Recently on Cyclingnews.com

Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

91st Liège-Bastogne-Liège - PT

Belgium, April 24, 2005

Main Page     Map & Profile    Start List    Results

Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Hedwig Kröner

Complete live report

Live coverage starts: 10:45 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:30 CEST

10:26 CEST   
Rolling out
Photo ©: Elmar Krings
Click for larger image
Welcome to Cyclingnews' hydrogen-powered zeppelin for our live coverage of the last of the spring classics, the 91st Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Affectionately nicknamed La Doyenne, the grandmother of all the classics is 113 years old this year, and has acquired a lot of history. It's considered one of the five "monuments" of the classics, and there are many riders who dream of winning it.

Chief among these today is Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas-Bianchi), who is obviously the man to beat after back to back victories in the Amstel Gold Race and La Flèche Wallonne. Di Luca seems to be a bit quicker in the uphill sprints than his rival, defending champion Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), and if the cards fall his way again today, there's no reason not to predict a Di Luca triple.

But there are others with winning ambitions and the legs to realise them. Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) is among these, after showing himself to be very strong in Amstel last week. Rabobank also possesses Oscar Freire and Erik Dekker. Freire was looking better in Flèche Wallonne, where he was fifth, and today's sprint should suit him better.

Kim Kirchen (Fassa Bortolo), David Etxebarria (Liberty Seguros), Mirko Celestino (Domina Vacanze), Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto) and Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile) are others who are in with a decent chance.

Today's 260 km course follows a fairly direct route from Liege's Place St Lambert out to Bastogne (km 107), with just two climbs encountered. But the 150 km return leg is much tougher, with a total of 10 climbs and a tougher middle section starting with the Cote de Wanne (km 171) and going onto the Stockeu (km 177), and Haute Levée (km 186). Then it's the Rosier (km 195), La Vecquee (km 208), La Redoute (km 225), Sprimont (km 231), Sart-Tillman-Tilff (km 246), and St Nicolas (km 255), before the final uphill run into Ans.

The race will start at 10:45 from Place St Lambert, with a 15 minute neutral section before the flag drops at 11:00. The riders are expected back in Ans by 17:30 (40 km/h), or likely before that, depending on how the race is ridden.

10:45 CEST   
The riders have left Place St Lambert in beautiful spring sunshine, with a very large crowd gathered to see them off. At the moment it's about 12-13 degrees, but warmish in the sun. There's very little wind at the start, and it's expected to pick up a little later on from the south east. That means it will be a headwind out and a tailwind coming home, which should make for some fast racing.

The sunshine will probably not last all day though, as thunderstorms are predicted for this afternoon.

10:56 CEST    5km/255km to go
As usual before the major European races, the UCI's medical inspectors carried out blood tests this morning. 31 riders from the following teams were tested: MrBookmaker.com-Sportstech, Ag2r Prevoyance, Bouygues Telecom, Domina Vacanze. All riders were declared fit to start.

11:12 CEST    12km/248km to go
There were 195 starters this morning, with Frederik Willems (Jacques) the only non-starter. 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.

11:20 CEST    18km/242km to go
The peloton is still compact, but very stretched out, as it rides through Deigne-Aywaille and towards Sougné-Remouchamps. This is the one point of the race that the riders will pass through twice today.

11:26 CEST   
Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas)
Photo ©: Elmar Krings
Click for larger image
At the start this morning, Cyclingnews spoke with Danilo Di Luca, who was wearing a Liquigas long sleeved jersey on top of his ProTour jersey. "I want to attack on St Nicolas to drop Valverde and Freire," he said. "I'm they might beat me if it comes to a sprint in Ans."

11:35 CEST    30km/230km to go
Steffen Wesemann (T-Mobile) and Benjamin Noval (Discovery Channel) have attacked, gaining 15 seconds on the fast-moving peloton.

Mathieu Criquielion (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) has abandoned.

It's still quite sunny, with just a few clouds coming over.

11:41 CEST    34km/226km to go
Steffen Wesemann (T-Mobile)
Photo ©: Elmar Krings
Click for larger image
Wesemann and Noval now have 30 seconds, as a counter attack with Koen De Kort (Liberty), Walter Beneteau (Bouygues) and Johan Verstrepen (Landbouwkrediet - Colnago) sets off in pursuit.

11:45 CEST   
Axel Merckx (Davitamon-Lotto) has broken his pedal! Well, best to happen now than later on in the race.

11:51 CEST    43km/217km to go
Merckx is back in the peloton after a bike change.

