The traffic jam at Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
Unheralded Kazakhstani Maxim Iglinskiy stunned a host of favourites to claim the biggest win of his career at a rain-hit Liege-Bastogne-Liege here on Sunday. The 98th edition of
Liege-Bastogne-Liege, first held in 1892 and the oldest one-day race on
the calendar, is held over 257.5 km and features 11 climbs.
Italian Vincenzo Nibali, who looked to have secured his maiden victory in cycling's oldest one-day classic until Iglinskiy overtook him on the 11th and last climb of the 257.5 km epic, finished runner-up at 21sec.
It was Astana's second major win inside a week, after Enrico Gasparotto's victory at the Amstel Gold Race in the Netherlands. Italian Gasparotto completed the podium after beating Frenchman Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Ireland's Dan Martin (Garmin) to third place.
Astana team manager Guido Bontempi admitted Gasparotto had been their main hope for victory in the third of the Ardennes Classics races. But Iglinskiy forged his own winning chance when he dropped one race favourite, Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez, on the climb to Saint Nicolas before chasing down a tiring Nibali and overtaking him with 1.1 km to race.
"It's the biggest win of my career," said the 31-year-old Kazakh, who revealed he had been spurned on to try his luck by former two-time winner, compatriot Alexandre Vinokourov. Alexandre called me this morning and told me I could win this race, but that I had to try and get into a breakaway."
Bontempi admitted: "It's a big surprise for us. We came here looking for a good result and now we've won two out of the past three races, it's amazing."
Defending champion Philippe Gilbert of BMC was among several big contenders who failed to shine on a day marked by intermittent rain showers and cold temperatures. The Belgian, who had signaled his ambitions by finishing third behind Katusha team leader Rodriguez at the Fleche-Wallonne semi-classic in midweek, was left trailing when Iglinskiy and Rodriguez attacked in a bid to reel in Nibali. He eventually finished 16th at 1min 27sec behind.
Former two-time winner Alejandro Valverde was at the back of the peloton during some of the key latter stages before suffering a mechanical problem which later prompted him to borrow a teammate's bike. To add to the Spaniard's woes, he was later declassified along with three of his teammates for going off course.
Spanish climbing specialist Igor Anton became the first casualty of
Liege-Bastogne-Liege after crashing before the official start of the
famous one-day classic Sunday. Anton, who rides for the Euskaltel
team of contender Samuel Sanchez - the Olympic road race champion -
pulled out after breaking his left collarbone in a crash as the riders
rode to kilometer zero, according to race officials.
will compromise his chances of competing in the Giro d'Italia, which is
held May 5-27. Last year he won a stage at the Italian stage race, as
well as a stage at the Tour of Spain.
The Schleck brothers Frank and Andy, who finished second and third respectively behind Gilbert in 2011, also flattered to deceive. Frank was by far the better of the pair, but the Luxemburger failed to contend the finale after being dropped on the Redoute climb, the third last in the race where the summit was 34.5 km from the finish. Schleck finished among a 20-strong group just behind Gilbert at 2:11.
Former Tour of Spain champion Nibali appeared to victory within his grasp when he left Gilbert and several other fellow favorites behind at the top of La Roche aux Faucons climb, with 19.5 km to race. But despite building a lead of over 20secs on the chasers, his legs eventually gave way on the last climb to the finish in Ans.
"It's a pity. I launched a pretty good attack," said the Liquigas rider. "I just ran out of juice in the final. There was a lot of wind on the climb to Saint Nicolas, and I spent a lot of energy there." He added: "Iglinskiy is a very good rider but I would have preferred to have been beaten by Gilbert."
Gilbert, who last year won all three Ardennes Classics, was quick to concede defeat.
"I was feeling good until the top of the Roche aux Faucons, but after Nibali attacked I tried to follow and quickly realized I didn't have the legs," said the Belgian.
RESULTS: The 98th edition of the Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic held over 257.5 km on Sunday:
1. Maxim Iglinskiy (KAZ) Astana) 6hr 43min 52sec, 2. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA/LIQ) at 21s, 3. Enrico Gasparotto (ITA/AST) 36, 4. Thomas Voeckler (FRA/EUC) s.t., 5. Daniel Martin (IRL/GRM) s.t., 6. Bauke Mollema (NED/RAB) s.t., 7. Samuel Sanchez (ESP/EUS) s.t., 8. Michele Scarponi (ITA/LAM) s.t., 9. Ryder Hesjedal (CAN/GRM) s.t., 10. Jelle Vanendert (BEL/LTB) s.t., 11. Rinaldo Nocentini (ITA/ALM) s.t., 12. Pierre Rolland (FRA/EUC) s.t., 13. Daniel Moreno (ESP/KAT) s.t., 14. Robert Kiserlovski (CRO/AST) s.t., 15. Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP/KAT) 1:00
16. Philippe Gilbert (BEL/BMC) 1:27, 19. Simon Gerrans (AUS/GEC) 2:11, 23. Frank Schleck (LUX/RNT) s.t., 35. Damiano Cunego (ITA/LAM) s.t., 50. Andy Schleck (LUX/RNT) 5:39, 64. Samuel Sanchez (ESP/EUS) s.t., 112. Simon Clarke (AUS/GEC) 12:54
Maxim Iglinskiy Fact File:
Name: Maxim Iglinskiy
Date of birth: April 18, 1981
Place of birth: Astana
Height: 1.71 m
Weight: 62 kg
Capec (2004), Domina Vacanze (2005), Milram (2006), Astana (since
Kazakh champion (road race 2007, time trial 2006)
GP Camaiore 2005, Strade Bianche 2010
Tour of Germany 2005 (stage win), Dauphine Libere 2007 (stage win), Tour of Romandy 2008 (stage win)