93rd Liège-Bastogne-Liège - PT
Belgium, April 29, 2007
This Sunday Cyclingnews will be covering the 93rd Liège-Bastogne-Liège
begins around 10:00 local European time (CEST)/ 4:00 (USA East)/ 19:00 Australia
(EST) - also on WAP-enabled mobile devices at http://live.cyclingnews.com/wap/
Live commentary by Hedwig Kröner
Welcome back, dear Cyclingnews
readers, to our last Live coverage of the 2007 Spring Classics, finishing today
with the 93rd Liège-Bastogne-Liège. But don't worry, we'll be bringing you plenty
of European racing action in the months to come...
it is the last of the three Ardennes Classics that will be twisting around Southern
Belgium today, starting from Liège of course, and then following an 8-like itinerary
to Bastogne and back to Ans, a town on the outskirts of Liège, where the riders
will finish the event just after the famous Côte de Saint-Nicolas.
There are 12 climbs on the peloton's
plate today, which detail as follows:
Km 57.5, Côte de Ny (1.8 km,
Km 83, Côte de la Roche-en-Ardenne (2.8 km, 4.9%)
Km 129, Côte
de Saint Roch (0.9 km, 12%)
Km 173, Côte de Wanne (3.1 km, 6.1%)
179.5, Côte de Stockeu (1.1 km, 10.5%)
Km 185, Côte de la Haute-Levée (3.4
Km 197.5, Côte du Rosier (4.0 km, 5.9%)
Km 210, Côte de la
Vecquée (3.1 km, 5.9%)
Km 227.5, Côte de la Redoute (2.1 km, 8.4%)
Km 233, Côte de Sprimont (1.4 km, 4.7%)
Km 248, Côte du Sart-Tilman - Tilff
(3.6 km, 5.3%)
Km 256.5, Côte de Saint-Nicolas (1.0 km, 11.1%)
A relentless up and down makes up the taste of this race, and it is definitely
the repetition of leg-breaking climbs that will filter out the riders in contention
for the final success. A first trilogy with about 80 km to go sets the tempo
for the remainder of the race (the climbs of Wanne, Stockeu and Haute-Levée),
then it is up to La Redoute, Sprimont, Sart-Tilman and of course the côte de
Saint-Nicolas to finish things off in the last 35 kilometres.
The last two weeks have been unusually
warm and dry in Northern Europe, and the weather this morning is unchanged:
a gentle 18° greeted the riders this morning, and temps are expected to rise
to around 23° this afternoon. Yet, a few clouds could cover the sun from time
to time later in the day, with a bit of rain a (unlikely) possibility.
Starting from the Place Saint-Lambert in Liège, the bunch set out for the traditional
parade inside town at 9.50am. There are 191 riders at the start today, and the
official start has just been given, at 10.05am local time.
10:15 CEST 3km/259km to go
A lone Agritubel rider
opened up the hostilities, and the bunch is now racing. Niki Terpstra (Milram)
and Christophe Moreau (AG2R) have jumped away.
But no luck - the two riders are
caught two kilometres later.
Vasil Kiryienka (Tinkoff) has accelerated
now, and is followed by Jan Kuykx (Landbouwkrediet). Let's see if these two
can make it.
10:31 CEST 15km/247km to go
Rémy Di Gregorio
(FDJ) and Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel) have bridged up to them. The four riders
have a gap: 30 seconds.
Vasil Kiryienka (Tinkoff), Jan Kuykx
(Landbouwkrediet), Rémy Di Gregorio (FDJ), Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel) have
extended their lead to 45 seconds at km 17. That would settle things early this
And indeed, the break seems to have
been given to go by the bunch: they let them get almost 2 minutes by kilometre
22 - that's it. No big fuss... but today's certainly a long day, and the first
hours of racing merely an appetizer of what still lies ahead.
The list of favourites today is as
long as it is impressive: Gerolsteiner duo Stefan Schumacher and Davide Rebellin
(winners of the Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne respectively) may count
as the most in-form riders, but there are also the likes of 2006 winner Alejandro
Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) and Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas), who have been steadily
improving their placings this last week; Paolo Bettini (Quickstep-Innergetic)
- down at Flèche with stomach problems but hopefully back to his best today
- and Michael Boogerd (Rabobank), who skipped Flèche and would love to add La
Doyenne to his palmarès in his final season as a pro rider.
the list just goes on, as Damiano Cunego (Lampre) targets his first Spring Classic
after already showing great form this season; Matthias Kessler (Astana) has
a great team to rely on (2005 winner Vinokourov has said he will be entirely
at the German's service); and Saunier's Riccardo Riccò and Gilberto Simoni can
make a great pair in Belgium, too. Other hot contenders include Samuel Sánchez
(Euskaltel-Euskadi), Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile) and Philippe Gilbert (Française
des Jeux). And last but not least, let's not forget about Fränk Schleck (Team
CSC) and his teammates Karsten Kroon and Jens Voigt, even though the Luxemburger
is racing with a fractured vertebrae.
While the break's lead continues
to grow to 7.50 minutes at km 28, here's a little information from the anti-doing
front: 40 riders from Lampre, Quick-Step, Barloworld, CSC and Milram were blood-tested
this morning, but all of their hematocrit values were within acceptable parameters.
They were thus declared fit to race.
11:09 CEST 44km/218km to go
There are already
11 kilometres between the peloton and the breakaway, which continues to work
efficiently. Back in the bunch, the favourites' teams take it easy - it's the
silence before the storm, as they say in Germany.
11:23 CEST 44km/218km to go
Vasil Kiryienka (Tinkoff),
Jan Kuykx (Landbouwkrediet), Rémy Di Gregorio (FDJ), Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel)
are now 14.40 minutes in front of the bunch. These guys are motivated!
Marc Madiot, DS of Francaise des Jeux, is happy: "Rémy succeeded in going with
the right break, so that's perfect for us, even if it's going to be hard with
only four riders in front," he said. "But this is going to do him good! In the
finale, maybe Philippe Gilbert is going to try something again, but at Flèche
he attacked too early. He had good legs at the moment, though, and we'll see
what he can do later when the climbs will break it up."
The first climb today, the Côte de
Ny, is coming up at km 57.5. It is 1.8 km long with an average gradient of 5.7
percent. A piece of cake, as it is the first one today... but just wait for
the finale. The break has reached the climb now.
Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)
reckons Liège is a race of attrition. "This is a very different race to Amstel
or Flèche," he said at the start this morning. "It's much longer, and the series
of climbs is even more demanding - so in the end, it's a race that works by
elimination. I feel confident, though. Getting second (in Flèche Wallonne) was
disappointing, but definitely not as disappointing as abandoning...!"
11:40 CEST 50km/212km to go
The bunch is now
16.50 minutes behind the leaders.
While Tour de France contender
Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) is not in Belgium to win - he'd rather help his
teammate Matthias Kessler to victory - the Kazakhstani nevertheless always likes
to test his form. "It's a race that I like, so it's nice to be here," he said
before the start in Liège. "I have to test myself, too, to see where I stand.
I just came back from a training camp in the mountains, where we did an enormous
amount of work."
And we have the first rider to abandon
today: it's Christophe Le Mevel (Crédit Agricole). The Frenchman has just stepped
off his bike and left the race.
Jan Kuykx (Landbouwkrediet) was the
first on top of the Côte de Ny, followed by Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel) and
Rémy Di Gregorio (Française des Jeux. They thus scored 4, 2 and 1 point respectively
for today's GPM.
The current gap between the leaders and the bunch
12:08 CEST 84km/178km to go
The breakaway has
reached the Côte de la Roche-en-Ardenne (2.8 km, 4.9 percent average). The situation
is still unchanged...
Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes
talked to Karsten Kroon this morning at the start in Liège. "I am looking forward
to today," the CSC rider said. "This is one of the most beautiful races of the
year. But it is going to be a hot day and I don't like hot weather...
Fränk [Schleck] is the team leader today, I will follow and try to do something
for him," Kroon revealed. Schleck is racing despite a fractured vertebrae he
suffered in the Flèche Wallonne earlier this week. He might not be riding the
Tour de Romandie, his team announced last night.
Meanwhile, the break has reached
a new record gap: 18.30 at km 77. Are they going to crack the 20 minute-mark
before the bunch reacts?
Former winner of La Doyenne in 1993,
Rolf Sorensen talked to Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé at the place Saint
Lambert in Liège and said that Rebellin is his favourite for the win. "It was
very impressive what he did on Wednesday and even though he's not one of my
riders (Sorensen is currently agent for Ricco) he's my pick for the win. Ricco
did well, but he lacks the experience you need to win on the Mur in Huy," Sorensen
Quickstep's director Wilfried Peeters
revealed his team tactics for today. "Bettini is our sole leader and we hope
that Barredo and Vasseur can stay with him in the finale," Peeters told us this
While Paolo Bettini was enjoying the attention from the
press and crowds at the fountain, Patrick Lefèvre said to Brecht Decaluwé, "I
prefer that Paolo steals the show after the race but if this is his way to relax
before the race, then it is like that... the Italian mentality," Lefèvre laughed.
At least, it seems the World Champ has overcome his stomach problems that made
him drop out of Flèche Wallonne.
Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes
also talked to Gerolsteiner director Hans Michael Holczer this morning. "We
saw that Stefan Schumacher was in brilliant form on Sunday, as well as Davide
Rebellin," the German said. "He then proved it even better on Wednesday at Flèche
Wallonne. Our aim today should be to have Davide in a position where he can
go with the last attacks, maybe the last attacks on the final hill."
Asked if Stefan Schumacher would have equal leadership status with Davide, Holczer
replied, "Well, I think that Stefan was suffering in recent days due to allergies
and this may have been the reason for his performance at Flèche, which he was
not content with. Today we are going to see for sure. Everybody knows that this
seems to be our week and so everybody will watch us. I think it will be twice
as hard as normal for us to have a good result here, but I think we have a good
Davide Rebellin dominated these races a couple of years ago.
"Yes, but you have to look at Wednesday's race at Flèche Wallonne - I think
he was very lucky there because the whole team was not there at the moment when
the final gap had to be closed. Then we were lucky that the interests of the
other teams were very good for us. If AG2R and Astana didn't do that work at
the last five kilometres, then Davide would never have had the chance to get
there. In the end, Astana had a fourth place and Ag2R had two guys in the first
10 so they got what they wanted and we had the chance to win and took it," Holczer
12:45 CEST 107km/155km to go
Damiano Cunego of
Lampre-Fondital is also a man to watch out for today. "I feel very good after
the Giro del Trentino [which he won - ed.]," the Italian climber told Cyclingnews'
Gregor Brown. "I showed I can go well over a short stage race and that my
form is coming on; I keep getting better while preparing for the Giro d'Italia.
After this race I will go to have a look at some of the stages of the Giro.
Likely, I will have a look at the Oropa mountain time trial.
is an important race for me but is not a question of life or death. Today I
will watch Davide Rebellin, Danilo Di Luca; the Italians. Also Alejandro Valverde...
We will see."
The gap between the peloton and the four leaders is
being kept stable at 18.20 minutes.
The Agritubel guys aren't in the
picture every day, so we also asked Miguel Mercado and Manuel Calvente how they
were doing. "Benoit Salmon and Eduardo Gonzalo are our leaders, they did well
in Flèche. It's good to be here in the Ardennes as it is the ideal preparation
for the Giro. For us, our main goal is to finish the race, that's hard enough,"
The weather is still very nice in Southern Belgium;
it's about 22° right now, with very little to no wind at all - perfect conditions!
Last year, John Gadret from AG2R
found out he was a climber in the Giro d'Italia, where he managed to stay with
the best in the final ascents. Gadret should be able to do well in Liège as
well. He was spotted working for Rinaldo Nocentini (6th) in the Flèche Wallonne
but finished two positions behind his teammate last Wednesday.
Huy the team worked for Nocentini, who did well in the past in these kind of
races, he felt really well and we didn't mind working for him. While climbing
I found out that I could keep going," Gadret told Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé.
The small French rider didn't believe he had a chance in Liège though. "I'm
only in competition on the road for one month now, so this long hard race comes
a little too early for me," Gadret said.