The three counter attackers have caught the two leaders and we now have five riders in front at km 43: Steffen Wesemann (T-Mobile) and Benjamin Noval (Discovery), Koen De Kort (Liberty), Walter Beneteau (Bouygues) and Johan Verstrepen (Landbouwkrediet - Colnago). The peloton is motoring along at 45 km/h, 35 seconds behind the break.

11:55 CEST    46km/214km to go
Simon Gerrans (Ag2r) has ridden across the half minute gap to join the leaders. Impressive work.

11:58 CEST   
Our apologies for the time stamp on these updates being 12 minutes out. We'll try to fix it.

12:03 CEST    51km/209km to go
Gerrans appears to be back in the peloton now, which is just 20 seconds behind the five leaders.

12:05 CEST    53km/207km to go
It's gone out to 38 seconds again at km 52. These five are really intent on staying away.

12:14 CEST    59km/201km to go
The gap is up to 1'28 now, as the five breakaways consolidate their lead. The first climb of the day, the Cote de Ny, has been completed. Verstrepen was first over the top, followed by Noval and Wesemann.

12:28 CEST    70km/190km to go
As the peloton takes its collective long desired need to answer the call of nature, the five breakaways ride out to a 4'15 lead, and counting. The pace so far is well above the 40 km/h average.

12:34 CEST    73km/187km to go
The peloton has slowed down to 30 km/h as grey clouds start to mass on the horizon. The gap is up to 8'20.

12:47 CEST    82km/178km to go
There are big crowds on the second of the day's climbs, the Cote de la Roche. The break is at the foot of the climb now.

12:54 CEST    85km/175km to go
As was the case on the Cote de Ny, Verstrepen led the break over the Cote de la Roche, ahead of Noval and Wesemann. Verstrepen is obviously after the mountains jersey today (there is a prize).

12:57 CEST    88km/172km to go
The peloton swarms up the Cote de la Roche at roughly 8'00 behind the break, led by Phonak, Lampre and Illes Balears. Di Luca is towards the back of the peloton, along with Erik Dekker.

13:04 CEST   
Cyclingnews spoke to Liberty Seguros team manager Manolo Saiz before the start today: "The race will unfold differently to the last few years. The central part, with the Wanne, Stockeu and Haute Levee, will be a very important part of the race. We won't arrive at La Redoute with 120 riders like in the past. There will be a selection in the race which will get to La Redoute first. From then on, the race is much more open than in the last years, where it was blocked until St Nicolas.

"In the final, the big favourites will be in front. Di Luca, Boogerd, and Cunego will do well, because he needs to get a result before going to the Giro. In my team, Etxebarria, Vicioso, and Jaksche can do well, especially Etxebarria, who is in great form."

13:16 CEST    96km/164km to go
The five leaders have just passed Bertogne, still with their eight minute advantage. The break consists of Steffen Wesemann (T-Mobile) and Benjamin Noval (Discovery), Koen De Kort (Liberty), Walter Beneteau (Bouygues) and Johan Verstrepen (Landbouwkrediet - Colnago). Wesemann and Noval have been away since km 33, after attacking a larger group. They were caught by De Kort, Beneteau and Verstrepen after 43 km.

13:22 CEST    101km/159km to go
It's come back to 7'40 at km 101, as the bunch picks up the speed. No rain yet.

13:38 CEST    111km/149km to go
Patrik Sinkewitz (Quick.Step)
Photo ©: Elmar Krings
Click for larger image
The lead quintet has now reached the feed zone just after the turnaround at Bastogne. Ahead of them: 150 km and 10 climbs.

We spoke to Quick.Step's Patrik Sinkewitz this morning, and he told us his plans: "My legs are good, so I'll definitely try again. I don't think it's useful to go in a break, as the main favourites will all arrive in the final anyway. If you can stay in Boogerd's wheel, then you've got it going for you."

13:47 CEST    117km/143km to go
The latest time gap is 7'14 as the peloton passes the feed zone at km 111. Ludovic Martin (RAGT) abandoned at the feed.

13:58 CEST    122km/138km to go
The five leaders are approaching the third climb of the day, the Cote de St-Roch, still holding a 7 minute advantage. There are heaps of people on this climb, reports the CN team car.

14:11 CEST    131km/129km to go
We're now just over half way in this 260 km classic, and there are still the same five leaders: Steffen Wesemann (T-Mobile) and Benjamin Noval (Discovery), Koen De Kort (Liberty), Walter Beneteau (Bouygues) and Johan Verstrepen (Landbouwkrediet - Colnago). And they still have seven minutes on the peloton, having completed three of the 12 climbs.

Wesemann was first to the top of St Roch ahead of Verstrepen and Beneteau. Verstrepen has picked up the most points in the climber's competition today.

