92nd Liège-Bastogne-Liège - PT
Belgium, April 23, 2006
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Complete live report LBL
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Live Commentary by Jeff Jones with additional reporting from Anthony Tan
and Brecht Decaluwé
Live coverage starts: 10:00 CEST
Estimated finish: 16:48 CEST
Riders gather at the line
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
Welcome to sunny Liège, for our hot-air powered coverage of the 92nd edition
of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the oldest classic. After repairing a small rent in
the side of our blimp after Wednesday, we're airborne again and hovering above
Liège's Place Saint-Lambert, where the riders are just rolling out for 262 km
of tough climbing in the Ardennes.
It's a beautiful day for riding too:
the temperatures are around the 10 degree mark at the start, with a maximum
of 14 predicted for today. But it's sunny, so that makes a big difference, and
there's only a light wind blowing from the north east, which will be against
the riders on the return leg from Bastogne.
The outward leg is slightly
easier than the return, but not by much. The first of 12 recognised climbs is
the Cote de Ny after 57 km, but the real climbing action starts on the way back
with the Cote de Wanne after 173 km. Key climbs include the Cote de Stockeu
(1.1 km at 10.5%, km 179.5), Cote de la Haute-Levee (km 185, 3.4 km at 6%),
Cote de la Redoute (km 227.5, 2.1 km at 8.4%) and the Cote de St Nicolas (km
256, 1 km at 11.1%). The finish to Ans is also uphill for the last 2 km or so.
Can Vinokourov repeat has victory of last year, or will Valverde surprise everyone
as he did on Wednesday in Fleche Wallonne? Can Boogerd convert one of his podium
places into a win, and will CSC continue to stay on top with riders like Frank
Schleck, Karsten Kroon and Ivan Basso? Danilo di Luca, Damiano Cunego, Paolo
Bettini, David Etxebarria...the list of favourites is long today.
After a short neutral section out
of Liège, the race proper has started. With the fantastic weather, plenty of
people were out to cheer off the riders for the last classic of spring.
This morning before the start, the UCI blood tested 32 riders from Milram, Bouygues
Telecom, Agritubel and Caisse d’Epargne-Illes Balears. All riders were declared
fit to start.
There was only one non-starter this
morning: Marcus Fothen (Gerolsteiner). 195 riders are in the race.
Cofidis Team leader Rik Verbrugghe
is starting with modest ambitions today. "I got sick just before Amstel and
that's something you can't control," he was quoted in HNB. "After Amstel
I was on antibiotics for three days and it was still hanging in my system for
the Flèche Wallonne. Am I still lacking form to go with the best? I hope to
get better, but don't make any dreams for myself, winning in Liege is not possible.
Seriously reduced ambitions, although I hope the race conditions will be favourable.
And maybe, it might come out OK."
10:42 CEST 16km/246km to go
The attacking has
started, and a group of 13 riders has just tried to get clear, but the peloton
pulled them back. The group contained Contador (Liberty), Hiekmann (Gerolsteiner),
Schwab (Quick.Step), Dockx (Davitamon), Reynes (Caisse d'Epargne), Clement and
Sprick (Bouygues), Carlström (Liquigas), Benitez (Saunier), Van de Wouwer (Unibet),
Veuchelen (Jacques), Kleynen (Landbouwkrediet), and Calvente (AG2R).
10:47 CEST 21km/241km to go
Stijn Devolder (Discovery
Channel) has decided, in agreement with team director Dirk Demol, to end his
spring campaign prematurely after being too sick to train last Thursday and
Friday. He had 39°C fever and it was not possible for him to start today. Devolder
will return to competition in the Dauphiné Libéré. Discovery is thus starting
with only six riders.
10:53 CEST 25km/237km to go
The peloton is clinging
together now, but the attacks are continuing. A lot of riders want to make that
important early breakaway.
11:01 CEST 28km/234km to go
The next attack comes
from David De La Fuente (Saunier Duval), Samuel Dumoulin (AG2R) and Laurens
Ten Dam (Unibet) after 27 km. The three have a small gap.
Boogerd (Rabobank) is hoping for a battle of the titans today. His third placing
in Amstel Gold is giving him confidence, and he starts with the ambition of
winning L-B-L. "I hope that the team is capable enough to do the work to guide
me into the finale in an ideal position," he is quoted in HLN as saying.
"The perfect scenario would be that the race isn't ridden too tactically. That
the strongest riders may cross the La Redoute climb and that the very best riders
will still be together at the foot of the Côte Saint-Nicolas. Then the race
will have to really start. I hope that it will end up in a battle of the giants,
like we saw Wednesday on the Mur de Huy."
11:09 CEST 34km/228km to go
The three do not
get very far, and are hauled back after 29 km. Pierrick Fedrigo (Bouygues) and
Serge Pauwels (Jacques) counter attack, gaining a small advantage over a group
of 20 chasers, with the peloton another 15 seconds back. It's been a pretty
aggressive start, with plenty of splits happening. This will take its toll later
The reason for Markus Fothen's DNS
in Liege this morning is now apparent. His girlfriend gave birth to a baby girl
Maxine this morning at 7:30am. The baby weighs 4.15 kg and measures 55cm. "Mother
and child are well, and we are very happy," said Fothen.
11:14 CEST 36km/226km to go
Fedrigo and Pauwels
still have 12 seconds on a group of 24 chasers, with the peloton at 35 seconds.
