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Déjà-vu on the Mur de Huy

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Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas)

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) (Image credit: AFP)
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The men's podium (L to R):

The men's podium (L to R): (Image credit: Sirotti)
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The notorious steep section

The notorious steep section (Image credit: AFP)
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Jens Voigt (CSC)

Jens Voigt (CSC) (Image credit: AFP)
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Di Luca

Di Luca (Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Damiano Cunego (Lampre) gets ready

Damiano Cunego (Lampre) gets ready (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Di Luca and Cunego at the start

Di Luca and Cunego at the start (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The peloton on lap 1

The peloton on lap 1 (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) riding up the Mur

Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) riding up the Mur (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Damiano Cunego (Lampre) climbs the Mur

Damiano Cunego (Lampre) climbs the Mur (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) kept quiet in the bunch

Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) kept quiet in the bunch (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Voigt and Peeters away by themselves

Voigt and Peeters away by themselves (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Di Luca and Bettini try to keep the mud out of their eyes

Di Luca and Bettini try to keep the mud out of their eyes (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) had enough time to ease up

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) had enough time to ease up (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) raises his arms in triumph

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) raises his arms in triumph (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) was too good for Kirchen and Rebellin

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) was too good for Kirchen and Rebellin (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Thank you! Di Luca blows a kiss as he wins

Thank you! Di Luca blows a kiss as he wins (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) wins La Fleche Wallonne

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) wins La Fleche Wallonne (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) after the finish

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) after the finish (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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That was hard says Cunego

That was hard says Cunego (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) with the winner's trophy

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) with the winner's trophy (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) with bouquet and trophy

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) with bouquet and trophy (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) kisses the winner's trophy

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) kisses the winner's trophy (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Rebellin and Di Luca on the podium

Rebellin and Di Luca on the podium (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The men's podium (L to R): Davide Rebellin (3rd), Danilo Di Luca (1st) and Kim Kirchen (2nd)

The men's podium (L to R): Davide Rebellin (3rd), Danilo Di Luca (1st) and Kim Kirchen (2nd) (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) is the new ProTour leader

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) is the new ProTour leader (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Oscar Freire (Rabobank) hadn't previously heard the one about the horse that walks into a bar

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) hadn't previously heard the one about the horse that walks into a bar (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas-Bianchi) checks his saddle alignment

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas-Bianchi) checks his saddle alignment (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears)

Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears) (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The break arrives at the foot of a climb

The break arrives at the foot of a climb (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The peloton hits a climb - yes, it's steep.

The peloton hits a climb - yes, it's steep. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Mirko Celestino (Domina Vacanze) at the pe-race presentation

Mirko Celestino (Domina Vacanze) at the pe-race presentation (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) with Olympic gold helmet

Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) with Olympic gold helmet (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Paolo Bettini grabs a pre-race drink

Paolo Bettini grabs a pre-race drink (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Oscar Freire and Erik Dekker (Rabobank) at the pre-race presentation

Oscar Freire and Erik Dekker (Rabobank) at the pre-race presentation (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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A very strung-out peloton

A very strung-out peloton (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The peloton arrives at the outskirts of a village

The peloton arrives at the outskirts of a village (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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All sorts of spectators lined the roads

All sorts of spectators lined the roads (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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No, the other left! The peloton divides round a roundabout

No, the other left! The peloton divides round a roundabout (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The peloton on a typical narrow, steep Ardennes climb.

The peloton on a typical narrow, steep Ardennes climb. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Jens Voigt (CSC)

Jens Voigt (CSC) (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole)

Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole) (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Mirko Celestino (Domina Vacanze)

Mirko Celestino (Domina Vacanze) (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Ivan Basso (CSC)

Ivan Basso (CSC) (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Jens Voigt (CSC) leads the break

Jens Voigt (CSC) leads the break (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The break had a lead of over two minutes, but it was not to be

The break had a lead of over two minutes, but it was not to be (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Ivan Basso (CSC)

Ivan Basso (CSC) (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Paolo Bettini (Quick Step)

Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Caffita)

Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Caffita) (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The peloton passes through lush green fields

The peloton passes through lush green fields (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The peloton rolls through the Ardenne countryside

The peloton rolls through the Ardenne countryside (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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T-Mobile - the pink posse

T-Mobile - the pink posse (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile) is targetting the weekend's Liege-Bastone-Liege

Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile) is targetting the weekend's Liege-Bastone-Liege (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Santiago Botero (Phonak) rides in the bunch

Santiago Botero (Phonak) rides in the bunch (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Jens Voigt (CSC) leads Jef Peeters (Chocolade Jacques)

Jens Voigt (CSC) leads Jef Peeters (Chocolade Jacques) (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Rik Verbrugghe (Quick.Step) attacks on the Côte de Bohissau with 32 km to go.

Rik Verbrugghe (Quick.Step) attacks on the Côte de Bohissau with 32 km to go. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Rik Verbrugghe gaps the field but was eventually reeled in.