14:14 CEST   
Christophe Brandt (Davitamon-Lotto), Joost Posthuma (Rabobank), Steve Zampieri (Phonak) and Filippo Pozzato (Quick.Step) have counter-attacked at the top of St Roch in pursuit of the break. Or, more likely to liven up the peloton.

14:19 CEST    135km/125km to go
The four counter attackers are 5'00 behind the lead break, with the peloton another 20 seconds back.

The weather is holding up, with just a few clouds gathering overhead. If it rains, it won't be until much later.

14:28 CEST    138km/122km to go
The four counter attackers have been reabsorbed by the peloton, which is driving harder now, just 5'05 behind the five leaders. There's still 122 km to go, so this break is not in with much of a shot.

14:41 CEST   
Plenty of riders are going back to the team cars now for water and food, before the real finale starts.

14:42 CEST    153km/107km to go
The break has reached km 153 with a 5'12 lead on the peloton, which is now riding steadily, not quite chasing yet.

14:47 CEST    158km/102km to go
The break is working very well together as it flies through Salmchateau in perfect weather conditions. It's still Wesemann, De Kort, Noval, Beneteau and Verstrepen.

14:50 CEST    161km/99km to go
The Cote de Wanne is coming up in 10 km, and that will surely stir things up in the peloton, which is biding its time, letting the five leaders sit five minutes out in front. There's still very little wind, and what wind there is is coming from the southeast.

14:50 CEST   
The average speed has been just under 40 km/h for the first four hours.

14:54 CEST    163km/97km to go
None of the five leaders are taking particularly long turns - they're swapping off almost as soon as they get to the front. But they've been out there for well over 100 km, so tiredness is probably starting to set in.

14:59 CEST    168km/92km to go
The leaders pass through Grand Halleux and re-enter the Province of Liege, just in time to hit a short climb before the Cote de Wanne. It's a steep climb, and Wesemann goes to the front to set the pace. There aren't too many people here.

14:59 CEST   
Beneteau is last over the top, about 5m off the back of De Kort's wheel.

15:03 CEST    170km/90km to go
The Rabobank boys are stirring it up in front of the peloton, along with Farazijn (Cofidis) and Vinokourov (T-Mobile). One of the Phonaks goes out the back, along with his teammate Ignacio Gutierrez.

Beneteau is dropped on the Cote de Wanne, as is De Kort. Verstrepen is struggling too. That leaves Wesemann and Noval. The crowds are bigger on the Cote de Wanne.

15:05 CEST    171km/89km to go
Noval and Wesemann continue to set the pace in front, with both riders pedalling a nice low gear. They're looking back to see where Verstrepen and De Kort are. Let's see if they wait.

Rabobank is now at the front at the foot of the Wanne. Dekker is in the front rank, Vino is still there too. Dekker throws his long sleeved jersey to someone in the crowd.

15:08 CEST    173km/87km to go
Over the top, and it's Wesemann first ahead of Noval, then Verstrepen, De Kort and Beneteau. The peloton is at 2'43, and quite aggressive. Luttenberger (CSC) drives off the front, joined by Lotz (Quick.Step), a Rabobank rider, and a couple of others.

Bramati is dropped from the peloton.

15:12 CEST    175km/85km to go
Wesemann and Noval aren't hanging around for the rest of their breakaway companions, as they can see that the peloton is getting closer.

Lüttenberger (CSC), Weening, Kroon (Rabobank), Lotz (Quick.Step), Caucchioli (CA), Sevilla (T-Mobile), and Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) have gone off in the counter attack. Paolo Bettini, Mirko Celestino and Jens Voigt are there too, doing a massive turn. They have about 10 seconds on another smaller group. Interesting move!

15:14 CEST    177km/83km to go
The two leaders are entering Stavelot, en route to the Stockeu, a 1.1 km climb averaging 11.6 percent. What a leg snapper! Lots of folks here, but not too much beer swilling going on.

Beneteau is chasing De Kort and Verstrepen on his own. The counter attack with Voigt is at 1'57.

15:16 CEST    178km/82km to go
Noval and Wesemann climb the Stockeu side by side, grinding up its 11 percent slope. But the chase group is coming fast, now just 1'30 behind!

More riders in the chase: Voigt, Lüttenberger (CSC), Weening, Kroon (Rabobank), Engels, Lotz, Bettini (Quick.Step), Caucchioli (CA), Sevilla (T-Mobile), Wegmann (Gerolsteiner), Celestino (Domina Vacanze), Vansummeren (Lotto), Botero (Phonak).

