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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

94th Liège-Bastogne-Liège - 1.HC

Belgium, April 27, 2008

Complete Live report

Live commentary by Bjorn Haake and Hedwig Kröner

09:54 CEST   
Hello and welcome back to Cyclingnews live coverage. We are back in Belgium for one last hooray of the Spring Classics. 261 kilometres is the distance the riders will have to cover to get from Liège to Liège via Bastogne. And a lot of nasty little climbs, known as côtes. Will Damiano Cunego get another big win after Amstel? Or can Fränk Schleck deliver the victory for CSC? Maybe Davide Rebellin? Or someone who is not on everyone's mind? Whoever it is, one thing is for certain, it won't be last year's winner Danilo Di Luca, who is not at the start line. At any rate, we are looking forward to another exciting day of racing!

10:09 CEST   
The riders set off a few minutes ago. As always, the mood at the beginning of such a long day is rather relaxed and there are a lot of smiling faces. Of course, this may also have to do with the weather. It is a very nice spring day right now. The weather for true classics has only been partially cooperating this year. There was some hail and snow in the Ronde, but Paris-Roubaix was very dry, despite horrible predictions. Good for the riders, a little less epic, though.

10:12 CEST   
Lotto's directeur sportif Marc Sergeant told Cyclingnews before the spring campaign started that he wanted to see a "true classic again." Does it still itch in his legs? "No, those days are over," he smiled, indicating that may have a little bit to do with his desire for a bad-weather epic event...

10:18 CEST   
If you want to find out more about today's route, check out our preview of today's race.

10:20 CEST   
We have the first crash of the day. That didn't take long and it was Colombian Mauricio Soler who hit the deck.

10:22 CEST    3km/258km to go
Sébastien Delfosse and David Kopp have left the comfort of the peloton in the first kilometre. After the neutral rollout at 10:00, the race started in earnest at 10:14 and Kopp and Delfosse took that literally. They have already gained 40 seconds, as the peloton is content to roll along.

10:31 CEST    6km/255km to go
The peloton has decided there will be no funny business this early and the break of Kopp and Delfosse has been ended with authority from the bunch, after 5 kilometres. Back to square one.

10:35 CEST   
As a reminder, here are the côtes the riders will have to tackle today:

km 57.5, Côte de Ny (1.8km, 5.7%) km 82.0, Côte de la Roche-en-Ardenne (2.8km, 4.9%) km 128.0, Côte de Saint Roch (0.8km, 12%) km 172.0, Côte de Wanne (2.7km, 7%) km 178.5, Côte de Stockeu (1.1km, 10.5%) km 184.0, Côte de la Haute-Levée (3.4km, 6%) km 196.5, Côte du Rosier (4.0km, 5.9%) km 209.0, Côte de la Vecquée (3.1km, 5.9%) km 226.5, Côte de la Redoute (2.1km, 8.4%) km 232.0, Côte de Sprimont (1.4km, 4.7%) km 241.5, Côte de la Roche aux Faucons (1.5km, 9.9%) km 255.5, Côte de Saint-Nicolas (1.0km, 11.1%)

10:39 CEST    12km/249km to go
Jonathan Hivert (Crédit Agricole) and Stéphane Augé (Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone) are countering a move from Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff Credit Systems), Oliver Zaugg (Gerolsteiner) and Julien Loubet (AG2R La Mondiale), who attacked at kilometre nine.

10:40 CEST   
But the peloton is very attentive and rides along very rapidly, which has ended the attempt of those five riders before it even started as well.

10:46 CEST    21km/240km to go
The peloton is stretched out single file. The nice weather has not meant the riders are kicking back and relaxing. Just the opposite.

10:52 CEST    24km/237km to go
Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner) and Tom Stubbe (Française des Jeux) have attacked. Will this one be allowed by the controlling bunch?

10:57 CEST   
An attack by Alexander Serov (Tinkoff Credit Systems) at km 22 was immediately reeled back in, so it's not clear if Fothen and Stubbe have a better chance. Marcus' younger brother Thomas is currently racing in the Tour de Georgia. Don't forget to check out Rory Sutherland's entertaining diaries from the South of the USA.

Ryder Hesjedal (Slipstream) has had a good spring
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

11:00 CEST   
One rider who has been going well in the spring campaign is Ryder Hesjedal of the Slipstream Chipotle Team. The whole team actually had some good showings. The Canadian finished third in the Grand Prix Ouverture "La Marseillaise" and 10th in Monte Paschi Eroica.

11:04 CEST   
Several riders went after the two leaders and have made the junction at kilometre 28, with a gap of 20 seconds over the bunch. Nit much for now. There are five on the front: Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner), Tom Stubbe (Française des Jeux), Pierre Rolland (Crédit Agricole) as well as Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff Credit Systems) and David Kopp (Cycle Collstrop), who both had tried to escape earlier. They seem to be desperate to be in a break today.

