Astana's Maxim Iglinsky broke Italian hearts today with a perfectly timed counterassault on Vincenzo Nibali of Liquigas, catching the soloing Italian with 1km to go and dropping him quickly for a stunning victory in Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Nibali appeared to be in complete control with a powerful solo effort from the Cote de la Roche aux Faucons, after sitting quietly behind a battery of BMC riders for much of the last hour. He came to the front and challenged a tentative peloton at the race's crucial moment, opening up a gap that was listed as 40+ seconds. But Iglinsky left the chase in the chaos of the Saint-Nicholas and closed in on a tiring Nibali, catching the Italian in the streets of Ans and dropping him under the red kite. Nibali had no challenge left, and finished 21" behind, while Iglinksy's teammate Enrico Gasparotto, winner a week ago in the Amstel Gold Race, won the sprint for the final podium place.
It was a pretty tranquil race most of the day, with BMC increasingly controlling the front of the race and keeping the pace high once the peloton got within sight of the Cote de la Redoute. Vasil Kiryenka launched an attack on La Redoute, joined by Pierre Rolland and Dario Cataldo, while Alejandro Valverde suffered a brief mechanical and became unhitched. Greg Van Avermaet, Mauro Santambrogio and Tejay Van Garderen spent a fair bit of time hammering the peloton with Gilbert in their wheels from that point, as BMC finally began to take on the "superteam" appearance expected of them all spring. On the Roche aux Faucons, Vincenzo Nibali took the initiative and created some small gaps, bringing Gilbert, Vanendert and a few others to the front. Over the top, Nibali's advantage became a real gap, and the race was on.
Behind the Sicilian, a dozen or so big names were in pursuit, including three Astana riders, but the chase broke into small attacks and failed to organize. On the flat sections and downhill approach to Liege, Nibali was time-trialling for his life, opening up a 25" gap. Gilbert had no teammates and plenty of company, adding to the negative instincts in the chase. By the time Nibali hit the final climb, the Cote de Saint Nicolas, his gap was north of 40 seconds, and the race was apparently for second. But the gap counters failed to account for Iglisnky, who had timed his own breakaway to perfection.
Astana did what BMC hoped to do this past week, at least in terms of results. The powerful American squad raced like a powerful team, burning domestiques in control of the race's last 60km, but in the end Gilbert was isolated and not up to any heroic tasks.
- Maxim Iglinsky, Astana
- Vincenzo Nibali, Liquigas, at 0.21
- Enrico Gasparotto, Astana, at 0.36
- Thomas Voeckler, Europcar, s.t.
- Daniel Martin, Garmin, s.t.
- Bauke Mollema, Rabobank, s.t.
- Samuel Sanchez, Euskaltel, s.t.
- Michele Scarponi, Lampre, s.t.
- Ryder Hesjedal, Garmin, s.t.
- Jelle Vanendert, Lotto-Belisol, s.t.
- Rinaldo Nocentini, AG2R, s.t.
- Pierre Rolland, Europcar, s.t.
- Daniel Moreno, Katusha, s.t.
- Robert Kiserlovski, Astana, s.t.
- Joaquim Rodriguez, Katusha, at 1.00
- Philippe Gilbert, BMC, at 1.27
- Rui Costa, Movistar, at 2.11
- Julien Simon, Saur-Sojasun, s.t.
- Simon Gerrans, GreenEdge, s.t.
- Lars Petter Nordhaug, Sky, s.t.
All photos © Fotoreporter Sirotti