15:18 CEST    179km/81km to go
Wesemann takes the points at the top of the Stockeu, ahead of Noval. The chase group is being driven by Voigt, Celestino and a strong looking Botero. 1'20. They catch and pass De Kort.

15:20 CEST    180km/80km to go
The leaders ride over the cobbles in Stavelot at the top of the climb, with Noval trying and failing to grab a bidon from any of the soigneurs on the side of the road. Wesemann looks good as he leads. Now they hit the Haute Levee, which is a 3.4 km climb. Not much rest!

The gap to the next chasers is 1'21. Verstrepen has now been caught by the chase group.

15:22 CEST    180km/80km to go
The chase group is down to just seven riders now: Voigt, Botero, Celestino, Weening, Kroon, Bettini and Wegmann. No Liquigas riders here.

15:24 CEST    181km/79km to go
Noval and Wesemann have just 1 minute of their once 8'50 lead left on the Côte De La Haute-Levée. They should make it to the top, just. The seven chasers are led by Botero, who looks back to see how much of a gap they have over the peloton. It's pretty decent - at least half a minute.

15:26 CEST    182km/78km to go
Wegmann and Bettini are suffering in this chase group, as Weening and Kroon drive it. Botero signals for a bidon and gets one. Voigt, naturally, looks to be one of the strongest. As do Botero and Celestino.

The road flattens out a bit as the Haute Levee continues.

The break is at 1'02, the peloton is at 1'38.

15:28 CEST    183km/77km to go
"Peloton" is a bit of a misnomer. There is a group of about 30 at 1'30, led by Di Luca himself, then maybe 10, then the rest of the peloton at another 20 seconds. Di Luca has got this group of 30 really strung out, but they're not helping him much. Looks like Cunego is there too.

15:31 CEST    185km/75km to go
Voigt and Weening get a bit of a gap in the chase group, but it's too early and they come back. Voigt is super strong today. They are 52 seconds behind the two leaders, Noval and Wesemann.

Brandt, Kirchen, Bertagnolli, Vansummeren, Dekker, and Lotz are in the Di Luca chase group, which is chasing another group with Boogerd and Vinokourov. This has been a totally different Liege than in the previous years!

15:35 CEST    188km/72km to go
Wese and Noval continue to ride in front of the race, as the clouds darken overhead. Wesemann looks really smooth and comfy. But they'll be caught soon.

After Boogerd's counter attacking group (the third group on the road) was just about caught, Dekker jumped across and is driving it with Vino, Boogerd, Jaksche and a couple of others in tow. Di Luca is really being put under pressure today. His teammates don't seem to be present in great numbers.

They're going through Francochamps now, where the MTB cross country World Cup is being held. Canada's Marie-Helene Premont won the women's race earlier today.

15:38 CEST    190km/70km to go
The Voigt chase group is now just 17 seconds away from catching Wesemann and Noval. Game over for these two. Bettini adjusts his gold rimmed sunglasses.

Behind them, Dekker, Boogerd, Kessler, Vicioso and Valverde have a small gap over Di Luca's group, which has just pulled them back. Rebellin is here too, sitting at the gap. Di Luca looks to be isolated with 70 km to go.

15:40 CEST    191.5km/68.5km to go
Wesemann and Noval are caught at the foot of the Côte Du Rosier, a 3.9 km climb at 6.3%. Nine leaders, for a while.

Dekker attacks the peloton again - good move.

15:42 CEST    193km/67km to go
Wesemann and Noval are now at the back of the lead group, which is driving up the Rosier led by Voigt.

Behind, Dekker has been caught, but then Boogerd counters with Kessler. That prompts a reaction from Rebellin. Vino counters!

Some names in this group: Di Luca, Dekker, Boogerd, Evans, Merckx, Van Huffel, Sinkewitz, Moreau, Jaksche, Vicioso, Valverde, Kirchen, Kessler, Vinokourov, Rebellin.

15:44 CEST    194km/66km to go
Vino has a gap and he stomps up the Rosier, catching Noval, then the rest of the lead group. That didn't take him long.

15:46 CEST    194km/66km to go
Basso (CSC) is now setting tempo in what's left of the peloton. But he's not driving too hard, with Voigt up the road. The gap is only small between the peloton and the break. Perdiguero, Kashechkin, and Kessler lead the next counter move, passing and dropping Noval.

15:50 CEST   
More riders have joined the front group, which now has: Vinokourov, Kessler (T-Mobile), Voigt, Basso (CSC), Weening, Kroon (Rabobank), Bettini (Quick.Step), Jaksche (Liberty), Cunego (Lampre), Wegmann (Gerolsteiner), Celestino (Domina Vacanze), Pereiro, Botero (Phonak), Kashechkin (CA).

