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91st Liège-Bastogne-Liège - PT
Belgium, April 24, 2005
Vino the Vainqueur
By Hedwig Kröner in Ans
Today in Ans, Alexandre Vinokourov finally took a much-needed spring victory for the T-Mobile Team, winning the 91st edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège in typically aggressive fashion. The 31 year-old rider from Kazakhstan broke away with the 'Jacky Durand' of this year's Classics, Team CSC's Jens Voigt, on the Côte de La Vecquée with more than 50 kilometres to go, and the pair managed to hold off a chase group containing most of the race favourites all the way to the finish.
The break's advantage hovered around the one minute mark and was largely aided by a lack of cohesion in the rather oversized select group behind. In third place was Amstel's eternal second, Michael Boogerd (Rabobank), 14 seconds behind, who could at least say he finished on a different step of the podium. Olympic champ Paolo Bettini didn't quite have the legs today, but still managed a credible fourth, while Davitamon-Lotto's Cadel Evans showed good form to finish just behind the Italian in fifth place. ProTour leader Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas-Bianchi) rode over the finish line in 27th position, 3'30 minutes down, obviously paying for his previous achievements at Amstel and Flèche, but got to keep his jersey.
Time was on their side
Finally scoring the long awaited first T-Mobile victory for this season - and being the first Kazakh ever to win the race - Alexandre Vinokourov jumped on the wheel of his break companion Voigt for a very impressive duo ride all the way to Ans. As the main favourites behind looked at each other for too long, not enough riders willing to sacrifice their strength to catch the breakaways, the bunch underestimated Vino's and Voigt's powers, although both riders have proved in the past that once they get going, they're not the ones that mind games can stop. In the finale, of course, the two companions became rivals, and the T-Mobile man proved to be just a little stronger on the uphill finish than the German, who would have deserved the victory just as much.
"I knew that I can win here," said a happy Vinokourov after the finish. "You just need the right conditions, and there were here today. When I saw Voigt jump, I immediately decided to go with him. I know what he's worth and I knew we had a chance. And now you see that it was successful!" Although the finish was uphill and Vinokourov theoretically the better climber, he still was uncertain about how the race would end for him when the pair finally reached Ans. "No, I was not sure about my sprint - I only realised it when I rode over the line," he said.
The second placed German was a little disappointed after the finish, but Voigt being Voigt, he moved on to something else right away. "It's a pity that I got second," he said. "But Vino is one of the best riders in the world, so it's not a shame. He deserves it. I had lost a lot of strength in that break, and I paid for it in the sprint. Now, I'm finished - I need to refuel my batteries!"
Voigt also had some thoughts on his aggressive riding style and how this interacted with the ProTour: "It's been getting harder for people like me," he said to German radsportnews.com. [We haven't noticed - Voigt has been riding in front in a lot of races this spring! - ed.] "With the ProTour, the riding is getting tougher, and the bunch stays together much longer. The general level of fitness and the pressure that lies on the individual riders as well as the teams is so high that absolutely nobody wants to let go!"
One rider that definitely didn't was Rabobank's Michael Boogerd, who finished in a very respectable third place, but unfortunately has too many podium finishes on his palmarès - so many that he forgot n the exact number: "I have already achieved 12 or 13 Top Ten placings in the biggest races," he said in Ans. "But I would have preferred to win two or three times!"
Nevertheless, Boogerd paid respect to his rivals, but wasn't satisfied with how the race unfolded. "The two who won are the best. If the other guys won't ride then it's hard to come back. I could have gone with them, but the others would gave reacted and got on my wheel."
Regarding the fact that the group of favourites didn't make enough efforts to catch the leaders, Boogerd said, "You have to make choices. I knew when it got to a minute, that it would be difficult. I hoped that the other teams would ride, but it was only Rabobank with a little help from Quick.Step. I'm satisfied with my team: Weening was very good, and Dekker. Kroon was really the motor of the chase, but he had to do a lot alone."