Rik Verbrugghe gaps the field but was eventually reeled in. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Jens Voigt (CSC) in the lead group the first time up the Mur

Jens Voigt (CSC) in the lead group the first time up the Mur (Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Jens Voigt (CSC) climbs the Mur

Jens Voigt (CSC) climbs the Mur (Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Kloden, Sevilla, Wegmann and Bettini lead the bunch on the first lap up the Mur

Kloden, Sevilla, Wegmann and Bettini lead the bunch on the first lap up the Mur (Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Andreas Kloden (T-Mobile) on the first lap

Andreas Kloden (T-Mobile) on the first lap (Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Di Luca hits out with 150m to go to win La Fleche Wallonne

Di Luca hits out with 150m to go to win La Fleche Wallonne (Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) with an unassailable lead

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) with an unassailable lead (Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Kim Kirchen (Fassa Bortolo) didn't have much left at the finish…

Kim Kirchen (Fassa Bortolo) didn't have much left at the finish… (Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Cadel Evans (Lotto) in a lot of pain

Cadel Evans (Lotto) in a lot of pain (Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) with the winner's trophy, that could come in handy for the Mur

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) with the winner's trophy, that could come in handy for the Mur (Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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The men's podium (L to R): Davide Rebellin (3rd), Danilo Di Luca (1st) and Kim Kirchen (2nd)

The men's podium (L to R): Davide Rebellin (3rd), Danilo Di Luca (1st) and Kim Kirchen (2nd) (Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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New ProTour leader Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas-Bianchi)

New ProTour leader Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas-Bianchi) (Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Ivan Basso (CSC) at the start

Ivan Basso (CSC) at the start (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Jens Voigt (CSC) leads the early break

Jens Voigt (CSC) leads the early break (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Sevilla and Bettini lead the bunch up the Mur on lap 1

Sevilla and Bettini lead the bunch up the Mur on lap 1 (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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The peloton tackles the Mur de Huy

The peloton tackles the Mur de Huy (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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The notorious steep section of the Mur de Huy

The notorious steep section of the Mur de Huy (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Vinokourov looks at what lies ahead

Vinokourov looks at what lies ahead (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) next to Rik Verbrugghe (Quick.Step)

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) next to Rik Verbrugghe (Quick.Step) (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Kirchen (Right) climbs the Mur

Kirchen (Right) climbs the Mur (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Fred Bessy (Cofidis) feels the power of gravity

Fred Bessy (Cofidis) feels the power of gravity (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Damiano Cunego (Lampre) knows how to concentrate

Damiano Cunego (Lampre) knows how to concentrate (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Vinokourov and Chavanel close to each other

Vinokourov and Chavanel close to each other (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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The peloton go up the Mur de Huy again

The peloton go up the Mur de Huy again (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) marked by CSC's Frank Schleck

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) marked by CSC's Frank Schleck (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Di Luca looking comfy on the Mur

Di Luca looking comfy on the Mur (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Jef Peeters (Jacques) and Jens Voigt (CSC) during their escape

Jef Peeters (Jacques) and Jens Voigt (CSC) during their escape (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Jens Voigt (CSC) on a mission

Jens Voigt (CSC) on a mission (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Jens Voigt (CSC) gives it full gas

Jens Voigt (CSC) gives it full gas (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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The favourites get to the front on the final climb of the Mur

The favourites get to the front on the final climb of the Mur (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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The favourites get closer…

The favourites get closer… (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Rebellin and Di Luca side by side

Rebellin and Di Luca side by side (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) beats Kim Kirchen to win La Fleche Wallonne

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) beats Kim Kirchen to win La Fleche Wallonne (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) salutes as he wins La Fleche Wallonne

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) salutes as he wins La Fleche Wallonne (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) kisses the winner's trophy

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) kisses the winner's trophy (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Rebellin and Di Luca congratulate each other

Rebellin and Di Luca congratulate each other (Image credit: AFP Photo)

69th Flèche Wallonne - PT

Belgium, April 20, 2005

ProTour standings

Danilo di Luca (Liquigas-Bianchi) followed in the footsteps of his Italian colleague Davide Rebellin today when he took his second victory after Amstel Gold race, just like Rebellin last year. Di Luca was simply the strongest of the main contenders, all hitting the famous "Mur de Huy" together and pounding up the slopes of this final climb for an impressive slo-mo sprint.

The confidence Di Luca gained through his previous victory just a couple of days ago paid off: Moving clear of the likes of David Etxebarria, Patrik Sinkewitz, Oscar Freire, Angel Vicioso and Cadel Evans 200 metres before the line, Di Luca outsprinted Luxembourg champion Kim Kirchen (Fassa Bortolo) and the 2004 triple winner Rebellin, who is still having respiratory problems in the damp, cold weather.

At the finish, the breakthrough classics contender first of all thanked his team. "My team did a great job," he said. "It was only when we all arrived together at the foot of the last climb that I thought of winning. This morning, I was actually more focused on Liège-Bastogne-Liège!"