Boogerd and Rous are the next riders to get across as they go over the top of the Rosier. The group is a bit big now, but Di Luca is still in the second group. Alone.

15:53 CEST    199km/61km to go
The leaders are tearing down the Rosier now, full speed. They know that they have to keep the pressure on Di Luca (and Rebellin). They take the wide, sweeping bends and hit the long straight towards the next feed zone.

Group 2, with Di Luca, is at 14 seconds.

15:56 CEST    203km/57km to go
It's 16 seconds as Rabobank drives the front group, which now has three of them in it. Evans, Valverde are up there, as is Kirchen - maybe 25 riders now. In the second group, which is at 14 seconds, Rebellin doesn't look to be panicking. But Di Luca looks a bit worried. Brochard, Lotz, Vansummeren are also in this chase group.

15:59 CEST    205km/55km to go
The large lead group is not riding too well together as Kroon and Botero increase the tempo. It's 31 seconds at the feed as Brochard tries to get across himself. Rebellin and Di Luca look to be lost. They'll have to close the 29 seconds gap themselves. They'd better get a wriggle on!

16:01 CEST   
Dekker has gone off in pursuit of Brochard, trying to close the gap to the leaders on the Vecquee.

The leaders: Vinokourov, Kessler (T-Mobile), Voigt, Basso (CSC), Boogerd, Weening, Kroon (Rabobank), Bettini, Sinkewitz (Quick.Step), Jaksche (Liberty), Cunego (Lampre), Wegmann (Gerolsteiner), Rodriguez (Saunier), Celestino (Domina Vacanze), Pereiro, Botero (Phonak), Kashechkin (CA), Rous (Bouygues), Evans (Lotto), Valverde (Illes Balears).

REbellin and Di Luca will soon be left on their own, it looks like. They certainly don't have any teammates to drag them up to the lead group.

16:02 CEST    206km/54km to go
Finally... Rebellin himself pulls the group up to the leaders on the Vecquee. Rebellin, Etxebarria, Lotz, Vansummeren, Dekker and Lotz go with him. One big group again.

16:07 CEST    208km/52km to go
Lotz and Dekker are dropped on the Vecquee as Voigt attacks! Vinokourov goes after him. Voigt is not hanging around. The group is strung out in pursuit, with Di Luca and Rebellin right at the back. Di Luca is not looking good.

Botero leads on the front. He has Pereiro and Perdiguero as teammates here.

16:07 CEST   
Vino has closed the gap to Voigt on the descent. They have 22 seconds to the group.

16:10 CEST    211km/49km to go
Although we're still a good hour away from the finish, it doesn't look like it's going to rain much today.

Behind Voigt and Vinokourov, Brandt leads Sinkewitz and Kessler at the head of the group. The gap grows to 33 seconds. Rabobank counters with Weening. It's been a very aggressive second half of the race.

16:11 CEST   
The chasers, give or take a few: Kessler (T-Mobile), Schleck, Basso (CSC), Boogerd, Dekker, Weening, Kroon (Rabobank), Bettini, Sinkewitz (Quick.Step), Jaksche, Etxebarria (Liberty), Cunego (Lampre), Wegmann, Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Rodriguez (Saunier), Celestino (Domina Vacanze), Pereiro, Botero, Perdiguero (Phonak), Kashechkin (CA), Brochard, Rous (Bouygues), Evans, Van Huffel, Brandt, Vansummeren (Lotto), Bertagnolli (Cofidis), Valverde (Illes Balears), Di Luca (Liquigas)

16:12 CEST    212km/48km to go
Still 13 km to La Redoute, and the two leaders have 42 seconds. Marcus Ljungqvist (Liquigas) and Serge Baguet are trying to close to the chasing group. That will give Di Luca one teammate.

16:13 CEST    214km/46km to go
Dekker has made it back to the front group on the descent. Nice work. He's good at doing that.

Meanwhile, Voigt and Vino have 52 seconds. The clouds are getting darker...

16:15 CEST    216km/44km to go
Botero and Dekker are now driving the chase group. That will be their job before La Redoute. Weening is also there. Rabobank and Phonak have missed the move from Voigt and Vino, so they are on the defensive. Well, so are the rest of the teams, but they don't seem too interested yet.

It's up to a minute. Voigt is incredible.

16:17 CEST    217km/43km to go
It's Dekker and Weening working with Botero in the chase group. Behind them, Basso and Sorensen are sitting pretty. Then Boogerd and Kroon, Jaksche...the group is strung out.

