle has attacked the lead group and crossed the summit of the Côte de Wanne alone. He's got just a few seconds over the remaining four, with the peloton still closing in, 5'25 back.

Rabobank, Lotto-Domo, and Phonak are leading the chase.

Erik Dekker (Rabobank)
Photo ©: CN

Rabobank's Erik Dekker is more of an outside favourite compared to his teammate Boogerd, but he is very dangerous if he can get away in the finale. "I feel good but if it's a very selective race, then only the absolute best will remain. Then I think that Michael will be there."

"It's a tough race and anything can happen. I think for myself the important climb will be La Redoute. If La Redoute is not super hard and there are a lot of riders left then I think I have a chance. If that doesn't happen, then I think it will just be the best riders."

Rolling up to the start in arm and knee warmers, Dekker commented that, "I'm a bit overdressed. It's beautiful weather!"

15:00 CEST    168km/90km to go
Phonak continues to work with several men at the front of the field, minding the chase for defending champion Tyler Hamilton. Lotto-Domo is active as well, along with a rider from Vini Caldirola.

The break now hits the Côte de Stockeu, a tough 2.7km climb averaging 10% in gradient.

15:05 CEST   
More big names are starting to show themselves at the front of the main field, including Bettini and World Cup leader Wesemann. Floyd Landis is up there as well. Cyclingnews spoke to Floyd after Amstel Gold Race to get his thoughts on having more of a leadership role at the Ardennes classics.

We also spoke with Fassa Bortolo's Juan Antonio Flecha and Rabobank director Theo de Rooij. Be sure to check out the features here.

15:08 CEST    175km/83km to go
Back to back difficulties and the leaders have just crested the Côte de Wanneranval. Team CSC is now taking over the chase in the main field, with Jörg Jaksche doing a good bit of work despite his heavily taped arm which he fractured last weekend before Amstel Gold Race.

15:12 CEST   
Team CSC's Kurt-Asle Arvesen is doing what he promised, taking the race in hand at the mid-point. He's attacked alone from the main field after the Côte de Wanneranval and is flying down the descent.

15:14 CEST   
Welcome to guest commentator Scott Sunderland of the Alessio-Bianchi team.

In answer to a reader's question about changes to the L-B-L parcours making the race too easy (at least that's what Peter Van Petegem seemed to think), Scott has this to say:

Scott Sunderland: It is still that way that the riders make the race. E.g., they made Amstel Gold harder last year and the riders just waited longer to blow everything apart. If Van Petegem says that it is too easy then maybe those who think the same should "open" the race earlier... That would immediately make it harder for the others.

15:18 CEST    182km/76km to go
As for the chances of this breakaway, the gap is falling quickly and the hardest part of the race has yet to come. Phonak is back on the front leading the chase.

Scott Sunderland: The situation as it is now holds no danger yet for the peloton. More than likely, the break will get caught back, with all those steep climbs still on the menu. Those five riders will find those climbs more painfull to the legs after being in the lead for this long.

15:22 CEST    185km/73km to go
The leaders are now on the Côte du Rosier (4km at 6.1%) with barely three minutes in hand. This is the fifth of ten climbs, and it'll only get tougher from here. They're still sharing the work well, each taking pulls both on the climbs and in between.

15:24 CEST    186km/72km to go
A number of riders are getting dropped at the back of the main field, while up front a lone Phonak rider (Niki Aebersold) leads the chase with four men from CSC on his wheel.

15:25 CEST   
Scott Sunderland: There is not much wind today, it's a beautiful warm day. It's going to make for a fast finale I think. In the last hour I expect numerous attacks, as it is easier to ride in the front by yourself alone in this kind of weather.

15:33 CEST    193km/65km to go
The five leaders (Tankink, Strauss, Isasi, Lefèvre, Van de Walle) hit the toughest part of the Côte du Rosier, with percentages up to 13%. It's a climb that gets harder near the top.

Rabobank's Maarten Den Bakker has now come to the front of the field to assist with the chase. He's got a few other teammates to help with the task.

Scott Sunderland: Rabobank is actually riding on the front now. It's clear they want to open up the race.

