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Flèche Wallonne win gives Di Luca ProTour lead

After he won the Amstel Gold Race last Sunday, a rejuvenated and revitalized Danilo Di Luca said that his next goal was this coming weekend’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège. “That’s a race I’ve always dreamed about winning,” he said. So how come he won the Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday? “Good question,” Di Luca replied. “This morning, we decided that we would see what happens in the race. Well, [Jens] Voigt was riding very, very strong in the break. It was the decision of my director [Roberto] Amadio, and me too, to make my teammates ride.”

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By John Wilcockson

Winning at Huy was unexpected, said Di Luca

Winning at Huy was unexpected, said Di Luca

Photo: Graham Watson

After he won the Amstel Gold Race last Sunday, a rejuvenated and revitalized Danilo Di Luca said that his next goal was this coming weekend’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

“That’s a race I’ve always dreamed about winning,” he said.

So how come he won the Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday?

“Good question,” Di Luca replied. “This morning, we decided that we would see what happens in the race. Well, [Jens] Voigt was riding very, very strong in the break. It was the decision of my director [Roberto] Amadio, and me too, to make my teammates ride.”

Voigt was aggressive from the start

Voigt was aggressive from the start

Photo: Graham Watson

As a result, Di Luca’s Liquigas-Bianchi teammates pegged the lead of Voigt’s original seven-man break to two minutes starting the final hilly loop of 106km. And that gap was down to one minute with 80km to go, when Team CSC’s Voigt decided to get rid of his companions, one by one.

The last rider to stay with the tall German was a third-year Belgian pro, Jef Peeters of Chocolade Jacques-T Interim. These two pushed their lead to 1:45 with 45km to go when Voigt decided it was time to go solo. He made a sharp attack on a flat stretch of road approaching the day’s sixth climb, the Côte de Bellaire, and Peeters was gone.

So, with Voigt’s advantage up to 1:50, what was going through Di Luca’s mind? “Well, we were thinking that Voigt had a good chance of winning if our team didn’t start chasing harder,” he said.

Over the next climb, the Bohissau — where 2001 Flèche winner Rik Verbrugghe of Quick Step caught Peeters and made a brief bid for glory – Voigt held strong; and he still had a 1:16 gap as he reached the 15km to go board. So Voigt was looking good as he hit the second-to-last hill, the Côte de Ahin, with 13.5km to go.

On this 2.4km climb averaging 6.4 percent, the chase was taken up by Crédit Agricole’s 25-year-old Russian rocket Andrey Kashechkin. He got within 10 seconds of Voigt, while the 60-strong peloton pulled within 20 seconds of the lone leader.

Photo: Graham Watson

Voigt was now charging down toward Huy (and the third and final climb of the Belgian city’s famous Mur) on roads made wet by late-afternoon showers. Kashechkin was caught here by Phonak’s Spaniard Oscar Pereiro and the ambitious Frenchmen Jérôme Pineau (Bouygues Télécom) and Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), and they charged after Voigt. They caught him with just 4km to go (Voigt was away for 150km, the last 40km on his own), but the now five-strong break was still only 150 meters ahead of the long, snaking line of chasers.

The Liquigas riders Franco Pellizotti and Patrick Calcagni did most of the work behind, with occasional support from the Gerolsteiner team of defending champion Davide Rebellin and the Lampre-Caffita squad of 2004 Giro winner Damiano Cunego. Their efforts were rewarded when the breakaway group was caught just as they turned right from the valley road into the uphill street that leads to the 12-percent Mur de Huy.

“It was only when we reached the foot of the last climb that I thought of winning,” Di Luca finally said. “The strongest riders were all at the front and I knew what I had to do. I made a mistake last year on the steep [19 –percent] turns and I finished second to Rebellin.”

This time, Di Luca watched the others in the front line of four: Rebellin, Rabobank’s world champion Oscar Freire and T-Mobile’s Alex Vinokourov. In the second row on the narrow road were Fassa Bortolo’s Luxembourg champion Kim Kirchen, Davitamon-Lotto’s Aussie Cadel Evans (who said before the race, “I wouldn’t mind doing something today, that’s for sure.”), and Liberty Seguros Spaniard David Etxebarria.