16:19 CEST    220km/40km to go
This is a fairly enterprising move by Voigt and Vinokourov - two big motors riding 57 seconds in front of a stretched out chase group. At least Di Luca and Rebellin can recover a bit now as Rabobank and Phonak taken charge of the chase. But it looks like the lead pair will have their minute at the foot of La Redoute.

16:20 CEST   
Kirchen is also in the chase group. You can't forget him!

16:22 CEST    222km/38km to go
The group is flying on the descent, now 50 seconds behind the break. Voigt and Vino scream through Remouchamps and are just about at the foot of the feared La Redoute.

16:23 CEST    223km/37km to go
Over the bridge and onto the small roads, Vino and Voigt are not mucking around. 48 seconds.

16:24 CEST    224km/36km to go
Di Luca, Kirchen, Bettini, Boogerd, Rebellin are moving up in the group, ready for this climb.

That group again, with extras: Kessler (T-Mobile), Sorensen, Basso (CSC), Boogerd, Dekker, Weening, Kroon (Rabobank), Bettini, Sinkewitz (Quick.Step), Jaksche, Vicioso, Etxebarria (Liberty), Cunego (Lampre), Wegmann, Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Kirchen (Fassa), Rodriguez (Saunier), Celestino (Domina Vacanze), Pereiro, Botero, Perdiguero (Phonak), Kashechkin (CA), Brochard, Rous (Bouygues), Evans, Van Huffel, Brandt, Vansummeren (Lotto), Bertagnolli (Cofidis), Valverde (Illes Balears), Di Luca (Liquigas).

16:26 CEST    224.5km/35.5km to go
Vino and Voigt have 42 seconds of their lead as they start the climb. Botero does one last turn at the foot, then Dekker and Weening behind him. Dekker has to pull off - he can't maintain this tempo. Perdiguero moves up to second wheel. Botero is tired - 44 seconds. Kroon, Bettini, Boogerd, Basso, Evans are all up near the front.

1 km to go the top for the two leaders.

16:27 CEST    225km/35km to go
Massive crowds are cheering the riders as they grind up La Redoute. It's still Botero and Perdiguero leading. Celestino and Kessler have moved up now.

Voigt and Vino muscle up the steepest part of the climb as Perdi lights it up in the chase group. Kroon, Boogerd, Kessler, Pereiro, Bettini, Etxebarria, Evans are next in line. Perdi is strong. 31 seconds.

16:28 CEST    225km/35km to go
Rebellin is fighting his way back to the group, as is Kirchen. Valverde, Di Luca are a long way back. It doesn't look like being Di Luca's race today. 23 seconds on the false flat near the top.

Dekker and Botero are dropped, naturally.

16:29 CEST    226km/34km to go
Voigt and Vino have just 22 seconds of their lead as Kroon, Perdiguero, Kessler, Etxebarria, Evans, Rebellin form a chase group behind. Boogerd is not there! But he's not far back, and closes with most of the rest of the group.

16:30 CEST   
Cunego, Rodriguez, Vicioso, Di Luca, Brandt are all dropped - not going to be their day.

16:32 CEST    227km/33km to go
It's now Kroon and Valverde working to lead the chasers, 40 seconds behind the two leaders. It was as low as 22 seconds at one stage, but they sat up at the top of La Redoute.

16:32 CEST   
Bettini flats - bad time. He's going to have a hard time getting back.

16:33 CEST    229km/31km to go
47 seconds as Voigt does a big turn. Kroon leads the chase group with Evans on his wheel. Then Pereiro, who attacks.

16:34 CEST    230km/30km to go
It's back to 51 seconds as Pereiro is reabsorbed by the chasers. Wegmann is well placed, and it looks like Cunego has got back on with Schleck.

They're on the Sprimont now, 1.5 km at 5%, not a really hard climb.

16:37 CEST    231km/29km to go
Rebellin is last wheel as the group tackles the Cote De Sprimont. Kroon is riding tempo, 59 seconds behind the two leaders. Now Bettini comes back with a whole lotta others, including Etxebarria, Di Luca, Rous, Weening, Bertagnolli...

Di Luca is not enjoying this at all.

16:38 CEST    232km/28km to go
Weening and Bettini go back to the front of the group and start chasing, but Weening is totally knackered. It's 1'07. Brandt counters at the top, but gets nowhere.

16:39 CEST   
Now it's Bettini, Sorensen and Brandt leading the chase. Well, it's not much of a chase as Vino and Voigt have 1'08!

16:40 CEST    234km/26km to go
Weening and Kroon stir it up, then Sinkewitz, Vicioso and Boogerd. It doesn't help - the gap is 1'13. Voigt has done an amazing ride today, but Vino could be the strongest at the end...