My favourites for today are not really in the front yet, although CSC is riding for Bartoli at the moment. Vandenbroucke, Celestino and Bettini are all keeping their nose out of the wind. I can just spot them now and again in amongst the first 20-30 riders. Rebellin is the outright favourite today, and Kessler is someone I expect to do well too. It is up to all the other riders to get rid of Rebellin before the last kilometres; he's always been fast in the sprint and I think he can beat Bettini quite easily right now. Don't forget Michael Boogerd, the most dangerous rider for a long breakaway together with Dekker.

15:38 CEST   
Team CSC's Carlos Sastre, one of the key elements in Tyler Hamilton's victory last year, is finding the going a bit tougher today. He's been dropped from the main field on the Côte du Rosier.
Jorg Jaksche (CSC)
Photo ©: CN
Meanwhile, Jaksche says "what broken arm?" and puts in an attack at the head of the main field. The Paris-Nice winner goes clear with teammate Arvesen and get a small gap on the group before being joined by a rider from Crédit Agricole. They're 1km from the summit.

Scott Sunderland: Bjarne Riis is starting to employ his tactics, sending two riders of his team up the road. That's no doubt an order from the boss himself.

15:42 CEST    195km/63km to go
The leaders are now descending from the Côte du Rosier, still clear of the main field. Some new attacks are starting behind. The next climb is the Côte de la Vecquée at kilometre 206.

15:44 CEST   
Jaksche and Arvesen are still chasing the leaders, along with Alexandre Botcharov of Crédit Agricole. The leaders have 1'20" on the main field.

Scott Sunderland: It looks like two Alessio-Bianchi's going out the pipe; Rastelli and Miholjevic... damn. I think something must have happened - some technical problems- as Miholjevic is quite a good climber.

15:47 CEST   
With the gap just a minute and a quarter over the main field, Van de Walle takes a moment to fuel up before coming through for another pull. The leaders are grabbing musettes in the feed zone as the chasing trio continues to close in.

15:53 CEST   
Onto the Côte de la Vecquée now and Bram Tankink (Quick.Step) is trying to break up the lead group. The three chasers (Jaksche, Arvesen, Botcharov) are catching Van de Walle... and passing him. Tankink is in fact matching an initial attack from Strauss. Those two are clear while the rest of the break has been caught by the chase. Jaksche looks very strong.

15:54 CEST    204km/54km to go
Scott Sunderland: Position-wise this race is an easier race. Knowledge of the parcours is not as vital as in races like the Tour of Flanders. The team leaders definitely have an advantage in this race; they can sit back in the peleton out of the wind. In L-B-L there are not as many corners and the roads are much wider compared to the classics in Flanders.

In response to a question about Tyler Hamilton's chances:

A rider of Hamilton's calibre is always an outside favourite although his form doesn't look as good as what it was last year. But I definitely don't rule him out, you simply can't ignore a classy rider like him.

15:57 CEST   
Tankink and Strauss have been caught by the three chasers, while the rest of the break has been dispatched back to the main field (which is also closing in, within a minute).

Frank Vandenbroucke is moving forward in the main field. VDB is the last Belgian winner here. He won while riding for Cofidis in 1999 and is certainly a candidate for victory today even if he's been a bit quiet in the recent Ardennes classics.

Scott Sunderland: Jaksche is getting serious now; he opened up the throttle and it's full steam ahead.

16:03 CEST    208km/50km to go
Tankink and Strauss have been out front for much of the day, joined by Jaksche, Arvesen, and Botcharov. The field is 1'14 behind these leading five after the Côte de la Vecquée. There was a headwind at the top of the climb, making the progress a little tougher now for the break.

Scott Sunderland: Wesemann, the World Cup leader is keeping in the front. The helicopter shows Van Petegem, VDB and Bettini comfortably in position in the first 20. My team mate Pelizzoti is there too. He had a good ride in Flèche Wallonne and I know he's hoping for a good result today.

It's now really clear that Riis has put Bartoli in a very good position, after sending two of his team mates into a break. Coming up to La Redoute, with 30kms to go, that is ideal. If the two can stay in the front, and in case Bartoli can join them by the time they reach the top; he's got two excellent helpers there.