11:07 CEST    31km/230km to go
Stéphane Augé (Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone) is also one of those who tried earlier. He is at it again, together with Maxime Bouet (Agritubel) and Johan Coenen (Topsport Vlaanderen). They are in-between the groups right now.

11:09 CEST    34km/227km to go
Fothen, Stubbe, Rolland, Brutt and Kopp have now over a minute over the peloton.

11:16 CEST    40km/221km to go
It looks like this is finally the break everyone is happy with. The five riders on the front have 2'30, as they enter the province of Luxembourg. There is no info on the three riders that were in-between right now. We will try to get the info as soon as possible.

Current race situation

  • Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner), Tom Stubbe (Française des Jeux), Pierre Rolland (Crédit Agricole), Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff Credit Systems) and David Kopp (Cycle Collstrop)
  • Maxime Bouet (Agritubel), Johan Coenen (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Stéphane Augé (Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone) at ?
  • Peloton at 2.30

11:21 CEST    45km/216km to go
The gap of Fothen, Stubbe, Rolland, Brutt and Kopp has increased to 3'40. They covered 42.5km in the first hour of racing.

Kim Kirchen (High Road) won at the Mur de Huy four days ago
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

11:24 CEST   
One rider without pressure today is Kim Kirchen. He won Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday, after coming close in 2005, where he took second. He looked relaxed at the press conference yesterday.

11:38 CEST    52km/209km to go
This is definitely the break of the day, as the peloton has finally surrendered to the nice spring weather and is enjoying the Belgian sun rays. The gap is now nine minutes!

11:39 CEST   
We still don't have info about Maxime Bouet (Agritubel), Johan Coenen (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Stéphane Augé (Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone), but assume they went back to the bunch to get a tan with the others.

11:47 CEST    58km/203km to go
The leaders have already gone over the top of the first climb of the day, the Côte de Ny. The peloton wished they would have, too, but they still face the first obstacle of the day.

Current race situation

  • Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner), Tom Stubbe (Française des Jeux), Pierre Rolland (Crédit Agricole), Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff Credit Systems) and David Kopp (Cycle Collstrop)
  • Peloton at 9.00

11:55 CEST   
The gap at the summit of the Côte de Ny is 11'30. It is likely to increase some more, as we are still almost 200 kilometres from the finish.

12:04 CEST    64km/197km to go
Well, the peloton thinks otherwise and it may well be that the maximum advantage was 11'30. The bunch has picked up the pace and the gap has decreased by 20 seconds. So Fothen, Stubbe, Rolland, Brutt and Kopp have only 11'10 now.

Paolo Bettini had
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

12:18 CEST   
Thanks to the reader writing in and asking about Paolo Bettini. Bettini had indeed his fair share of crashes thus far and it is not clear if he has fully recovered. He also missed some races in the lead-up to La Doyenne and it is questionable if the Italian can be a contender today. Having said that, anybody completely counting out the rider from La California would make a big mistake!

12:23 CEST    73km/188km to go
The gap continues to shrink under the efforts of High Road, Silence-Lotto, Caisse d’Epargne and Lampre. It is now 10'30 after 71km covered.

12:26 CEST   
Quick Step doesn't just have Paolo Bettini. There are also Giovanni Visconti and Carlos Barredo.

"After País Vasco, my sickness, and Flèche [Wallonne], I was able to train a little and I feel better," said Spanish rider Barredo to Gregor Brown in Liège. "We will see. I felt I was better in Flèche; I arrived with the front-runners up until the last climb. I also tried a few times to escape, but when the condition is not 100 percent it is hard to get away in a race like this.

"I think that I can do some good work for 'Betto,'" he said of team-mate and current world champion, Paolo Bettini. "We have someone like Bettini, someone like him, with his [world champion] jersey, deserves all the respect from his team-mates.

"In the race, we could see a different circumstance unfold. We will see. We can turn it around, where we are working for [Giovanni] Visconti or me."

12:33 CEST   
Alessandro Petacchi has been sick quite a bit in the spring and it is getting worse. The Italian sprinter said that "It's from Sunday [on] that I started having a strong pain when breathing; sometimes I cough so strongly that it seems me my breast breaks in half. I have already lost three kilos despite not having trained for five days. I hope to improve quickly, because the Giro d'Italia is very near and another week without bike would be fatal for my preparation."

12:35 CEST    82km/179km to go
The order over the second climb of the day, the Côte de la Roche-en-Ardenne, is Brutt ahead of Stubbe and Rolland, while the Germans are staying in the back and the peloton is now only nine minutes behind.

