Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) confirmed his immense talent with a solo victory at Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
After his team mates carefully controlled the 261km race, Schleck jumped away alone on the Côte de la Roche aux Faucons climb, 20km from the finish, and powered across to Philippe Gilbert (Silence-Lotto).
The Belgian had attacked alone a bit before but was unable to stay with Schleck, who flew past him as his brother Frank Schleck and team mates blocked behind.
Gilbert was caught by the chasers but Schleck powered on and his lead quickly grew to over a minute. Cadel Evans (silence) and Enrico Gasparotto (Lampre) tried to counter attack but they were all checked by Saxo Bank.
Schleck powered up the climb to the finish and had plenty of time to punch his fist in the air and celebrate the biggest win of his career.
?I was super strong today and was really motivated. At Amstel Gold we rode for Kroon. I tried to win Fleche-Wallonne but Rebellin was better. Today was my day,? he said.
?I wouldn?t have won without the team. They worked really well behind.?
Spain’s Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d’Epargne) jumped away in the final kilometre to take second and Davide Rebellin (Diquigiovanni) won the sprint for third place.
Second in the 2007 Tour of Italy and Best Young Rider in the 2008 Tour de France, Schleck?s win ends a 55 year drought on victories in Liege-Bastogne-Liege for Luxembourg.
The last winner from Luxembourg was Marcel Ernzer, a team worker for Tour de France champion and star climber Charly Gaul.
Interviewed after the race, Frank Schleck said he was equally delighted with his brother?s victory. ?I?m even prouder than I would have been if I had won,? Schleck commented.
?I was feeling rough after my crash at Amstel and had to skip Fleche, but today I was able to do my job well. It was a great victory.”
Britain’s only finisher was Chris Froome (Barloworld), who was 45th. Ireland’s Dan Martin (Garmin) was 99th, 11 minutes down, in what is only his third day of racing since illness forced him to abandon Paris-Nice in March.
Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2009: Results
1. Andy Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank 6hr 34mins 32sec
2. Joaquím Rodríguez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 1min 17sec
3. Davide Rebellin (Ita) Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni at 1 min 24sec
4. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Silence-Lotto
5. Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Katusha
6. Simon Gerrans (Aus) Cervelo Test Team
7. Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-NGC
8. Benoît Vaugrenard (Fra) Francaise des Jeux
9. Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Saxo Bank
10. Samuel Sánchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi all same time.
45 Chris Froome (GB) Barloworld at 2min 54sec
DNF Steve Cummings (GB) Barloworld
Peloton in Liege
Dan Martin on La Redoute: it hurts!
Philippe Gilbert goes solo, and eventually came fourth
Liege Bastogne-Liege podium 2009 (l-r): Joaquím Rodríguez (Second), Andy Schleck (winner), Davide Rebellin (third)
Photos by Graham Watson
Liege-Bastogne-Liege photo gallery, by Graham Watson
2009 Spring Classics: The Cycling Weekly hub – reports, photos, results and more
The Climbs of Liege-Bastogne-Liege, part one
The Climbs of Liege-Bastogne-Liege, part two
Cycling Weekly rider profiles