16:07 CEST   
The next climb is the critical La Redoute. The five leaders are still clear, giving everything to hit the foot of the climb before being caught by the field. Rabobank once more has riders on the front with a few other teams mixing it up.

16:10 CEST    215km/43km to go
Jaksche and Arvesen have the break under control, forcing the pace before La Redoute. Phonak is still present at the front of the main field working for Tyler Hamilton, though former world champion Oscar Camenzind is another possible card to play for the Swiss team.

16:11 CEST   
Scott Sunderland: Tactically it was a great move from the teams with a rider in the front. CSC, Gerolsteiner and Quick.Step don't have to chase. That work is being done by Rabobank and Phonak.

16:13 CEST   
The five leaders are flying at 67 km/h on a long, straight descent to Remouchamps. They're doing a terrific job of maintaining their slender advantage over the main field.

16:15 CEST   
The five leaders hit La Redoute, while the heavy hitters in the main field behind are surely preparing for a huge battle. The field is 58" back.

16:17 CEST   
Bottles are being discarded in the main field as Fassa Bortolo hits the front and prepares Vandenbroucke for La Redoute.

Strauss is dropped from the lead group as Jaksche leads the charge.

Scott Sunderland: No mistakes are allowed; nor is bad luck or mechanical problems as it means the race is over for you then. Time to go and sit on the edge of your seat now! The adrenalin is pumping.

16:18 CEST   
Boogerd is present at the front on La Redoute, as are Rebellin, Scarponi, Garzelli and VDB. Bettini is there too. The field is taking up the whole road and those stuck too far back won't move up now. Garzelli's team sets the pace on the climb.

16:19 CEST   
Arvesen and Jaksche are still going well on the toughest part of the climb.

Acceleration in the main field with Saunier Duval taking over. Van Petegem is also up front for Lotto-Domo, Vandenbroucke is about four wheels back, looking good. They're 25" behind the leaders.

Botcharov is now dropping the CSC duo!

16:19 CEST   
Here comes Bettini, accelerating in the main field. He's marked by Garzelli with VDB still close. Hamilton is up there and Van Petegem is climbing quite well.

16:21 CEST   
Botcharov, a talented climber, is taking off alone up front. He's got a huge gap now on Arvesen and Jaksche. Now Bettini goes again behind with Boogerd right next to him.

Where's Rebellin? Not there for the moment. Boogerd pulls through and is duking it out with Bettini.

Rebellin is back a little way with Vinokourov. Bettini doesn't go all out with his attack.

16:22 CEST    222km/36km to go
Scott Sunderland: I can't believe how many riders are still there! A small peloton virtually; it's crazy. It looks like the accelerations, made by Bettini, Garzelli and Boogerd are not powerfull enough to make the difference.

Van Petegem looks very strong; he's going to be dangerous for the finish. Going over the climb like he is now makes him a possible winner.

16:23 CEST   
Botcharov is away over the summit, Arvesen and Jaksche are still in between, while Tankink has just been caught by the main field which was led by Bettini. The main group is still intact at the summit of La Redoute.

There's a favorable wind after the climb, which will help Botcharov. Only a few kilometres until the C&ocric;te de Sprimont.

16:24 CEST   
There are about 25 riders in the main group right now, though this could swell a bit between climbs.

Botcharov has been caught by Arvesen and Jaksche with the peloton just behind.

16:27 CEST   
Scott Sunderland: Van Petegem looks very strong; he's going to be dangerous for the finish. Going over the climb like he is now makes him a possible winner.

A leading group of about 50-60 riders is forming now. None of the big riders wanted to put it on the line on the La Redoute. We're coming up to the Côte de Sprimont, things might change on this climb.

16:28 CEST    227km/31km to go
Quick.Step's Van Goolen leads onto the Sprimont though he's quickly pulled back. Jaksche is back on the front now, with US Postal's Landis in second position. The leaders are looking at each other.

World Cup leader Wesemann is in this main group too.

16:32 CEST    230km/28km to go
Botcharov puts in a new acceleration to cross the Sprimont summit first. As with many of these classics, there is also a climber's competition which could serve as a nice consolation prize for a good ride today.

An attack comes now from a Phonak rider, Oscar Pereiro. He's marked quickly and he looks around and sits up. But in fact he's pulled clear Laurent Dufaux and Alexandre Vinokourov, who quickly pulls through to persist with the move.

