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Tin-tin Rebellin gets another Gerolsteiner win

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An exhausted Rebellin

An exhausted Rebellin (Image credit: AFP)
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Alexander Vinokourov

Alexander Vinokourov (Image credit: AFP)
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Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) (Image credit: Sirotti)
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The start in Charleroi.

The start in Charleroi. (Image credit: Gregor Brown)
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The Mur de Huy

The Mur de Huy (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Axel Merckx (T-Mobile)

Axel Merckx (T-Mobile) (Image credit: Gregor Brown)
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Serguei Ivanov (Astana)

Serguei Ivanov (Astana) (Image credit: AFP)
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Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile)

Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile) (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Fans reach out

Fans reach out (Image credit: AFP)
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An exhausted Rebellin raises his arms in victory

An exhausted Rebellin raises his arms in victory (Image credit: AFP)
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Rebellin prepares to salute the crowds

Rebellin prepares to salute the crowds (Image credit: AFP)
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Fans reach out to try and touch the winner of La Fleche Wallonne

Fans reach out to try and touch the winner of La Fleche Wallonne (Image credit: AFP)
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Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) timed his attack to perfection

Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) timed his attack to perfection (Image credit: AFP)
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Serguei Ivanov (Astana) gets in a tight tuck on a descent while on the attack.

Serguei Ivanov (Astana) gets in a tight tuck on a descent while on the attack. (Image credit: AFP)
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Rebellin begins his move to come around Kessler

Rebellin begins his move to come around Kessler (Image credit: AFP)
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Kessler's attack was quickly marked by Rebellin

Kessler's attack was quickly marked by Rebellin (Image credit: AFP)
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Alexander Vinokourov didn't have the legs on the Mur

Alexander Vinokourov didn't have the legs on the Mur (Image credit: AFP)
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The football stadium in Charleroi.

The football stadium in Charleroi. (Image credit: Gregor Brown / Cyclingnews)
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Amstel Winner Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner).

Amstel Winner Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner). (Image credit: Gregor Brown / Cyclingnews)
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Discovery bikes.

Discovery bikes. (Image credit: Gregor Brown / Cyclingnews)
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Riccardo Riccò's Scott (Saunier Duval-Prodir).

Riccardo Riccò's Scott (Saunier Duval-Prodir). (Image credit: Gregor Brown / Cyclingnews)
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SRAM cranks on Riccardo Riccò's Scott.

SRAM cranks on Riccardo Riccò's Scott. (Image credit: Gregor Brown / Cyclingnews)
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Riccardo Riccò's Scott bike.

Riccardo Riccò's Scott bike. (Image credit: Gregor Brown / Cyclingnews)
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Cannondales of Barloworld.

Cannondales of Barloworld. (Image credit: Gregor Brown / Cyclingnews)
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Carlos Barredo (Quickstep-Innergetic)

Carlos Barredo (Quickstep-Innergetic) (Image credit: Gregor Brown / Cyclingnews)
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Jens Voigt (Team CSC) chills at the start.

Jens Voigt (Team CSC) chills at the start. (Image credit: Gregor Brown / Cyclingnews)
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Former World Champion Igor Astarloa (Milram).

Former World Champion Igor Astarloa (Milram). (Image credit: Gregor Brown / Cyclingnews)
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Liquigas wait to sign in.

Liquigas wait to sign in. (Image credit: Gregor Brown / Cyclingnews)
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Egoi Martínez (Discovery Channel)

Egoi Martínez (Discovery Channel) (Image credit: Gregor Brown / Cyclingnews)
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Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel)

Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) (Image credit: Gregor Brown / Cyclingnews)
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Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile) will travel to Romandie after the Flèche.

Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile) will travel to Romandie after the Flèche. (Image credit: Gregor Brown / Cyclingnews)
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Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile)

Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile) (Image credit: Gregor Brown / Cyclingnews)
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The start in Charleroi.

