On the morning after, there was one consensus in the post-race comments of the Belgian press: Team CSC rode a fantastic race, making Liège-Bastogne-Liège too fast for the Belgian riders.
Paolo Bettini saluted the CSC team in HNB. "My hat off for CSC´," Il Grillo said. "It's been years since I last saw a team take control of a race in such a way. The morphology of the race changed, though, when Ivan Basso broke his wheel just before the real finale started. CSC called off the chase for a moment to wait for their team leader and Boogerd and Rodriguez were able to take more time, it became a risky situation that way. It's just a pity that I was by myself several times again today."
The Italian star, whom according to the same paper has been offered two million Euros per year by German T-Mobile, was greatly assisted by his teammate Serge Baguet. But also for the Belgian national champ, the light slowly went out on the Côte de Sart-Tilman. "We knew it wasn't going to be so obvious for our team to take control of the race today. We are not CSC," said Baguet, who confirmed his qualities as a dependable and hard worker and will wait to negotiate a renewal of his contract until after the Giro. "I don't think that there will be any problems. They know what I'm worth," he concluded.
"CSC did all the work, but another one tasted the jam in the end," Eddy Merckx is quoted. The fact that Bjarne Riis' team wasn't reluctant to take the weight of the race on their shoulders was clearly appreciated by the cycling icon. Eddy's son Axel crossed the line as first Belgian in 33rd position. "In the Flemish classics we're there, but on the roads of Wallonie we have too big a hole to fill," Merckx senior analysed.
"It was killing!," Belgian Philippe Gilbert told Het Laatste Nieuws. "Basso and co pulled the pack on a string. And it remained stretched until Ans. Only on the Haute Levée they temporised a bit. Luckily. If they would have kept on riding like that, they would have had to pick me up from the ground.
"The early break has stirred up the fire. As a result, everyone was dead in the finale. It went way too fast," he added. Gilbert attacked momentarily before the climb of La Redoute. "I was afraid to be at my limit there, so I wanted to surprise the rest by going before the climb. It didn't work. On La Redoute I was stranded by 20 meters from the best and I couldn't bridge the gap. Afterwards I got back on. At the foot of Sart-Tilman I slid on the dirt and I lost terrain. To hang on was hard."
Axel Merckx confirmed the speed of the race. "You can say that much," the Phonak rider commented. "That train kept on tearing along and didn't stop for a second. There was no hiding. I felt pretty stiff still from the crash on Friday. Not ideal, two days before such a top classic. So what could I do?," he asked in HNB. "I tried to anticipate, but that CSC train was powering."
Davitamon-Lotto's Björn Leukemans agreed with his Belgian colleagues. "I suffered. On Sart-Tilman it went too fast. They accelerated again. I wasn't one hundred percent. My legs didn't turn around properly. I did what I could for Chris Horner, got some bidons. But my tank was running on empty. You can't have the slightest problem; without the consequences of that fall in Basque country, it would have been completely different - I would have been there in Amstel and my train would have been on the move too," he said.
Courtesy of Sabine Sunderland