Current race situation

  • Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner), Tom Stubbe (Française des Jeux), Pierre Rolland (Crédit Agricole), Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff Credit Systems) and David Kopp (Cycle Collstrop)
  • Peloton at 9.05

12:40 CEST   
There were no DNS today. All 200 riders did make it to the start. We have not heard of any abandons, either. It looks like Soler has recovered from his early crash and is riding along with the bunch.

Three riders made the final selection in Georgia
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

12:51 CEST   
Yesterday the Tour de Georgia had the exciting finish up to Brasstown Bald. A three-man group decided the stage, with the road going high and lungs going flat. Fittingly, Kanstantin Sivtsou of High Road won, ahead of Trent Lowe and Levi Leipheimer. The Belarusian took over the leader's jersey and only one day to go. Check out the superb pictures from our photographers.

Current race situation

  • Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner), Tom Stubbe (Française des Jeux), Pierre Rolland (Crédit Agricole), Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff Credit Systems) and David Kopp (Cycle Collstrop)
  • Peloton at 9.05

12:57 CEST   
Tom Stubbe, who is bravely riding along in the five-man break at the moment, talked with Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé this morning and said that he didn't have great experiences with Liège-Bastogne-Liège in the past. "I've started here on two occasions but I never got further than the second feed zone," Stubbe said. "The Stockeu is such a tough climb and that's where the race has ended for me every time." When asked about the team tactics for the Française des Jeux team Stubbe explained that Philippe Gilbert wasn't their top gun in the Walloon region. "He's feeling tired but of course he's got a free role. Our leader is [Benoît] Vaugrenard," said the blonde Belgian. "I've become a bit stronger, so let's hope that I can keep up a bit longer this year," Stubbe told Cyclingnews.

12:59 CEST    96km/165km to go
The gap has further diminished to 8'30. Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner), Tom Stubbe (Française des Jeux), Pierre Rolland (Crédit Agricole), Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff Credit Systems) and David Kopp (Cycle Collstrop) continue to trade turns on the front, but the peloton has a few more legs to lend a hand (or a foot).

13:15 CEST   
Serge Beucherie, the directeur sportif for Crédit Agricole, told the organisers of the race at letour.fr that "it's nice for Pierre [Rolland] that he is on the front... I told him to eat well and to do his work like the others, knowing that the gap isn't that big." Beucherie was impressed with Rolland at Paris-Nice, "where he was the revelation. Now, he is just here to learn."

13:18 CEST    110km/151km to go
We have reached Bastogne after 110km. That means two things: Turnaround and food. Both good news for the riders. The bad news is that the turnaround does neither mark the halfway point (there are still 150km to go) nor does it mean the rest of the route is as easy as the first part (still 10 côtes to go).

13:21 CEST   
Crash in the field! One of the riders going down is Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux), but he can continue, unlike Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Euskaltel - Euskadi). The Spaniard abandons.

13:22 CEST   
The average speed is currently 37.5 km/h, which means after the hectic beginning everybody has calmed down a bit.

Current race situation

  • Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner), Tom Stubbe (Française des Jeux), Pierre Rolland (Crédit Agricole), Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff Credit Systems) and David Kopp (Cycle Collstrop)
  • Peloton at 8.30

13:49 CEST    128km/133km to go
The gap has gone down further, it is now only 6'10, as they crested the Côte de Saint Roc. The break has now been away for about 100km.

13:56 CEST   
Correction, the gap is actually 7'10. We don't want to take away a minute from the already declining advantage.

Cadel Evans (Silence Lotto) had a great 'Arrow' race and is looking to attack again today
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

14:03 CEST   
Cadel Evans was "hoping for a good day," as he talked to Belgian TV before the start. The Australian had a good Flèche Wallonne and if he would attacked a little later, his move may have paid off. Nonetheless, he did finish second on Wednesday and has to be one of the favourites for today.

Current race situation

  • Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner), Tom Stubbe (Française des Jeux), Pierre Rolland (Crédit Agricole), Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff Credit Systems) and David Kopp (Cycle Collstrop)
  • Peloton at 7.10

14:08 CEST   
Damiano Cunego was obviously feeling well, having just won the Amstel Gold Race. He wanted to "try something today" and was eager to get going this morning.

14:09 CEST   
Stubbe has had enough for the day. He is not able to follow the rhythm of the front group, so we only have four leaders now: Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner), Pierre Rolland (Crédit Agricole), Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff Credit Systems) and David Kopp (Cycle Collstrop)

14:10 CEST   
Alejandro Valverde was also all smiles before the start and said "Ah, the weather is great, isn't it?" Another rider who "wants to win" today. His third place at Amstel is a good sign for the rider from Murcia.

