PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM
This was a long sought after victory - and what a victory it was - when T-Mobile's Alexandre Vinokourov beat his fellow escapee, Jens Voigt, in a two-man uphill sprint to the finish in Ans to clinch this year's Lige-Bastogne-Lige, writes Susanne Horsdal.
In the last kilometre the Kazakh kept his cool and Voigt's wheel until 300 hundred metres remained of the last Classic of the spring season, then powered past the CSC rider to take his and T-Mobile's first victory of any kind this year.
"It's a very important victory. It's good for my morale and for the team. This isn't just a victory in a smaller race, this is a very big one," said Vinokourov, who couldn't hold back tears of joy when he lifted the trophy on the podium. "Of course it's an emotional win. It's emotional for everyone who makes it to the podium," he said.
With a different run-in via the Cote de Wanne, Cote de Stockeu and with the Haute Leve reinstated about 180 kilometres into the race, this year's edition of
La Doyenne was lively and exciting, with numerous attacks and counters.
When CSC's Peter Luttenberger took off on the Cote de Wanne, Steffen Wesemann and Benjamin Noval were still ahead as the only survivors of a very
Early breakaway. But it was further down the road that the going really got tough. Voigt joined Luttenberger with six other riders, and for a while they maintained a gap on the favourites. But, slowly, the group grew to include most of big names.
"Then Jens asked if he could go again on the way towards the Cote de la Vecque (at kilometre 208), and of course he could," revealed CSC manager Bjarne Riis later. Voigt quickly took off and soon received company in the shape of Vinokourov.
"I didn't want to wait and have to battle it out in a final sprint with all of the favourites, so when I saw Voigt take off I went with him. I also did it because I knew he was very strong, and today he was like a jumbo jet," said the Kazakh. By the last climb, Saint Nicolas, six kilometres from the finish, the duo's gap to the chasers had narrowed to about 50 seconds, but the 'breakaway brothers' kept fighting.
"At Saint Nicolas, when they got closer I was so motivated. I just kept thinking to myself, 'They can't catch me, they can't catch me', which is why I kept going so hard even with a rider like Vinokourov with me. I preferred to be second than fifth, 10th or 20th," explained Voigt, who didn't want a repeat of Wednesday's Flche Wallonne when he was caught at the four-kilometre mark after 140k's in front.
"Of course I'm disappointed. I was so close to winning one of the greatest Classics in the world, but at the same time I'm proud of what I did today. I knew it would be very difficult to beat a world class rider like Vinokourov and in the end I just didn't have enough punch," admitted CSC's powerhouse.
For once, Michael Boogerd wasn't left with the dissatisfying runner's up place. This time he had to settle with third. Yet there were no regrets from the Rabobank rider. "Everything went well, we didn't make any mistakes today. There were just two riders who were better," admitted Boogerd, who last year finished second with Vinokourov in third.
This year it was the latter who got to enjoy the champagne, which will be followed by three-week race break before he resumes at the Bayern Rundfahrt in late May.
1 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile 260km in 6.29.09 (40.09kph)
2 Jens Voigt (Ger) CSC
3 Michael Boogerd (Hol) Rabobank 0.14
4 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step 0.24
5 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto
6 David Etxebarria (Spa) Liberty Seguros 0.27
7 Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Spa) Phonak 0.28
8 Mirko Celestino (Ita) Domina Vacanze
9 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Caffita
10 Angel Vicioso (Spa) Liberty Seguros
11 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner
18 Ivan Basso (Ita) CSC 1.10
27 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi 3.30
1 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi 131
2 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step 112
3 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank 94
4 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 93
5 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner 86
6 Michael Boogerd (Hol) Rabobank 80
7 Bobby Julich (USA) CSC 75
7 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel 75
9 Jens Voigt (Ger) CSC 72
10 Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Fassa Bortolo 65