The start in Charleroi. (Image credit: Gregor Brown / Cyclingnews)
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Axel Merckx (T-Mobile)

Axel Merckx (T-Mobile) (Image credit: Gregor Brown / Cyclingnews)
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Axel Merckx (T-Mobile) in his last season as a pro.

Axel Merckx (T-Mobile) in his last season as a pro. (Image credit: Gregor Brown / Cyclingnews)
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Bobby Julich (Team CSC)

Bobby Julich (Team CSC) (Image credit: Gregor Brown / Cyclingnews)
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ProTour leader Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner)

ProTour leader Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) (Image credit: Gregor Brown / Cyclingnews)
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Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) won the Flèche in 2005 in between winning Amstel and Liege.

Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) won the Flèche in 2005 in between winning Amstel and Liege. (Image credit: Gregor Brown / Cyclingnews)
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Tour de France boss Christian Prudhomme from race organisers ASO was in Charleroi.

Tour de France boss Christian Prudhomme from race organisers ASO was in Charleroi. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Stefan Schumacher and Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) were the focus of attention after their 1-2 last Sunday at Amstel Gold.

Stefan Schumacher and Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) were the focus of attention after their 1-2 last Sunday at Amstel Gold. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Rebellin wearing the white jersey of ProTour leader.

Rebellin wearing the white jersey of ProTour leader. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Former world champion Igor Astarloa (Milram) won this race back in 2003.

Former world champion Igor Astarloa (Milram) won this race back in 2003. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Prodir) looking serious at the sign on.

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Prodir) looking serious at the sign on. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alexander Vinokourov chats with teammate Andreas Klöden.

Alexander Vinokourov chats with teammate Andreas Klöden. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Jens Voigt (Team CSC) chews the fat with Klöden.

Jens Voigt (Team CSC) chews the fat with Klöden. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Spaniards Igor Astarloa (Milram) and Oscar Freire (Rabobank).

Spaniards Igor Astarloa (Milram) and Oscar Freire (Rabobank). (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel).

Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel). (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) looking pensive at the start.

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) looking pensive at the start. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Ricardo Riccò does a last minute bike check.

Ricardo Riccò does a last minute bike check. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The peloton rolls out with Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) sitting at the back.

The peloton rolls out with Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) sitting at the back. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Vinokourov was active in the breaks today.

Vinokourov was active in the breaks today. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Christophe Moreau (Ag2r Prévoyance) on the attack.

Christophe Moreau (Ag2r Prévoyance) on the attack. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Christophe Le Mevel (Crédit Agricole) leads the escape on the Mur de Huy.

Christophe Le Mevel (Crédit Agricole) leads the escape on the Mur de Huy. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The Mur de Huy has sections as steep as 25 percent.

The Mur de Huy has sections as steep as 25 percent. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Le Mevel was marked by Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel-Euskadi) on the Mur.

Le Mevel was marked by Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel-Euskadi) on the Mur. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The peloton grinds its way up the Mur.

The peloton grinds its way up the Mur. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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It's a long way up to the front.

It's a long way up to the front. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Riccò climbs the Mur de Huy.

Riccò climbs the Mur de Huy. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Matthias Kessler (Astana) up the Mur.

Matthias Kessler (Astana) up the Mur. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Contador climbing on the Mur.

Contador climbing on the Mur. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r Prévoyance).

Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r Prévoyance). (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Thomas Dekker (Rabobank).

Thomas Dekker (Rabobank). (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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World champion Paolo Bettini wasn't feeling well today.

World champion Paolo Bettini wasn't feeling well today. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Fränk Schleck (Team CSC) will be a contender for Liege-Bastogne-Liege on Sunday.

Fränk Schleck (Team CSC) will be a contender for Liege-Bastogne-Liege on Sunday. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Vino looking solid on the Mur.

Vino looking solid on the Mur. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Picturesque scenery in the Belgian Ardennes.