How it unfolded
The 91st Liege-Bastogne-Liege started in beautiful spring sunshine with almost no wind from Liege's Place St Lambert at 10:45 am. The only non-starter was Frederik Willems (Jacques), meaning that there were 195 riders in the race. After 5 km, the first attack was made by Pieter Weening (Rabobank), Sebastien Joly (Credit Agricole), Pierrick Fedrigo (Bouygues Telecom), and Camille Bouquet (MrBookmaker), but it was quickly brought back. Yoann Le Boulanger (RAGT) was the next to go, but he only managed 50 metres lead before he came back.
The first significant move of the day started when Steffen Wesemann (T-Mobile) and Benjamin Noval (Discovery Channel) attacked at km 29, joined by Koen De Kort (Liberty Seguros), Walter Beneteau (Bouygues) and Johan Verstrepen (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) 14 km later. The leaders covered 45 km in the first hour and the peloton decided to let them ride, and the gap jumped up to 8'35 at the Cote de la Roche (km 82), with Phonak, Lampre and Illes Balears leading the peloton.
After the leaders passed the 100 km mark and the turnaround point at Bastogne, the chase behind started to pick up its intensity. At the Côte De Saint Roch (km 128), it was seven minutes and falling as Christophe Brandt (Davitamon-Lotto), Joost Posthuma (Rabobank), Steve Zampieri (Phonak) and Filippo Pozzato (Quick.Step) counter-attacked the peloton in an attempt to liven things up. Although it was unsuccessful, it brought the gap down to 5'00 and the race began to get much harder as it approached the Côte De Wanne (km 171).
Wesemann and Noval were the strongest in the break, and dropped their companions on the Wanne, but by this stage their lead was just 2'40 to a splintering peloton, where Peter Lüttenberger (CSC) had renewed the counter-attacking. The Austrian was joined by Marc Lotz (Quick.Step), Pieter Weening and Karsten Kroon (Rabobank), Pietro Caucchioli (CA), Oscar Sevilla (T-Mobile), and Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner), before Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step), Mirko Celestino (Domina Vacanze), Santi Botero (Phonak), Johan Vansummeren (Lotto) and Jens Voigt (CSC) came up, and suddenly Di Luca was in trouble back in the peloton.
On the Cote de Stockeu, Noval and Wesemann lost half of their lead, as Voigt and Botero powered the chase group behind them, shedding several riders in the process. On the 3.4 km Haute Levee (km 183), the chase group was down to just Voigt, Botero, Celestino, Weening, Kroon, Bettini and Wegmann, with the peloton split into several groups behind. Di Luca had to do a lot of work to chase down moves by Boogerd, Vinokourov, Dekker and Jaksche, as all of his Liquigas teammates had been shelled. Di Luca was effectively isolated with 70 km to go, and his prospects did not look good.
Wesemann and Noval were finally caught by the seven chasers at the foot of the Côte Du Rosier with 68 km to go, but by this stage, the peloton had regrouped some 20 seconds behind them. The favourites knew that Di Luca was alone, and the attacks flowed on the four kilometre climb. Vinokourov was the first to get across to the leaders, who had dropped Noval, with Wesemann following suit after doing a little more work for his team.
More riders came up in twos and threes, with Perdiguero, Pereiro (Phonak), Kashechkin (CA), Kessler (T-Mobile), Basso, Schleck, Sorensen (CSC), Jaksche, Vicioso (Liberty), Cunego (Lampre), Boogerd (Rabobank), Rodriguez (Saunier), Rous (Bouygues), Evans (Lotto), Valverde (Illes Balears) and Kirchen (Fassa Bortolo). In fact, there were only eight riders left in the chase group over the top of the Rosier, with Rebellin and Di Luca in great danger of losing the race there and then. But although the gap between the two groups got out to half a minute, Rebellin eventually pulled his group back (which included Sinkewitz, Dekker and Etxebarria) on the Vecquee with 54 km to go, and the race began anew with 30 riders.
Jens Voigt was having an excellent day, and he knew that he had to keep the race open in case one of his other teammates had the legs to win it. The powerful German attacked on the Vecquee with 52 km to go, and immediately got a gap. Only Alexandre Vinokourov went after him, the T-Mobile rider closing the gap in his rock solid style, and the winning break was formed.