This could be the start of the break, but we'll see.
11:21 CEST 43km/219km to go
The peloton has decided
to let 26 riders go, it looks like. Fedrigo and Pauwels are still up front,
but will surely be caught by the chase group, which contains: Marcos Serrano
(Liberty), Jens Voigt (CSC), Michael Rogers, Steffen Wesemann (T-Mobile), Juan
Antonio Flecha, Alexandre Kolobnev (Rabobank), Hiekmann (Gerolsteiner), Addy
Engels (Quick.Step), Salvatore Commesso (Lampre), Jurgen Van den Broeck (Discovery),
Christophe Brandt (Davitamon), Jose Vicente Garcia Acosta, Nicolas Portal (Caisse
d'Epargne), Luis Perez Rodriguez (Cofidis), Remi Pauriol (Credit Agricole),
Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel), Arkaitz Duran Arroca (Saunier Duval), Vincenzo
Nibali (Liquigas), Stephane Goubert (AG2R), Martin Wynants (Jacques), Bert De
Waele, Steven Kleynen, Jean-Paul Simon (Landbouwkrediet) and Ryan Cox (Barloworld).
The main bunch is at 4'00, so obviously there was a halt called...
Paolo Bettini was not impressed with
what happened at La Flèche Wallonne this week. The Tuscan QuickStep rider is
not making a big deal about it, but admits that he was without support on the
finale of Amstel Gold and the Flèche Wallonne. "You have seen what happened,
haven't you?" Bettini is quoted saying in HNB. "It's easy to say that
I wasn't riding well and wasted my energy. But I had to battle against the solid
blocks of T-Mobile and CSC. I hope that L-B-L will go better. It's another race.
Longer, harder. We will have to do with the team we have though.
"Serge Baguet is the most consistent rider. I am counting on him this Sunday
and also on Garate to stay with me as long as possible. Without throwing mud
at the other guys of course. This is not unexpected. We have talked about it
in the team. With men like Pozzato and especially Boonen, the focus was mostly
on RVV. That is asking its toll. The team has lost a bit of fire; it's weaker
compared to a few weeks ago."
11:33 CEST 50km/212km to go
The two leaders are
actually gaining more ground - 50 seconds - on the 24 chasers, who mustn't be
going flat stick. But neither is the peloton, which is cruising along at 6'50.
Karsten Kroon is regretting that
the first part of the season is coming to an end after today's L-B-L. It looks
like the CSC rider can't get enough of the spring races. "I'm not at all tired
of racing as yet, and I don't feel tired," he told Sportwereld.
The day after Paris-Roubaix, he rode the full parcours of L-B-L behind the motorbike.
"We had to fuel up four times. I'm certain that I can be one of the riders who
colour the finale in L-B-L, but win it? I'll be sitting close to Boogerd, a
very strong Sanchez, Bettini and Valverde." After today's race, Kroon gets to
take a breather and he will start racing again in the Tour of Luxembourg, in
preparation for the Tour de France.
Steffen Wesemann (T-Mobile)
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
11:49 CEST 60km/202km to go
The leaders have
passed the côte de Ny with Fedrigo and Pauwels losing some of their advantage
to the nearest chasers. They are caught over the top, and we now have a group
of 26 riders in front:
Pierrick Fedrigo (Bouygues), Marcos Serrano
(Liberty), Jens Voigt (CSC), Michael Rogers, Steffen Wesemann (T-Mobile), Juan
Antonio Flecha, Alexandre Kolobnev (Rabobank), Torsten Hiekmann (Gerolsteiner),
Addy Engels (Quick.Step), Salvatore Commesso (Lampre), Jurgen Van den Broeck
(Discovery), Christophe Brandt (Davitamon), Jose Vicente Garcia Acosta, Nicolas
Portal (Caisse d'Epargne), Luis Perez Rodriguez (Cofidis), Remi Pauriol (Credit
Agricole), Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel), Arkaitz Duran Arroca (Saunier Duval),
Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas), Stephane Goubert (AG2R), Serge Pauwels, Martin Wynants
(Jacques), Bert De Waele, Steven Kleynen, Jean-Paul Simon (Landbouwkrediet)
and Ryan Cox (Barloworld).
Some interesting names up here, like Voigt,
Rogers, Wesemann, Flecha... We'll see how much time they are given, but it will
require a solid chase to bring them back.
12:01 CEST 69km/193km to go
The group stretches
its lead to 7'10, so obviously the peloton has picked it up a bit. There are
20 teams represented in front, so there is not really much incentive to chase.
There are only 25 teams in the whole race...
But we'll probably see
some of the bigger teams chase later on, as they do want to set up their team
12:04 CEST 73km/189km to go
Indeed, the peloton
has started to pick it up, pegging the leaders back to a more manageable 5'50.
12:13 CEST 82km/180km to go
It's stabilised now
to around the 6 minute mark, with the first two hours nearly over. Milram and
Phonak have been chasing - neither team has a rider up front. The average speed
has been up around the 41-42 km/h mark.
12:20 CEST 85km/177km to go
2004 winner Davide
Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), who had to quit the Flèche Wallonne last Wednesday
with stomach problems is a starter today. His painful rib is still giving him
The leaders are now passed the second
climb of the day, the côte de la Roche-en-Ardenne. Pauwels, Wynants and Simon
lead over the top, flying the flag for the smaller teams today.