Picturesque scenery in the Belgian Ardennes. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The peloton winds its way through Wallonian countryside.

The peloton winds its way through Wallonian countryside. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Davide Rebellin keeps out the wind.

Davide Rebellin keeps out the wind. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) didn't have good legs today.

Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) didn't have good legs today. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Local boy Philippe Gilbert (Française Des Jeux) tried a solo move with 34km remaining.

Local boy Philippe Gilbert (Française Des Jeux) tried a solo move with 34km remaining. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The peloton thinning out on narrow roads.

The peloton thinning out on narrow roads. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Serguei Ivanov (Astana) attacked 25km from the finish.

Serguei Ivanov (Astana) attacked 25km from the finish. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Ivanov hammers along in the aero position.

Ivanov hammers along in the aero position. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile) leads Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) and Joaquím Rodríguez (Caisse d'Epargne) in a promising late move.

Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile) leads Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) and Joaquím Rodríguez (Caisse d'Epargne) in a promising late move. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) finishes second.

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) finishes second. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Matthias Kessler (Astana) beats Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Prodir) for fourth.

Matthias Kessler (Astana) beats Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Prodir) for fourth. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r Prévoyance) had great ride for fifth.

Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r Prévoyance) had great ride for fifth. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Ouch! The pain shows on the face of Gerolsteiner's Fabian Wegmann.

Ouch! The pain shows on the face of Gerolsteiner's Fabian Wegmann. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Oscar Freire (Rabobank) finishes 12th.

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) finishes 12th. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Manuele Mori (Saunier Duval-Prodir).

Manuele Mori (Saunier Duval-Prodir). (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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An exhausted Kessler at the finish.

An exhausted Kessler at the finish. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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There's nothing like a can of Coke to bring you back to life.

There's nothing like a can of Coke to bring you back to life. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Good ride mate! Valverde congratulates Rebellin on his second Flèche Wallonne win.

Good ride mate! Valverde congratulates Rebellin on his second Flèche Wallonne win. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Former Italian champion Salvatore Commesso (Tinkoff Credit Systems) at the start in Charleroi.

Former Italian champion Salvatore Commesso (Tinkoff Credit Systems) at the start in Charleroi. (Image credit: Shane Stokes/Cyclingnews)
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CSC veteran Bobby Julich feels his form has improved.

CSC veteran Bobby Julich feels his form has improved. (Image credit: Shane Stokes/Cyclingnews)
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Australian AG2R rider Simon Gerrans waits for the off.

Australian AG2R rider Simon Gerrans waits for the off. (Image credit: Shane Stokes/Cyclingnews)
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Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) was racing in Fleche. He will be aiming for a strong showing in Liege-Bastogne-Liege on Sunday, a race he won two years ago.

Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) was racing in Fleche. He will be aiming for a strong showing in Liege-Bastogne-Liege on Sunday, a race he won two years ago. (Image credit: Shane Stokes/Cyclingnews)
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He's looking forward to a good Tour de France.

He's looking forward to a good Tour de France. (Image credit: Shane Stokes/Cyclingnews)
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CSC's Bobby Julich gets some more carbs on board.

CSC's Bobby Julich gets some more carbs on board. (Image credit: Shane Stokes/Cyclingnews)
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A great vantage point for some spectators.

A great vantage point for some spectators. (Image credit: Shane Stokes/Cyclingnews)
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CSC team-mates Jens Voigt and Frank Schleck talk before the start.

CSC team-mates Jens Voigt and Frank Schleck talk before the start. (Image credit: Shane Stokes/Cyclingnews)
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Schleck suffered badly bruised ribs in a crash during the Amstel Gold race.

Schleck suffered badly bruised ribs in a crash during the Amstel Gold race. (Image credit: Shane Stokes/Cyclingnews)
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They roll out of Charleroi.

They roll out of Charleroi. (Image credit: Shane Stokes/Cyclingnews)
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2005 Fleche Wallonne winner Danilo Di Luca gets his race underway.

2005 Fleche Wallonne winner Danilo Di Luca gets his race underway. (Image credit: Shane Stokes/Cyclingnews)
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Davide Rebellin won the men's race.

Davide Rebellin won the men's race. (Image credit: Shane Stokes/Cyclingnews)
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The Italian at the post-race press conference. The water is, of course, by Gerolsteiner.

The Italian at the post-race press conference. The water is, of course, by Gerolsteiner. (Image credit: Shane Stokes/Cyclingnews)
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Luckily it was only the riders legs which blew up today. Huy is an attractive area of Belgium, but also features a rather large nuclear power station.

Luckily it was only the riders legs which blew up today. Huy is an attractive area of Belgium, but also features a rather large nuclear power station. (Image credit: Shane Stokes/Cyclingnews)
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The leading quartet on their first ascent of the Mur.

The leading quartet on their first ascent of the Mur. (Image credit: Erik Van Breugel)
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The peloton tackle the Mur for a second time.

The peloton tackle the Mur for a second time. (Image credit: Erik Van Breugel)
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Valverde looking easy on his second ascent.

Valverde looking easy on his second ascent. (Image credit: Erik Van Breugel)
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Ricardo Riccò (Saunier Duval) grimaces on the Mur.

Ricardo Riccò (Saunier Duval) grimaces on the Mur. (Image credit: Erik Van Breugel)
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Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) gives it everything to come round Valverde.

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) gives it everything to come round Valverde. (Image credit: Erik Van Breugel)
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Andy Schleck (Team CSC) wondering where the summit could be.

Andy Schleck (Team CSC) wondering where the summit could be. (Image credit: Erik Van Breugel)
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Neo pro Jelle Vanendert (Chocolade Jacques) finished 13th, the first Belgian rider.

Neo pro Jelle Vanendert (Chocolade Jacques) finished 13th, the first Belgian rider. (Image credit: Erik Van Breugel)
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Juan José Cobo (Saunier Duval) grinds up the Mur.

Juan José Cobo (Saunier Duval) grinds up the Mur. (Image credit: Erik Van Breugel)
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Andreas Klöden (Astana) battles the Mur de Huy's steep slopes.

Andreas Klöden (Astana) battles the Mur de Huy's steep slopes. (Image credit: Erik Van Breugel)
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Sergui Ivanov (Astana) tried a late escape but couldn't make it stick.

Sergui Ivanov (Astana) tried a late escape but couldn't make it stick. (Image credit: Erik Van Breugel)
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Joaquím Rodríguez (Caisse d'Epargne).

Joaquím Rodríguez (Caisse d'Epargne). (Image credit: Erik Van Breugel)
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Axel Merckx (T-Mobile) after his last Flèche Wallonne.

Axel Merckx (T-Mobile) after his last Flèche Wallonne. (Image credit: Erik Van Breugel)
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The podium (l-r): Alejandro Valverde (2nd), Davide Rebellin (1st) and Danilo Di Luca (3rd).

The podium (l-r): Alejandro Valverde (2nd), Davide Rebellin (1st) and Danilo Di Luca (3rd). (Image credit: Erik Van Breugel)
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Marianne Vos winner of the women's Flèche Wallonne joins the men's podium.

Marianne Vos winner of the women's Flèche Wallonne joins the men's podium. (Image credit: Erik Van Breugel)
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Tin-Tin Rebellin amongst the crowds.

Tin-Tin Rebellin amongst the crowds. (Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Dario Cioni (Predictor-Lotto) relaxes at the start.

Dario Cioni (Predictor-Lotto) relaxes at the start. (Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel)

Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) (Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Andy Schleck (Team CSC) climbs.

Andy Schleck (Team CSC) climbs. (Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Paolo Bettini (Quickstep-Innergetic) powers up a steep corner.

Paolo Bettini (Quickstep-Innergetic) powers up a steep corner. (Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Bram De Groot (Rabobank) climbs.

