Di Luca Wins Liege-Bastogne-Liege
Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) has won Liege-Bastogne-Liege. The Italian bolted away from Frank Schleck (CSC) in the last 500 m to win the hilly, 262-km classic in 6:37:24. Defending champion Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d?Epargne) outsprinted Schleck for second at 0:03.
The race began in windy, warm, overcast conditions. Vasil Kiriyenka (Tinkoff) attacked twice in the first eight km. His second move succeeded, and Jan Kuyckx (Landbouwkrediet), Remy Di Gregorio (Francaise des Jeux), and Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel) joined him. The escapees? lead ballooned to nearly 16:00 at 44 km and to 18:00 at 107 km.
One of the things that makes Liege-Bastogne-Liege one of the hardest one-day races is its second half. The riders go over 10 steep climbs in the last 100 km. As the leading quartet ascended the Cote de Stockeu (179.5 km), Kuyckx was dropped. Gerolsteiner began to chase, and the fugitives? advantage was cut to 13:15 when they reached the Cote de Haute Levee (185 km). When the peloton reached the Cote de Stockeu, Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Paolo Bettini (Quick Step), and Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) accelerated. The combustion reduced the size of the peloton.
On the Cote de la Vecquee (210 km), 5:47 separated the bunch from the break. At 220 km, the gap was down to 4:47. Liquigas, Lampre, and Gerolsteiner led the pursuit.
At the base of La Redoute, the leaders? advantage was down to 2:31. Christian Vande Velde (CSC) set the peloton?s pace, and then Carlos Barredo (Quick Step) attacked from the bunch. Bettini accelerated, and Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) attacked. Barredo reached Di Gregorio and Etxebarria (the remnants of the break), and Schumacher, Cedric Vasseur (Quick Step), and Karsten Kroon (CSC) joined the three leaders with 25 km remaining.
Astana began to chase. On the day?s penultimate climb, the Cote de Sart-Tilman, Vasseur attacked and Schumacher joined him. The German dropped the Frenchman and went solo.
Lampre pursued on behalf of Damiano Cunego. With 10 km remaining, Schumacher led by 0:22. Liquigas took over the pursuit and cut Schumacher?s lead to 0:19 with 7.5 km left and 0:14 one km later. At the base of the day?s final climb, the
Boogerd and Bettini tried to escape but failed. With four km remaining, Schleck attacked. Di Luca followed, and the pair forged a 10-second lead.
During the final km, Valverde set out after the leaders. When Di Luca learned that the defending champion was pursuing him and Schleck, he attacked with 500 m left. Valverde powered past Schleck, who had learned the day before that he had broken a vertebra in a crash at the Amstel Gold race last week.
Liege-Bastogne-Liege ends the spring classics. The riders will prepare for the Grand Tours, which will begin with the Giro d?Italia in May. How will the combatants fare? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!