“I was waiting for someone to start the attack,” Di Luca said, “But no one did, so I started it. I showed I was the strongest.” Indeed he did. Only Kirchen and Rebellin managed to catch Di Luca’s wheel, while Freire and Etxebarria held strong, Evans faded a little, and Vinokourov faded a lot.

Photo: Graham Watson

At the line, Di Luca was a couple of lengths ahead of Kirchen with Rebellin in third. Four seconds back, Etxebarria crossed in fourth, just ahead of Freire, while Evans came home in eighth, Vinokourov 12th and Cunego a disappointing 14th.

The best of the decimated Discovery Channel team was Canadian Ryder Hesjedal, 2:23 back, in 65th. He was the only North American among the 113 finishers out of a field of 194 starters (Full Results Are Posted).

So Di Luca repeated Rebellin’s 2004 Amstel-Flèche double. Can the 29-year-old Italian — who now leads the UCI ProTour by 19 points from Tom Boonen — go on, like Rebellin, to do the triple this Sunday at Liège?

“It will be much more difficult on Sunday to arrive with the best riders at the last climb, the St. Nicolas,” said Di Luca Wednesday evening. But given his great form, new confidence and the backing of a powerful team, he will be the man to beat.

Photo: Graham Watson

Results – Flèche Wallonne, 2005
1. Danilo Di Luca (I), Liquigas-Bianchi, 4:44:55 (42.432kph)
2. Kim Kirchen (Lux), Fassa Bortolo, 00:00
3. Davide Rebellin (I), Gerolsteiner, 00:00
4. David Etxebarria Alkorta (Sp), LST, 00:04
5. Oscar Freire (Sp), Rabobank, 00:04
6. Angel Vicioso (Sp), LST, 00:04
7. Patrik Sinkewitz (G), Quickstep, 00:04
8. Aitor Osa (Sp), Illes Balears, 00:04
9. Cadel Evans (Aus), Davitamon-Lotto, 00:08
10. Fabian Wegmann (G), Gerolsteiner, 00:08

Current Pro Tour Standings
1. Danilo Di Luca (I), 131 points
2. Tom Boonen (B), 112
3. Oscar Freire (Sp), 94
4. Alessandro Petacchi (I), 93
5. Davide Rebellin (I), 86
6. Bobby Julich (USA), 75
. George Hincapie (USA), 75
8. Danilo Hondo (G), 70
9. Juan Antonio Flecha (Sp), 65
10. Thor Hushovd (N), 55

FULLRESULTS ARE POSTED


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Photo Gallery

Results

Results – Flèche Wallonne, 2005
1. Danilo Di Luca (I), Liquigas-Bianchi, 4:44:55 (42.432kph)

2. Kim Kirchen (Lux), Fassa Bortolo, 00:00

3. Davide Rebellin (I), Gerolsteiner, 00:00

4. David Etxebarria Alkorta (Sp), LST, 00:04

5. Oscar Freire (Sp), Rabobank, 00:04

6. Angel Vicioso (Sp), LST, 00:04

7. Patrik Sinkewitz (G), Quickstep, 00:04

8. Aitor Osa (Sp), Illes Balears, 00:04

9. Cadel Evans (Aus), Davitamon-Lotto, 00:08

10. Fabian Wegmann (G), Gerolsteiner, 00:08

11. Oscar Pereiro Sio (Sp), Phonak, 00:11

12. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz), T-Mobile, 00:11

13. Matthias Kessler (G), T-Mobile, 00:11

14. Damiano Cunego (I), Lampre, 00:11

15. Christophe Brandt (B), Davitamon-Lotto, 00:11

16. Manuele Mori (I), Saunier Duval, 00:16

17. Mirko Celestino (I), Domina Vacanze, 00:17

18. Leonardo Bertagnolli (I), Cofidis, 00:17

19. Laurent Brochard (F), Bouygues Telecom, 00:19

20. Bradley Mcgee (Aus), Francaise des Jeux, 00:19

21. Arvesen Kurt-Asle (Nor), CSC, 00:22

22. Christophe Le Mevel (F), Credit Agricole, 00:24

23. Benjamin Noval (Sp), Discovery Channel, 00:24

24. Joaquin Rodriguez (Sp), Saunier Duval, 00:24

25. Erik Dekker (Nl), Rabobank, 00:24

26. Nicki Sorensen (Dk), CSC, 00:27

27. Alexandre Moos (Swi), Phonak, 00:27

28. Frank Schleck (Lux), CSC, 00:27

29. Axel Merckx (B), Davitamon-Lotto, 00:27

30. Fabian Jeker (Swi), Saunier Duval, 00:27

31. Leukemans Björn (B), Davitamon-Lotto, 00:31

32. Constantino Zaballa (Sp), Saunier Duval, 00:31

33. Inigo Landaluze (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 00:31

34. Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz), Credit Agricole, 00:31