12:36 CEST 95km/167km to go
The peloton crosses
the summit of the côte de la Roche-en-Ardenne at 6'50 behind the 26 leaders,
most of whom will be doing their best to stay away for as long as possible.
But once they get to Bastogne and head for home, the group will start to cut
down in size.
12:45 CEST 100km/162km to go
Phonak and Milram
are driving the peloton along at a good tempo, 5'55 behind the break. They may
not have the firepower to bring the leaders back, but we will see. It will then
be up to the other teams to decide on their tactics. Certainly CSC, T-Mobile
and Rabobank don't have a good reason to chase, as they have good riders in
front. But maybe Quick.Step, Caisse d'Epargne and Liquigas will put their shoulders
to the wheel.
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
12:57 CEST 109km/153km to go
The riders are now
at the turnaround point in Bastogne, but they face another 151 km of hard racing
to come. The gap is shrinking, slightly, and is now 5'45.
to Michele Bartoli, a former winner of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, at the start this
morning. "Of course, my memories of Liège-Bastogne-Liège are good. And today,
I believe another Italian can also win - Bettini, Basso, Di Luca, Rebellin all
have a chance. It's a classic Liège-Bastogne-Liège course, and by classic, I
also mean difficult. Valverde can also win; for me, his win last Wednesday [in
Flèche Wallonne] wasn't a surprise. Last year, he showed his strength at the
Tour de France, and he could do it again in July if everything is good for him.
For the Giro, Basso is the big favourite, the biggest - numero uno."
13:07 CEST 117km/145km to go
The peloton passes
through the feed zone in Luzery, some five and a half minutes behind the big
break of 26 in front. The third climb of the day is approaching, the Côte de
Saint Roch (km 129).
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Chris Horner (Davitamon-Lotto)
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
Chris Horner had another chat to
us this morning in Place St-Lambert. The American will have a free role today.
CN: You told one of our correspondents a few days ago you've been feeling
good the last few weeks, so how are you feeling right now?
Yeah, good at the moment... I've got freedom to do what I need to do in the
race if I've got the legs. Cadel and Leukemans are going good too and so is
the rest of the team; we just don't have that rider has the 'favourite' form
CN: Is it less pressure not having an outright favourite,
CH: Well, it's better to have an outright
leader and the team walks away with the win. But the form's been good for me
all week so far although outside of the bubble of the top ten guys, and unfortunately
it's the win you're trying to get, or at least the top ten. So, hopefully, the
legs are better than they have been the last two races; I'm not complaining,
the form's good, but it needs to be that 1 or 2 percent better and then I'm
CN: This is a race especially where there's nowhere
CH: Not at the finish, no.
CN: So how will your team play the race?
The way we're approaching it is to wait until we get down to Stavelot, and from
there, the racing's going to start. If a big break goes off, of course you've
got to have someone in it, but you don't have to have anyone in a group of five.
So the best thing to do is to keep routine until 100k to go, and with three,
four climbs to go, that's when the real racing will start. We have a very strong
team, we just don't have the favourite, and hopefully we can win by having the
numbers versus having one superior rider.
CN: Have you done
CH: Yeah, I did it once in '01 but
we saw the finish of the course on Friday, so I know what's coming up.
13:24 CEST 129km/133km to go
The leaders are
just about on the Côte de Saint Roch, which signals the start of the climbing
on the way back. Their gap is still around 5'30, but should start to come down
a bit now.
13:28 CEST 133km/129km to go
and Simon cross the St Roche in front, again putting the smaller teams in the
Ryan Cox (Barloworld)
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
One of the breakaways, Ryan Cox (Barloworld)
was an eye catcher with his South-African national jersey. "I travelled a lot
in the early season, competing in Langkawi and South-Africa before doing the
Commonwealth Games," he told Cyclingnews. "I was having a good race over
there, but I worked for David George who got a second place in the end. I never
raced Liège-Bastogne-Liège but we did the last 100km and it looks very hard."
Evgueni Petrov told us that he will work for Cunego and Ballan today. Behind
those two, maybe Petrov can be the third Lampre rider in the finale.
13:43 CEST 141km/121km to go
At the halfway point,
the gap between the 26 leaders and the bunch was clocked at 5'20, but 10 km
later, it's come down to 4'30.
The riders in front are: Pierrick
Fedrigo (Bouygues), Marcos Serrano (Liberty), Jens Voigt (CSC), Michael Rogers,
Steffen Wesemann (T-Mobile), Juan Antonio Flecha, Alexandre Kolobnev (Rabobank),
Torsten Hiekmann (Gerolsteiner), Addy Engels (Quick.Step), Salvatore Commesso
(Lampre), Jurgen Van den Broeck (Discovery), Christophe Brandt (Davitamon),
Jose Vicente Garcia Acosta, Nicolas Portal (Caisse d'Epargne), Luis Perez Rodriguez
(Cofidis), Remi Pauriol (Credit Agricole), Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel), Arkaitz
Duran Arroca (Saunier Duval), Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas), Stephane Goubert (AG2R),
Serge Pauwels, Martin Wynants (Jacques), Bert De Waele, Steven Kleynen, Jean-Paul
Simon (Landbouwkrediet) and Ryan Cox (Barloworld).
shortly before 35 km, with Fedrigo and Pauwels initiating the move. Milram and
Phonak have been responsible for controlling the chase.
