Braeckevelt buoyant about Katusha's Classics

So close but so far for Russian squad in the Ardennes

Despite valiant performances in Amstel Gold Race, Fléche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Russian squad Katusha came away from the Ardennes empty-handed, with Alexandr Kolobnev and Joaquin Rodriguez taking podium places in Liège and Fléche respectively.

Jef Braeckevelt is the experienced and charismatic Belgian directeur sportif of the Katusha team, and told Cyclingnews that he was disappointed but proud of his team's performance during the races in the Ardennes and Limburg region.

"Both riders gave all they had but Vinokourov is one of the strongest riders around," he said. "On Saturday we saw him and I remember telling André [Andrei Tchmill] that he looked really sharp."

Kolobnev hit out in the finale of the Amstel Gold Race and tried his luck again in Liège, only to be thwarted by none other than Alexandre Vinokourov. The Astana veteran had too much over the final kilometre and outmuscled his Russian breakaway companion to take the win.

"After the Côte de Saint-Nicolas the gap was only 20 seconds so they didn't have time to hesitate. If they would've been caught back you don't have anything; I'd rather finished second," said Braeckevelt of Kolobnev's tactics.

Last season the team came away from the trio of Classics with a win, after Serguei Ivanov put in a dazzling performance at the Amstel Gold Race. That wasn't to be in 2010 but Braeckevelt remained upbeat, however.

"I'm happy with our recent performances. We showed that we're one of the strongest teams for the Amstel Gold Race and the Ardennes, but we didn't win.

"Kolobnev was caught back in the last kilometre during the [Amstel] Gold Race and during Flèche so I hoped that three times would be lucky but it wasn't to be," Braeckevelt added.

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