"It's done," muttered one veteran member of the press corps when Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) dived down the descent of the Cote de la Roche aux Faucons, 19 kilometres from the finish of Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday. The journalist wasn't the only one to wrongly assume the race was effectively over.
Maxim Iglinskiy (Astana) admitted at the finish that he believed he was racing for second place when he initiated a counter attack with Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha). The duo started the Cote de Saint Nicolas 40 seconds down on Nibali, but with confusion over the time gaps and Rodriguez buckling on the climb, Iglinskiy soon found himself within touching distance of the despairing Nibali.
Iglinskiy made contact with the Liquigas leader just in front of the flamme rouge, before accelerating clear.
"When I went for it, chasing after Nibali, I thought I had no chance of victory. I thought I was fighting for second," he said in his winner's press conference.
"But then I managed to catch him, saw he wasn't in a good place, and went for it straight away. It's the biggest win of my career by a long way."
While Iglinskiy was certainly not counted as a favourite for today's win, his victory is certainly not a complete shock. The Astana rider won Strade Bianche in 2010 during a purple patch that included fourth overall in Tirreno-Adriatico, eighth in Milan-San Remo, seventh in Gent-Wevelgem, and eighth in the Tour of Flanders.
The 2011 season has certainly been less successful, but unlike Enrico Gasparotto who showed virtually no form before his win in Amstel Gold Race last week, Iglinskiy has had a strong start to this year, with second in Strade Bianche and 11th in Amstel Gold.
"Although I had taken stages in hilly races like the Dauphine Libere in 2007 and the Tour of Romandie in 2008 - as well as the Strade Bianche in 2010 - I thought I could do better in cobbled Classics like Ghent-Welvegem and E3 Harelbeke, not in a Classic like this. But I was wrong."