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Vinokourov victorious at La Doyenne

Five years after his first victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) has sealed his comeback to the sport with his second career 'La Doyenne' today. Overpowering his breakaway companion Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) in the final 500 metres of the uphill finish in Ans, the 36-year-old Astana rider proved his team tactics to be perfect.

Spaniard Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) was fastest in the chase group, outsprinting Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and World Champion Cadel Evans (BMC) on the line 1:04 later.

"I gave my best in this race," said Kolobnev. "I worked together with Vinokourov very well for us to take a solid gap. I knew everything would be decided in the final metres. I tried to follow him but he was too strong for me today. I want to thank the whole team because they worked very well."

"Three riders named Alejandro on the podium!" said Valverde. "I would have liked the order to be different but this time it was not possible to win. I am nevertheless happy with my result, which shows how consistent I am in this race."

Vinokourov made his move with 17 kilometres to go on the descent of the Côte de la Roche aux Faucons, after his teammate Alberto Contador duped his rivals on the climb by launching a powerful attack. As the Kazakhstani went, focus remained on the Spaniard, but instead his teammate pulled off a fantastic raid in the company of Kolobnev, and continued on until the finish.

Gilbert was the first to realize the danger coming from the Russian-Kazakhstani duo and set off to chase them on his own with 15 kilometres to go, soon joined by Valverde and Evans. But it was too late: the gap was 30 seconds at the bottom of the Côte de Saint Nicolas, where Gilbert again tried to bridge up on his own, in vain.

The remaining favourites such as Andy and Fränk Schleck, Contador, Chris Horner (RadioShack) and Igor Anton (Euskaltel-Euskadi) nearly caught the chasing trio on the line for the remainder of top ten placings.

Eight men gain eight minutes

A 198-strong peloton left the Place Saint-Lambert square in Liège for an initial 9km neutral section before reaching kilometre zero on their 258km trek through the Ardennes. Soon after the official start, under overcast skies, a group of seven riders formed the early breakaway. Thomas De Gendt (Topsport Vlaanderen), Maxime Bouet (AG2R La Mondiale), Alan Perez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Jussi Veikkanen (Française des Jeux), Dries Devenyns (Quick Step), Niki Terpstra (Milram) and Mauro Finetto (Liquigas-Doimo) built up a lead of eight minutes.

One rider, Dirk Bellemakers (Landbouwkrediet), missed the train but continued chasing the leader's group for more than an hour before finally joining them. The BMC Racing squad of world champion Cadel Evans controlled the peloton's tempo and after 100km the gap was steady at six minutes.

When approaching the important duo of climbs, the Côte de Wanne and Côte de Stockeu, the speed increased both in the breakaway group and in the peloton. It wasn't too fast for Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank), though, who attacked solo from the peloton. Caisse d'Epargne and Omega Pharma-Lotto set the pace in the field to keep the German locomotive within reach but that chase was hampered when Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) crashed at the second feed zone.

As the leaders approached the longest climb of the day, the 6.4km long Côte du Rosier with 71km remaining to the finish in Ans, a brush fire made the race jury opt to take a different route. The five remaining leaders - De Gendt, Perez, Devenyns, Terpstra and Bellemakers - didn't seem bothered by the incident, working well together and keeping Voigt and Veikkanen at one minute.

The peloton gained back time on Voigt and on the Côte du Maquisard, with 60km remaining, the gap between the leaders and the peloton dropped to a little over one minute. Voigt and Veikkanen were still riding in between these two group while Belgium's Maxime Monfort (HTC-Columbia) forced himself into the racing action with an attack on the Maquisard.

With 50 kilometres to go Devenyns showed that he was the strongest man in the breakaway group as the young Belgian dropped the rest of the group on the Mont-Theux. At the top of this climb Devenyns had 50 seconds on the peloton where riders from HTC-Columbia, Rabobank and Omega Pharma-Lotto tried to form a new breakaway, anticipating the famous Côte de la Redoute.