The group is swelling, with Landis and two USPS teammates... But it's back together now.

16:34 CEST   
And just as it comes together, a new attack forms. Nobody's getting much of a gap but the accelerations are coming constantly now between the climbs.

T-Mobile not only has Wesemann and Vinokourov up front (not to mention Klöden), but Erik Zabel is at the back of the group. Unlikely he'll make the finale, but not a bad ride over La Redoute for the champion of Germany.

16:38 CEST   
The next climb is the Côte du Sart-Tilman. After that comes the St. Nicolas, then the tricky rise into Ans and the finish.

Scott Sunderland: This race is different to the times I have ridden it, about 8 to 10 times that is. In previous years, if you weren't in the front of La Redoute, you could forget it.

There is such a big group left here; the tempo is different, the overall feeling is. It's a big group still, so the tempo will have to go up. The team leaders are sending their lieutenants out, coming onto the foot of the Sprimong. My training mate Serge Baguet had a go at it just earlier; doing it to increase the pace for Van Petegem.

16:40 CEST    237km/21km to go
Matthias Kessler (T-Mobile) has been struck by a puncture, complicating his chances at this crucial point in the race. The team is still well represented, notably by Vinokourov and Wesemann.

Wesemann could be the team's top card to play given his lead in the World Cup, even if the finish suits a strong attacking rider like Vinokourov a bit better.

16:42 CEST   
Boogerd has had a mechanical problem and is in the process of chasing back to the lead group with the help of Marc Lotz. Team CSC is once more on the front with several riders to set the pace.

Scott Sunderland: There's a new trend going through the peloton. In all the World Cup races so far this year; and L-B-L today is no exception, the team leaders are leaving it later and later to break the race open. The domestiques are that strong nowadays, riding on a very high level, that they can work a lot harder and longer for their team leaders. So it's obvious that this allows the leaders to save their energy for later in the race.

With all the team starting in these races having the same kind of depth and quality riders; more and more riders are able to finish the races.

16:44 CEST    240km/18km to go
Arvesen still has the strength after being in the break earlier to drive the remaining peloton. They're approaching the Sart-Tilman now, a 3.7km climb at 5.9%.

Arvesen hits the climb first with Niki Sorensen on his wheel.

16:47 CEST   
It's Quick.Step and CSC leading the field now but there's a changing of the guard. Arvesen, his work done, has been blown out the back. Lotto's Rik Verbrugghe is in trouble too...

Two Quick.Step riders are trying a page from the CSC handbook, getting a small gap at the front. They're brought back and it's Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) who goes clear.

16:49 CEST   
Landaluze (Euskaltel) and Sinkewitz (Quick.Step) have opened a small gap. Bettini is in second position in the peloton, behind CSC's Sorensen.

Scott Sunderland: On this climb, more riders are in dificulties. Some of the guys able to hang on on the La Redoute have to let go now. Like Zabel. The group is still incredible big though; still about 50 I think.

16:51 CEST    244km/14km to go
Iñigo Landaluze and Patrik Sinkewitz have about 10" now on the group. Fassa Bortolo has a rider trying to bridge the gap now.

Erik Dekker is in the main group, riding quietly near the back.

The two leaders have crested the summit of the Sart-Tilman with a reasonable distance over the chasers.

16:53 CEST   
Sinkewitz is the stronger of the two leaders, it seems, as Landaluze scrambles a bit to get his wheel as he pulls through on the fast descent.

The peloton is within striking distance of the two leaders but not back yet.

Scott Sunderland: Nothing happened on the Côte de Sprimont. The main contenders are still there; with one, two or more domestiques. I guess it will have to happen on the Côte de Saint-Nicolas.

Now it's important to be looking at the others, keeping an eye on the competition and trying to see how they are feeling.

16:55 CEST    248km/10km to go
Lotto-Domo has four riders leading the chase, clearly working for a super Van Petegem. The two leaders are still away, barely. The race is on a wide road now and the peloton is fanning out, though still moving quickly.

The two leaders have 12".

16:56 CEST   
Scott Sunderland: Van Petegem is clearly feeling confident. He has had great form for all the classics but lacked that bit of luck and punch in the finale; maybe today it will happen.

