La Doyenne, Liege Bastogne Liege came down to four stars, each with a decisive role. There was Demolition Man, the Trickster, the Lonely Hunter and the Assassin.
As he’d promised, Demolition Man Andy Schleck attacked hard on the Côte de la Roche aux Faucons climb, detonating the race and deciding who had a shot and who would roll into Liege a loser.
Demolition man did his job well, perhaps too well, finishing in sixth place. A nice show of climbing power that bodes well for his Tour de France build-up.
The Trickster was Spanish, a two time Tour de France winner and named Alberto Contador. He also rides for team Astana and that explains the deception. As Schleck dynamited the peloton, Contador hit the gas hard and joined up with Schleck and Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto).
That all-star cast set off all kinds of ugly alarm bells. Cadel Evans and Aliejandro “borrowed time” Valverde were forced to react. The race strategy trick worked to perfection, as once Contador was neutralized, all contenders breathed a sigh of relief and took their eyes off the Assassin, Alexander Vinokourov.
That moment of inattention was precisely when Vinokourov said checkmate, blasting away on the descent of the Roche aux Faucons. Yes, he dived like a falcon and nobody could follow except Alexandr Kolobnev of Katusha. The Kazakhstani-Russian duo built a lead of 30 seconds with roughly 20 kilometers to go. Communication and cooperation was good and that was bad news for everybody else.
Which bring us to our final man, the Lonely Hunter, Philippe Gilbert. Already he’d launched a blistering attack on the Falcon climb. He was also the first to recognize the dangerous move from Vinokourov. Shaking or just plain dropping Valverde, Evans and Schleck, he set off an a difficult chase alone.
The Hunter drew within 22 seconds but never could close the gap. Despite a near perfect race, superb form and fairly good judgment, he failed to make the podium as Valvede swiped the final spot behind Kolobnev. It was all Vino in that final 500 meters; the Assassin had killed everyone. That made for an all A sweep, Alexander, Alexandr (no final e) and Alejandro. New UCI targeted testing: alphabetical.
And then there was The Man Who Lost His Legs. Radio Shack’s Chris Horner, who had looked so strong and confident after his high finish in Amstel Gold. Horner rode well but faded to 8th place. But as he admitted in his post-race comments, “I just didn’t have the legs today. I don’t know whether it was too much training or what,”said Horner.
Still an impressive result for the 38 year old rider from Bend, Oregon who pretty much rode himself onto the Tour de France Shack roster.
For his part, Vinokourov still hopes to be allowed into the Tour de France and help Alberto Contador to a third win. The more the assassin wins, the harder it is to say non.