A powerful sprint gave Spaniard Alejandro Valverde a clear victory in Liege-Bastogne-Liege against Italian Davide Rebellin and Luxemburg-born rider Frank Schleck
In a thrilling finale, the trio broke away with Frank Schleck?s brother and CSC team-mate Andy in the Cote de Roche aux Faucons climb 20 kilometres from the finish. The new climb, then, proved to be as decisive as had been expected.
Theoretically, with two riders ahead, CSC had the upper hand. Then when Andy Schleck soared away just before the Cote de Saint Nicholas, with his brother controlling behind it looked as if the Danish team were certain to take the race.
However, Andy struggled badly on the Cote de Saint Nicholas, and the trio of chasers reeled in the runner-up of the 2007 Giro – who was then dropped.
Frank Schleck made a textbook counter-attack when his brother was caught but neither Valverde nor Rebellin were prepared to let him go clear. Instead the only effect Frank Schleck’s attack had was for Andy Schleck to fall back.
The three rode together up the long drag to Ans, with Valverde shadowing Rebellin and never letting Frank Schleck get to the front. Their advantage of over 30 seconds meant it was clear the three would take the top three places in the podium – but in what order?
Coming out of the final left-hand bend, Valverde provided the answer. The 28-year-old instantly wound up the sprint and led easily across the line. Second was Rebellin, third Schleck.
For the Spaniard, victory in Liege-Bastogne-Liege when his main focus is on the Tour de France this year ?is excellent news, even if slightly unexpected.?
?I came here with good form, but I didn?t go well in Fleche when the weather was bad. Then today I watched Frank Schleck like a hawk and tried not to get too nervous. I knew I was better than him and Rebellin in a sprint. And my tactic worked.?
Alejandro Valverde repeats his 2006 win at Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Photos by Luc Claessen/ISPA
LIEGE-BASTOGNE-LIEGE 2008: RESULTS
1 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse D?Epargne 261km in 6hr 44 min 04sec
2 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner
3 Frank Schleck (Lux) CSC all same time
4 Andy Schleck (Lux) CSC at 30sec
5 Christian Pfannberger (Aut) Barloworld at 40sec
6 Thomas Dekker (Hol) Rabobank
7 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence Lotto all same time
8 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Caisse D?Epargne at 48sec
9 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step at 1 min 03sec
10 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas
11 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank
12 Kim Kirchen (Lux) High Road
13 Robert Gesink (Hol) Rabobank
14 Benoit Vaugrenard (Fra) Francaise des Jeux
15 Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir
16 Matthew Lloyd (Aus) Silence-Lotto
17 Karsten Kroon (Hol) CSC
18 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) Ag2r
19 Bert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwrkrediet
20 Ricardo Ricco (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir all same time
84 Christopher Froome (GB) Barloworld at 8min 11sec
90 David Millar (GB) Slipstream
96 Stephen Cummings (GB) Barloworld all same time
118 Daniel Martin (Irl) Slipstream at 17min 11sec
Davide Rebellin leads Alejandro Valverde and Frank Schleck
Britain’s David Millar finished 90th