That was also the impression he gave to Cyclingnews at the start in Charleroi, where Di Luca seemed extremely relaxed and jokingly said he was going to attack "before the last ascent".

In the end, Di Luca got there with the main bunch of course, but it didn't matter. "I did control the front riders in the finale," he said. "I was right there at the front when we hit the Mur, I had to control. I waited for the moves of the others, and I responded."

Kim Kirchen managed to get his nose in front of Di Luca with 200m to go, but it didn't last too long. However, the Fassa Bortolo man held off Rebellin for solid second place. "I felt good all day, especially when it started to rain," said Kirchen. "We arrived at the foot of the last climb, where the finish was, in a group of seventy. The men of Cunego set the pace. We climbed at a strong tempo until the last 250 metres, when I took the initiative and started the sprint. I went strongly, but Di Luca had an extra gear.

"My condition is good and I hope to be able to play for the win in Liege on Sunday. The finish there is not quite as hard and I should be more competitive against a Di Luca in these conditions."

Third placed Davide Rebellin commented, "I like the warm weather better. My legs were good today, but it was hard to breathe because of the bad weather." As for Liege-Bastogne-Liege, "I would love to win it again. Di Luca, Boogerd and Cunego are my main rivals."

How it unfolded

Under grey, threatening skies, the riders set out from Charleroi's Stade du Pays shortly after 11:00am. The opening kilometres were fast and aggressive, with Frederic Finot (Francaise des Jeux) the first rider to attack after 15 km. He managed to gain half a minute and just hung out in front until km 37, when Jef Peeters (Jacques), Kurt Van de Wouwer (MrBookmaker) and Oliver Kaisen (RAGT) set off in pursuit. Finot stayed clear of the other three, but they were just 13 seconds ahead of the bunch at km 52. That's when Benoît Poilvet (CA), Davide Bramati (Quick.Step) and Jens Voigt (CSC) got across, and the main seven man break was formed.

The peloton gave them a bit of room and at the top of the first climb of the Mur de Huy (km 65), the seven had 2'45 as Van de Wouwer led them over. On the descent, the lead increased to 3'10 at km 70, which was the maximum lead of the break. By the time they had reached the Mur for the second time, it was hovering between 1'30 and 2'00 as the peloton began to increase the tempo. After the top of the Mur, Di Luca's Liquigas team got on the front, and with the help of Marco Serpellini (Gerolsteiner), had the break pegged at between 1'00 and 1'30.

In front, Jens Voigt was looking very strong but he knew he didn't have much time to play with. On the Côte de Pailhe (km 132.5), he began to force the tempo to keep the gap at 1'15, holding it there for the next 10 km as the peloton started to ride harder. But with 60 km to go, Voigt had had enough and attacked the tiring breakaway, with only Jef Peeters (Jacques) managing to hold his wheel.

There were several attempts from the peloton to close the gap to Voigt and Peeters, which rapidly went up to 2'00 again. Thierry Marichal (Cofidis) and Sylvain Calzati (Ag2r) bridged to the remnants of the breakaway (Bramati, Finot, Van de Wouwer and Poilvet), but were swallowed by the peloton at 45 km to go as rain started to fall and the roads became slick and dangerous, causing several crashes.

On the Côte de Bellaire with 43 km left, Voigt surprised Peeters and powered away from him, hoping to get to the Mur de Huy alone. The German super-diesel still had 1'47 on the peloton, which was led by Liquigas, Illes Balears and Phonak's Uros Murn. Rik Verbrugghe (Quick.Step) had hopes of repeating his 2001 victory and attacked on the Côte de Bohissau with 32 km to go, catching Peeters but not being able to get clear of the peloton. The pair were drawn back in to the peloton while Voigt increased his lead out to 1'52.

The chase really started then, driven by Liquigas, Illes Balears and Murn, and the peloton had closed to within 1'00 of Voigt at the foot of the Côte de Ahin with 12 km to go. Voigt lost a lot of ground on the climb as Andrey Kashechkin (CA) tried to get up to him, but he couldn't quite close that gap and it was 15 seconds over the top, with the strung out peloton another 10 seconds back.

On the run into Huy, Voigt gave up the rest of his lead to Kashechkin, Chavanel, Pereiro and Pineau. But even they couldn't hold off the bunch before the climb commenced, and it was all together at the foot of the 1.3 km Mur. The protected team leaders massed at the front in a battle for position on the brutally steep climb. Di Luca, Freire, Vinokourov, Rebellin, Sinkewitz, Kirchen and Celestino were all there, and it was the climb and the riders' legs that decided the finishing order. With 200m to go, Kirchen accelerated, but Di Luca countered and moved past the Luxembourg champion to take his second victory in four days, with Rebellin again showing good form by finishing third.

Can Di Luca do the triple, á la Rebellin last year? He definitely has the form to win in Liege-Bastogne-Liege on Sunday.

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