Allergies and mistakes spoil Katusha's chances at Liege-Bastogne-Liege

The Katusha team was expected to be a major threat to Phillip Gilbert and the Schleck brothers at Liege-Bastogne-Liege thanks to their strength in numbers but the Russian team left the finish in Ans under a cloud after team leaders Joaquim Rodriguez, Alexandr Kolobnev and Danilo Di Luca struggled.

Kolobnev finished a close second to Alexandre Vinokourov last year but was only 11th this year, while Rodriguez was further back in 26th place. Kolobnev admitted he missed the decisive attack by the Schlecks on the Cote de la Roche aux Faucons.

"I wasn't very focused in the very moment when the Schleck brothers attacked. It was a fatal distraction, which conditioned my race," the Russian national champion admitted in a statement issued by the team.

"I'm sorry because I think I was in a good shape, but for a rider like me, it was important not to lose the best riders' wheel. When I lost them, it was already impossible to close that gap. I'm really sorry, I'm very disappointed with my race because I did everything to be in my best shape for this competition. I hoped to reach a better result, because my shape was good enough to do so."

Like many riders, Rodriguez was affected by the very high pollen count in the Ardennes caused by the hot weather and lack of rain in the last few days.

"For me, it was a bad day. I can't say why, but the fact is that today I felt empty, with no energy. I think I suffered the flower-dust allergy more than I expected," he said.

"It was very hot, and this created a particular weather condition which I suffered a lot. In fact, I couldn't breathe very well. In the end, when I have to change my rhythm, I couldn't because I had no energy. Anyways, congratulations to the riders who did well."

Despite the disappointing end to the Ardennes team manager Andrei Tchmil tried to stay upbeat, focusing on Rodriguez's second places to Gilbert in both the Amstel Gold Race and Fleche Wallonne.

"Congratulations to Gilbert, which once again today was extraordinary," he said.

"Unfortunately we didn't achieve a good result but with Joaquim's two second places in Amstel Gold Race and Fleche Wallonne, we head home from the Ardennes with satisfactory overall results."

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