Vinokourov victorious at La Doyenne

Kazakhstani captures the old lady for a second time

Five years after his first victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) has sealed his comeback to the sport with his second career 'La Doyenne' today. Overpowering his breakaway companion Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) in the final 500 metres of the uphill finish in Ans, the 36-year-old Astana rider proved his team tactics to be perfect.

Spaniard Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) was fastest in the chase group, outsprinting Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and World Champion Cadel Evans (BMC) on the line 1:04 later.

"I gave my best in this race," said Kolobnev. "I worked together with Vinokourov very well for us to take a solid gap. I knew everything would be decided in the final metres. I tried to follow him but he was too strong for me today. I want to thank the whole team because they worked very well."

"Three riders named Alejandro on the podium!" said Valverde. "I would have liked the order to be different but this time it was not possible to win. I am nevertheless happy with my result, which shows how consistent I am in this race."

Vinokourov made his move with 17 kilometres to go on the descent of the Côte de la Roche aux Faucons, after his teammate Alberto Contador duped his rivals on the climb by launching a powerful attack. As the Kazakhstani went, focus remained on the Spaniard, but instead his teammate pulled off a fantastic raid in the company of Kolobnev, and continued on until the finish.

Gilbert was the first to realize the danger coming from the Russian-Kazakhstani duo and set off to chase them on his own with 15 kilometres to go, soon joined by Valverde and Evans. But it was too late: the gap was 30 seconds at the bottom of the Côte de Saint Nicolas, where Gilbert again tried to bridge up on his own, in vain.

The remaining favourites such as Andy and Fränk Schleck, Contador, Chris Horner (RadioShack) and Igor Anton (Euskaltel-Euskadi) nearly caught the chasing trio on the line for the remainder of top ten placings.

Eight men gain eight minutes

A 198-strong peloton left the Place Saint-Lambert square in Liège for an initial 9km neutral section before reaching kilometre zero on their 258km trek through the Ardennes. Soon after the official start, under overcast skies, a group of seven riders formed the early breakaway. Thomas De Gendt (Topsport Vlaanderen), Maxime Bouet (AG2R La Mondiale), Alan Perez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Jussi Veikkanen (Française des Jeux), Dries Devenyns (Quick Step), Niki Terpstra (Milram) and Mauro Finetto (Liquigas-Doimo) built up a lead of eight minutes.

One rider, Dirk Bellemakers (Landbouwkrediet), missed the train but continued chasing the leader's group for more than an hour before finally joining them. The BMC Racing squad of world champion Cadel Evans controlled the peloton's tempo and after 100km the gap was steady at six minutes.

When approaching the important duo of climbs, the Côte de Wanne and Côte de Stockeu, the speed increased both in the breakaway group and in the peloton. It wasn't too fast for Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank), though, who attacked solo from the peloton. Caisse d'Epargne and Omega Pharma-Lotto set the pace in the field to keep the German locomotive within reach but that chase was hampered when Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) crashed at the second feed zone.

As the leaders approached the longest climb of the day, the 6.4km long Côte du Rosier with 71km remaining to the finish in Ans, a brush fire made the race jury opt to take a different route. The five remaining leaders - De Gendt, Perez, Devenyns, Terpstra and Bellemakers - didn't seem bothered by the incident, working well together and keeping Voigt and Veikkanen at one minute.

The peloton gained back time on Voigt and on the Côte du Maquisard, with 60km remaining, the gap between the leaders and the peloton dropped to a little over one minute. Voigt and Veikkanen were still riding in between these two group while Belgium's Maxime Monfort (HTC-Columbia) forced himself into the racing action with an attack on the Maquisard.

With 50 kilometres to go Devenyns showed that he was the strongest man in the breakaway group as the young Belgian dropped the rest of the group on the Mont-Theux. At the top of this climb Devenyns had 50 seconds on the peloton where riders from HTC-Columbia, Rabobank and Omega Pharma-Lotto tried to form a new breakaway, anticipating the famous Côte de la Redoute.

Lieutenants launch on La Redoute

Their escapees' efforts were in vain and with 37km to go, at the foot of La Redoute, everybody was back together at the front of the race. On the La Redoute the big guns kept quiet while their lieutenants went out on the offensive. After the famous climb a group with Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas-Doimo), Carlos Barredo (Quick Step), Laurens Ten Dam (Rabobank), Tony Martin (HTC-Columbia) and Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone) lead the race.

Ten Dam would drop his breakaway companions and continue alone in the lead towards the penultimate climb of the day, the Côte de la Roche aux Faucons at 238km. Ten Dam's former break companions were absorbed and Russian champion Serguei Ivanov (Katusha) set off in pursuit of the Dutchman but couldn't reduce to gap further than 28 seconds to the race leader.

Fireworks on the Côte de la Roche aux Faucons

Once the field began its ascent of the Côte de la Roche aux Faucons, the fireworks commenced amongst the race favourites. Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) and Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) launched a blistering attack and flew past Ivanov and Ten Dam into the race lead. The pair were soon joined by Tour de France champion Alberto Contador (Astana) to form a very threatening lead trio, but their attack was neutralised over the top of the Côte de la Roche aux Faucons.

2005 Liège - Bastogne - Liège champion Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) launched an attack on the descent of the Côte de la Roche aux Faucons and was soon joined by Alexandr Kolobnev with 17km remaining.

Sensing the danger in this attack, Gilbert, Valverde and Evans set off in pursuit of the Russian/Kazakhstani duo. As Vinokourov and Kolobnev approached the final climb, the Côte de Saint-Nicolas with 6km to go, they led the three-man chase group by 30 seconds while the field already conceded more than one minute. Vinokourov attacked Kolobnev near the climb's summit, but the Russian was able to real in the Kazakhstani on the descent. Meanwhile, Valverde attacked Gilbert and Evans on the climb and got a small gap. While Evans struggled to answer the Spaniard's move, Gilbert caught Valverde and launched an attack of his own which proved successful in distancing himself from his two breakaway companions.

Gilbert closed to within 22 seconds of Vinokourov and Kolobnev, but would draw no closer. With two kilometres remaining Gilbert dropped back to 40 seconds behind the two leaders and would be caught by Evans and Valverde at the flamme rouge.

As Vinokourov and Kolobnev tackled the gradual ascent to the finish line inside the final kilometre, the Kazakhstani attacked and Kolobnev had no answer. Vinokourov powered to the finish line to win Liège - Bastogne - Liège for the second time, distancing Kolobnev by six seconds.

The chasing trio of Valverde, Gilbert and Evans began a game of cat-and-mouse in the final several hundred metres as they vied for the final podium position. Just as the Andy Schleck-led chase group behind them was about to make contact at 250m to go, Valverde launched his sprint and held off Gilbert and Evans for third, 1:04 behind Vinokourov. Schleck outsprinted his four chase companions three seconds later to secure sixth place.

