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Ahead of every one of the hilly spring Classics, Paolo Bettini has been named one of the favourites - and for good reason. But it wasn't until Sunday's Lige-Bastogne-Lige that he actually managed to turn his aggressive riding style to his own advantage. But still it wasn't enough. On the finish line in the dreary Lige suburb of Ans he had to admit defeat against Alejandro Valverde, writes Susanne Horsdal.
"It was my misfortune that I had to sprint against Valverde. He's a guy who can win bunch sprints on flat stages, so second was the best I could get," admitted Bettini.
However, unlike Amstel and Flche, Bettini tried to save his strength until the closing kilometres and almost pulled off the win. But when Michael Boogerd and Joaquin Rodriguez went away on the top of Cote de Sprimont, Bettini couldn't keep himself from going after them.
"The last couple of Classics taught me that I was too generous in my efforts and I held myself on the leash until nerves got the better of me (after Boogerd and Rodriguez went). But I sort of saved the race because without my reaction they would have stayed away, and I still felt fresh enough in the finale," said the Italian.
Another Italian who put his fingerprints on the race was Ivan Basso. As planned before the race, the CSC team took charge of the last of this season's spring Classics. But the price was a lot of very hard work for the CSC troops. Whether that was wise is impossible to say, but the team still managed to have Frank Schleck and Ivan Basso in the front group in the last kilometre.
"It was a good race and I think I did a good job - the whole team did a good job, but because of the lack of wind the race became harder on CSC than on the other teams. Still, Frank and I tried in the sprint, but I'm not good in a sprint," said the still smiling Basso after his last race before the Giro d'Italia.
- Gerolsteiner's Markus Fothen didn't start Sunday's Lige-Bastogne-Lige, but for a good reason. At about 7.30 on Sunday morning his wife gave birth to a baby girl, who will be called Maxime.
PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM