Gilbert beats both Schlecks in Leige-Bastogne-Liege.

Gilbert Again.

Frank and Andy Schleck had Philippe Gilbert isolated on the Côte de la Roche aux Faucons.

Time to gang up on the Belgian, work him over, break him down. The grade was a mean 9.5%, they had 1.5 kilometers to make him suffer. It was two Leopards against one man, True Racing, capital punishment.

Uhh, one flaw in that strategy. Didn’t work. It was Gilbert who handed out the abuse. He attacked and his powerful acceleration dropped Andy like his chain came off. Frank barely clawed his way back on and was happy to be alive. So much for tactics, race essentially over.

On paper the brothers had one more chance, the Saint Nickolas climb. Andy had managed to rejoin Gilbert and his brother on the descent. Once more the boys discussed their options and this time came to a new conclusion: give up, white flag and a concession.

The Schlecks simply escorted Gilbert the rest of the way to the finish. Like Gilbert had two pet trained leopards along for the ride. You can’tsay those Luxembourger guys aren’t polite. They never made another move, didn’t even bother with a half hearted sprint. Not even a small jump for the cameras.

If there’s such a thing as an easy win in a classic, this was it. Gilbert won Liege-Bastogne-Leige and scored the hat trick — Amstel, Fleche Wallonne and Liege. Like Cancellara on the cobblestones, the brothers Schleck had to be content with second. The only guy capable of making the top step of the podium besides Gilbert was his young son Alan.

The Schleck brothers did make the final showdown but for other favorites and hopefuls it was 257 kilometers of hard work and disappoint. One of the strongest teams in the race, Katusha, the Russian Global Cycling Shindig! failed to deliver goods. Alexandr Kolobnev made a late move that was mostly just that — late. An 11th place for his efforts. Danilo “ride for free” di Luca justified his lack of salary by placing 41st. Nothing is more sad than a Killer without a syringe.

Riding his last Liege, Alexander Vinokourov punctured on the Roche aux Faucons, minutes after Gilbert and the Schlecks hit the gas. Air out of tire, end of last chance. A belated chase by teammate Roman Kreuziger netted a fourth place but no real celebration other than confirming his form for the upcoming Giro d’Italia.

Samuel Sanchez missed the big move on the Côte de la Roche aux Faucons. He and his Orca rolled in 10th. He made the podium in Flèche Wallonne but came up short in the final classic. The there is no particular joy in Orange-ville.

A pair of chapeaus go to BMC’s Greg Van Avermaet and VHTC-Highroad’s Tejay Van Garderen. Van Avermaet was the strongest man in the early show breakaway and still managed to latch onto the wheels of the Schlecks and Gilbert when they finally blew past. As the best sprinter of the four, he had a solid shot at the podium until Gilbert dumped him on Saint-Nicholas.

Young Van Garderen continues to impress and at just 22, rode a strong race to finish 18th place, just 53 seconds behind Gilbert. Hard not to think he has a massive future ahead of him.

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  • Bob

    I don't think its that the Shelcks couldn't hang on. They just didn't make the moves. Glibert is strong. Really strong. At the very least they could have given it a go and still placed as well as they did. The problem is that they are content to take second place (and third) place. Andy Schleck could be his generations Jan Ullirch. In the sense that he's always a bridesmaid, not a cheat. Perhaps he's just too nice.

    • Nah, they couldn't hang……

      • They did hang better than everyone else but Gilbert still hung them out to dry. Matt

  • goober b. davis

    Gilbert = man, Schlecks = lots of excuses eurofags.

    They just can't man up when necessary. Maybe they were breastfed until they were 8 or something.

    Gilbert could taste victory in the Fleche Wallone and dragged everyone along for the ride, there was no way he was going to let Schleck ride into an easy victory. The bingo callers on eurosport said there was no way he could turn himself inside out and still win, but he proved everyone wrong.

    Gilbert is the kind of cyclist of days gone by, real men that rode a bike to win. Not a bunch of eurofags posing for a payday.

    • Goober, Gilbert is the boss but are you really sure he's not a eurofag? He's married with a young son but surely you've read about his experimental weekend in Marrakesh? Matt

      • Robbie87

        I'm intrigued as to what this weekend in Marrakesh is all about?? I personally think Gilbert just loves winning and would have given everything he had and then some in order to win Sunday. Also, chapeau to the Schlecks, as they said, "they weren't prepared to ride solely in order to mark Gilbert out of the race." Sometimes second place is good enough as it was all was possible.