Lieutenants launch on La Redoute

Their escapees' efforts were in vain and with 37km to go, at the foot of La Redoute, everybody was back together at the front of the race. On the La Redoute the big guns kept quiet while their lieutenants went out on the offensive. After the famous climb a group with Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas-Doimo), Carlos Barredo (Quick Step), Laurens Ten Dam (Rabobank), Tony Martin (HTC-Columbia) and Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone) lead the race.

Ten Dam would drop his breakaway companions and continue alone in the lead towards the penultimate climb of the day, the Côte de la Roche aux Faucons at 238km. Ten Dam's former break companions were absorbed and Russian champion Serguei Ivanov (Katusha) set off in pursuit of the Dutchman but couldn't reduce to gap further than 28 seconds to the race leader.

Fireworks on the Côte de la Roche aux Faucons

Once the field began its ascent of the Côte de la Roche aux Faucons, the fireworks commenced amongst the race favourites. Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) and Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) launched a blistering attack and flew past Ivanov and Ten Dam into the race lead. The pair were soon joined by Tour de France champion Alberto Contador (Astana) to form a very threatening lead trio, but their attack was neutralised over the top of the Côte de la Roche aux Faucons.

2005 Liège - Bastogne - Liège champion Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) launched an attack on the descent of the Côte de la Roche aux Faucons and was soon joined by Alexandr Kolobnev with 17km remaining.

Sensing the danger in this attack, Gilbert, Valverde and Evans set off in pursuit of the Russian/Kazakhstani duo. As Vinokourov and Kolobnev approached the final climb, the Côte de Saint-Nicolas with 6km to go, they led the three-man chase group by 30 seconds while the field already conceded more than one minute. Vinokourov attacked Kolobnev near the climb's summit, but the Russian was able to real in the Kazakhstani on the descent. Meanwhile, Valverde attacked Gilbert and Evans on the climb and got a small gap. While Evans struggled to answer the Spaniard's move, Gilbert caught Valverde and launched an attack of his own which proved successful in distancing himself from his two breakaway companions.

Gilbert closed to within 22 seconds of Vinokourov and Kolobnev, but would draw no closer. With two kilometres remaining Gilbert dropped back to 40 seconds behind the two leaders and would be caught by Evans and Valverde at the flamme rouge.

As Vinokourov and Kolobnev tackled the gradual ascent to the finish line inside the final kilometre, the Kazakhstani attacked and Kolobnev had no answer. Vinokourov powered to the finish line to win Liège - Bastogne - Liège for the second time, distancing Kolobnev by six seconds.

The chasing trio of Valverde, Gilbert and Evans began a game of cat-and-mouse in the final several hundred metres as they vied for the final podium position. Just as the Andy Schleck-led chase group behind them was about to make contact at 250m to go, Valverde launched his sprint and held off Gilbert and Evans for third, 1:04 behind Vinokourov. Schleck outsprinted his four chase companions three seconds later to secure sixth place.

