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Martin fifth at Liege after gambling all on late attack

Posted 22 April 2012


Dan Martin has taken fifth place at Liege-Bastogne-Liege after gambling all on a late counter-attack which came up just seconds short of denying Astana’s Valentin Iglinsky a memorable first ever Classic win.
Martin took the initiative with 9.3 kilometres to the finish in Ans, attacking from a group of twelve race favourites who had been working to haul back a long-range attack from Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale).
Nibali made his move on the penultimate climb of the Cote de La Roche aux Faucons with over 18 kilometres to the finish as his Liquigas-Cannondale team took the race to defending champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing).
The blistering pace set by the Italian’s Liquigas-Cannondale team wiped out all that remained of an initial eight-man breakaway while also reducing the front group to no more than thirty-five riders.
Martin crested the short 9.3% climb near the head of the lead group with fellow Irish riders Nicolas Roche (AG2R La Mondiale) and Matt Brammeier (Omega Pharma Quickstep) out of contention by that point.
Nibali used his fearless descending skills to immediately open a gap on the descent and was 25 seconds clear with all but the Cote de Saint-Nicolas to negotiate en route to the finish.
The chase group splintered into two in pursuit but managed to regroup inside the final 15 kilometres before Iglinsky (Astana) and Fléche Wallonne winner Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) set about making the junction themselves.
Martin was joined in the group of twelve riders behind by teammate Ryder Hesjedal, Gilbert, Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Thomas Voeckler and Pierre Rolland (Europcar), Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD), Bauke Mollema (Rabobank), Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol)  and Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale).
Astana riders Enrico Gasparotto and Robert Kiserlovski and Katusha rider Daniel Moreno had no need to contribute to the chase group with teammates Iglinsky and Rodriguez already up the road.
With Nibali stretching his lead to 41 seconds with little under a kilometre to the final climb Martin decided that it was now or never and attacked the group with Pierre Rolland (Europcar) for company.
The move caught the chase group by surprise and it soon stalled as Mollema, Scarponi, Vanendert, Sanchez and Nocentini looked to Gilbert to close the gap.
Nibali refused to falter on the climb, preserving his slender lead while Iglinsky shed Rodriguez after 400 metres of the 8.6% climb. Rodriguez was soon caught by Martin and Rolland with the Irishman looking good for a podium finish at that stage.
Everything changed on the descent and short 5.5 kilometre run to the finish where Iglinsky went man-to-man to Nibali and the reorganised chase group pulled back Martin and Rolland.
Iglinsky finally closed the gap on the fringe of the final kilometre, attacking immediately to put 21 seconds into Nibali who fought every inch of the way to hang onto second place.
Martin meanwhile had tucked himself into the ten-man chase group and had enough left after 257.5 kilometre to contest the sprint where he was bested by Gasparotto and Voeckler into fifth place.
Roche came home in the final group on the road more than 12 minutes down while Brammeier, who was making his return to racing after a number of weeks recuperation from illness, was among the long list of riders who did not finish the testing course.
Liege-Bastogne-Liege, 257.5 kilometres
1.  Maxim Iglinsky (Kaz) Astana Pro Team 6:43:52
2.  Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:00:21
3.  Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:36
4.  Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar
5.  Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin - Barracuda
6.  Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
7.  Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
8.  Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre - ISD
9.  Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Barracuda
10.  Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team
105 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale, 12 minutes, 18 seconds
DNF. Matt Brammeier (Irl) Omega Pharma Quickstep

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