Alejandro Valverde now has two Liege-Bastonge-Liege wins in his pocket. The Spanish climbing-sprinting sensation looks to be on track to be a contender in the Tour once again. Though he admitted that his form was not as good as in 2006 when he took his last win at Liege, he was able to use his sprinting ability and smarts to beat Frank Schleck and David Rebellin.
The Schleck brothers seemed to have the race to themselves. When the decisive breaks happened on the new climb of Falcon’s Rock 20kms from the finish the number favored the brothers from Luxembourg. The group of five that formed contained two the CSC brothers, David Rebellin and two Caisse D’Epargne’s (Valverde and Rodriguez). Rebellin was odd man out until Rodriguez could no longer keep pace. Andy Schleck launched an attack that everyone knew was a setup for brother Frank. Trouble is that once Andy was caught by a very attentive Rebellin, Brother Frank could not shake off two tough sprinters Valverde and Rebellin. As the break of three cruised to the end it was only a matter of ceremony for Valverde to take the top spot.
Too bad for Schleck, he came so close to wins and was beat out by little guys who can sprint. Last week in Amstel, Cunego came out from behind to beat Schleck in somewhat of a surprise. While this time he could not use his numbers to shake off Valverde before the sprint.
Meanwhile it looks like Valverde wasn’t even going to try for the win.
“I knew if I could make it to the sprint, I’d have my best chance against these two,” Valverde said. “This win means a lot because the spring classics weren’t even a goal this year. I came here with a lot of motivation to race because my goals come later in the season with the Tour and the Olympics.” — velonews.com
So Valverde was not intending to win? But won anyway? This guys must be on drugs… queue the Operation Puerto questions…
Inevitably, Valverde was questioned about his alleged links to Operación Puerto, but he said he’s racing with a clear conscience. Some believe Valverde is linked to the Spanish doping scandal, but he’s never been officially implicated.
“My link to Puerto only comes from the media. No judge or evidence has ever suggested that I had anything to do with it,” said Valverde. “I’m not worried about the Italian authorities. If they want to question me when the Tour goes to Italy, let them. No problem.”
BTW, did you hear that Basso signed with Liquigas? WTF?
The more things change the more they stay the same. I thought we were moving on from the Operation Puerto stories and in one quick swipe we get two OP related stories in the headlines. Cycling cannot catch a break. Even as the exciting Liege-Bastongne-Liege race wraps up a drug scandal free spring season it all comes back just in time for the start of a major Grand Tour.