Full Results
1Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana6:37:48
2Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Team Katusha0:00:06
3Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne0:01:04
4Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
5Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team
6Andy Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank0:01:07
7Igor Anton (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
8Christopher Horner (USA) Team Radioshack
9Frank Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank
10Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana
11Thomas Voeckler (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom0:01:18
12Simon Gerrans (Aus) Sky Professional Cycling Team
13Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Transitions
14Benoît Vaugrenard (Fra) Française Des Jeux
15Paul Martens (Ger) Rabobank
16Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank
17Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Team Milram
18Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone
19Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
20Carlos Barredo (Spa) Quick Step
21Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini
22Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale0:01:22
23Jérôme Baugnies (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator
24Stephen Cummings (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team
25Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Omega Pharma-Lotto0:01:25
26Xavier Tondo (Spa) Cervélo TestTeam
27Yury Trofimov (Rus) BBox Bouygues Telecom
28Luis-Leon Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
29Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo0:01:29
30Xavier Florencio (Spa) Cervélo TestTeam0:01:33
31Thomas Löfkvist (Swe) Sky Professional Cycling Team
32Dimitri Champion (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
33Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank0:01:45
34Francesco Masciarelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone0:01:59
35Bram Tankink (Ned) Rabobank0:02:02
36Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Team Milram0:02:08
37David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
38Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita) Androni Giocattoli
39Francesco Failli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone0:02:35
40Juan José Oroz (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi0:02:59
41Egoi Martinez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
42Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Française Des Jeux0:03:00
43Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Team Katusha0:03:18
44Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha0:05:07
45Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo
46Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Team Katusha
47Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank0:05:52
48Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Team Katusha
49Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick Step
50Vladimir Miholjevic (Cro) Acqua & Sapone0:06:08
51Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas-Doimo
52Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Team Radioshack
53Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing Team
54Bert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwkrediet0:07:05
55Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini
56Massimo Codol (Ita) Acqua & Sapone
57Gorazd Stangelj (Slo) Astana
58Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Saxo Bank
59Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin - Transitions
60Pieter Weening (Ned) Rabobank
61Johan Coenen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator0:09:34
62Bert Scheirlinckx (Bel) Landbouwkrediet
63Christophe Moreau (Fra) Caisse d'Epargne
64Kevin De Weert (Bel) Quick Step
65Laurent Lefevre (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom
66Christian Knees (Ger) Team Milram
67John Gadret (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
68Ted King (USA) Cervélo TestTeam
69Sylvain Calzati (Fra) Sky Professional Cycling Team
70Pierre Rolland (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom
71Inaki Isasi (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
72Tony Martin (Ger) Team HTC - Columbia
73Cyril Gautier (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom
74Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team
75Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin - Transitions
76Dario Cataldo (Ita) Quick Step
77Amaël Moinard (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
78Christophe Brandt (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
79Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini
80Rubens Bertogliati (Swi) Androni Giocattoli
81Kristjan Koren (Slo) Liquigas-Doimo
82Luis Pasamontes (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
83Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Astana
84Valerio Agnoli (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo
85Nicki Sorensen (Den) Saxo Bank
86Sander Armee (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator
87Ignatas Konovalovas (Ltu) Cervélo TestTeam0:10:22
88Maxime Monfort (Bel) Team HTC - Columbia0:12:27
89Alessandro Spezialetti (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini
90Geert Verheyen (Bel) Landbouwkrediet
91Christophe Kern (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
92Bart Dockx (Bel) Landbouwkrediet
93Jens Voigt (Ger) Saxo Bank
94Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Milram
95Preben Van Hecke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator
96Andrea Masciarelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone
97Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team
98Laurent Didier (Lux) Saxo Bank
99Grischa Niermann (Ger) Rabobank
100Michael Albasini (Swi) Team HTC - Columbia
101Peter Stetina (USA) Garmin - Transitions
102David Loosli (Swi) Lampre-Farnese Vini
103Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator
104Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Team Radioshack
105Peter Velits (Svk) Team HTC - Columbia
106Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana
107Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz) Astana
108Mikel Nieve (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
109Kjell Carlström (Fin) Sky Professional Cycling Team
110Ivan Rovny (Rus) Team Radioshack
111Sergei Klimov (Rus) Team Katusha
112Pavel Brutt (Rus) Team Katusha
113Sergio Paulinho (Por) Team Radioshack
114Mathias Frank (Swi) BMC Racing Team
115Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervélo TestTeam
116Marcel Wyss (Swi) Cervélo TestTeam
117Volodymir Gustov (Ukr) Cervélo TestTeam
118Hubert Dupont (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
119Craig Lewis (USA) Team HTC - Columbia
120Peter Wrolich (Aut) Team Milram
121Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom
122Tejay Van Garderen (USA) Team HTC - Columbia
123Luca Mazzanti (Ita) Team Katusha
124Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
125Daniele Righi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini
126Philip Deignan (Irl) Cervélo TestTeam
127Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) Omega Pharma-Lotto0:12:35
128Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator0:16:04
129Dirk Bellemakers (Ned) Landbouwkrediet
130Imanol Erviti (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
131Davy Commeyne (Bel) Landbouwkrediet
132Matthew Busche (USA) Team Radioshack
133Benjamin Gourgue (Bel) Landbouwkrediet
134Reiner Honig (Ned) Acqua & Sapone0:17:51
135Kristof Vandewalle (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator
136Matteo Bono (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini
137Martin Velits (Svk) Team HTC - Columbia
138Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team
139Stijn Devolder (Bel) Quick Step
140Jérémy Roy (Fra) Française Des Jeux

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