Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) was nearly in tears on the podium today in Ans, Belgium. Just a short distance north of Liège, he failed to secure what would have been his biggest one-day race win, Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
“I didn’t make any mistakes,” he said moments before climbing onto the podium, topped by Maxim Iglinsky (Astana) one step above. “I just lacked a bit in my legs in the finish.”
The Italian’s solo move ended at the foot of the climb into the Liège suburb. Last year, Andy and Fränk Schleck followed Philippe Gilbert up this climb and watched him win. The year before, Alexander Vinokourov dropped Alexandr Kolobnev. This year, Nibali was at the losing end.
One could feel a huge sigh of disappointment in Ans. Fans wanted Nibali to enjoy the win after his effort. He attacked solo on the top of the Roche aux Faucons climb at 19.5 kilometres out.
In the car behind, Team Manager Roberto Amadio encouraged him. He’d also been there to see Nibali to his win in the Vuelta a España and a seventh place in the Tour de France.
“He made a great move, but he paid in the end for such a long effort,” Amadio told Cycling Weekly. “He showed himself to be a champion with a capital C.”
Nibali is enjoying one of his best early seasons so far. He won the mountain-top stage in the Tour of Oman in February and the Tirreno-Adriatico overall in March. He made the winning move in the first monument of the season, Milan-San Remo. His attack on the Poggio brought clear Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) and eventual winner, Simon Gerrans (GreenEdge).
“He’s shown that he’s achieved a certain maturity,” Amadio continued. “He also goes on instincts; he selected that moment to attack [on La Roche].”
Amadio, rightly so, shared the public’s disappoint. He said, “He proved he deserved the win.”
He’ll decide in the coming days if he’ll ask Nibali to lead the Giro d’Italia team instead of Ivan Basso. Nibali, though, prefers to go to the Tour de France to take on defending champion, Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) and Bradley Wiggins (Sky).