14:13 CEST   
The quartet is flying along on the flat roads. They switch the lead frequently, no pull more than 10 seconds. It looks very smooth. The gap is at 6'30.

14:15 CEST   
When Bettini came off the sign-in and hopped back on his bike he was riding behind Kim Kirchen. A sign for the final today?

Bettini won the race in 2002, while Valverde took the top spot in 2006.

14:17 CEST   
"I am feeling good and I believe my condition is on the rise," said the curly haired rider of Liquigas, Franco Pellizotti, this morning to Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown. The Italian just came from the Giro del Trentino, where he finished second in stage three while helping team-mate Vincenzo Nibali win the overall.

"Today it will be me and Nibali to make the race for Team Liquigas. We will try the best we can to win here or at least a good result."

He just arrived to Belgium and, therefore, was not able to preview the course. "We arrived yesterday," he continued, noting that he was unable to see the news penultimate climb of Côte de la Roche aux Faucons. "The team explained it to us, and I understand that, like always, you have to have the legs to stay with the best."

"I did Trentino.... After this I will try a few stages of the Giro d'Italia and the Giro della Toscana, next Saturday and Sunday, and then the Giro d'Italia." How many stages will you win? "I will aim for the overall jersey!"

14:19 CEST    155km/106km to go
There is still a good 100km to go. The gap is slightly rising again, and is almost seven minutes. The four riders in the break are still flying along at a good speed, switching the lead frequently.

Rolland is grabbing a bottle from the team car.

14:20 CEST   
There are rail road tracks to their right, and it may be tempting to hitch a ride, but at the speed they are going right now it wouldn't be much of a benefit.

14:21 CEST    158km/103km to go
Brutt's long hair is hanging out of his helmet and swaying in the wind. Probably not the most aerodynamic way, but at least it looks good!

14:26 CEST    163km/98km to go
The rider shave now less than 100km to go, as they pass through Vielsamn. The nice weather ensures that many people have come out and watch the riders fly by.

14:29 CEST    166km/95km to go
The road is slightly downhill, as the peloton looks a bit disorganised. Lampre and High Road are pulling hard at the front, with the gap going down closer to the six-minute mark now.

14:32 CEST    168km/93km to go
Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) is sitting towards the back of the bunch. He will likely be helping Rebellin today, as it seems the rider from the Stuttgart area has not the same form as last year.

Lotto is now also pitching in to the high-speed chase behind the breakaway.

14:35 CEST    170km/91km to go
The break is on the Côte de Wanne, with the lead going down consistently now. No more than 5 and a half minutes for the break, which is still enjoying the nice weather, but not so much the steep climb.

14:38 CEST   
Kopp is taking over from Brutt at the front, as the motor bike stops and holds the board out with the gap. This is still a leftover from the pre race radio days. But we may soon see the ban, which has already been done in U23 races. Stay tuned on the subject, as the CPA is weighing in as well.

14:39 CEST    171km/90km to go
The peloton is taking a right turn and is now also heading up the 7%-average climb, 2.7km in length. A good five minutes for the break still.

14:41 CEST   
Ji Cheng (Skil-Shimano) is heaving trouble following the pace. Artur Gajek (Team Milram) is also finding it hard, while AG2R is taking over the front.

14:41 CEST    172km/89km to go
Brutt, Fothen, Kopp and Rolland is the order over the top.

14:43 CEST   
There are stunning views over the hilly Ardennes area. Wynants and Serov are at the back of the bunch. Some of the riders who were dropped on the uphill, are clawing their way back on a little 'breather', but the peloton is not over the top just yet.

14:45 CEST   
One more km for the bunch, as they approach the top with a tail wind.

14:47 CEST    177km/84km to go
The break is heading over a small road through the woods. It looks a bit bumpy, not that that would be anything unusual in the Belgian races. The gap has dropped to four and a half minutes.

14:50 CEST    178km/83km to go
The peloton takes a left and takes in more of the descent, as two gigantic long-nosed, white-dressed fans look on. The break is already on the next climb, the Côte de Stockeu.

14:51 CEST   
Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas) finds the pace too hard, along with Laurens Ten Dam (Rabobank). Edvald Boasson Hagen also drops back, but indicates he needs his team cars. Maybe he is just getting bottles for the others?

14:52 CEST   
Kopp is out of the saddle and doesn't look like he is enjoying Stockeu. Brutt is leading, ahead of Fothen and Rolland. A tough little climb.

14:54 CEST    180km/81km to go
And there is the top. No sprint, as the order is the same, with the Russian talking the top first. Kopp is barely hanging on, and zigzagging a bit, as they cross the line. The gap is holding steady for now, about 4 minutes.

