Valverde Wins Liege-Bastogne-Liege
Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) has won Liege-Bastogne-Liege for the second time. The Spaniard took a three-up sprint to win La Doyenne, a hilly, 261-km race, in 6:44:04. Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) finished second, and Frank Schleck (CSC) took third.
Two hundred racers started in warm, spring weather. The peloton snuffed out several attacks before Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner) and Tom Stubbs (Francaise des Jeux) rolled off of the front and Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff), David Kopp (Collstrop), and Pierre Rolland (Credit Agricole) joined them at 24 km. By 40 km, the quintet led the field by 3:45, and by 57.5 km, at the summit of the Cote de Ny, the first of the day's 12 climbs, the break's lead had ballooned to 11:30.
Caisse d'Epargne, High Road, Lampre, and Silence began to chase and pegged the lead at 9:00. The break dropped Stubbe and Kopp. By about 185 km, the escapees' advantage was down to 4:00.
At 196.5 km, with 2:00 separating bunch and break, Philippe Gilbert (Francaise des Jeux) attempted to bridge up to the leaders. Thirteen km later, Alexandr Kolobnev (CSC) followed suit on the Cote de la Vecquee. At 226.5 km, Rolland was alone in the lead on La Redoute. He was 1:20 ahead of the peloton.
Andy Schleck (CSC) attacked out of the bunch, and Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) joined him. With 29 km left, Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) attacked, but the peloton, which was led by Silence and Caisse d'Epargne, rode him down. Schleck and Schumacher reached the base of La Roche aux Faucons, a new climb that was expected to have a determining influence on the race, with a 0:22 lead on the peloton.
Schleck dropped Schumacher. Behind, Joaquim Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne) attacked and took Frank Schleck (CSC), Rebellin, and Valverde with him. Behind, some of the heads of state realized that they had missed the day's big move and began to chase. With 16 km left, the lead group was ahead of a group contained Cadel Evans (Silence) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre) by 0:13.
The break dropped Rodriguez. With 10 km remaining, it led the Evans-Cunego group by 0:43. One member of the lead group was going to win, but which one?
Andy Schleck attacked, which forced Valverde and Rebellin to chase and allowed Frank Schleck to sit on. On the day's final climb, the Cote de Saint Nicolas, Rebellin towed the three to Andy Schleck, who was dropped. With three km left, the Evans-Cunego group was 1:15 in arrears.
The three leaders played cat and mouse, with Valverde and Rebellin riding side by side and boxing in Schleck. Valverde bolted into the lead with 250 m left, and Rebellin held off Frank Schleck for second.
Many of the participants in Liege-Bastogne-Liege will compete in this week's Tour of Romandy and in the Giro d'Italia. How will they fare? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!
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