LBL’08: Valverde Shoots Down Brothers In Arms!
Two heads are usually better than one, unless the person you’re trying to outsmart is the sharp shooter known as the ‘Green Bullet’! After going close in Maastricht last week, Alejandro Valverde makes his spring a success with a cleverly taken win in ‘La Doyenne’.
CSC’s Schleck siblings had done a power of work to get the win, with Andy off the front setting things up for big brother Frank, but Valverde had Joaquim Rodriguez with him for reassurance.
To round off a cracking race, the Spaniard hit the final drag to the finish with only ‘Tin Tin’ Rebellin and Frank Schleck for company, and hit the afterburners to pull clear for his second LBL title.
Rebellin, super consistent again in the Ardennes, just couldn’t get on terms in the sprint. Schleck had already burnt all the matches in his box trying to make a winning move and had little left once Valverde opened up.
Don’t forget about those climbs…
It was another belter of a race after a super Amstel Gold last week and great Fleche Wallonne, in very different conditions, on Wednesday. Not for the first time in L-B-L, things kicked off big-time on the Col de la Redoute, 35kms from home.
Paolo Bettini lit the blue touch paper in his World Champ’s kit – for the last time in the Spring Classics? Aussie up-and-comer Matt Lloyd reacted and the action was on. Andy Schleck then stormed clear. Stefan Schumacher got back on and that two-up powered away.
Pierre Rolland’s epic contribution to this viciously hard race was a 200km breakaway which came to an end when Schumi and Schleck caught him on the Cфte de Sprimont. With Frank Schleck for CSC and Davide Rebellin for Gerolsteiner behind, it was up to Caisse d’Epargne, Rabobank and the rest to chase the lead duo.
Hitting the ferocious new inclusion, the Cфte de la Roche aux Faucons, Schleck ditched Schumacher, and Ricardo Ricco put his considerable talent where his equally considerable ego is with a potent burst.
Joaquim Rodriguez helped tow Valverde, Frank Schleck and Rebellin up to little Andy, before dropping back and we had what would be the definitive LBL group for the finale.
Cadel Evans, Amstel titlist Cunego and Barloworld’s impressive Christian Pfannberger were just off the pace as the race took its decisive twist. 15kms to the finish, motoring towards the Cфte de Saint-Nicolas, and the peloton is gone at over 30 seconds back.
Andy Schleck gave it a major pull and jumped away, giving his big brother a rest – it was straight out of the old ‘one-two’ punch manual. Once Rebellin had worked to pull things back, Frank hammered off the front.
Hauled back by ‘Tin Tin’, Frank had another go on the last climb, but couldn’t get a race-winning gap. Valverde was looking good and his confidence was repaid on the line.
Official winner of the ‘Ants in his Pants’ award today was David Kopp – the Cycle Collstrop rider attacked from the gun, give or take a couple of hundred metres, but eventually made it into the break of the day.
By the top of the Cфte de Ny, he was almost 12 minutes clear, aided and abetted by Gerolsteiner’s Markus Fothen, Tinkoff’s Pavel Brutt, Tom Stubbe from Franзaise des Jeux and Pierre Rolland of Crйdit Agricole.
With the sun shining down, making the job in hand – 12 nasty climbs – a little less painful to manage, the peloton picked up the pace a bit in the second hour. Over the Cфte de la Roche-en-Ardenne, the gap was back down to nine minutes.
Tom Stubbe was first to go, followed by Kopp just before the Cфte du Rosier, after a brave effort to stick with the break. Eventually, only Rolland stuck it out, but his bravery got his sponsor’s a lot of airtime.
Plenty of airtime to come from Valverde, now a multiple Classics winner in the tough Ardennes arena. To win once is tough, to win again as a favorite is a very big deal, so kudos to the ‘Green Bullet’ – we’ll wait and see how he fires in the Tour this summer.
Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2008, 261km
1 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
2 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner
3 Frдnk Schleck (Lux) CSC
4 Andy Schleck Lux) (CSC
5 Christian Pfannberger (Aut) Barloworld
6 Thomas Dekker (Ned) Rabobank
7 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence-Lotto
8 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
9 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quickstep
10 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas
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