The two leaders swapped off evenly, with Voigt doing his usual big turns to try to get as much of an advantage as possible before the feared Côte De La Redoute at 35 km to go. They managed to pull a minute out of the chase group, which was driven by Botero (Phonak), and Weening and Dekker (Rabobank). The two leaders kept their heads on the brutally steep climb, and by the top had held onto 22 seconds of their lead, as Kroon, Perdiguero, Kessler, Etxebarria, Evans, Rebellin and Boogerd formed a chase group. But there wasn't enough impetus to close the gap, and the chasers sat up. It proved to be a fatal mistake.
Bettini punctured over the top of La Redoute, and the two-time L-B-L winner had the help of Sinkewitz to tow him back. They did get back on, as did most of the others who were dropped on La Redoute, even Di Luca who was now living a nightmare as his legs ran out of gas. The gap bounced up to a minute again on the Sprimont with 29 km to go, as Kroon, Weening and Sinkewitz took over the chasing. Liberty Seguros and Phonak weren't helping now, except to place the odd attack which did nothing to pull back the leaders.
Vino and Voigt were up to 1'24 with 20 km to go, and now looked to have the race in hand. But Kroon, Weening and Sinkewitz dragged them back to 45 seconds on the penultimate climb of the Côte Du Sart-Tilman with 14 km to go, before the cohesion went out of the chase and the counter attacks resumed. The chasers attacked each other on the long, wide descent down into Liege, but that ended up giving the two leaders 1'13 at the foot of St Nicolas with 6 km to go.
Voigt and Vino were watching each other closely on the 900m, 11% climb, and when the T-Mobile rider attacked towards the top, Voigt was onto him like a flash. Behind, the chase group blew to pieces as Cadel Evans lit it up on St Nicolas, pulling 25 seconds out of the two leaders in just a kilometre. He was joined by Bettini and Boogerd, and the three worked to bring the front two back to 40 seconds with 2 km to go...not enough.
Voigt led Vinokourov onto the Rue Walthère Jamar, and the pair began the final 1.5 km climb to the finish in Ans, knowing they had enough in hand to hold off the chasers. Neither rider made a move, as Vino allowed Voigt to lead up to the last left hand corner into Rue Jean-Jaurès. They were side by side into the corner, and Vinokourov jumped immediately, getting a bike length on Voigt, who gave it everything to try to come back but didn't have it. Vinokourov crossed the line, fists pumping in triumph having added another classic to his palmares. In the race for third, it was Boogerd who nabbed the last podium spot after countering Evans on the last hill, with the Australian eventually having to settle for fifth behind Bettini.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Luc Claessen/www.actiefotos.be
Images by Fotoreporter Sirotti
Images by Christine Grein/www.capture-the-peloton.com
Images by Régis Garnier/www.velofotopro.fr.st
Images by Andrea Hübner/www.velo-photos.com
1 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team 6.29.09 (40.09 km/h) 2 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC 3 Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank 0.14 4 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step 0.24 5 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 6 David Etxebarria (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 0.27 7 Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems 0.28 8 Mirko Celestino (Ita) Domina Vacanze 9 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Caffita 10 Angel Vicioso (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 11 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner 12 Matthias Kessler (Ger) T-Mobile Team 0.31 13 Jörg Jaksche (Ger) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 0.54 14 Laurent Brochard (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 0.59 15 Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Gerolsteiner 1.02 16 Christophe Brandt (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 1.04 17 Nicki Sorensen (Den) Team CSC 1.10 18 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC 19 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Fassa Bortolo 1.18 20 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems 1.33 21 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Credit Agricole 1.35 22 Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita) Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone 3.28 23 Didier Rous (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 24 Wim Van Huffel (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 25 Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 26 Patrik Sinkewitz (Ger) Quick Step 3.30 27 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi 28 Karsten Kroon (Ned) Rabobank 29 Pieter Weening (Ned) Rabobank 5.29 30 Johan Van Summeren (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 9.31 31 Marcus Ljungqvist (Swe) Liquigas-Bianchi 11.52 32 Serge Baguet (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 33 Erik Dekker (Ned) Rabobank 12.57 34 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne 13.56 35 Santiago Botero (Col) Phonak Hearing Systems 15.10 36 Patrice Halgand (Fra) Credit Agricole 16.06 37 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 38 