By Gregor Brown & Brecht Decaluwé in Ans
Gerolsteiner was unable to claim the win in Liège-Bastogne-Liège although the team has had a couple of cards to play during the last of the three Ardennes Classics. Markus Fothen was in the early breakaway for a long time, Stefan Schumacher launched a good attack with Andy Schleck on the Côte de la Redoute and 2004 winner Davide Rebellin battled hard to the line with the day's winner, Alejandro Valverde.
"I didn't have a good day," Schumacher told Cyclingnews. The German was unable to hang with the younger of the Schleck brothers during their escape. "Because of my crash in the Flèche Wallonne I couldn't breathe normally and I had cramps during the finale," he explained.
"I have a hematoma above my knee as I had some handlebars [banged] against my legs in the crash. I knew that I wasn't good enough to win today so I tried to anticipate. Too bad I couldn't stay there any longer to get the team in the best position, but I couldn't do anything more than I already did," a disappointed Schumacher concluded.
The last card the German team had to play was veteran Davide Rebellin. The 36 year-old Italian was able to respond to the attack from Fränk Schleck on the new climb of the Côte de la Roche aux Faucons, but didn't have a chance in the sprint against the speed of Alejandro Valverde.
"I thought of trying in the last kilometre, but Valverde could have won that way too," stated Rebellin, who enjoyed a clean sweep of the Ardennes Week in 2004. "I decided to save it all for the sprint. Valverde was left to go in that attack, maybe I could have used a little bit by pulling but I think he would have won all the same."
In fact, Rebellin was surprised Schleck did not attack before the sprint on Rue Jean-Jaurès. "We were there... I thought that Schleck was going to go, but he did not have anything left. It became a very hard race, but I am content nonetheless."
Rebellin is racing for one more year and thinks he still has a chance of claiming his second win in 'La Doyenne'. "This is my race," he said. "I had hoped to win again, but never say never, there will be another one."
(For more on Rebellin read Ready for Ardennes and beyond.)