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.
|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|