Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne - Illes Balears) takes the win ahead of Bettini and Cunego. Photo copyright Fotoreporter Sirotti.
Ivan Basso (Team CSC) and Alejandro Valverde. Photo copyright Fotoreporter Sirotti.
A proud Valverde on the podium near Liege. Photo copyright Fotoreporter Sirotti.
Valverde Takes Liege-Bastogne-Liege
Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d?Epargne) has won his second classic in four days.
Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d?Epargne) has won his second classic in four days. The Spaniard, fresh from his victory at <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /?> La Fleche Wallonne , took an eight-up sprint to win Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 6:21:32. Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) finished second, and Damiano Cunego (Lampre) took third.
The riders rode 262 km under sunny, blue skies. After a number of abortive sallies, Fedrigo Pierrick (Bouygues Telecom) and Serge Pauwels (Chocolade Jacques) escaped. Martin Wynants (Chocolade Jacques); Marcos Serrano (Liberty Seguros); Jens Voigt (CSC); Michael Rogers and Steffen Wesemann (both from T-Mobile); Juan Antonio Flecha and Alexander Kolobnev (both from Rabobank); Torsten Hiekmann (Gerolsteiner); Addy Engels (Quick Step); Salvatore Commesso (Lampre); Jurgen van den Broeck (Discovery Channel); Christophe Brandt (Davitamon); Jose Garcia Acosta and Nicolas Portal (Caisse d?Epargne); Luis Perez Rodriguez (Cofidis); Remi Pauriol (Credit Agricole); Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel); Arkaitz Duran Arroca (Saunier Duval); Vicenzo Nibali (Liquigas); Stephane Goubert (Ag2r); Bert de Waele, Steven Kleynen, and Jean-Paul Simon (all from Landbouwkrediet); and Ryan Cox (Barloworld) pursued the pair. At 62 km , the two groups merged, and the break of the day had formed.
Initially, the peloton did not chase, and the fugitives? lead grew to more than seven minutes. The bunch, however, began to ride tempo, and the lead was pegged at about 6:00. Phonak and Milram, which were unrepresented in the break, worked the hardest at keeping the escape relatively close.
By the time that the race reached the Cote de Saint Roch ( 128 km ), the third of the day?s 12 climbs, the break?s lead was down to 3:00. At 170 km , Perez attacked, and Voigt and Wesemann followed. Wesemann set out on his own, and he led the peloton by 1:55 at the summit of the Cote de Wanne ( 171 km ).
On the Cote de Stockeu ( 177 km ), the heads of state went to the front of a splintering peloton. Ivan Basso (CSC) punctured but got back on. Rik Verbrugghe (Cofidis) counterattacked from the peloton and snared Wynants. By 200 km , however, the bunch had reeled in everyone but Wesemann, who led by about a minute and a half.
On the Cote de la Vecquee ( 208 km ), the peloton overtook Wesemann. When the peloton reached the Cote de la Redoute. ( 225 km ), several attacks took place. Then, Basso began to accelerate. The Italian?s pressure reduced the lead group to 15 riders.
When the leaders reached the Cote de Sprimont ( 231 km ), Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d?Epargne) attacked, and Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) joined him. When the pair reached the summit of the Cote de Sart-Tilman, they led the chase group by 0:40. Behind them, two chase groups merged.
On the Cote de Saint-Nicolas ( 254.9 km ), Rodriguez and Boogerd led the pursuit by 0:28, but a series of attacks wiped out the escapees? advantage by the time that 12 leaders reached the Cote d?Ans at 260 km . They were Martin Perdiguero (Phonak), Boogerd, Patrik Sinkewitz (T-Mobile), Rodriguez and Valverde (both