The T-Mobile team has a strong line-up
with Michael Rogers one of their riders, and he is currently in this 26 man
breakaway. "We have some options for this race, and I'm one of them," he told
CN. "Mainly this is my preparation race for the upcoming Giro d'Italia.
I didn't do a lot of races, so we'll have to see where I end up."
13:53 CEST 146km/116km to go
There is some pretty
serious chasing going on in the peloton now, with the next climb - and the real
beginning of the finale - coming in under 30 km. The break has come back to
3'40, down from a maximum of 7'10.
14:04 CEST 154km/108km to go
Still 20 km to the
cote de Wanne, and the leaders have 3'00 of their advantage intact. As noted
before, 20 teams are represented in front, and if this was a stage race, the
break would probably stay away and win by half an hour. But it's not. Being
a big classic, Liege-Bastogne-Liege is more tightly controlled, and it's the
team captains who will likely take the final glory today. Unless they're in
the break, in which case they will be gooooone.
14:12 CEST 160km/102km to go
CSC has been responsible
for a lot of the recent chasing, which means that they are focusing on riders
like Schleck, Kroon and Basso today, as Voigt is in the break.
14:16 CEST 168km/94km to go
The break is working
pretty well together, enjoying the superb weather conditions today. Addy Engels
(Quick.Step) is sitting last wheel.
The peloton is now 2'43 behind.
14:17 CEST 169km/93km to go
Ryan Cox comes through
for another turn, his South African champion's jersey very visible. The Landbouwkrediet
and Chocolade Jacques riders are also working well, as is Van Den Broeck (Disco)
and even Voigt (CSC).
German/Swiss T-Mobile rider Steffen
Wesemann talked with Cyclingnews about the team's early season's performances.
"We needed some time to get in form this year," he said. "But we were always
confident that we have the quality to do well."
What kind of tactic
will be used by T-Mobile today? "Tactics are always difficult to discuss; every
team has them of course, but you need to change tactics during a race because
the race situation is always changing. We want to have three to four men in
the finale; Kessler, Sinkewitz, Rogers and I could be those men."
At the moment, Wesemann and Rogers are both in the break.
14:20 CEST 171km/91km to go
The breakaway passes
Trois Points, and hits the cote de Wanne, a 3.1 km at 6.1 percent. This is going
to hurt after such a long time out in front. Jurgen van den Broeck leads the
14:22 CEST 172km/90km to go
Back in the peloton,
Lampre Fondital is driving the chase. They have Commesso in the break, but they
want to set it up for Cunego. Two CSC riders are in last wheel - looks like
Vande Velde and Luttenberger, who have just been working hard. They pull out
of the race at Trois Points.
Perez takes over from Van den Broeck
on the cote de Wanne, as the peloton hits it.
14:23 CEST 173km/89km to go
Perez and Wesemann
attack the breakaways, with Voigt chasing them. The gap to the peloton is just
under 2 minutes. They have a small gap over the rest of the break.
Jean Paul Simon (Landbouwkrediet)
is dropped from the break.
The three attackers are gradually
caught by the rest of the break on the Wanne, but it's falling apart as Wese
does another attack. The bunch is 1'46 back.
14:28 CEST 176km/86km to go
Wesemann has a decent
lead as he goes over the top of the Wanne alone, 1'41 ahead of he peloton, where
CSC is driving it again. Eight riders are chasing Wesemann, including Voigt,
Perez and Rogers.
14:29 CEST 177km/85km to go
Benoît Joachim (Discovery)
is last wheel of a long line in the peloton, which is over the top of the climb
now. 1'55 is the gap, so Wesemann is obviously strong today.
Jörg Jaksche (Liberty Seguros)
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
We spoke to Liberty's Jörg Jaksche
this morning too.
CN: This is a course that suits you, so
will you try something for yourself today, or is it all for Vino?
JJ: I think together we have a strong team, so we have some
possibilities to do well; it's always the race and the legs that decide the
classement, so we have to see how everyone feels, how the race is developing
and then decide.
CN: Obviously, this race is decided in the
final 100 kilometres, so do you have a particular strategy from that point?
JJ: No, it's mainly just to stay in the front; if you feel
good, you have to wait, wait, wait and then attack at the right moment - like
in every race! (smiles)
CN: Do you see a similar situation
like last year, where Vinokourov and Voigt got away with around 50 kilometres
JJ: It's always difficult to predict the
race because it's often based on a matter of seconds and the different tactics
of the teams. Anything can happen, so it's impossible to predict the race.
14:32 CEST 179km/83km to go
Wese has 20 seconds
on the rest of the break, while CSC is continuing to set tempo in the bunch.
Michael Boogerd is very well placed. Wesemann is almost on the Côte de Stockeu.
14:34 CEST 180km/82km to go
Wese takes the right
hander at Stavelot, and hits the Stockeu, 1.1 km at 10.5%. He loses some pedaling
The chase group has lost a few riders, but is still quite
large. VDB leads the charge.
14:36 CEST 181km/81km to go
Rogers and Kolobnev
have split off the front of the break in pursuit of Wesemann, who is at the
summit of the Stockeu. Perez has been dropped.