16:58 CEST   
Saeco now has taken over the chase, working for Celestino, the team leader in the absence of Danilo Di Luca.

The Côte de Saint-Nicolas is coming up. It's not the final possibility for an attack, but since La Redoute and Sart-Tilman did little to break up the field, the options are running out.

The two leaders (Landaluze and Sinkewitz) are entering the Italian enclave and the climb. They have about 12 seconds on the field.

Fassa Bortolo comes back to the head of the field. Vandenbroucke has two teammates with him.

17:00 CEST    251km/7km to go
Vandenbroucke is now in second position behind his teammate Kim Kirchen.

They've hit the Saint-Nicolas and up front the two leaders are having a hard time on the steep slopes of the climb. Credit Agricole's Kashechkin has attacked the main field but he's not going far.

Oscar Camenzind (Phonak) has been dropped from the main group.

17:01 CEST   
Attack from Van Petegem! Bettini and Boogerd mark the move, with Vinokourov and Rebellin coming up.

Boogerd counters on the climb and gets a gap!

17:02 CEST   
Vinokourov now has to go after Boogerd with Rebellin on his wheel. The Italian pulls through, he's flying up the climb!

Rebellin comes quickly up to Boogerd as Vinokourov struggles to hold his wheel. There are big splits behind.

17:03 CEST   
Boogerd, Rebellin and Vinokourov are now the leaders, winding through the cobbled streets after the summit of the Saint-Nicolas.

They've got about 5 seconds over the chase.

Boogerd is very strong, as is Rebellin. Vino pulls through now.

A strong counter from the chase group comes from Euskaltel's Sanchez.

Scott Sunderland: A nice trio in the front. Great ride from Boogerd; after that puncture.

17:05 CEST    255km/3km to go
This is a royal trio away in the finale. Rebellin has no pressure having won two races in the last week. They've got 10" now on the chase!

Euskaltel has Samuel Sanchez chasing, along with CSC's Ivan Basso and Mr. Bookmaker's Leukemans.

17:06 CEST    256km/2km to go
Rebellin looks incredibly strong as the lead trio hits the final rise in Ans before the left hand bend and the finishing straight.

Boogerd is looking at the others a lot, looking nervous.

The three chasers have pretty much given up, looking at each other.

Vinokourov launches a huge attack! Rebellin forces Boogerd to chase. Masterful...

17:07 CEST    257km/1km to go
Vinokourov shot away with incredible speed and he's still alone. This is his kind of move.

Scott Sunderland: Vino attacked and that is what Rebellin has been waiting for; he didn't show any inclination to go after him and it's now up to Boogert to get Vino back.

17:08 CEST   
They're into the final kilometre and Boogerd and Rebellin are reaching Vinokourov. The Kazakh keeps accelerating to try to shake them but they're back together.

Meanwhile Dekker has jumped across to the chase group.

Now the leaders are watching each other... Boogerd attacks from third wheel.

17:09 CEST   
Boogerd goes, Rebellin follows, but Vino may be cooked!

Scott fancies Rebellin for the win.

Boogerd leads Rebellin into the final corner!

17:09 CEST   
The sprint starts and here comes Rebellin, around Boogerd for the triple! Amazing week for Rebellin. He wins ahead of Boogerd and Vinokourov!

Sanchez gets fourth just behind, followed by Erik Dekker.

17:10 CEST   
Scott Sunderland: Boogerd has done it again; attacking like that. Poor bastard, another one he's losing. Rebellin tears him apart in the sprint. An amazing hat-trick. Rebellin is the great new leader in the World Cup rankings. It's another fantastic day for Gerolsteiner. Rebellin was confident; you could see he was the strongest again today; a well deserved victory.


1 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner
2 Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank
3 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile
4 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
5 Erik Dekker (Ned) Rabobank
World Cup standings after 5 rounds
1 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner        200 pts
2 Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank            146
3 Steffen Wesemann (Ger) T-Mobile Team      131
4 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank         127
5 Erik Dekker (Ned) Rabobank                115
6 Magnus Backstedt (Swe) Alessio-Bianchi    100
7 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick.Step-Davitamon   94

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