With one huge acceleration 500 metres from the line, Kazakhstan’s Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) notched up his second win in Liege-Bastogne-Liege in five years.

After dropping Russia’s Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) in the final kilometre, Vinokourov’s victory is the biggest since his ban for blood doping ended last July, and confirms that even at 36 years old, the Kazakh will be a force to be reckoned with in the Tour of Italy.

To make Vino’s success even more unusual is that the Astana rider recently completed the Tour of Trentin, which he won by a fraction of a second, and flew up to Liege on Friday.

Third was Spain’s Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne), who caught Cadel Evans (BMC) and Phillipe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) in the final rise towards Ans and then outsprinted them at the finish.

Vinokourov’s victory came at the end of what was – until 20 kilometres to go – an uneventful race. Eliminating the Haut Levee climb, combined with excellent weather, strong headwinds on the return and a powerful early break all conspired to keep the interest until La Redoute painfully low.

An attack by Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) on the Cote du Roche aux Faucons (just like in 2009) failed to work out but at least started to put some life into the race. Contador responded, and then on a fast downhill Vinokourov and Kolobnev chanced their arm.

The two stuck together as far as the foot of San Nicolas, the last big climb, whilst behind a chase group formed with Valverde, Gilbert and Evans. Gilbert tried and failed to open up a gap on the two other breakaways on Saint Nicolas and even looked as if he might catch the two leaders, but he ran out of gas close to the finish.

The return of Vinokourov to the highest step of the podium in Liege will almost certainly be controversial. Vino’s blood doping positive in the Tour de France led to Astana’s expulsion in 2007 and their exclusion from the 2008 race. Together with Valverde in third (you wonder what they had to talk about on the podium that made the two laugh so much) the race that looked as if it had so much to offer this year ended on a low-key note.

Britain’s top finisher was Steve Cummings (Team Sky) in 24th, who came home one minute and 22 seconds behind Vinokourov.

Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2010
1. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana in 6-37-48

2. Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Katusha at 6secs
3. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 1-04
4. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
5. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team at same time
6. Andy Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank at 1-07
7. Igor Anton (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
8. Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack
9. Frank Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank
10. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana at same time.
24. Steve Cummings (GB) Team Sky at 1-22
74. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky at 9-34
138. Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky at 17-51

Alexandre Vinokourov wins, Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2010

Alexandre Vinokourov wins

Alexandre Vinokourov wins, Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2010

Vinokourov wins in Liege for the second time

Alexandre Vinokourov wins, Alexandr Kolobnev 2nd, Alejandro Valverde 3rd, Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2010

Liege podium (l-r): Alejandro Valverde (third), Alexandre Vinokourov (winner), Alexandr Kolobnev (second)

Related links

Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2010: The Big Preview

  • Manni

    Ken, I don’t understand why you don’t understand. Doping is cheating. It is also very dangerous, blood manipulation particularly so (even in ‘controlled’ conditions under the supervision of a Ferrari or a Fuentes). As a sports fan, I don’t want to watch a science experiment, I want to witness a fair contest between athletes who are reliant solely on their abilities to realise their natural talents to the maximum.

    The second Tour de France in 1904 was marred by widespread cheating with the race winner Garin being among those disqualified. If you allow doping, you may as well allow the riders to catch the bus. Road cycling is an endurance sport. It is hard. Probably too hard. That’s Henri Desgrange’s fault; the sport was perhaps made too tough at the very moment of its inception.

    Doping IS more prevalent in cycling than it is in any other sport precisely because it is so tough. For too long those governing the sport, partly sympathetic to the riders’ plight, have turned a blind eye. I say ‘partly’ because the governing authority’s ‘soft-pedaling’ on the issue is also due to their desire to help sponsors sell newspapers, ice cream, chewing gum, lottery tickets, mobile phones, etc.

    Like Francois Belloq, I can understand why riders must feel the need to ‘top up’ depleted levels as a three week stage race progresses. I can understand it… but as a self-confessed ‘purist’, I cannot condone it. And neither can the sport… because of the risks to health involved… that’s why the ‘omerta’ lives on. In effect, the UCI has washed its hands of the riders… abandoning them to their fate.

    It’s time for the riders themselves to take responsibility. If classic race distances are too far… climbs too tough… or rest days during stage races too few… they should say so collectively and refuse to race until drastic changes are implemented across the sport. If none of that is true… they are doping purely to gain an advantage over fellow professionals for monetary gain… the dopers are therefore cheats and frauds and liars… they are not sportsmen… and are only worthy of our disdain… they should be fired by their sponsors… and stripped of their earnings.

  • Ken Evans

    I don’t understand why people get so upset by doping,
    it has been common in professional cycling for more than 100 years !

    It also happens in many other professional sports.

  • old hedgey

    What a podium

    Drugs 2 Rest of the World 1

  • Manni

    NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! Following the Festina scandal in 1998, I gave up wasting any more of my time watching the ‘sport’ of professional road cycling. In 2008, given the sentiments aired by some members of the peloton, I started watching again, more in hope than expectation that things had at last started to change. But Vinokourov first at L-B-L and that shameless rat valv.piti third! It’s more than I can stomach. And don’t get me started on the top ten at Trentino.

    To the sponsors of ALL professional cycling teams, I can’t watch any more… this ‘sport’ is rotten to its very core… you are paying fraudsters, cheats and liars to represent you… they may be ‘professionals’ but they sure as Hell ain’t ‘sportsmen’… they never have been… never will be.

  • David L

    I cringe every time this cheat does well. Let’s hope some natural justice comes his way soon.

  • neil duerden

    I doubt I was the only viewer of this race who was willing Kolobnev to win.To see an unrepentant,in-denial,ungracious cheat win this race is a disaster.

    Worse-he may well line up at the Tour de France-perhaps Astana will be banned-whatever its another embarrasing blow for cycling.

    One good note-great ride by Steve Cummings-clean&full of potential!