16:41 CEST    235km/25km to go
Just as they did before La Redoute, Rabobank has got the chase group wound up and strung out again. However, the gap is 1'14 and it will be tough to peg back. Weening is doing his best, but they're losing time. 1'16 now.

16:43 CEST    237km/23km to go
Voigt and Vino speed down another descent as Voigt offloads a whole lot of food from his pockets. Only 24 km to go, and they have 1'17. Vino chucks some food out too.

16:45 CEST    239km/21km to go
The two leaders are making the most of this descent, as Rabobank is fighting a losing battle in the chase group. It looks like Sinkewitz is working for Bettini today, as he is doing turns.

Voigt does another massive turn and gaps Vino. But that wasn't the intention. They're back together now. 1'24.

16:47 CEST    240km/20km to go
Vino gets a bidon from the T-Mobile team car. He looks really focused as he concentrates on holding Jens Voigt's wheel. Voigt has the usual determined grimace on his face.

Sinkewitz has done a long turn, pulling the gap down to 1'21. Then Weening again.

16:48 CEST    241km/19km to go
Kroon is also working in the Rabobank chase - it's Weening, Kroon and Quick.Step's Sinkewitz. They've pulled it back to 1'17 as the Côte Du Sart-Tilman approaches.

16:49 CEST    242km/18km to go
Voigt and Vino hit the Côte Du Sart-Tilman at full speed, big chainrings mashing. It's the third last climb of the day, with just St Nicolas and Ans to come.

The gap is down to 1'12 as Kroon and Sinkewitz make a big impression.

16:50 CEST    243km/17km to go
This climb is 3.7 km long at an average of 5.9%. Not easy, at this stage of the race. This will really test Vino and Voigt.

16:51 CEST    243km/17km to go
The chasers are 1'05 behind the leaders on the climb. They have to pull most of that back here. Sinkewitz is sacrificing himself for Bettini today. And why not? Bettini has won this race twice.

Jaksche in third wheel behind Kroon. Weening is dropped.

16:52 CEST    244km/16km to go
Vicioso and Evans are right behind the front three chasers. Then Basso and Sorensen. 57 seconds.

Weening tries to hang on the back of the group as his teammate Kroon causes pain in front.

16:53 CEST   
Vino and Voigt are halfway up the climb and have lost about 13 seconds. It's 52 seconds to the chasers as Kroon is really hurting on Sinkewitz's wheel. The German is amazing today.

16:54 CEST    245km/15km to go
Sinkewitz is leading the chasers all the way, while in front, Voigt leads Vino.

Van Huffel is dropped from the chase group, as is Valverde.

16:55 CEST   
Di Luca is sitting last wheel in the chase group, next to Kirchen and Rous. Well, he's still there, and could save it today. Cunego is in fifth wheel - very good.

16:57 CEST    246km/14km to go
Sinkewitz is tiring now, and the gap is up to 55 seconds. It was down to 45. But Kroon can't match it and pulls off anyway.

Jaksche counters! Sinkewitz is probably not happy about that, and leaves it up to Bettini to close the gap. They're near the top of the Sart Tillman.

16:58 CEST    247km/13km to go
Jaksche is brought back by Boogerd and the group, then his teammate Etxebarria attacks right at the top. Bettini, Kessler and Evans bring him back. They're at the top. 51 seconds to Voigt and Vino. The chase group is still hanging together.

17:00 CEST    248km/12km to go
Boogerd lifts the tempo now with Celestino on his wheel. Then a Phonak rider, who doesn't pull through and Boogerd yells at him. Evans goes next, but it's only half hearted, as Basso and Pereiro are right there.

Now it's Vicioso with the counter, taking Celestino, Pereiro, Basso, Boogerd and Evans. It comes back in time for Rous to have a go.

This has had exactly zero effect on the two leaders, who have 52 seconds on the main road down towards Liege.

17:02 CEST    250km/10km to go
The chasers are strung out: Kessler (T-Mobile), Sorensen, Basso (CSC), Boogerd, (Rabobank), Bettini, Sinkewitz (Quick.Step), Jaksche, Vicioso, Etxebarria (Liberty), Wegmann, Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Kirchen (Fassa), Celestino (Domina Vacanze), Pereiro, Perdiguero (Phonak), Kashechkin (CA), Rous, Brochard (Bouygues), Cunego (Lampre), Evans, Brandt (Lotto) all look to be there.

But Voigt and Vino have 59 seconds as they take the straight descent into Liege at 75 clicks.

17:03 CEST    252km/8km to go
It's up to a minute as the chase is completely disorganised. They're now at 8.5 km, flying over the Meuse. All together.

