Cadel Evans (BMC) thought he had found the decisive move at Liège-Bastogne-Liège when he jumped across to Philippe Gilbert and Alejandro Valverde on the second part of the Cote de la Roche-aux-Facons, but the trio failed to catch Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) and Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha). Evans eventually finished fifth at 1:04, beaten by Valverde and Gilbert in the sprint for third place.
As he downed a bottle of water near the BMC team bus and gasped for breath immediately after finishing the race, Evans admitted he was wrongly placed just before the Roche-aux-Facons climb and outnumbered by stronger teams, but was satisfied with his performance.
"I was good. I was a little bit unlucky and didn't quite play the right cards," he said.
"I had a bit of a lapse of concentration leading into the Roche-aux-Facons, but I got back to position good enough. Then it was going and coming back, going and coming back. The only thing I lacked was a teammate. There were a couple of pairs there. There were two Astana, two Caisse d'Epargne and two Saxo Bank. I was on my own and so I had to wait there and gamble a little bit.
"It was a pity not to have the numbers there in the end but we've had a bit of rough time with Karsten (Kroon, who crashed in Fléche Wallonne) and Santambrogio (suspended by the team after being implicated in a doping investigation in Italy). There were a few things beyond our control. I'm happy with how the guys rode, though. There were a couple of young guys here and for them it was the first time they've ridden Liège. That was impressive."
Right move, wrong combination
Evans powered across to Valverde and Gilbert at just the right time. The gap was just 15 seconds at one point but they never managed to catch Vinokourov and Kolobnev. Evans revealed that Valverde stopped doing his bit in the chase and then attacked on the Saint Nicolas as he rode for third place.
"I was happy to get across to Gilbert and Valverde without Schleck and Contador. I thought that was good. Shows things are still going along in a good direction," Evans said.
"We got close but just before the Saint Nicolas, Valverde stopped working. I said "hey, they're only 20 [seconds] in front and they're 50 behind. If we keep going, maybe we can catch the guys in front'. He said, 'It wont work, it won't work,' then attacked us on the Saint Nicolas. If we'd co-operated a bit more maybe we would have been fighting for first or second place but if that’s the way he wants to do it...I'm still reasonably happy. I think I did all the right moves."
Now for the Giro
Evans will not ride this week's Tour de Romandie as he usually does. With both the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France on his summer race programme, he will head home to Switzerland for his final build-up to the Giro. He is targeting overall victory in the Giro and must be one of the leading favourites after such an impressive spring.
Evans described his spring Classics campaign as "By far my best."
His victory at Flèche Wallonne was the first win of the season for BMC after a difficult few weeks marked by the suspension from racing of leading classics rider Alessandro Ballan and Mauro Santambrogio for their links to the Mantova doping investigation in Italy, and more recently the positive anti-doping test for EPO by Thomas Frei.
"We'd been knocking on the door and it was a breakthrough win on Wednesday [at Fléche Wallonne], a great sign and a great morale booster for the team," Evan said.
"I'm really happy with how things have gone, from the management to the staff and the riders who were riding for me right from the first kilometre today. Hopefully we can keep progressing forward from here to the Giro."