Bram De Groot (Rabobank) climbs. (Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Christophe Moreau (Ag2r Prévoyance) finishes.

Christophe Moreau (Ag2r Prévoyance) finishes. (Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) looked smooth; he went on to finish on the podium.

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) looked smooth; he went on to finish on the podium. (Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Frederik Veuchelen (Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen) works his way to the finish.

Frederik Veuchelen (Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen) works his way to the finish. (Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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José Vicente Garcia (Caisse d'Epargne)

José Vicente Garcia (Caisse d'Epargne) (Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Jens Voigt (Team CSC) on the Mur de Huy.

Jens Voigt (Team CSC) on the Mur de Huy. (Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Philippe Gilbert (Française Des Jeux) arrives

Philippe Gilbert (Française Des Jeux) arrives (Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner)

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) (Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Thomas Dekker (Rabobank) will try again in Liège.

Thomas Dekker (Rabobank) will try again in Liège. (Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) supported Rebellin for the win.

Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) supported Rebellin for the win. (Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Thomas Lövkvist (Française Des Jeux)

Thomas Lövkvist (Française Des Jeux) (Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Wim Van Huffel (Predictor-Lotto)

Wim Van Huffel (Predictor-Lotto) (Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) arrives.

Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) arrives. (Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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The race finishes.

The race finishes. (Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Rebellin arrives to win.

Rebellin arrives to win. (Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) climbs up the Mur.

Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) climbs up the Mur. (Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Rebellin and Vos, winners of the Flèche.

Rebellin and Vos, winners of the Flèche. (Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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The podium Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) and Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas).

The podium Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) and Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas). (Image credit: Luc Claessen)

71st Flèche Wallonne - PT

Belgium, April 25, 2007

ProTour standings Video highlights

ProTour leader Davide Rebellin fortified his hold on the white jersey with an impressive win on top of the Mur de Huy today. His victory comes just after team-mate Stefan Schumacher won Amstel on Sunday.

The 35 year-old Italian repeated his 2004 victory when he kicked clear with 200 metres to go, going around a fading Matthias Kessler (Astana) and opening up a six second winning margin. Last year's champion Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) put in a late surge to take second, with Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) also getting by the German to take third.

"It was a day without stress for me," said Rebellin after taking his second career win in Flèche. "I made it the finale and it was possible to go for the win. I risked a lot because the escape of Di Luca and Valverde was dangerous."

In 2004 he first won the Flèche on his way to making history; he had already taken victory he Amstel Gold three days before and came good in Liège-Bastogne-Liège four days later. That fabulous week was the first time that cycling had ever seen an Ardennes Triple. Three years on the rider from Verona showed his class once more.

Rebellin's compatriot Di Luca won the 2005 edition, making the first three over the line all recent winners of the gruelling mid-week Classic. "At Amstel I did a great race; I was with the best," noted Di Luca to Cyclingnews at the start. "Today and Sunday I will try to be with best once again to play for victory."

Having already won both Amstel and Flèche in 2005 Di Luca still wanted to add another Flèche to his palmarès. "Liege is more important but I would also like to win today, what is important to win one of them. The team is doing well. We have a great team."

After the race he was satisfied with his performance. "I went with the best. I did well with the third place," noted Di Luca, exhausted after the day's efforts. He was in the leading escape in the final ten kilometres but it was caught with only three kilometres remaining.

Astana's Alexander Vinokourov and Kessler then took over the charge once the race hit the base of the Huy. This moved suited 'Tin-Tin' Rebellin, whose last win came in October 2006, with the overall of the Giro dell'Emilia. "The climbs went well," he noted. "In the finale Vinokourov did a lot of work, then Kessler, the peloton was all lined out. I think it was a little far out for them but it worked well for me."

Valverde was content with result and hopes that with sixth in Amstel and second today, he is building towards the elusive Liège win. "I was very happy and I am feeling better than Amstel. The team did really well today and it is a pity that I could not repay them but I can't win all the races. Overall, to be in the front was good."

The Spaniard thought ahead to Sunday, "In Liège I think I will see the same rivals as today." Di Luca will be one of his key rivals. "He was a little upset with me and then came up to me to talk after the race. He thought I should have collaborated but I said that I had a teammate, Joaquím Rodríguez, up ahead, so I could no help him... Joaquím rode a great race."

The 2006 winner showed class by keeping his head and fighting for a podium spot. "After we were caught by the bunch I felt I did not have any more strength but in the finale but then in the final metres I found something more. I was able to catch and pass Riccò and Kessler."

Rebellin, who was not presented the white ProTour jersey after the race, now leads the overall classification. It is interesting to note that since the ProTour classification started in 2005 that the winner of this Ardennes Classic has also gone on to win the final overall.

How it unfolded

The race departed from a sunny and hot Charleroi. Most of the 189 riders gathered were talking of the incidents of the last week but all were ready start racing the 202.5 kilometres to the Mur de Huy. There was one non-starter, Vladimir Gusev (Discovery Channel).

The riders were set to cover the 1,300 metre Mur beast three times, the final being the finish. The climb has a 9.3% average gradient and some sections of 14, 19 and 25%. Between the second and third ascent there was a collection of côtes (or "hills" in this French-speaking part of Belgium) which helped thin the pack, including the Pailhe (km 115), Peu d'Eau (km 137), Haut-Bois (km 142), Thon (km 152.5), Bonneville (km 160.5), Bohissau (km 172.5), and Ahin (km 188).

The flag dropped to start the race soon after 11:20 am, and immediately the attacked commenced. Freddy Bichot (Agritubel), Morris Possoni (Lampre-Fondital), and Paul Manning (Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner) went clear at kilometre four. The trio marked the first attack of the day but also was the first capture of the day for the peloton.

Another attack was made from trio Hugo Sabido (Barloworld), Niki Terpstra (Milram) and, again, Manning. They were joined by Iñigo Landaluze (Euskaltel-Euskadi), and Didier Rous (Bouygues Telecom), but the five fell to the power of a Rabobank-led peloton.

Bichot was key in forming the race's first successful escape. The Frenchman of Agritubel led an attack at kilometre 40 that was joined by Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel-Euskadi), David Loosli (Lampre-Fondital), and Christophe Le Mevel (Crédit Agricole). The four men quickly built a gap that by the first ascent of the Mur was 6'50".

Over the Côte d'Ereffe (kilometre 84.5), the gap stablized. The four riders - two French, one Italian and one Spaniard - steadily plugged towards the second climb of the Mur. For the second time they covered the Huy, amongst throngs of fans, free of the peloton. At the top of the Huy the gap was just under five minutes, at 4'30".

The peloton was being led by Gerolsteiner, for Rebellin and Schumacher, and Caisse d'Epargne for Valverde. The two teams kept the gap at four minutes going into the Côte de Pailhe. Slightly before the climb, Ivan Rovny (Tinkoff Credit Systems) gave a dig to try to join the front four on his own.

The 19 year-old Russian quickly put a minute into the peloton and sat about two minutes behind the four escapees. He was only able to hang off the front for 15 kilometres, and he was pulled back under the strenght of Liquigas and Caisse.

Liquigas was showing the same force that they did in Amstel for its leader Di Luca. The Italian won Amstel and Fleche in 2005 before going on to win the inagural edition of the ProTour general classification.

Axel Merckx (T-Mobile) exploded the race before the Côte de Peu d'Eau. The Belgian launched off the peloton and quickly gained a gap. Behind him was shrapnel; the race now seemed to be taking shape as small groups formed.

Crashes slowed down Tim Klinger (Gerolsteiner) and three-time World Champion Oscar Freire (Rabobank) on the backside of the Peu d'Eau. Up front, Merckx's move had been pulled back but the peloton was now being shredded to bits. The tension was also being felt up front, where the leaders only had a 30 second gap.

Verdugo and Bichot moved off on their own in a desperate attempt to remain free. However, their time seemed limited because the big teams were cueing up for a showdown with only five climbs remaining before the last ascent of Huy. Bichot, after going free at kilometre 40, finally cracked at kilometre 144.

Verdugo was solo but his move would soon be caught, clearing way for the big artilleries. The major teams were allowing the Basque his freedom; he faced the Côte de Thon with just over one minute's advantage. Behind Bichot had been caught by an attack from Benny De Schrooder (Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen).

Saunier Duval kicked into action after the Thon. The team sent its men, including Gilberto Simoni, to the front for Riccardo Riccò. In the town of Sclayn there was now only 40 seconds between Verdugo and the peloton. Left to race were 46 kilometres and four climbs; Côte de Bonneville, Côte de Bohisseau, Côte de Ahin, and the Mur de Huy.

The Bonneville cracked many riders off the back of the peloton and spelled the end for Verdugo, while up front it was Cédric Vasseur (Quickstep-Innergetic) and Michael Rogers (T-Mobile) who were leading the charge. The Frenchman took a small adantage, near 10 seconds, in an attempt to soften his rivals for his teammates.

Philippe Gilbert (Française Des Jeux) fired off the front immediately after Vasseur was caught. The native Walloon held his own over the Bohissau but behind the pace was kicked up another notch. Joaquím Rodríguez (Caisse d'Epargne) blasted on the climb. The Spaniard momentarily worked his way off the front with Alexander Efimkin (Barloworld) in an attempt to weaken the field for teammate Valverde.

The field was back together heading to the penultimate climb, Côte de Ahin. Alexander Vinokourov (Astana), Bram Tankink (Quickstep-Innergetic) and Rogers were active at the front. Vino did not like this situation, nearing around 15, and ordered teammate Serguei Ivanov to attack. The 32 year-old Russian was set free with 26 kilometres to go, an excellent move for Vino.

Caisse mounted the chase for Valverde while Bettini was seen suffering at the rear end. The race was unfolding and the Italian did not seem to have the legs. He violently threw off one of his water bottles. He eventually dropped off the pace to talk with his team car.

On the Coote de Ahin, Ivanov started to fade. Liquigas was heading the peloton when an attack came from the winner of Pais Vasco, Juan José Cobo (Saunier Duval-Prodir). Over the top, the Spaniard bridged with the Russian - the two held on to a 20 second gap.

An attack by Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile) prompted Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) and Joaquím Rodríguez (Caisse d'Epargne) into action. The trio briged to the two leaders at kilometre 12.5. Another formed behind them, containing Cristian Moreni (Cofidis), Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel), and Thomas Dekker (Rabobank).

Di Luca, Kirchen, Valverde, and Rodriguez then went clear together, with the latter surging clear with approximately eight kilometres remaining. Aided by Valverde's presence in the break, he opened up a lead of six seconds. However there was a big chase on behind and everything came back together with less than three kilometres to go.

Simon Gerrans (AG2R-Prévoyance) led the bunch as they approached the kite and the last ascent of the fearsome Mur de Huy, then Astana took over and appeared to be setting things up for Vinokourov.

However it was the Kazakhstani himself who led the frontrunners into the final 500 metres, the bunch really starting to fragment as the gradient kicked in. His teammate Kessler then took over, with Rebellin and Ricco on his wheel, and his efforts pulled a small group clear.

Rebellin remained calm and perfectly poised, biding his time as the others wilted under the pace set by Kessler. He came around the Astana rider with 150 metres to go and kicked hard, opening up a considerable gap by the line. Behind, Valverde and Di Luca overhauled a fading Kessler to take second and third, respectively, while the German hung on to take fourth ahead of Ricco and Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R-Prévoyance). CSC's Frank Schleck showed he is recovering from the injuries incurred three days ago by taking seventh.

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