Sorensen and Kroon
are leading the bunch behind. Cunego, Boogerd, Bettini are all there. Plenty
of riders are being shelled on the Stockeu.
14:39 CEST 182km/80km to go
Arkaitz Duran is
caught by the bunch, which is dropping more people. Elmiger is gone now.
Wesemann now has 45 seconds on his nearest chasers, which number six. Rogers,
Voigt are both there. Now Wese is on the Côte de la Haute-Levée, 3.4 km at 6%.
14:43 CEST 184km/78km to go
There are 16 chasers
behind Wesemann now, as Perez is absorbed by the CSC led peloton, where Schleck
is prominent near the front. Basso punctures, and CSC will wait for him.
Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel) is caught by the bunch.
Van den Broeck ups the tempo in the
chase group, getting rid of Fedrigo. Or has the French champion flatted?
In the peloton, Verbrugghe has accelerated and caught Martin Wynants (Jacques),
and Steven Kleynen (Landbouwkrediet). Basso has rejoined the bunch after his
14:47 CEST 185km/77km to go
Garcia Acosta is
caught and passed by the three chasers with Verbrugghe.
has 55 seconds on the first chase group, and 2'00 on Verbrugghe's group, which
is catching the rest of the break.
14:50 CEST 186km/76km to go
his chase group, with Wynants and Kleynen hanging on. They should catch the
first chasers, but Wese is already 1'22 ahead of them. The tempo in the peloton
is easier, as Leukemans signals for his team car.
Leukemans was noticed
in the Fleche Wallonne with an attack right before the ultimate climb. "It was
the best thing I could do because I was without a chance on the climb," he told
Cyclingnews. "Afterwards, I was annoyed with some Flemish newspapers
saying that it was a stupid move to do. They're always criticising our performances;
they do that when we attack and they do it when we're waiting. I hope to do
well today, but I'll need a super day if I want to get a good result."
14:51 CEST 187km/75km to go
Jens Voigt has attacked
the chase group, which is not really working. The German is 1'30 behind his
compatriot Steffen Wesemann, who is having another great ride today.
14:54 CEST 188km/74km to go
Voigt is caught and
the pace is relaxed again in the chase group as De Waele tries to get a break
going. They're still 1'25 behind Wesemann, with Verbrugghe's group closing in
14:56 CEST 190km/72km to go
The peloton is 2'20
back now, but the pace has increased again. It's a minute behind the first chase
group as it strings out en route to the Rosier.
Cox does another
turn in the chase group with Rogers marking him.
Garcia Acosta is now driving the
peloton. He was in the break before, so this will be his last effort before
15:00 CEST 194km/68km to go
The bunch sweeps
along down the descent towards the Rosier, while Wesemann takes it alone. The
T-Mobile rider is looking strong at the moment.
Remi Pauriol (CA)
leads the chase group, with Rogers marking him. And Garcia Acosta is still leading
Wesemann is on the cote du Rosier now, 4 km at 5.9%.
The peloton is just 1'50 back, and only half a minute behind the chasing group.
It's been eighteen years since Adri
Van Der Poel won Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He is the last Dutch winner and he was
also runner-up in 1986, he should know the race very well. We asked him who
he expected to see today: "Cunego, Valverde and Freire could do well today.
These guys don't like it when the weather is bad. That way, we didn't see them
in the Amstel Gold Race, but on Wednesday they were alright," the Dutchman explained.
How did he win the race and what does he expect today. "The race is suited for
riders who want to attack. I attacked on the Monteux with 50km to go. First,
I caught some previous attackers but nobody came back to us. Our break of three
riders went to the finish line where I won the sprint."
15:02 CEST 195.5km/66.5km to go
caught the chase group, and straight away gets to the front. Rogers, Voigt and
Engels are on his wheel.
Hiekmann is dropped from the chase group.
15:04 CEST 196km/66km to go
to pound away on the front of the chase group, but the CSC led peloton is almost
on them. This is where the action really started last year.
all caught. Except for Steffen Wesemann.
Sastre is now on the front of the
bunch, keeping the gap to Wesemann down to 1'21. They're still on the Rosier,
and the bunch is a good 100 riders strong.
15:08 CEST 198km/64km to go
The early breakaways
are getting spat out the back of the bunch, with Hiekmann next to go. A Liberty
rider is setting tempo now, with most of the favourites on his wheel. Schleck,
Kroon, Boogerd, Horner, Vinokourov, Kroon, Sinkewitz, Bettini, Di Luca...
Wese crosses the summit of the Rosier
with a minute over the peloton, which is stretching out. Sastre and Voigt are
on the front. Impressive work by CSC.
15:13 CEST 202km/60km to go
Portal - one of the
early breakaways - has crashed. He's not out of the race, but he looks pretty
ordinary as he gets going again.
It's 51 seconds to Wesemann. 48.
Davitamon-Lotto team director Dirk
De Wolf doesn't expect to see a Belgian winner on the podium today. De Wolf,
winner of the 1992 edition of "la Doyenne" told the Belgian press the home crowd
will have to be patient for two to three years more and then they'll see a Belgian
take the flowers in L-B-L. According to De Wolf, the youngsters aren't ready
HNB points out that Frank Vandenbroucke (who returned to Italy,
claiming to be suffering from fever) will remain the last Belgian to have won
L-B-L for some time (1999). They came to the conclusion that there is no Belgian
rider able to compete with the best in the finale of Amstel Gold, they can't
hang on once the cobbled classics are over, and done with and as soon as the
road goes uphill for over a kilometre, and the same thing is true for the Ardennes
Classics. Bjorn Leukemans weighs in too light, Philippe Gilbert and Jurgen Van
Den Broeck are too young still and Mario Aerts, Rik Verbrugghe and Axel Merckx
are past their peak years.
"It will take another two, three years
but then we'll have guys who will be able to win in the Ardennes, like we have
been used to," said De Wolf.
Walter Godefroot on the other hand thinks
that the gap between specialists on the cobbles and the climbers will become
bigger even. "It will become more and more specialised racing. A rider who focuses
on races which suit him the best and only works towards those is hard to beat.
And that's what Boonen and co do now," he is quoted in HLN.
De Wolf doesn't agree. 'Look at Karsten Kroon. He was second in Brabantse Pijl,
fifth in RVV, third in Amstel gold and second in Flèche Wallonne. Isn't that
a proof that it is possible?"
De Wolf isn't soft on the more established
Belgian riders." Aerts? Verbrugghe? Merckx? I laugh to hear them all the time,
that they had to work for their team leader and that's the reason they weren't
there any more in the finale. Bull, that's what I think of that. If you are
good, you're there. Then you survive the natural selection. If we have two Belgian
in the top twenty on Sunday, it will be a big success."
to De Wolf another reason why there's no more Belgians showing themselves in
the hills of the Belgian Ardennes is that the competition has got better. "The
quality of the team leaders is higher than in the RVV or P-R. Basso, Vinokourov,
Valverde, Boogerd: those aren't small riders hey. If we have two riders riding
the finale we're happy. If they are dropped and finish outside of the prizes,
we'll think of that as normal. Boonen is world top on his terrain, but we miss
someone like him for the Ardennes."
15:17 CEST 204km/58km to go
The bunch hits the
feedzone at La Gleize, and Portal abandons. Wesemann still has 54 seconds lead
after attacking on the cote de Wanne.
15:24 CEST 209km/53km to go
Voigt drives the
peloton and Sastre is dropped, his work done. So is Verbrugghe.
still has 24 seconds, but won't last long. There's a Liberty rider in second
wheel, and Kashechkin is also well up there. 20 seconds.
15:26 CEST 210km/52km to go
Wesemann's run is
about to come to an end on the Côte de la Vecquée. He's been away for the last
25 km alone, and since km 33 in the breakaway.
15:27 CEST 210km/52km to go
Voigt's work has
been good, and he's got his target in his sights. Wesemann looks back and has
just 12 seconds. He gets plenty of cheers from the crowds lining the road under
the dense trees. He's over the top of the Vecquée.
15:29 CEST 212km/50km to go
Voigt flies past
Wesemann with Kashechkin(?) on his wheel. Garate, Horner, Bettini, Schleck,
Kroon, Basso, Merckx, Sinkewitz, Boogerd, Vinokourov, Cunego, Valverde, Evans,
Horner are all there. Maybe 50 riders.
15:30 CEST 213km/49km to go
No, it's Jörg Jaksche
on Voigt's wheel as the German keeps the tempo high for his captains. Another
bunch follows at 30 seconds.
The next climb is the cote de la
Redoute, but it's 15 km hence. It's important for Voigt to spend himself with
the aim of reaching that climb. That will take enough pressure off his teammates.
Team director Scott Sunderland explains
why earlier we saw CSC working both in the break and in the peloton: "The team
is trying to make the race as hard as possible; we see Jens Voigt really riding
hard at the front of the break, and the rest of the CSC team is pulling up the
speed in the peloton at the front of the chasing group. One of our boys is obviously
feeling really good today."
15:34 CEST 217km/45km to go
Axel Merckx now does
a turn, but it's a bit early in the piece. Let Voigt do it.
are four T-Mobiles near the front, to match the CSC strength. But Voigt is the
main one working. Jaksche keeps his wheel, then Wesemann. Gilbert (FDJ) has
also moved up.
15:35 CEST 44.5km/217.5km to go
But Voigt takes his wheel. Then Gilbert puts in another acceleration and gets
a gap. He knows these roads so well.
15:39 CEST 222km/40km to go
Voigt continues to
power on the front of the peloton, which will wait until La Redoute to do something.
Sinkewitz and Kessler sit close to the front, while Di Luca and Baguet are a
little further back.
It looks like Gilbert has been caught. Yes,
he has. You've got to be confident to take on Jens Voigt in a one-on-one.
A chasing group led by Rabobank is at 1'02 behind the front group.
15:42 CEST 223.5km/38.5km to go
Now Petrov gets
to the front on a fast descent. The Lampre rider has a nice tuck, and is leading
the bunch at 80 km/h. But it's not long before Voigt assumes his favourite position
at the head of the group.
15:43 CEST 225km/37km to go
They cross the bridge
at Sougné-Remouchamps and get ready for La Redoute. Thomas Dekker is in the
lead group, but is a long way back. Not good.
15:44 CEST 225.5km/36.5km to go
The climb starts
: 2.1 km at 8.4%. And it's Steffen Wesemann who attacks again in the big ring.
That's gotta hurt. It does and he goes backwards like a stone. Now Stangelj
Stangelj sets a hard tempo and Erik
Dekker is dropped. Di Luca, Perdiguero, Valverde are all up front.
Voigt is dropped, of course.
15:46 CEST 227km/35km to go
All the favourites
are there as Stangelj keeps the pressure on. But now Ivan Basso ups the pace,
with Rodriguez and Bettini on his wheel. Kessler and Di Luca are next and Boogerd.
Simoni is also up there.
Cunego attacks! Bettini counters
and gets him. Then Kessler and Rodriguez, then Boogerd, Schleck and PErdiguero.
Vino is in about 12th.
Basso drops back bit.
15:49 CEST 227.5km/34.5km to go
over and Kessler is the T-Mobile rider next to him. About 15 riders left.
Kroon looks to be in trouble.
Perdiguero keeps the tempo up, then
Horner attacks! Impressive. Vinokourov chases with Bettini and Kessler in tow,
and maybe 10 more.
15:50 CEST 228km/34km to go
Horner comes back
and Sinkewitz counters with Perdiguero on him. Horner grabs third wheel, then
Boogerd...watchful. Vino still looks very good. There are maybe 20 riders left
after La Redoute. Then another group of 20.
15:52 CEST 230km/32km to go
Basso is leading
the group again, with Vinokourov, Bettini in second and third. Horner and Perdi
have dropped to the back of the group, which is maybe 25 riders strong. Astarloa
and Sanchez are both there.
But now Horner moves up as Pellizotti
attacks. The pair have a small lead. They will be caught.
15:54 CEST 231km/31km to go
The descent finishes
and the group starts to work a bit. Bettini looks back to check how things are
going. He looks very nervous.
Alessandro Ballan is in last wheel
as they speed through Sprimont.
15:54 CEST 232km/30km to go
A second group is
chasing this lead bunch at 25 seconds, led by Serge Baguet.
Côte de Sprimont starts...
Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne)
attacks on the Sprimont, a 1.4 km climb.
15:57 CEST 233km/29km to go
Boogerd ups the tempo
behind, checking to see who is strong. Rodriguez continues to ride ahead, but
starts to bog down now. He's in a big gear.
Rodriguez comes back and the counters
start. Rodriguez chases down an attack from Boogerd. Interesting move.
15:59 CEST 234km/28km to go
Boogerd looks back
and sees that it's Rodriguez on his wheel. The rest of the bunch sits up, and
Jörg Jaksche gets to the front and starts to ride, with Vinokourov on his wheel.
16:01 CEST 236km/26km to go
an overview of the
lead group: Vinokourov, Jaksche, Sinkewitz, Kessler, Bettini, Di Luca, Valverde,
Schleck, Basso, Kroon, Cunego, Ballan, Simoni, Horner, Sanchez, Astarloa, Rodriguez,
Boogerd and Rodriguez have a bit of a gap, and both are
working with each other. 16 seconds.
16:04 CEST 23km/239km to go
There is a second
chase group with Baguet, Leukemans and Merckx getting very close to the front
group. As Boogerd and Rodriguez gain more ground, Bettini gets to the front
and chases. 27 seconds.
Kroon punctures - very bad time!
Oscar Freire is also in the front group.
16:05 CEST 241km/21km to go
The two chase groups
come together, and it's the familiar national champions jerseys of Serge Baguet
and Juan Manuel Garate working for Quick.Step's Paolo Bettini. They have help
from Angel Vicioso (Liberty Seguros).
Michael Boogerd is not a rider
you want to let go in Liege Bastogne Liege. But Joaquin Rodriguez is a better
sprinter than him...
16:07 CEST 242km/20km to go
Contador sits last
wheel in the chase group, which is approaching the Côte du Sart-Tilman - Tilff.
The two leaders have 26 seconds. Dangerous, but not deadly. Bram Tankink is
also helping his Quick.Step teammates chase.
16:08 CEST 243.5km/18.5km to go
The gap keeps
getting bigger, and it's now half a minute as the chase group organises itself
behind. Thomas Dekker has moved up. It's Lampre, Liberty and Quick.Step chasing.
Boogerd knows he's got a chance,
with 35 seconds with 18 km to go. 40 seconds! It's getting interesting.
Now there is a bit more anxiety in
the chase. Boogerd and Rodriguez cross another bridge and are about to hit the
Côte du Sart-Tilman.
16:10 CEST 245km/17km to go
They're on it, with
43 seconds to the chasers. Boogerd takes the lead. It's a 3.6 km climb.
16:12 CEST 246km/16km to go
Now Vicioso does
a huge turn in front, then Etxebarria. Stangelj is next, then Cunego. Bettini
moves up as Basso and Jaksche lead the chase, stretching the group. Kashechkin
is also there. It comes back from 47 to 43 seconds.
Tankink and Mazzoleni
are dropped. And Baguet, Rous, Mancebo...
16:13 CEST 246.5km/15.5km to go
Gilbert is also
in difficulty at the back of the group. Jaksche buries himself in front and
Ivan Basso has his wheel. Boogerd and Rodriguez are cooperating wheel, and hold
their advantage at 39 seconds.
16:15 CEST 246.5km/15.5km to go
to keep in contact with the group. Iban Mayo is also there - just - while Valverde
looks pretty comfy, but is a long way back. 40 seconds. Jaksche can't really
make the difference here.
16:15 CEST 247km/15km to go
Boogerd does another
strong turn, working pretty hard. This is a good tactic, and he's got Rodriguez
in difficulty. But the Spaniard can hold on.
16:16 CEST 248km/14km to go
Jaksche can only
control the gap, but not reduce it. Bettini is on his wheel, then Valverde has
moved up to third. Dekker and Di Luca are there, as are Basso and Schleck. Cunego
is further down.
16:18 CEST 248.5km/13.5km to go
and Rodriguez does have problems holding on. But he does.
attacks, but gets Valverde for company. That's a good attack. He is now alone.
The summit is reached.
16:19 CEST 249km/13km to go
Bettini pegs the
leaders back to 24 seconds very quickly. Behind, the chasers are disorganised.
Horner is up there, and Basso, looking for his team. And Vinokourov. The Kazakhstani
goes away with Horner, and several riders chase.
16:20 CEST 250km/12km to go
No-one wants to work
in pursuit of the three up front. That's fairly risky.
Ah - Stangelj
has made it back and is on the front with a Lampre teammate. Bettini is 19 seconds
behind the two leaders, with the group another 10 seconds back.
16:21 CEST 234km/28km to go
Bettini is caught
again on the fast descent into Liege. The two leaders will have a hard time
staying clear on this road, because it's very easy to chase.
16:22 CEST 252km/10km to go
Boogerd and Rodriguez
swap off at 70-80km/h as T. Dekker waves at the moto to keep away from the chase
group, which is still 40 riders strong.
16:23 CEST 254km/8km to go
The descent is finished,
and the two leaders are nearing the Côte de Saint-Nicolas, taking the side road
as usual. They are flying! 28 seconds. This could be it...
16:24 CEST 255km/7km to go
Stangelj leads the
chase, 26 seconds behind the two leaders. They're almost on the St Nicolas.
21 seconds now. Anything can happen
and probably will.
Boogerd hammers on the St Nicolas, and Rodriguez
has his head down trying to hang on. Kashechkin attacks the chase group. 18
16:28 CEST 256km/6km to go
Kash gets to within
12 seconds, and Di Luca, Perdiguero and Horner can follow. Di Luca takes over
and pegs it back to 10 seconds. Bettini is up there, but only just.
Boogerd is still in front, then Rodriguez on his wheel. Perdiguero attacks behind!
Vinokourov is dropped.
16:29 CEST 257km/5km to go
Sinkewitz chases the
leading three, and gets them over the top. Nice riding by the German. Four leaders.
Then Valverde closes the gap...
Leaders: Perdiguero (Phonak), Boogerd
(Rabobank), Sinkewitz (T-Mobile), Rodriguez, Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), Horner
(Davitamon) and Schleck (CSC). Seven men. And Cunego gets on with Basso and
Bettini, Di Luca and Kashechkin.
16:31 CEST 258.5km/3.5km to go
The leaders are
at 3.5 km to go: Perdiguero (Phonak), Boogerd (Rabobank), Sinkewitz (T-Mobile),
Rodriguez, Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), Horner (Davitamon), Cunego (Lampre),
Basso, Schleck (CSC), Bettini (QS), Di Luca (Liquigas) and Kashechkin (Liberty).
One more climb to come - the finish to Ans.
16:33 CEST 260km/2km to go
Schleck attacks on
the cobbles, stretching the group. Sinkewitz is up there, but they can't get
a gap. They are near the final ascent, which is long and straight. Rodriguez
leads for his teammate Valverde, who is a big favourite now. And Cunego.
16:33 CEST 260.5km/1.5km to go
Rodriguez attack before the Cote d'Ans, and the rest come back.
16:34 CEST 261km/1km to go
Rodriguez leads Boogerd
and the others as the climb starts. Valverde sits in third wheel. Bettini and
Cunego can certainly sprint too.
Sinkewitz attacks under the km
to go! Basso takes his wheel.
Basso takes over with a massive gear,
but the rest are back. Sinkewitz in second wheel, then Boogerd.
Schleck counters and Boogerd reacts.
Sinkewitz also there, then Cunego. Valverde in fifth.
Boogerd starts to lead out as Basso
attacks again. Nope, all together.
Sinkewitz leads as they near the
left hander, now Valverde is in second wheel. Surely a favourite.
16:37 CEST 262km/0km to go
Valverde wins it!!!!
Bettini can't get past him, and Cunego takes third.
Who was saying
Valverde didn't have the distance in his legs?
Alejandro Valverde has done the double:
winning Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. The first Spaniard to do so.
And the first Spaniard to win L-B-L. Great performance.
Well, that was a different finish
to what we've had in previous years. It's clear that everyone in that lead group
was completely knackered, and no-one had the legs to break away. They certainly
tried though! Hats off to Alejandro Valverde, who is a very worthy winner of
Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and a great ride by his team to put Joaquin Rodriguez
in the break with Boogerd.
Valverde will also take over the ProTour
lead from Tom Boonen.
That's all from us in Europe until the Giro
d'Italia in a couple of weeks. But you can still follow CN's live coverage via
the hot air balloon in Georgia on live9.cyclingnews.com.
Over and out.
1 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 6.21.32
2 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quickstep-Innergetic
3 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Fondital
4 Patrik Sinkewitz (Ger) T-Mobile Team
5 Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank
6 Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems
7 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC
8 Chris Horner (USA) Davitamon-Lotto
9 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas
10 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC