Hello and welcome to the 91st edition of La Doyenne.
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One hundred ninety five riders took the start this morning in Liege. An attack in the early kilometers of the race saw nine men go away: Beat Zberg (GER), Posthuma (RAB), Siutsou (FAS), Wesemann (TMO), Pozzato (QST), Noval Gonzalez (DSC), Fedrigo (C.A), Unai Etxebarria and Stubbe. A counter attack by Beneteau (BTL) and Verstrepen (LAN) de Kort (LSW) a few kilometers later eventually found five men in the lead - Beneteau, Verstrepen, De Kort, Wesemann and Noval.
Verstrepen, Noval and Wesemanns, Beneteau and de Koert kept in front, increasing their lead to an eventual 8:20 by the 70 km mark, the peloton obviously not interested in chasing that early on.
By the Côte de St-Roch, the gap had dropped to just over seven minutes, dropping down to five by the 150km mark.
The cote of Wanne and the five are still away, but their lead is no longer so dramatic - only 2:46 - as Vinokourov, Freire and Boogerd move to the front of the pack.
A group of pursuers now come after the escapees - Wegmann (GER), Kroon (RAB), Weening (RAB), Luttenberger (CSC), Sevilla (TMO), Pozzato (QST) and Caucchioli (C.A.), Voigt (CSC) and Bettini (QST) - 13 chasers in all, while Beneteau and Noval are out alone, on the Stockeu.
By the Haute-Levée, it's Voigt (CSC), Bettini (QST), Celestino (DOM), Wegmann (GER), Kroon (RAB), Weening (RAB) and Botero (PHO) chasing while Beneteau and Noval have a minute and half lead again, and behind, the peloton begins to fracture.
All the favorites can be seen at the front of the peloton - Di Luca, Rebellin, Cunego, Basso, Evans, Kirchen, Brochard, Etxebarria, Martin Perdiguero, Boogerd, Valverde, Brandt, Freire, Dekker and Vinkourov. The two brave warriors are about to be absorbed.
Rebellin and Di Luca and Co now attacking to bridge to the Voigt group. Boogerd has bridged up. About 50 km to go, 16 in the front group, also including Cunego, Basso, Rous and Jaksche.
Dekker and Brochard now trying to bridge - this a very serious front group...with serious chasers. They've pulled the support car from between the two groups. The Rebellin-Di Luca group look like they are going to make the catch.
The front group must be thirty strong at this point as the chasers have caught on. Di Luca has no teammates in this group. Jens attacks. Vino is on his tail, while Dekker appears to be in difficulty, dropping off.
On the côte de la Vecquée, the front group now numbers 23, including Cunego, Basso, Vinokourov, Valverde, Kirchen, Celestino, Bettini, Di Luca, Rebellin...about 50 km to go.
Di Luca sitting at the back of the bunch right now. Lotto and Rabo are well placed with 4 guys each in the group.
The gap to the pack had been dangerously narrow - 25 seconds - but now it is increasing - 40 seconds. Di Luca's teammate is trying to catch the group to lend Di Luca a hand. 52 seconds the gap, 2:28 back to the 3rd group.
It's Marcus Ljungqvist trying to bridge up for Di Luca. Voigt and Vinokourov are out in front. Dekker and another Rabo now doing the work to get Jens back. Vino is pink, pink, pink everything, but yellow frames on his sunglasses.
Bettini and Schleck are chasing. Bettini gets up there, and then we have our answer of who wins in a sprint...the chasing group strung out with Dekker doing the work.
Rabo back on the front. It's way strung out. And Vino is shaking his thighs for the second time. Cramp? The gap still around 50 seconds - the two V's out front - Vinokourov and Voigt - a group of nearly two dozen behind, which includes the rest of the favorites, and the peloton behind that.
37.5 km to go, about 45 seconds the gap. The chasing group is 31 riders strong.
Botero on the front, just pulling over on the hill. He has done a ton of work today. 2 Rabos, a T-Mobile, a Liberty Seguros and Dekker are sort of getting away. Botero now dropped. Good work. 23 seconds the gap.
The gap is now back up again, about 35 seconds. On the Redoubt, Martin Perdiguero leads the chasers, Vino and Voigt still out front. Di Luca in some difficulty? He's been dropped. Looks like Cunego has been dropped as well. Meanwhile, as an aside, Cunego's teammate Simoni has won the Giro del Appennino - in the last two editions, the winner of this race has been in pink in Milan...
Pereiro puts in an attack and Bettini flats. 31 km to go. 53 secs to the two leaders.
Voigt and Vino are on the Sprimont - 59 seconds the gap.
The gap now at 1 minute 4 seconds. Di Luca out the back with David Etxebarria. This bad news for the man who was perhaps looking for a triple today. Meanwhile Weening, or maybe it was Brandt, has a go and Bettini sits on him. He's not getting away. No dice with the attack. 1:08 the gap!
Two Rabos try again. Looks like Weening and Kroon. Bettini closing the small gap. The gap 1:11. The chasers are strung out.
The team cars are going up to the two Vs. 1:17 their gap. 25 km to go.
Di Luca and Etxebarria seem to have gotten back into the pack with 23km to go, and a minute 23 to the two leaders. It appears Voigt is doing more but he also gains less by drafting - if they wanted to stay away Voigt almost had to do more work. However, the pack will have to get serious right soon here. They haven't been totally organised and are not working well together.
Voigt trying to test out Vino a little there. No problems, says the smaller V.
Sinkewitz at the front now, with Weening and Kroon still working hard, with big pulls, but it's starting to get more tense between the front two. 19 km to go, the gap at 1:14. DiLuca is still there, third from the back. 1:11 the gap.
The two on the Sart-Tilman - only two more climbs after this. Voigt is hurting a bit up that hill - it's the same face Voigt had on going up the Cauberg in the finale at Amstel. And the gap is starting to come down - 1:07.
Evans is about 5th wheel back. Jaksche looks like one of the living dead. The gap down to 52 seconds.
Kroon and Sinkewitz doing the damage right now. 49 seconds.
15.5 kilometers to go. The gap hovering at 50 seconds. Di Luca still clinging to the back with Kirchen. Sinkewitz has pulled most of the way up - great work from him. Kroon is spent and pulls off. Sinkewitz has a go - Bettini leading the charge to get him back.
No, that was Jaksche, and he is caught. Etxebarria attacks now with Kessler and Evans after him, and Boogerd attacks with Celestino on his wheel.
The attacks fail. Jaksche attacks again and they are onto him, but the pack may also be handing the front two the race with this attacking. Gap is 52 sec - Vino shakes out his thighs again.
The group is a mess - no one is chasing, just attacking and counter attacking it seems, at 11.5 km to go and the gap holding. Vino stands up in the pedals to stretch a bit. Now the gap is at one minute. Incredible.
Now a group of 3 away. Bettini and Boogerd and ? Nine km to go now. One minute 4 seconds the gap.
The attack failed, the pack is bunched. 7 km to go.
They're on the Saint-Nicholas. Vino looking a tad smoother than Jens. 1:10 the gap - the pack will be riding for third?
Vino is out the saddle, Voigt is resolutely in a la Jan. 1:13 the gap. Voigt and Vino almost at a standstill right now...Vino attacks. Voigt is on him.
Voigt looks to be hurting more. Voigt in the saddle and Vino standing right out of it. Meanwhile the chasing pack is splitting up. Cadel attacking off the front? 5.4km to go 55s, and now Boogerd attacks. Bettini on his wheel.
Now the gap has dropped - 47s and 4.7km to go.
Bettini is catching Evans. 43 seconds. Up front, Vino and Voigt are looking at each other.
Now Boogerd and Bettini are about to catch Cadel on the descent. 40 seconds, 3.4 km to go. 39 seconds...
Now 44 seconds, time seems to be going up on this descent. Voigt is looking at Vino more than the other way round. A false flat still to come with 1.6 km to go.
The 3 chasers are trying to work together now. Flamme Rouge for the two V's - 1 km to go!
I think Vino will take it up hill. Voigt is keeping an eye on Vino. Both looking pretty calm right now. Boogerd stepping up the pace a bit now. Evans just ahead of Boogerd and Paolo, with Boogerd closing fast. Here we go children!
Voigt still just leading out. Vino looks knackered actually. Winding it up - Vino takes it!!!
It looks like it's by the better part of a bike length. Boogerd 3rd, Bettini takes Cadel on the line.
From the second they started winding it up at 300m to go, Voigt was always behind. Tears are flowing now for Vino, as he gives T-Mobile its first win of the season. Di Luca just finishing now.
Brief Results - Unofficial
6. D. Etxebarria
7. Martin Perdiguero
A great win by Vinokourov, and three Spaniards in the top ten. Boogerd has been very consistent but not quite having the little edge factor to win these things, and nice show by Celestino, who's been present a lot this spring.
Well, that's the spring classics, and what an early season it's been. Thanks so much for joining us!