Wegmann is close to the front as well. His attack in Wallonne almost worked!

14:55 CEST   
Dominik Roels (Team Milram) and Iouri Trofimov (Bouygues Telecom) are losing contact with the bunch, as they approach the top.

14:56 CEST    181km/80km to go
It is getting too hard for Kopp, He gets gapped immediately as the leaders start the Côte de la Haute-Levée.

14:58 CEST   
Brutt is leading again, ahead of Rolland and Fothen. Kopp is about 100m behind. Rolland was actually looking behind a moment ago, checking on his former breakaway partner.

Brutt is pushing a huge gear. Hopefully they told him how to shift!

14:59 CEST   
Kopp has unzipped his jersey and is out of the saddle again. he is trying to keep the gap to a minimum, so he can catch up again on the descent, but with the climbs coming thick and fast, this may not work too well.

15:00 CEST   
Christian Pfannberger is in second Wheel. The Barloworld rider is having a good spring, too. AG2R is at the front with a few riders, as is Liquigas. The gap is down to three and a half minutes now.

15:02 CEST    183km/78km to go
Chapeau to David Kopp! He has put in a big gear and tries desperately to get back to the leaders. He is only 100m behind again.

15:04 CEST   
And Kopp has made it back! He had to sprint a bit, but is now back with the boys, just before they reached the top.

Matthew Lloyd, the Australian champ, is coming up on the left hand side of the peloton. This climb has taken its toll already. Several riders are dropped and build little groups.

15:05 CEST    184km/77km to go
Brutt is leading the break over the top of the Côte de la Haute-Levée. Surprise, though, as Kopp is in second wheel.

15:07 CEST    186km/75km to go
Bettini is all the way back at the end of the main bunch, which is now cresting the top, three and a half minutes after the front.

15:08 CEST   
Christophe Moreau (Agritubel) is also towards the back of the action. He will be looking again towards the stage races, especially the Dauphiné Liberé

15:13 CEST    191km/70km to go
Four riders have rolled off the front of the peloton. Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom), Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Silence - Lotto) are among them.

15:14 CEST   
The gap is now below the three-minute mark, as the four riders have been brought back, but there are many attacks now.

15:15 CEST    193km/68km to go
A Française des Jeux and a Liquigas rider attack, but they, too, have only a small gap. The last place has been abandoned by Bettini, who moved up a bit, and is now occupied by a Barloworld rider.

15:17 CEST   
With the Côte du Rosier approaching, Kopp has finally enough.

It is Philippe Gilbert, who is ahead with a Liquigas rider. They have put a few metres between themselves and the peloton.

15:19 CEST   
The Liquigas rider is Finish rider Kjell Carlström (Liquigas). The duo will now try to get up to the leaders. Not too long before they will pass Kopp.

15:19 CEST   
Steven Cummings is the Barloworld rider patiently sitting at the back of the main bunch.

15:21 CEST   
Kirchen said before the start that "there are many good riders and the tactics will decide." He also thinks the new climb that was pout in will make a difference. But "I have recovered well," is how he stated his ambitions to add another win today.

15:23 CEST    196km/65km to go
But Kirchen is currently at the back of the field, in fact behind Cummings now.

The trio at the front is again led by Brutt on the climb. The Tinkoff rider is very strong. Fothen is hanging on the back, content to follow Rolland's wheel.

Lampre is now making the pace, while Adam Hansen is collecting a lot of bottles to bring back to his team-mates.

15:25 CEST   
Caisse is taking over at the front, while Visconti is sitting in third wheel, on the left hand side of the peloton. The Lampre riders are dropping back.

So is Carlström, who can't follow Gilbert's wheel. Gilbert passes Kopp at full speed. The German is unlikely to see the finish line today.

15:26 CEST    197km/64km to go

Current race situation

  • Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner), Pierre Rolland (Crédit Agricole), Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff Credit Systems)
  • Philippe Gilbert (FDJ) at 1.35
  • David Kopp (Cycle Collstrop)
  • Kjell Carlström (Liquigas)
  • Peloton at 2.39

15:28 CEST   
Carlström is now also passing Kopp, who looks almost at a standstill. But he did a brave break today and can be happy with an active race.

15:29 CEST   
Gilbert is down on the drops and looks like he did when he rode to a solo victory at Het Volk. But he doesn't consider himself a favourite today, which he emphasised several times in the past few weeks.

15:30 CEST    201km/60km to go

Current race situation

  • Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner), Pierre Rolland (Crédit Agricole), Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff Credit Systems)
  • Philippe Gilbert (FDJ) at 1.31
  • Kjell Carlström (Liquigas) at 2.16
  • Peloton at 2.45

15:30 CEST   
Cadel Evans said that "hopefully it will be a good race." He wasn't sure if it is an important race for Lotto, but said that "I will do what I can."