    • Henkio

      You probably don't know this, because you obviously are full of shit, but Andy Schleck already won LBL at a way younger age than Gilbert did. This 'Eurofag' did it solo BTW.

      Now, I figure it's probably hard for you to accept that every big American win is followed by a positive or a federal investigation, but please refrain from the term 'Eurofag'. Or throw Merckx, Coppi, Hinault and all of them on the same pile.

      Apart from that: courage to Gilbert for taking the lead on Cancellara in the 'Greatest one day rider of his generation' contest. What a show he gave us the last couple of weeks.
      And bravo to Matt for a good recap.

      Seen this pic? http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/01879
      It doesn't really get any better.

      • Henkio, I think you might have missed something here. A day or so ago, another reader by the name of Gobber used the offensive term eurofag. It would be easy for me to insult somebody as an intolerant idiot and in my younger days I would have enjoyed cutting him up. Now, I try to be more subtle. My response to him was to use some humor to turn the tables on him and make him question if his hero Gilbert was in fact something he hated — a "eurofag" You know, somebody who wears a scarf! I did this with the evil suggestion that perhaps Gilbert had "experiented" during a weekend in Marrakesh. I'm a big fan of the Schlecks. I have never used the term eurofag, nor will I ever. So I can understand your anger but think that in my case you should direct that at Goober, not me. Your "American" comment is also off-base given everything I have ever written in two years about Armstrong. Keep reading, Best, Matt

      • Henkio

        Man, I'm so sorry for the misunderstanding. My comment was in reply to 'Goober' only. Please don't feel like I've pointed it towards you in any way.
        It was definitely a little immature (especially the American part :)), but by now you prolly know how posts like that can make me go über-European (eurofag?) sometimes.

        Again, this wasn't directed at you in any way. You are one the few who can put the whole dirty part in the right perspective while being funny about it.
        I prolly clicked to wrong reply button, sorry if it came across wrong.

        ps. A lot of people here actually wear scarves as a fashion item, it sickens me. 🙂

      • No worries, Henkio. Natt

  • I thought it was a good race and that the Schlecks were pretty awesome–Gilbert is obviously on top of his game (this year's Cancellara, if you will), and there was no way in hell either Frank or Andy would beat him in a sprint. The three best riders of the day were on the podium=how it should be! (and there is nothing wrong with guys in scarves, btw–just shows that they are comfortable with their masculinity!)

    • The Schlecks rode a fine race but I sure missed them trying something, anything at the end. I always wear a scarf when I'm in Europe because the waiters at the cafes serve me quicker. Matt

  • IdeaStormer Jorge

    Ugh… the Schlecks proved once again they'd rather finish 2nd or lower just to be there. If they really couldn't do anything then why not just let Gilbert go on his own and stay clear of the cameras so they don't record such a disgraceful event, heck Andy should of pulled off a fake Schleck-anical and Frank should of just crashed himself out of the finishing straight, no instead of at least giving it the good old try, they give up and actually help Gilbert record one of the fastest (not the fastest) LBL in modern history.

    Anyone who actually knows bike racing is just in shock at the lack of tactics by the Schlecks, they are a disgrace to bike racing… one of the most painful races this year (so far, the Schlecks are on the schedule for more chances to show us how bad they are at bike tactics).

    If Gilbert was so strong then why not let him lead the whole way in? I mean he's so strong so why even bother.

  • Jason Crawford

    I must admit that I was very very surprised to see Andy basically pull for the last 500 meters without any change in pace. In previous races, Frank and Andy have tried to switch up the pace by putting one of themselves out in front with a burst of speed and wait for the competitor to follow, catch up, and then the second Schleck would then repeat the attack.

    The fact that there was zero change in page (well except for Gilbert dropping Andy), completely boggles me. Although Hinault was a complete A-hole to Lemond, he at least had the panache that the Schlecks don't posses to crush their competition.

    • I think the Schlecks are both classy (to their credit) and too nice (potentially to their detriment) I hope Andy gets a little nasty before the Tour de France. Matt