17:04 CEST    253km/7km to go
Vino and Voigt will hit St Nicolas with a minute or more. That could be enough to stay away. Amazing ride by these two, especially Voigt, who was one of the first counter attackers on the cote de Wanne.

17:05 CEST   
Voigt and Vino are working perfectly as they take the back road en route to the Cote de St Nicolas, a 900m, 10 percent climb. It hurts.

17:05 CEST    253.6km/6.4km to go
They're on the climb now, Vino leading. It's actually 11%.

17:06 CEST   
1'10 back to the chase group, which has two Phonaks in front, Perdi and Pereiro. But it's too late for them, it looks like. Boogerd is in third wheel.

Vino is still leading as the climb starts to bite.

17:07 CEST    254.5km/5.5km to go
Voigt is really struggling to hold on as Vino looks back, and lets him come through for a turn. 1'13. The chasers are out of it. Voigt looks across at Vino as the steepest part of the climb hits. Still together.

17:07 CEST   
Vino attacks! But Voigt closes, easily. Vino hammers to the top, and they still have 1'08.

17:08 CEST    254.5km/5.5km to go
Vino slows, but Voigt doesn't want to come through for a turn. Bettini leads the chase group with Pereiro and Boogerd following. Evans has attacked!!

17:09 CEST    255km/5km to go
Voigt leads Vino over the top, as Evans follows at 55 seconds. Then Boogerd and Bettini lead the chasers, which are slowly disintegrating. Evans is really suffering - 50 seconds.

17:10 CEST    255.5km/4.5km to go
Bettini sets off after Evans, and is 30 metres behind the Lotto rider. 45 seconds to the two leaders with 4.5 km to go. Vino and Voigt realise that it's not over yet, and they keep working.

17:11 CEST   
Boogerd is with Bettini, both chasing Evans.

17:12 CEST    257km/3km to go
Boogerd, Bettini and Evans are now together, 40 seconds behind Vino and Voigt. What a finish!

17:12 CEST    257.5km/2.5km to go
Vino and Voigt work well, over some cobbles, less than 3 km to go and they still have 39 seconds. It's downhill, then the last 1.5 km is all up.

17:13 CEST    258km/2km to go
Voigt leads into the Rue Walthère Jamar, with Vino right behind him. The road starts to climb now.

The three chasers are still at 40 seconds.

17:14 CEST    258.8km/1.2km to go
Voigt does a turn now with 1.4 km to go. They have just enough to play some games, but not many. Boogerd, Evans and Bettini are working well. Evans is suffering.

17:14 CEST    259km/1km to go
Evans does a short turn, then Bettini takes over. Boogerd looks good, but he's racing for third.

The last km is at 7 percent. Voigt in front, Vino right behind. Vino can sprint, but so can Voigt.

17:15 CEST   
Voigt looks back, as does Vino...he can't see the chasers coming too close. 800m to go.

17:15 CEST   
Voigt leads, looking at Vino, who stays in second wheel.

Boogerd and Bettini are together, but they won't catch the leaders.

17:16 CEST   
Vino and Voigt are almost side by side as they prepare to take the last left hander into Rue Jean-Jaurès. 600m.

17:16 CEST   
Evans has attacked Boogerd and Bettini, but they come back.

17:16 CEST   
Vino and Voigt, side by side. Vino just behind. Waiting...

17:18 CEST    260km/0km to go
They take the corner right next to each other and Vino hits out immediately. Voigt tries, gets his wheel, but can't come round. Vino wins!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! First for T-Mobile this season. Voigt second, then Boogerd third. Bettini takes fourth ahead of Evans. Then Etxebarria.

Di Luca comes in over 3 minutes down with Sinkewitz and a few others. He keeps the ProTour leader's jersey though.

That was definitely one of the best Liege-Bastogne-Liege races we've seen in the last few years, with the peloton really blowing apart with 85 km to go. Voigt and Vino made the winning move on the Vecquee with 52 km to go, and held it, and held it, and held it until the end. For once, Boogerd didn't get second. Probably a small consolation though.

Thanks for following the spring classics with us. Please stay tuned for the final stage of the Tour de Georgia (we have a second blimp) on live.cyclingnews.com.


1 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile                        6.29.09
2 Jens Voigt (Ger) CSC
3 Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank
4 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick.Step
5 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davittamon-Lotto
6 David Etxebarria (Spa) Liberty Seguros
7 Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems
8 Mirko Celestino (Ita) Domina Vacanze
9 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - Caffita
10 Angel Vicioso Arcos (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team

ProTour standings

1 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas - Bianchi                        130 pts
2 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick.Step                                    112 

Mail the commentary team