15:32 CEST   
Surprise in the break, Brutt is in second wheel! Of course, there is no uphill currently. The next climb is the Côte de la Vecquée, with 52km to go.

15:36 CEST    205km/56km to go
The riders have passed the feed zone. Fothen is transferring the goodies from the musette to the pockets of his jersey.

Gilbert is still chasing, some 90 seconds behind the leaders. Carlström is trying hard, but his gap to Gilbert went from 30 to 40 seconds.

15:38 CEST   
Rolland is throwing his musette to the right. Good thing there is no cross wind, as otherwise it could have blown into Fothen's wheel, who is riding behind the Frenchman. It wouldn't be the first time that such an incident has caused a rider to crash.

15:41 CEST   
The peloton has slowed down a tad, as they are also taking on food. Fränk Schleck was hoping that "I have the same legs as in Amstel." He found himself behind a few crashes on Wednesday and "couldn't do the sprint."

In the mean time, Brutt is on the front again, seemingly having found the shifters and pedaling a slightly lower gear.

15:42 CEST   
Dekker, Gesink, Wesemann are near the front, as Caisse is doing the pace making. There is a small cut in the peloton, which is strung out single file.

15:45 CEST   
The Brutt-led break is close to the summit of the Côte de la Vecquée, while Gilbert takes a drink. He is a good minute behind, with the peloton still more than three minutes back.

15:46 CEST    209km/52km to go
Brutt is going over the top in first, ahead of Rolland and Fothen. The Russian is in the virtual polka-dot, if there were such a thing today.

15:48 CEST   
Thanks for the reader who pointed out that Cyclingnews just reported that Moreau won't be riding the Dauphiné, as his team Agritubel is not invited!

15:49 CEST    211km/50km to go
There are a flurry of attacks now. CSC, Liquigas and others are trying to get off the front.

15:51 CEST   
Kolobnev is pedaling ahead of the field in pursuit of Gilbert, who is not able to reduce the gap to the front for the moment.

15:53 CEST    215km/46km to go
Fothen is not taking any turns anymore. Rolland takes over from Brutt. Either Fothen is really tired or he has team orders, but with another hour left in the race it seems a little early to play tactics.

15:55 CEST   
Bettini is now in the top ten position of the bunch, while Kolobnev is still trying to catch up with Gilbert. The latter is out of the saddle. He probably wouldn't mind a little help. He has been by himself for a long time already. Only 20 seconds for the CSC rider to make up to catch the Belgian.

15:57 CEST    219km/42km to go
Rolland is now putting on the back burners, and Fothen has a hard time following the wheel of Brutt. The Frenchman is still looking very good.

15:59 CEST   
Thomas Dekker is at the back of the bunch, which has picked up the pace a lot. They are only a good half minute behind Gilbert, who has not been able to make headway against the Brutt-Rolland duo, where Fothen is still sitting on the back and not taking pulls.

16:01 CEST    223km/38km to go
Gilbert is going downhill, heading towards the Côte de la Redoute. Five more kilometres to the climb that has often played a decisive role, at least in getting a selection going. Gilbert wanted to be there ahead of the peloton, but it is questionable now, with the bunch at around 30 seconds. They will make that up on the climb in no time.

16:03 CEST   
Jurgen Van Den Broeck is one of the Silence-Lotto guys who should be able to stand by Cadel Evans today. Wednesday he was in the attack for a while but they were caught back before the ultimate climbs. The Belgian is one of the promising Belgian riders who tend to go well in the Ardennes classics. "I'm still feeling good although I've been a little sick since yesterday, probably because we were riding in the rain on Wednesday. But we will try for sure. The weather doesn't matter to me. Cycling is cycling so we'll make the best of it," Van Den Broeck said. "Evans is surely our team leader and my job is to stand by him as long as possible. The race starts at the Wanne. From then on the speed isn't dropping and once you end up riding at the back you have no chance to return to the front again," Van Den Broeck explained to Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé.

16:03 CEST    225km/36km to go
Kolobnev is now caught by the peloton, as they head through Sougné-Remouchamps.

16:05 CEST   
2100m and 8.4%. The leaders hit the Côte de la Redoute. Brutt is on the front - no surprise. Rolland follows and Fothen hangs on the back.

16:06 CEST   
Gilbert has started the climb and the spectators are cheering on their compatriot. There are a ton of RV's parked on the side of the road. Is this the Tour?

16:07 CEST   
The noise is unbelievable as Gilbert makes his way through the crowd. At the top there are barriers.

16:07 CEST   
Brutt has paid for his efforts on the steep part. Fothen has to drop back, too. Rolland is on the front, with Gilbert fighting behind.