The bunch is still leaving the break
in peace, the situation is unchanged: Over 18 minutes for the four leaders Vasil
Kiryienka (Tinkoff), Jan Kuykx (Landbouwkrediet), Rémy Di Gregorio (Française
des Jeux) and Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel).
"I think I am going well," Gerolsteiner's
Davide Rebellin told our reporter Gregor Brown this morning. "This race, long
and hard, suits me. We will see how this day goes; if it will be my day. I won
three years ago and I feel my condition is more or less the same as it was back
then. To win Liège you have to have great condition. You have to be recovered
from the previous two races, Amstel and Flèche."
After that unmatched
Triplé Rebellin achieved in 2004, a third win in the 2007 Ardennes Classics
should provide for a great party again for Gerolsteiner!
His teammate Stefan Schumacher didn't
count himself out of the game, either. "We have a lot of cards to play, and
it shows because we won the last two races with two different guys," he told
us. "This is our advantage against the other teams."
The German said
that he felt better than on Wednesday. "During Flèche Wallonne my allergies
were really reacting to the hot weather. I felt like was riding at 4000 metres
altitude; I had no air to breathe. My legs were okay, I didn't even need a massage
after the race... But that day I could not ride fast.
"It is my first
time to ride Liège but I do know the final 100 kilometres," he continued. "On
Thursday the team did the last part of the course. I was with Rebellin and he
showed us a lot of the key points.
"My family will watch me on TV
from Germany. At least I hope so!," the Amstel Gold winner smiled.
13:22 CEST 130km/132km to go
In the Côte de Saint
Roch (0.9 km, 12%), Unai Etxebarria got dropped from the lead group because
of a puncture. He's currently trailing at 13 seconds behind his breakaway mates,
but should be able to catch up.
Meanwhile, the gap to the peloton
has diminished slightly to 17.40 minutes. Maybe they are thinking of organising
a chase at some point now...
Christian *Vande Velde* from team
CSC finally cleared up Cyclingnews' staff confusion about the spelling
of his last name (Van De Velde? Vandevelde? Van de Velde?), and told us this
morning that he had just arrived on Tuesday night from Georgia. "I spent 40
hours in Girona and then travelled here to Belgium," he said to Gregor Brown.
"I feel like I have pretty good form and I will use it to help the team. The
team will be more for Fränk Schleck than Jens Voigt. You never know with Jens
but I think that Fränk will be our card to play for today.
are so many people who could win these days. Obviously Gerolsteiner is very
confident after the last two races they had. But you still have all the other
teams. We will look out for the key teams, watching out for the ones that have
the numbers in the finale.
"After this I will go back to Girona and
relax a little bit before building for the Tour de France. I will be doing the
Volta a Catalunya and then the Dauphine Libéré as pre-Tour races."
Well, which team is going to be the
first to engage in the chase? we asked ourselves... Now, Quick-Step, Lampre,
Liquigas and Saunier Duval have decided to put on a little pacing, and the gap
has decreased to 16.50 minutes at km 143. Finally!
With 100 kilometres to go, the next
climbs coming up are the Côtes de Wanne, Stockeu and Haute-Levée. Stockeu is
rated as one of the hardest ascents in Belgium (1.1 km, 10.5%), but as it is
so far away to the finish line, it has seldom been race-decisive (except when
Eddy Merckx jumped away there in 1969 to take his first victory of Liège-Bastogne-Liège...).
14:15 CEST 174km/88km to go
The gap is starting
to come down now, thanks to the work of Liquigas, Caisse d'Epargne and Saunier
Kiryienka has a bit of trouble with his chain - Extebarria
tries to give him a push to keep going, but the Tinkoff rider has to stop and
get off to put the chain back up.
14:21 CEST 176km/86km to go
The leaders are going
over the Côte de Wanne with a lead of 15.12 at the moment. The top of the climb
is a small town with a few spectators cheering on the breakaway as they go through
the roundabout and back out of town in about 15 seconds. That was a very small
Quickstep is now throwing some weight behind the chase, and
they gap is coming down quickly now - it's ticking down like a stop watch.
