By Brecht Decaluwé in Ans
After celebrating his 28th birthday last Friday, Alejandro Valverde gave himself the perfect present by claiming his second victory in 'La Doyenne', as the final event of the Spring Classics is often referred to. The Spaniard from Murcia beat Davide Rebellin and Fränk Schleck in a three-man sprint, but unlike his 2006 victory, Valverde said he didn't feel like the strongest rider today.
"Fränk Schleck was the strongest man in the race this time," said the Caisse d'Epargne rider. "He has got phenomenal form right now which he showed already in the Amstel Gold Race. Today, he was unlucky that Rebellin and I were faster than he."
Valverde's devastating sprint once again proved to be the decisive weapon in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, just like two years ago. "Surely, my experience helped me today," he said. "I won here in 2006 and came second last year. Knowing the roads helped me to save my energy for the moments that really mattered during the finale."
Valverde explained that one of those key moments was the new climb: the Côte de le Roche aux Faucons. "That climb made the difference today. During the first part you only had to stay near the front as it wasn't possible to create a gap there. On the second, steeper part I arrived with all my forces and I felt really good, so I could make the difference."
On that penultimate climb, the eventual winner reacted to attacks from Davide Rebellin, Fränk Schleck and his team-mate Joaquin Rodriguez. "I focused my race on Cadel Evans and Damiano Cunego but when I noticed they were unable to follow the attack on the new climb I jumped away myself. I was surprised but since it had been a long and tough race in the sun they might have been a bit dehydrated."
Valverde ended up riding up front with Rodriguez, Rebellin and the Schleck brothers. And when Rodriguez got dropped on a non-classified climb towards the Côte de Saint-Nicolas, the Spaniard wasn't in the best position to claim the win. "Surely I feared them at first as it was the two of them against Davide Rebellin and me," he explained. "When Andy attacked, Rebellin and I agreed to work together to get him back.
To read the complete winner's story, click here.