1 Vinokourov Alexandre Kaz Tmo 6h29'09"
2 Voigt Jens Ger Csc m.t.
3 Boogerd Michael Ned Rab 00'14"
4 Bettini Paolo Ita Qst 00'24"
5 Evans Cadel Aus Dvl m.t.
6 Etxebarria David Esp Lsw 00'27"
7 Martin Perdiguero M. Angel Esp Pho 00'28"
8 Celestino Mirko Ita Dom m.t.
9 Cunego Damiano Ita Lam m.t.
10 Vicioso Angel Esp Lsw m.t.
11 Rebellin Davide Ita Gst m.t.
12 Kessler Matthias Ger Tmo 00'31"
13 Jaksche Jörg Ger Lsw 00'54"
14 Brochard Laurent Fra Btl 00'59"
15 Wegmann Fabian Ger Gst 01'02"
16 Brandt Christophe Bel Dvl 01'04"
17 Sorensen Nicki Den Csc 01'10"
18 Basso Ivan Ita Csc m.t.
19 Kirchen Kim Lux Fas 01'18"
20 Pereiro Sio Oscar Esp Pho 01'33"
21 Kashechkin Andrey Kaz C.A 01'35"
22 Bertagnolli Leonardo Ita Cof 03'28"
23 Rous Didier Fra Btl m.t.
24 Van Huffel Wim Bel Dvl m.t.
25 Rodriguez Joaquin Esp Sdv m.t.
26 Sinkewitz Patrik Ger Qst 03'30"
27 Di Luca Danilo Ita Liq m.t.
28 Kroon Karsten Ned Rab m.t.
29 Weening Pieter Ned Rab 05'29"
30 Van Summeren Johan Bel Dvl 09'31"
31 Ljungqvist Marcus Swe Liq 11'52"
32 Baguet Serge Bel Dvl m.t.
33 Dekker Erik Ned Rab 12'57"
34 Valverde Alejandro Esp Iba 13'56"
35 Botero Santiago Col Pho 15'10"
36 Halgand Patrice Fra C.A 16'06"
37 Voeckler Thomas Fra Btl m.t.
38 Moreau Christophe Fra C.A m.t.
39 Le Boulanger Yoann Fra Rag m.t.
40 Vasseur Cédric Fra Cof m.t.
41 Le Mevel Christophe Fra C.A m.t.
42 Mertens Pieter Bel Jac m.t.
43 Engels Addy Ned Qst m.t.
44 Mugerli Matej Slo Liq m.t.
45 Reynes Vicente Esp Iba m.t.
46 Coenen Johan Bel Mrb m.t.
47 Rinero Christophe Fra Rag m.t.
48 Codol Massimo Ita Fas m.t.
49 Chavanel Sylvain Fra Cof m.t.
50 Paumier Laurent Fra Mrb m.t.
51 Valjavec Tadej Slo Pho m.t.
52 Calcagni Patrick Sui Liq m.t.
53 Jeker Fabian Sui Sdv m.t.
54 Mori Manuele Ita Sdv m.t.
55 Frigo Dario Ita Fas m.t.
56 Stangelj Gorazd Slo Lam m.t.
57 Dion Renaud Fra Rag m.t.
58 Garate Juan Manuel Esp Sdv m.t.
59 Loosli David Sui Lam m.t.
60 Den Bakker Maarten Ned Rab m.t.
61 Caucchioli Pietro Ita C.A m.t.
62 Zandio Xabier Esp Iba m.t.
63 Schleck Frank Lux Csc m.t.
64 Bellotti Francesco Ita C.A m.t.
65 Arvesen Kurt-Asle Nor Csc m.t.
66 Gusev Vladimir Rus Csc m.t.
67 Giunti Massimo Ita Fas m.t.
68 Dessel Cyril Fra A2r m.t.
69 Van Den Broeck Jurgen Bel Dsc m.t.
70 Paulinho Sergio Por Lsw m.t.
71 Marichal Thierry Bel Cof m.t.
72 Lotz Marc Ned Qst m.t.
73 Moletta Andrea Ita Gst m.t.
74 Padrnos Pavel Cze Dsc m.t.
75 Day Ben Aus Mrb m.t.
76 Monfort Maxime Bel Lan m.t.
77 Van De Wouwer Kurt Bel Mrb m.t.
78 Carlstrom Kjell Fin Liq m.t.
79 Deignan Philip Irl A2r m.t.
80 Fernandez Bingen Esp Cof m.t.
81 Merckx Axel Bel Dvl m.t.
82 Vila Errandonea Patxi Xabier Esp Lam m.t.
83 Sanchez Samuel Esp Eus m.t.
84 Szmyd Sylvester Pol Lam m.t.
85 Landaluze Inigo Esp Eus m.t.
86 Leukemans Björn Bel Dvl m.t.
87 Posthuma Joost Ned Rab m.t.
88 Lovkvist Thomas Swe Fdj m.t.
89 Zaballa Constantino Esp Sdv m.t.
90 Fofonov Dmitriy Kaz Cof m.t.
91 Moncoutie David Fra Cof m.t.
92 Mancebo Francisco Esp Iba m.t.
93 Tschopp Johann Sui Pho m.t.
94 Van Hecke Preben Bel Dvl m.t.
95 Astarloza Mikel Esp A2r m.t.
96 Freire Oscar Esp Rab m.t.
97 De Groote Thierry Bel Lan m.t.
98 Peron Andrea Ita Csc m.t.
99 De Waele Bert Bel Lan m.t.
100 Vanotti Alessandro Ita Dom m.t.
101 Luttenberger Peter Aut Csc m.t.
102 Serrano Marcos Esp Lsw m.t.
103 Isasi Inaki Esp Eus m.t.
104 Hary Maryan Fra Btl m.t.
105 Vogondy Nicolas Fra C.A m.t.
106 Bichot Freddy Fra Fdj m.t.
107 Gustov Volodymir Ukr Fas 16'22"
108 Zampieri Steve Sui Pho 16'25"
109 Camano Iker Esp Eus 16'31"
110 Dominguez Juan Carlos Esp Sdv m.t.
111 De Schrooder Benny Bel Jac 16'34"
112 Devolder Stijn Bel Dsc 17'10"
113 Nibali Vincenzo Ita Fas 17'58"