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Credit Agricole 39 Yoann Le Boulanger (Fra) R.A.G.T. Semences 40 Cédric Vasseur (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone 41 Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Credit Agricole 42 Pieter Mertens (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-T Interim 43 Addy Engels (Ned) Quick Step 44 Matej Mugerli (Slo) Liquigas-Bianchi 45 Vicente Reynes (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne 46 Johan Coenen (Bel) Mrbookmaker.com-Sports Tech 47 Christophe Rinero (Fra) R.A.G.T. Semences 48 Massimo Codol (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 49 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone 50 Laurent Paumier (Fra) Mrbookmaker.com-Sports Tech 51 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) Phonak Hearing Systems 52 Patrick Calcagni (Swi) Liquigas-Bianchi 53 Fabian Jeker (Swi) Saunier Duval-Prodir 54 Manuele Mori (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir 55 Dario Frigo (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 56 Gorazd Stangelj (Slo) Lampre-Caffita 57 Renaud Dion (Fra) R.A.G.T. Semences 58 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 59 David Loosli (Swi) Lampre-Caffita 60 Maarten Den Bakker (Ned) Rabobank 61 Pietro Caucchioli (Ita) Credit Agricole 62 Xabier Zandio (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne 63 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC 64 Francesco Bellotti (Ita) Credit Agricole 65 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) Team CSC 66 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Team CSC 67 Massimo Giunti (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 68 Cyril Dessel (Fra) Ag2r Prevoyance 69 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 70 Sergio Paulinho (Por) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 71 Thierry Marichal (Bel) Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone 72 Marc Lotz (Ned) Quick Step 73 Andrea Moletta (Ita) Gerolsteiner 74 Pavel Padrnos (Cze) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 75 Ben Day (Aus) Mrbookmaker.com-Sports Tech 76 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 77 Kurt Van De Wouwer (Bel) Mrbookmaker.com-Sports Tech 78 Kjell Carlstrom (Fin) Liquigas-Bianchi 79 Philip Deignan (Irl) Ag2r Prevoyance 80 Bingen Fernandez (Spa) Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone 81 Axel Merckx (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 82 Patxi Xabier Vila Errandonea (Spa) Lampre-Caffita 83 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 84 Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) Lampre-Caffita 85 Inigo Landaluze (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 86 Björn Leukemans (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 87 Joost Posthuma (Ned) Rabobank 88 Thomas Lovkvist (Swe) Française Des Jeux 89 Constantino Zaballa (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 90 Dmitriy Fofonov (Kaz) Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone 91 David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone 92 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne 93 Johann Tschopp (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems 94 Preben Van Hecke (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 95 Mikel Astarloza (Spa) Ag2r Prevoyance 96 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank 97 Thierry De Groote (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 98 Andrea Peron (Ita) Team CSC 99 Bert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 100 Alessandro Vanotti (Ita) Domina Vacanze 101 Peter Luttenberger (Aut) Team CSC 102 Marcos Serrano (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 103 Inaki Isasi (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 104 Maryan Hary (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 105 Nicolas Vogondy (Fra) Credit Agricole 106 Freddy Bichot (Fra) Française Des Jeux 107 Volodymir Gustov (Ukr) Fassa Bortolo 16.22 108 Steve Zampieri (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems 16.25 109 Iker Camano (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 16.31 110 Juan Carlos Dominguez (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 111 Benny De Schrooder (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-T Interim 16.34 112 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 17.10 113 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 17.58
1 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas - Bianchi 131 pts 2 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quickstep 112 3 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank 94 4 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 93 5 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner 86 6 Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank 80 7 Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC 75 7 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel 75 9 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC 72 10 Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Fassa Bortolo 65 11 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole 55 12 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile 50 13 David Etxebarria Alkorta (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 45