14:26 CEST 178km/84km to go
Kuyckx takes a big
long pull and then lets Di Gregorio take over - they're on a very dodgy little
road that is narrow and has quite dense vegetation on either side. There is
no room for spectators here!
Caisse d'Epargne is on the front of
the peloton, and bringing down the gap quite rapidly now. It's down to 14.00
as the leaders climb the Cote de Stockeu - this is a steep one, and the legs
in the breakaway aren't looking so fresh anymore.
14:30 CEST 180km/82km to go
Jan Kuyckx is struggling
on this one, and he's dropped from the break - as are quite a few riders who
are at the back of the peloton one climb back. They've been at it for nearly
180km now, and still have 80 more to go - that's a long day in the saddle.
14:36 CEST 182km/80km to go
Now we see Gerolsteiner
coming to the front - they have three men up there really putting the pressure
on at the top of the climb. From here on out it's basically up and then down,
then up again. The break is down to three now as Kuykx is dropped and struggling
up this climb. He's 18" behind already, and not looking spry enough to get back
to the leaders.
14:40 CEST 182km/80km to go
The peloton is back
on the Stockeu, and Adam Hansen is at the back looking pretty casual - he grabs
a gel from his pocket and gets some quick energy. Oddly, Gerolsteiner is on
the front of the peloton with Bettini right behind him - Michael Boogerd is
up there, too.
The pressure of the chase causes Iñigo Landaluze (Euskaltel
- Euskadi), Giovanni Visconti (Quickstep - Innergetic) and Niki Terpstra (Team
Milram) to get dropped. There are quite a few riders detonating on this steep
climb. The gap is down to 12.46, and all the favourites are near the front.
14:43 CEST 185km/77km to go
Former world champion
Igor Astarloa (Milram) is the next victim of Gerolsteiner's chase. Nicki Sørensen
(Team CSC) goes past him with some bottles from the team car, and he'll get
an easier trip to the front to deliver them as the peloton crests the top and
streams down the other side of the hill.
14:49 CEST 188km/74km to go
The peloton is bunched
up now, climbing up the Côte de la Haute-Levée which is 3.4km long - after 180+
kilometres in the saddle, we're getting a few more riders blowing on the hill.
The water carriers have their work cut out for them, and Sven Renders (Chocolade
Jacques) is trying to move up to deliver some water.
Bettini is still
near the front looking comfortable. He gets some food from his teammate, then
sends him back for some water. It's good to be the king!
14:51 CEST 191km/71km to go
Morris Possoni (Lampre
- Fondital) has come to the front as the road levels out a bit... he's got the
peloton strung out single file as they reach a feed zone and bottles go flying.
Fortunately for the riders, it's not a cobbled descent that they're on, and
they all get through safely.
14:55 CEST 194km/68km to go
Thomas Dekker (Rabobank)
is trying to catch back on after a puncture, and his team has sent two riders
back to help him. Gregor Brown spoke with Dekker at the start, and he was hoping
for a good result.
"I hope the legs will be good today; my legs
last week were good. I hope for my own chance today or maybe I can do something
for Michael Boogerd in the finale. I will have my chance today, the team orders
are not only for Boogerd. We have other guys, like Freire. But, for sure, I
will look to be beside Boogerd.
"I was away in a group on Wednesday,
with Valverde, and today will be much better for me because it is longer.
"We must be aggressive and in an attack because Cunego, Valverde and Bettini
are much faster in the sprint."
Dekker makes it back to the peloton
in short order, and his team takes him straight past the riders who are struggling
at the back and up into the business end of the bunch.
14:58 CEST 195km/67km to go
We have an attack!
Bobby Julich (CSC) takes a dig, and gets 10 seconds quickly - but then sits
up. Just joking maybe?
The leaders are up on the Côte du Rosier,
still keeping things together, but their advantage is down to 10'20 now. It's
another narrow road that goes past a lovely country estate with a view of the
15:02 CEST 197km/65km to go
Unai Etxebarria gets
out of the saddle to get a bit more speed up this climb, but he's looking like
he's in quite a bit of pain, as do the other two riders. They are having a hard
time holding off the peloton which is screaming down a hill toward them. They
scare some horses in the field nearby, and the animals take off running.
Mirko Celestino (Milram) also commented
to Gregor Brown this morning: "My legs feel well in these days although I have
not been able to get a result," he said. "I like the Liège-Bastogne-Liège a
lot. For today the captains are me and Igor Astarloa, but he is not feeling
very well... This will be very demanding race for us but we will try.
"After this race I will take a big break to re-gain my energy. I will race in
the Volta a Catalunya and the Tour de Suisse. I will not have to race the Giro
or the Tour this year, I will focus on the Vuelta."
15:08 CEST 199km/63km to go
We also spoke to
Matteo Tosatto of Quickstep-Innergetic, who was very happy with the weather
today. "You could not hope for better weather than this today," he said. "This
is really different for me; in Roubaix I was working for Tom Boonen on the pavé
and now, here in Wallonne, I am working for Paolo Bettini.
try in every way to help Paolo today. My work will be in the beginning; first
I will try to make an escape and then, if I am not in any escape, I will try
to remain with Paolo for as long as possible.
"The finish will be
difficult for us but I will try to help give the team the most possibilities."
Tosatto was last seen at the front of the bunch, together with some Gerolsteiner
riders, working to reel the break back in.
The Côte du Rosier is doing some
damage. Salvatore Commesso is pedaling squares at the back of the bunch. Markus
Fothen (Gerolsteiner) does a long turn to lead out the field - good job.
15:13 CEST 206km/56km to go
The work is paying
off, too, as the gap continues to melt away like ice cream in the sun. Less
than 8 minutes now, as the bunch flies down the descent.
The leaders have passed the second
feed zone, and grabbed some musettes. Di Gregorio is still doing great work
in front, not giving up at all.
The peloton went past some cows just
now, scaring them just like the horses earlier... no wonder, they're flying!
15:22 CEST 209km/53km to go
The leaders are in
the Côte de la Vecquée (3.1 km, 5.9%), while the bunch has reached the feed
zone, too. But they don't slow down much at all... The gap is down to 5.50 minutes.
Unai Etxebarria is turning his smallest gear up that climb. Not far away, we
see a beautiful castle reigning over this hilly and green countryside.
Di Luca is at the back of the bunch,
eating an energy bar.
Jan Kuykx (Landbouwkrediet), who was initially
in the breakaway, is getting caught now after having been dropped from the leaders
a while ago.
Fothen (Gerolsteiner) can't hold the pace anymore and
15:30 CEST 213km/49km to go
The bunch is in a
narrow forest road now, while the leaders pace down a descending false flat,
only five minutes ahead of the field. The chase is still paying off - and we
haven't even reached the last climbs yet!
The bunch is getting smaller, as
many riders have to let go. Liquigas, Gerolsteiner and CSC men are in the front,
all working together at the moment. In a while, there won't be that much cooperation
15:36 CEST 218km/44km to go
The Côte de la Redoute
(2.1 km, 8.4%) is coming up in ten kilometres. The leaders only have an advantage
of less than four minutes - will it all come back together on that climb? Possibly...
The race finale is just around the corner now!
The favourites are now looking for
a good position inside the bunch, as the climb approaches. The pace is still
getting faster, making some riders trail behind a bit, even though this is a
The leaders are almost in the climb now.
Gregor Brown reported from the finish
line in Ans that everything is calm there yet. There are lots of fans watching
the mounted TV monitors while laying in the sun.
La Redoute: lots
of fans outside their RV's. There's "Phil" written all over the road for local
boy Philippe Gilbert (FDJ). The Belgians are partying again!
The bunch is two minutes behind the
leaders now, as Vasil Kiryienka (Tinkoff) gets dropped. CSC is leading the bunch
out now. Vande Velde attacks! But he looks back. It's just a test, it seems.
15:52 CEST 228km/34km to go
bridges up to Vande Velde and overtakes him. The favourites are all together,
no one moves.
Jens Voigt has trouble hanging on. Now, the bunch gets
15:54 CEST 229km/33km to go
But it was just a
test, the favourites are still all together as they come down the descent now.
16:00 CEST 234km/28km to go
Barredo is still
between the two groups, but Vasil Kiryienka (Tinkoff) who initiated the breakaway
Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) and Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner)
are in pursuit now! That is dangerous...