Full Results
1 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana 6:37:48  
2 Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Team Katusha 0:00:06  
3 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 0:01:04  
4 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto    
5 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team    
6 Andy Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank 0:01:07  
7 Igor Anton (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi    
8 Christopher Horner (USA) Team Radioshack    
9 Frank Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank    
10 Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana    
11 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom 0:01:18  
12 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Sky Professional Cycling Team    
13 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Transitions    
14 Benoît Vaugrenard (Fra) Française Des Jeux    
15 Paul Martens (Ger) Rabobank    
16 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank    
17 Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Team Milram    
18 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone    
19 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto    
20 Carlos Barredo (Spa) Quick Step    
21 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini    
22 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale 0:01:22  
23 Jérôme Baugnies (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
24 Stephen Cummings (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team    
25 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:01:25  
26 Xavier Tondo (Spa) Cervélo TestTeam    
27 Yury Trofimov (Rus) BBox Bouygues Telecom    
28 Luis-Leon Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne    
29 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo 0:01:29  
30 Xavier Florencio (Spa) Cervélo TestTeam 0:01:33  
31 Thomas Löfkvist (Swe) Sky Professional Cycling Team    
32 Dimitri Champion (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
33 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank 0:01:45  
34 Francesco Masciarelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone 0:01:59  
35 Bram Tankink (Ned) Rabobank 0:02:02  
36 Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Team Milram 0:02:08  
37 David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne    
38 Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita) Androni Giocattoli    
39 Francesco Failli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone 0:02:35  
40 Juan José Oroz (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 0:02:59  
41 Egoi Martinez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi    
42 Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Française Des Jeux 0:03:00  
43 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Team Katusha 0:03:18  
44 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:05:07  
45 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo    
46 Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Team Katusha    
47 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 0:05:52  
48 Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Team Katusha    
49 Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick Step    
50 Vladimir Miholjevic (Cro) Acqua & Sapone 0:06:08  
51 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas-Doimo    
52 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Team Radioshack    
53 Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing Team    
54 Bert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwkrediet 0:07:05  
55 Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini    
56 Massimo Codol (Ita) Acqua & Sapone    
57 Gorazd Stangelj (Slo) Astana    
58 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Saxo Bank    
59 Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin - Transitions    
60 Pieter Weening (Ned) Rabobank    
61 Johan Coenen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator 0:09:34  
62 Bert Scheirlinckx (Bel) Landbouwkrediet    
63 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Caisse d'Epargne    
64 Kevin De Weert (Bel) Quick Step    
65 Laurent Lefevre (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom    
66 Christian Knees (Ger) Team Milram    
67 John Gadret (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
68 Ted King (USA) Cervélo TestTeam    
69 Sylvain Calzati (Fra) Sky Professional Cycling Team    
70 Pierre Rolland (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom    
71 Inaki Isasi (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi    
72 Tony Martin (Ger) Team HTC - Columbia    
73 Cyril Gautier (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom    
74 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team    
75 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin - Transitions    
76 Dario Cataldo (Ita) Quick Step    
77 Amaël Moinard (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne    
78 Christophe Brandt (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto    
79 Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini    
80 Rubens Bertogliati (Swi) Androni Giocattoli    
81 Kristjan Koren (Slo) Liquigas-Doimo    
82 Luis Pasamontes (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne    
83 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Astana    
84 Valerio Agnoli (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo    
85 Nicki Sorensen (Den) Saxo Bank    
86 Sander Armee (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
87 Ignatas Konovalovas (Ltu) Cervélo TestTeam 0:10:22  
88 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Team HTC - Columbia 0:12:27  
89 Alessandro Spezialetti (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini    
90 Geert Verheyen (Bel) Landbouwkrediet    
91 Christophe Kern (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne    
92 Bart Dockx (Bel) Landbouwkrediet    
93 Jens Voigt (Ger) Saxo Bank    
94 Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Milram    
95 Preben Van Hecke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
96 Andrea Masciarelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone    
97 Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team    
98 Laurent Didier (Lux) Saxo Bank    
99 Grischa Niermann (Ger) Rabobank    
100 Michael Albasini (Swi) Team HTC - Columbia    
101 Peter Stetina (USA) Garmin - Transitions    
102 David Loosli (Swi) Lampre-Farnese Vini    
103 Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
104 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Team Radioshack    
105 Peter Velits (Svk) Team HTC - Columbia    
106 Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana    
107 Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz) Astana    
108 Mikel Nieve (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi    
109 Kjell Carlström (Fin) Sky Professional Cycling Team    
110 Ivan Rovny (Rus) Team Radioshack    
111 Sergei Klimov (Rus) Team Katusha    
112 Pavel Brutt (Rus) Team Katusha    
113 Sergio Paulinho (Por) Team Radioshack    
114 Mathias Frank (Swi) BMC Racing Team    
115 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervélo TestTeam    
116 Marcel Wyss (Swi) Cervélo TestTeam    
117 Volodymir Gustov (Ukr) Cervélo TestTeam    
118 Hubert Dupont (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
119 Craig Lewis (USA) Team HTC - Columbia    
120 Peter Wrolich (Aut) Team Milram    
121 Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom    
122 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) Team HTC - Columbia    
123 Luca Mazzanti (Ita) Team Katusha    
124 Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne    
125 Daniele Righi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini    
126 Philip Deignan (Irl) Cervélo TestTeam    
127 Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:12:35  
128 Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator 0:16:04  
129 Dirk Bellemakers (Ned) Landbouwkrediet    
130 Imanol Erviti (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne    
131 Davy Commeyne (Bel) Landbouwkrediet    
132 Matthew Busche (USA) Team Radioshack    
133 Benjamin Gourgue (Bel) Landbouwkrediet    
134 Reiner Honig (Ned) Acqua & Sapone 0:17:51  
135 Kristof Vandewalle (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
136 Matteo Bono (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini    
137 Martin Velits (Svk) Team HTC - Columbia    
138 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team    
139 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Quick Step    
140 Jérémy Roy (Fra) Française Des Jeux    

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