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Vino strongest in Liege as Roche finishes 22nd

Posted 25 April 2010

Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) turned back time with a trademark attack to win Liege-Bastogne-Liege for the second time today while Nicolas Roche rode strongly to finish 22nd just 1.22 seconds behind.

Vinokourov was unstoppable over the final two climbs of the day and had enough left to shake breakaway companion Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) from his wheel in the closing 750 metres at the finish in Ans.

The Kazakh timed his race winning attack to perfection, springing clear with Kolobnev after the penulimate climb of the Cote de la Roche just as Cadel Evans pulled a group of six riders back up to Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank), Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma Lotto) and teammate Alberto Contador.

The 1.5 kilometre climb was the defining point of the race as the fragmented peloton attempted to reorganise itself after the climb of La Redoute in pursuit of Rabobank’s Bram Tankink and Sergeui Ivanov (Katusha) who was trying to bridge the gap up front.

Schleck wasted no time in attacking at the foothill of the climb and aided by Gilbert succeeded in catching Ivanov and Tankink in turn before Condator moved to join the dangerous breakaway close to the summit.

Evans countered the move pulling Vinokourov, Kolobnev,  Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha), Igor Anton (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Alejandro Valverdre (Caisse d’Epargne) with him as the race started to blow apart.

Vinokourov was first to seize the initiiave as the Evans group joined the leading trio en route to the final climb of the Cote de Saint Nicolas with Kolobnev being the quickest to respond.

Gilbert followed suit with Kolobnev bridging to Vinokourov just as Valverdre made it across to Gilbert’s wheel a handful of seconds behind. Evans recovered quickly to catch Gilbert and Valverdre as the leading duo pulled out a 14 second advantage.

Nicolas Roche (AG2R La Mondiale) was riding superbly in the chasing group just 13 seconds further back where defending champion Andy Schleck was struggling to keep control on the race.

Vinokourov and Kolobnev mainatined the advantage over the Gilbert group as they started the climb of the Cote de Saint Nicolas with seven kilometres to go, while the peloton drifted to seventy seconds.

The climb provided some specatular racing with Vinokourov attacking Kolobnev at the same time that Gilbert launched a stinging attack which shed Evans and then Valverdre. Meanwhile Schleck, Contador and Anton tried to ride clear of the peloton.

The ferocity of Gilbert’s attack was stunning but his determination to record a win on homeground was not enough as Vinokourov and Kolobnev held strong out front.

He succumbed in the final kilometre with Evans and Valverdre once more making contact with the Belgian as Vinokourov stamped his authority on the race kicking clear of Kolobnev with 750 metres to go.

Roche meanwhile was holding his own in a group of some 20 chasers who were bearing down on Gilbert, Evans and Valverdre with incredible speed, almost catching them in the closing metres.

Valverdre, as expected, was the strongest in the sprint for third while Gilbert’s tenacity continued right to the finish line where he pipped Evans for fourth which on paper alone says nothing of the courage and panache he showed with his attack and memorable lone chase.

Roche’s peformance is encouraging as he heads to the Tour de Romandie. Dan Martin (Garmin Transitions) finished 59th at 7:05, while Philip Deignan (Cervelo Test Team) recovered from a feedstation spill and a difficult start to the race to finish 126th, 12:27 down.

Liege-Bastogne-Liege, 258 kilometres

1. AlexandreVinokourov (Astana)  6 hours, 37 minutes, 49 seconds.
2. Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) at 6 second
3. Alejandro Valverde at 1 minutes and 4 seconds

22. Nicolas Roche (AG2R La Mondiale)
59. Dan Martin (Garmin Transitions) at 7 minutes and 5 seconds
126. Philip Deignan (Cervelo Test Team) at 12 minutes and 27 seconds

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