16:02 CEST 234km/28km to go
Nibali and Schumi
have made it to Barredo in the Côte de Sprimont (1.4 km, 4.7%). The two leaders
Rémy Di Gregorio (Française des Jeux) and Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel) are merely
15 seconds away, with the bunch at 38 seconds.
Vasseur (QuickStep) and Kroon (CSC)
are also with them, as Schumi tries to attack, but doesn't get away.
16:10 CEST 240km/22km to go
The chasers have
caught up with Di Gregorio and Etxebarria. The have 26 seconds over the peloton,
led out by a Rabobank rider. So now we have in front: Rémy Di Gregorio (Française
des Jeux), Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel), Carlos Barredo & Cédric Vasseur (Quickstep
- Innergetic), Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas), Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner)
and Karsten Kroon (Team CSC).
16:15 CEST 244km/18km to go
Four kilometres yet
to race to the Côte du Sart-Tilman - Tilff (3.6 km, 5.3%), where we will surely
see some of the favourites going for an attack.
Vasseur attacks first in the climb,
followed by Schumacher. They have a little gap now over the others, Barredo
16:20 CEST 247km/15km to go
CSC's Karsten Kroon
bridged up to Nibali and Barredo now, while Schumi and Vasseur are still in
front. 13 seconds.
Vasseur gets dropped, he is with
the Nibali group now. Schumacher is alone in front!! And gives it everything,
Di Gregorio has trouble holding on,
after being in front all day. His face is screaming with pain.
Schumacher time trials in the flat
like a madman. But the chase is getting organised. Cofidis's Chavanel attacks
out of the bunch. Schumi still has 16 seconds.
16:28 CEST 253km/9km to go
Chavanel won't get
away now, as the peloton is driving at 75 km/h in the flat, led out by QucikStep
and Liquigas. Schumacher is in aero position on a bridge hanging over Liège.
16:29 CEST 254km/8km to go
T-Mobile now come
to the front, too. But the Gerolsteiner rider is powering away, impressive!!
Now he's reached the Côte de Saint-Nicolas
(1.0 km, 11.1%), the penultimate climb before the finishing ascent in Ans, which
is not categorized. The field behind him will hit the climb in a few seconds...
But Schumacher is caught by a Liquigas
rider, who attacked at the foot of the climb.
Gadret (AG2R) tries, but doesn't
make it. Boogerd, Kessler... now Bettini goes!! and what a mighty attack he
16:35 CEST 258km/4km to go
But at the top, all
the favourites are together again: Boogerd, Cunego, Bettini, Valverde... this
will be decided on the last ascent.
16:37 CEST 259km/3km to go
And Schleck attacks,
he doesn't wait for the climb! Di Luca follows him, with Boogerd trying to bridge
16:37 CEST 259.5km/2.5km to go
That's a dangerous
duo to have in front at this point... They have 8 seconds!
16:39 CEST 260.5km/1.5km to go
Di Luca takes
a last sip out of his bottle and throws it away. Schleck looks smooth. The chase
may not be very organised - who will sacrifice himself now??
It's not Boogerd, but Thomas Dekker
who is between the two groups! We're in the last km!
Di Luca's hurting. Schleck doesn't
show the pain. Dekker exploded.
A t-Mobile rider leads the chase.
Now, Valverde goes!
Valverde pulls the others back to
Di Luca and Schleck! Wow!
But Di Luca saved his advantage and
wins!! Valverde second.
Schleck got third - still a good
result for a man with a fractured vertebrae!
OK, that's all from the finish in
Ans from us for now. Watch out for the full results, report and pictures from
La Doyenne, as we'll post all information as soon as we get it. We'll be back
with our Live coverage for the Giro d'Italia, starting in two weeks! See you
then, and ride safe!
1 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas
2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
3 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC
4 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quickstep - Innergetic
5 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner
6 Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank
7 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - Fondital
8 Matthias Kessler (Ger) Astana
9 Juan Jose Cobo (Spa) Saunier Duval - Prodir
10 Kim Kirchen (Lux) T-Mobile Team