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69th Flèche Wallonne - PT
Belgium, April 20, 2005
Déjà-vu on the Mur de Huy
By Hedwig Kröner in Huy
Danilo di Luca (Liquigas-Bianchi) followed in the footsteps of his Italian colleague Davide Rebellin today when he took his second victory after Amstel Gold race, just like Rebellin last year. Di Luca was simply the strongest of the main contenders, all hitting the famous "Mur de Huy" together and pounding up the slopes of this final climb for an impressive slo-mo sprint.
The confidence Di Luca gained through his previous victory just a couple of days ago paid off: Moving clear of the likes of David Etxebarria, Patrik Sinkewitz, Oscar Freire, Angel Vicioso and Cadel Evans 200 metres before the line, Di Luca outsprinted Luxembourg champion Kim Kirchen (Fassa Bortolo) and the 2004 triple winner Rebellin, who is still having respiratory problems in the damp, cold weather.
At the finish, the breakthrough classics contender first of all thanked his team. "My team did a great job," he said. "It was only when we all arrived together at the foot of the last climb that I thought of winning. This morning, I was actually more focused on Liège-Bastogne-Liège!"
That was also the impression he gave to Cyclingnews at the start in Charleroi, where Di Luca seemed extremely relaxed and jokingly said he was going to attack "before the last ascent".
In the end, Di Luca got there with the main bunch of course, but it didn't matter. "I did control the front riders in the finale," he said. "I was right there at the front when we hit the Mur, I had to control. I waited for the moves of the others, and I responded."
Kim Kirchen managed to get his nose in front of Di Luca with 200m to go, but it didn't last too long. However, the Fassa Bortolo man held off Rebellin for solid second place. "I felt good all day, especially when it started to rain," said Kirchen. "We arrived at the foot of the last climb, where the finish was, in a group of seventy. The men of Cunego set the pace. We climbed at a strong tempo until the last 250 metres, when I took the initiative and started the sprint. I went strongly, but Di Luca had an extra gear.
"My condition is good and I hope to be able to play for the win in Liege on Sunday. The finish there is not quite as hard and I should be more competitive against a Di Luca in these conditions."
Third placed Davide Rebellin commented, "I like the warm weather better. My legs were good today, but it was hard to breathe because of the bad weather." As for Liege-Bastogne-Liege, "I would love to win it again. Di Luca, Boogerd and Cunego are my main rivals."
How it unfolded
Under grey, threatening skies, the riders set out from Charleroi's Stade du Pays shortly after 11:00am. The opening kilometres were fast and aggressive, with Frederic Finot (Francaise des Jeux) the first rider to attack after 15 km. He managed to gain half a minute and just hung out in front until km 37, when Jef Peeters (Jacques), Kurt Van de Wouwer (MrBookmaker) and Oliver Kaisen (RAGT) set off in pursuit. Finot stayed clear of the other three, but they were just 13 seconds ahead of the bunch at km 52. That's when Benoît Poilvet (CA), Davide Bramati (Quick.Step) and Jens Voigt (CSC) got across, and the main seven man break was formed.
The peloton gave them a bit of room and at the top of the first climb of the Mur de Huy (km 65), the seven had 2'45 as Van de Wouwer led them over. On the descent, the lead increased to 3'10 at km 70, which was the maximum lead of the break. By the time they had reached the Mur for the second time, it was hovering between 1'30 and 2'00 as the peloton began to increase the tempo. After the top of the Mur, Di Luca's Liquigas team got on the front, and with the help of Marco Serpellini (Gerolsteiner), had the break pegged at between 1'00 and 1'30.
In front, Jens Voigt was looking very strong but he knew he didn't have much time to play with. On the Côte de Pailhe (km 132.5), he began to force the tempo to keep the gap at 1'15, holding it there for the next 10 km as the peloton started to ride harder. But with 60 km to go, Voigt had had enough and attacked the tiring breakaway, with only Jef Peeters (Jacques) managing to hold his wheel.
There were several attempts from the peloton to close the gap to Voigt and Peeters, which rapidly went up to 2'00 again. Thierry Marichal (Cofidis) and Sylvain Calzati (Ag2r) bridged to the remnants of the breakaway (Bramati, Finot, Van de Wouwer and Poilvet), but were swallowed by the peloton at 45 km to go as rain started to fall and the roads became slick and dangerous, causing several crashes.
On the Côte de Bellaire with 43 km left, Voigt surprised Peeters and powered away from him, hoping to get to the Mur de Huy alone. The German super-diesel still had 1'47 on the peloton, which was led by Liquigas, Illes Balears and Phonak's Uros Murn. Rik Verbrugghe (Quick.Step) had hopes of repeating his 2001 victory and attacked on the Côte de Bohissau with 32 km to go, catching Peeters but not being able to get clear of the peloton. The pair were drawn back in to the peloton while Voigt increased his lead out to 1'52.
The chase really started then, driven by Liquigas, Illes Balears and Murn, and the peloton had closed to within 1'00 of Voigt at the foot of the Côte de Ahin with 12 km to go. Voigt lost a lot of ground on the climb as Andrey Kashechkin (CA) tried to get up to him, but he couldn't quite close that gap and it was 15 seconds over the top, with the strung out peloton another 10 seconds back.
On the run into Huy, Voigt gave up the rest of his lead to Kashechkin, Chavanel, Pereiro and Pineau. But even they couldn't hold off the bunch before the climb commenced, and it was all together at the foot of the 1.3 km Mur. The protected team leaders massed at the front in a battle for position on the brutally steep climb. Di Luca, Freire, Vinokourov, Rebellin, Sinkewitz, Kirchen and Celestino were all there, and it was the climb and the riders' legs that decided the finishing order. With 200m to go, Kirchen accelerated, but Di Luca countered and moved past the Luxembourg champion to take his second victory in four days, with Rebellin again showing good form by finishing third.
Can Di Luca do the triple, á la Rebellin last year? He definitely has the form to win in Liege-Bastogne-Liege on Sunday.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Fotoreporter Sirotti
Images by Luc Claessen/www.actiefotos.be
Images by AFP Photo
1 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi 4.44.55 (42.43 km/h) 2 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Fassa Bortolo 3 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner 4 David Etxebarria Alkorta (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 0.04 5 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank 6 Angel Vicioso (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 7 Patrik Sinkewitz (Ger) Quick Step 8 Aitor Osa (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne 9 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 0.08 10 Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Gerolsteiner 11 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems 0.11 12 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team 13 Matthias Kessler (Ger) T-Mobile Team 14 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Caffita 15 Christophe Brandt (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 16 Manuele Mori (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir 0.16 17 Mirko Celestino (Ita) Domina Vacanze 0.17 18 Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita) Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone 19 Laurent Brochard (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 0.19 20 Bradley Mcgee (Aus) Française Des Jeux 21 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) Team CSC 0.22 22 Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Credit Agricole 0.24 23 Benjamin Noval (Spa) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 24 Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 25 Erik Dekker (Ned) Rabobank 26 Nicki Sorensen (Den) Team CSC 0.27 27 Alexandre Moos (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems 28 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC 29 Axel Merckx (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 30 Fabian Jeker (Swi) Saunier Duval-Prodir 31 Björn Leukemans (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 0.31 32 Constantino Zaballa (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 33 Inigo Landaluze (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 34 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Credit Agricole 35 Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 0.34 36 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank 0.35 37 Marcus Zberg (Swi) Gerolsteiner 38 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC 0.37 39 Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz) Domina Vacanze 40 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne 41 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 42 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step 43 Massimo Giunti (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 44 Iker Camano (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 45 Francisco Javier Vila Errandonea (Spa) Lampre-Caffita 0.45 46 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone 47 Bert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 48 Thomas Lovkvist (Swe) Française Des Jeux 49 Gorazd Stangelj (Slo) Lampre-Caffita 0.48 50 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC 0.51 51 Pieter Mertens (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-T Interim 52 Didier Rous (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 0.58 53 Jörg Jaksche (Ger) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 54 Matej Mugerli (Slo) Liquigas-Bianchi 1.02 55 Benoît Vaugrenard (Fra) Française Des Jeux 1.04 56 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi 1.06 57 Massimo Codol (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 1.11 58 Pietro Caucchioli (Ita) Credit Agricole 59 Roberto Petito (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 60 Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) Lampre-Caffita 1.14 61 Volodymir Gustov (Ukr) Fassa Bortolo 1.22 62 David Loosli (Swi) Lampre-Caffita 1.29 63 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) Phonak Hearing Systems 1.32 64 Patrice Halgand (Fra) Credit Agricole 2.23 65 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 66 Vicente Reynes (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne 67 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Ag2r Prevoyance 2.32 68 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 2.33 69 Bingen Fernandez (Spa) Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone 70 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 71 Jérémy Roy (Fra) Française Des Jeux 2.45 72 Ludovic Turpin (Fra) Ag2r Prevoyance 3.01 73 Andrea Moletta (Ita) Gerolsteiner 3.03 74 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Team CSC 3.24 75 Ronny Scholz (Ger) Gerolsteiner 3.29 76 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 3.53 77 Marcus Ljungqvist (Swe) Liquigas-Bianchi 4.34 78 Inaki Isasi (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 5.12 79 Santiago Botero (Col) Phonak Hearing Systems 5.37 80 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Quick Step 5.52 81 Andrea Peron (Ita) Team CSC 82 Xabier Zandio (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne 83 Serge Baguet (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 84 Rik Verbrugghe (Bel) Quick Step 85 Beat Zberg (Swi) Gerolsteiner 86 Alessandro Spezialetti (Ita) Lampre-Caffita 5.57 87 Uros Murn (Slo) Phonak Hearing Systems 6.05 88 Stéphane Goubert (Fra) Ag2r Prevoyance 6.08 89 Hubert Dupont (Fra) R.A.G.T. Semences 8.20 90 David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone 91 Geert Verheyen (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 92 Ruslan Ivanov (Mda) Domina Vacanze 93 Pieter Ghyllebert (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-T Interim 10.41 94 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Credit Agricole 95 Patrick Calcagni (Swi) Liquigas-Bianchi 10.46 96 Koen De Kort (Ned) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 97 Renaud Dion (Fra) R.A.G.T. Semences 11.07 98 Cyril Dessel (Fra) Ag2r Prevoyance 99 Gerrit Glomser (Aut) Lampre-Caffita 11.09 100 Wim Van Huffel (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 101 Koos Moerenhout (Ned) Davitamon-Lotto 102 Steffen Wesemann (Ger) T-Mobile Team 103 Sergio Miguel Moreira Paulinho (Por) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 104 Addy Engels (Ned) Quick Step 105 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne 106 Arnaud Gerard (Fra) Française Des Jeux 11.12 107 Oliver Zaugg (Swi) Saunier Duval-Prodir 11.14 108 Freddy Bichot (Fra) Française Des Jeux 11.22 109 Theo Eltink (Ned) Rabobank 11.23 110 Sylvain Calzati (Fra) Ag2r Prevoyance 11.30 111 Frédéric Finot (Fra) Française Des Jeux 11.32 112 Thomas Dekker (Ned) Rabobank 113 Francesco Bellotti (Ita) Credit Agricole 13.10 114 Camille Bouquet (Fra) Mrbookmaker.com-Sports Tech 14.54 115 Mauro Facci (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 14.59 116 Steven Kleynen (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-T Interim 15.06 117 Jef Peeters (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-T Interim 118 Marcos Antonio Serrano (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 15.12 119 Isidro Nozal Vega (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 15.13 120 Philip Deignan (Irl) Ag2r Prevoyance 20.26 121 Nicolas Vogondy (Fra) Credit Agricole 20.32 122 Markel Irizar (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 123 Unai Etxebarria (Ven) Euskaltel-Euskadi 124 Mikel Astarloza (Spa) Ag2r Prevoyance 20.34 125 Inigo Chaurreau (Spa) Ag2r Prevoyance 20.45 126 Olivier Kaisen (Bel) R.A.G.T. Semences 21.18
1 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas - Bianchi 130 pts 2 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick.Step 112 3 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank 94 4 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 93 5 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner 86 6 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel 75 7 Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC 75