16:08 CEST   
Lampre is leading the charge. Gilbert turns his head to see if the peloton is coming. Lloyd and Bettini at the front of the bunch.

16:09 CEST   
Lloyd attacks and Soler goes after him.

16:09 CEST   
But Bettini comes from 10th place back to attack on the left and flies by everyone!

16:10 CEST   
Lloyd reacts and closes back in. Great racing!

16:10 CEST   
The Schleck attack!

16:11 CEST    227km/34km to go
The Luxemburger passes Bettini on the left and leaves everyone behind. It is Andy Schleck, who went hard and immediately has a good gap.

Rolland is over the top and still leads.

16:12 CEST   
Brutt and Andy Schleck are riding together, with Fothen ahead of them and Rolland leading.

16:12 CEST   
Rolland has about 12 seconds on Fothen, with Schleck about 26 seconds back.

16:14 CEST   
Schumacher has caught up with Schleck! Gerolsteiner is in a good position now, but CSC as well. Brutt has been dropped by Schleck, but the Luxemburger has now help from the EU, via a German.

16:14 CEST    230km/31km to go
Fothen is freewheeling, waiting for his team-mate.

16:16 CEST   
The peloton is about 50 seconds behind the leader and is strung out.

Fothen has joined Schumacher and Schleck. Fothen puts himself to the front immediately. They are 22 seconds behind Rolland, who rides like a man possessed.

16:16 CEST   
But the Frenchman is now hitting the Côte de Sprimont. That hurts!

16:17 CEST   
Vladimir Efimkin (AG2R La Mondiale) and Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) are in pursuit. The Italian wears the #1.

16:18 CEST    232km/29km to go
Fothen was too spent, so he had to drop back. Rolland also is now being passed by Schumacher/Schleck. Too long of a break.

16:20 CEST    233km/28km to go
Wow. Bettini passes Pellizotti/Efimkin like a bullet. He attacked out of the group on the left, then passed the duo on the right, pushing his big ring up the hill. He is now trying to catch the leading duo, which is led by Schumacher for the moment.

16:21 CEST   
Schleck takes over. Both riders are working well together, and both unlikely to win today. They are preparing the attacks for their team-mates, Rebellin and the other Schleck, Andy's brother Frank.

16:21 CEST    235km/26km to go
Bettini sits up and waits for the bunch. To hard to try to catch the leaders by himself.

16:22 CEST   
Caisse and Lotto are leading the bunch now, as Bettini takes his place in the peloton.

16:23 CEST   
A few clouds, but otherwise a blue sky. Good for Rebellin who said that "yeah, the weather is better than on Wednesday," and made clear he had no objections.

16:25 CEST   
The riders have two more climbs to go. The next is the Côte de la Roche aux Faucons, which is put in new this year.

Schumacher and Schleck are flying down a descent. They won't lose any time on the downhill.

16:26 CEST    240km/21km to go
Schleck leads down, as they take a left hand turn, looking very synchronised. The lead is only 20 seconds currently. The bunch is still led by Caisse.

16:27 CEST   
Monfort was dropped earlier, but is back in the peloton, while Gilbert is done. His solo effort was too much.

The break passes over a bridge in Esneux.

16:28 CEST   
The climb has started!

16:29 CEST   
Schleck leads Schumi, both having a fluid style still.

Attack by Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott)!

16:30 CEST    241km/20km to go
Schleck was looking good and he feels good, too. He drops the German.

16:30 CEST   
Schumi is passed by the bunch. Rodriguez attacks, while Menchov is dropped.

16:32 CEST   
Riccò is also reeled in, but now the favourites are coming to the front. The other Schleck, Rebellin and Rodriguez catch Andy Schleck.

16:33 CEST    243km/18km to go
Valverde has made the front group as well. Two CSC, two Caisse and a Gerolsteiner. Evans, Pfannberger and Cunego are chasing behind. They missed the move.

16:36 CEST    245km/16km to go
Rodriguez can't follow the pace. Looks good for CSC now, with two Schlecks at the front. Evans, Cunego and Pfannberger are still chasing behind. They pass Rodriguez.

16:36 CEST   

Current race situation

  • Andy Schleck, Fränk Schleck (CSC), Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Alejandro Valverde, Joaquím Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne)
  • Cadel Evans (Silence), Damiano Cunego (Lampre), Christian Pfannberger (Barloworld) at 0.13
  • Peloton at 0.25

16:37 CEST   
Bettini and Lloyd are at the head of the bunch, which is 35 seconds behind.

16:38 CEST   
The leaders are in Seraing, with Rebellin taking over from Valverde. The Schlecks at the back for now. They have 21 seconds over the three chasers.

16:39 CEST   
Soler is behind Bettini. Kirchen is trying to get the group organised and takes a good pull, putting a small gap between himself and the second rider.

16:40 CEST    248km/13km to go
The four leaders are flying along, with the chasers not looking as fast. And the gap indeed goes out to 30 seconds. The Bettini group is already more than 40 seconds back.

16:41 CEST    250km/11km to go
A slight downhill and the four leaders are going down faster than any speed limit sign would indicate - if they could read it at that speed.

16:42 CEST    251km/10km to go
Sorry, now the leaders are getting to Seraing. One more climb to go, Côte de Saint-Nicolas. In about 5km.

16:46 CEST   
This looks like a highway. Very fitting for the speed. Andy Schleck puts in the back burner and leaves the others!

16:46 CEST    254km/7km to go
The four chasers are not looking nearly as fast. Three riders now behind the young Schleck, while the Evans group can't get closer.

16:47 CEST    255km/6km to go
Andy S. has hit the final climb. He looks a bit in pain. No surprise there!

16:47 CEST   
Andy out of the saddle, with Rebellin leading the chase.

16:48 CEST   
Frank Schleck sits on, while Valverde looks nervously around. He stays on Tintin's wheel for now.

16:49 CEST   
All three are out of the saddle.

And now Frank Schleck goes! He attacks hard on the right hand side, going into a left hand bend.

16:49 CEST   
But Rebellin and Valverde stay with the Luxemburger.

16:49 CEST    256km/5km to go
Schleck sits up.

But not for long. He attacks again, on the left hand side of the road.

16:50 CEST   
Rebellin follows immediately, with Valverde taking longer to react.

Cunego is no longer with the Evans group. We are not sure if he is ahead or behind.

16:52 CEST   
Frank Schleck sits on now, and gestures to the other two that it's up to them. Andy has been passed earlier on the climb.

Cunego is indeed behind the Evans group, but it's already 1'20 between the Aussie and the leaders.

16:52 CEST    257km/4km to go

  • Fränk Schleck (CSC), Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)
  • Andy Schleck (CSC) at 0.43
  • Cadel Evans (Silence), Christian Pfannberger (Barloworld), Joaquím Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne) at 1.20

16:53 CEST    258km/3km to go
Evans is leading Pfannberger, while Rebellin does a lot of work on the front. It looks best for Valverde at the moment. Three more km!

16:54 CEST   
Andy Schleck is 26 seconds behind. Will he make it back? If they play cat and mouse on the front, he may!

16:54 CEST    259km/2km to go
The leaders only have two more km to go. Rebellin again on the front. He will tire himself out.

16:56 CEST    260km/1km to go
The leaders are passing the 1km to sign. Uphill now!

16:56 CEST   
Andy is passing the flamme rouge.

16:56 CEST   
Rebellin leads, with Valverde in second and Frank looking on. The tension rises!

16:57 CEST   
Frank Schleck is out of the saddle and waiting.

16:57 CEST   
They pedal along nicely, but Valverde should have good cards now.

16:58 CEST   
They are on then left, next to the barriers. Valverde slightly to the right of Rebellin, a but behind.

16:58 CEST   
They go around the last right hand turn.

16:58 CEST   
And Valverde is the one who attacks first!

16:58 CEST   
He kicks hard. Rebellin is trying to get into the slipstream.

16:59 CEST   
Schleck is trying to get around, but can't make it.

16:59 CEST   
Rebellin is also unable to catch the Spaniard and Valverde takes the win!

17:00 CEST   
Rebellin gets second, as Schleck was too tired after his attacks and gets third.

17:01 CEST   
Andy Schleck comes in and the brothers hug immediately after the finish.

But what a nice victory for the Spaniard, who is well suited for these kinds of finishes.

17:16 CEST   
Cadel Evans had another strong showing, getting seventh place in Ans.

The winner said that "Fränk Schleck was very strong and his brother, Andy, as well... In the sprint I was feeling very strong."

17:23 CEST   
Valverde called it a "very nice victory."

Frank Schleck was also happy and acknowledged that "Rebellin and Valverde were very strong." While he admitted that he couldn't win again, he said that "I was twice on the podium."

17:24 CEST   
We hope you enjoyed the live coverage from the last Spring Classic of the 2008 season. Soon we will be back for the Giro d'Italia, the first Grand Tour of the year.

Thanks for joining us today and ciao in Italy!

Provisional Results

1 Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)
2 Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner)
3 Fränk Schleck (CSC)
4 Andy Schleck (CSC)
5 Christian Pfannberger (Barloworld)
6 Thomas Dekker (Rabobank)
7 Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto)
8 Joaquím Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne)
9 Paolo Bettini (Quickstep)
10 Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas)