Striking a psychological blow against overwhelming favorite Philippe Gilbert, Frank Schleck and Alexander Vinokourov beat the Belgian to the race presentation, consumed all the drinks and food and left him with nothing.
“We showed today we are not afraid,” said Schleck, “We had a plan and we executed it. Arrive at the Palais des Princes-Eveques in Leige first, then make sure we took everything. I did not come here for second place. We will do whatever it takes to win.”
The entire Leopard Trek team arrives an hour before Gilbert, with domestiques blocking the entrances with their bikes. They handed out hundred of free Schleck posters thereby creating an impossible mob at each entry point.
In what appeared to be a joint effort between Leopard and Katusha, the Russian squad also arrived early and quickly ate all the free food and drink. Team Manager Andre Tchmil was seen directing what looked like a small contingent of Russian mercenaries who used rental cars to barricade the street leading to the square.
Also prominent in all the pre-race commotion was Astana’s Alexander Vinokourov. Flanked by several teammates, Vino attempted to disrupt the presentation by singing old Kazakh fight songs while playing on a battered accordion.
“This is my last Leige. There will be no half measures,” said Vinokourov. “We must break Gilbert down physically and mentally. We will attack before, during and after the race.”
When Gilbert finally worked his way thru the barricades and roadblock and mobs of people, the presentation was over and there was nothing to eat or drink. The Belgian star merely shrugged his shoulders and laughed.
“Nothing they do is of concern to me. This is the race I have dreamed about. I’m an ready, my team is ready and victory will be decided on the road, not at the presentation,” said Gilbert.
However, it took the Omega-Pharma-Lotto star another 45 minutes to exit the Palais because the Euskatel-Euskadi team bus driven by Samuel Sanchez rammed Gilbert’s car. A police investigation will try to determine whether that was an accident or attempted homicide.
The final words delivered by Leopard’s Any Schleck were ominous. “When we attack and Gilbert will never see it coming. This is just the beginning and tonight the game plan continues.”