When Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) faded in the crucial final kilometres of Liège-Bastogne-Liège it was not by much - but just enough in a race which culminated in a near stalemate to finish out of the sprint for the very top spots.
Instead ‘Phil', as he is widely known, had to settle for eighth at the end of a race which, as he commented with his usual clear cut analysis, "never really exploded."
"Every leader had a lot of riders with them in the finale and that meant the course was shut down and it was harder to try to get away," Gilbert said. "We went up Ans at full tilt, and it was very fast all the way, too.
"Then when I did try to go clear on the last climb because it seemed like everybody was on the limit, just like Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) did last year, it didn't work out. I just didn't have the legs."
The difference between winning the Amstel Gold Race and his near miss in Liège, Gilbert said, was that "in Amstel it's more of a technical finish and I felt more comfortable there, here was more a question of raw strength, and I didn't quite have it."
Victorious in the 2011 Liège, Gilbert praised Simon Gerrans for his triumph, saying he was a "good winner, and somebody whose palmares is getting better every year. [And] I'm happy to have been close to the win myself."
BMC sports director Valerio Piva said that Gilbert "was lacking a little bit right at the end, and he maybe went for it a bit too early. The thing was everybody was waiting and waiting right until the finish, and then it came down to a sprint where the best riders like Gerrans and [Michal] Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) were still there, both of whom are very fast. It was very difficult in a bunch sprint like that at the end of such a long race."
Piva added that he was particularly satisfied with the "great job done by [BMC teammate Samuel] Sanchez in the finale" - as had already been the case in Amstel Gold, where 'Samu' stretched out his rivals before Gilbert launched his race-winning attack.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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