35. Pineau Jérôme (F), Bouygues Telecom, 00:34

36. Michael Rasmussen (Dk), Rabobank, 00:35

37. Marcus Zberg (Swi), Gerolsteiner, 00:35

38. Ivan Basso (I), CSC, 00:37

39. Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz), Domina Vacanze, 00:37

40. Alejandro Valverde (Sp), Illes Balears, 00:37

41. Samuel Sanchez (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 00:37

42. Paolo Bettini (I), Quickstep, 00:37

43. Massimo Giunti (I), Fassa Bortolo, 00:37

44. Iker Camano (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 00:37

45. Vila Errandonea Francisco Javier (Sp), Lampre, 00:45

46. Sylvain Chavanel (F), Cofidis, 00:45

47. Bert De Waele (B), Landbouwkrediet – Colnago, 00:45

48. Thomas Lovkvist (Swe), Francaise des Jeux, 00:45

49. Gorazd Stangelj (SLO), Lampre, 00:48

50. Jens Voigt (G), CSC, 00:51

51. Pieter Mertens (B), Chocolade Jacques – T Interim, 00:51

52. Didier Rous (F), Bouygues Telecom, 00:58

53. Jaksche Jörg (G), LST, 00:58

54. Matej Mugerli (SLO), Liquigas-Bianchi, 01:02

55. Vaugrenard Benoît (F), Francaise des Jeux, 01:04

56. Franco Pellizotti (I), Liquigas-Bianchi, 01:06

57. Massimo Codol (I), Fassa Bortolo, 01:11

58. Pietro Caucchioli (I), Credit Agricole, 01:11

59. Roberto Petito (I), Fassa Bortolo, 01:11

60. Sylvester Szmyd (Pol), Lampre, 01:14

61. Volodymir Gustov (Ukr), Fassa Bortolo, 01:22

62. David Loosli (Swi), Lampre, 01:29

63. Tadej Valjavec (SLO), Phonak, 01:32

64. Patrice Halgand (F), Credit Agricole, 02:23

65. Ryder Hesjedal (Can), Discovery Channel, 02:23

66. Vicente Reynes (Sp), Illes Balears, 02:23

67. Simon Gerrans (Aus), Ag2r Prevoyance, 02:32

68. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (B), Discovery Channel, 02:33

69. Bingen Fernandez (Sp), Cofidis, 02:33

70. Vincenzo Nibali (I), Fassa Bortolo, 02:33

71. Roy Jérémy (F), Francaise des Jeux, 02:45

72. Ludovic Turpin (F), Ag2r Prevoyance, 03:01

73. Andrea Moletta (I), Gerolsteiner, 03:03

74. Vladimir Gusev (Rus), CSC, 03:24

75. Ronny Scholz (G), Gerolsteiner, 03:29

76. Maxime Monfort (B), Landbouwkrediet – Colnago, 03:53

77. Marcus Ljungqvist (Swe), Liquigas-Bianchi, 04:34

78. Inaki Isasi (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 05:12

79. Santiago Botero (Col), Phonak, 05:37

80. Filippo Pozzato (I), Quickstep, 05:52

81. Andrea Peron (I), CSC, 05:52

82. Xabier Zandio (Sp), Illes Balears, 05:52

83. Serge Baguet (B), Davitamon-Lotto, 05:52

84. Rik Verbrugghe (B), Quickstep, 05:52

85. Beat Zberg (Swi), Gerolsteiner, 05:52

86. Alessandro Spezialetti (I), Lampre, 05:57

87. Uros Murn (SLO), Phonak, 06:05

88. Goubert Stéphane (F), Ag2r Prevoyance, 06:08

89. Hubert Dupont (F), R.A.G.T. Semences-MG Rover, 08:20

90. David Moncoutie (F), Cofidis, 08:20

91. Geert Verheyen (B), Landbouwkrediet – Colnago, 08:20

92. Ruslan Ivanov (MDA), Domina Vacanze, 08:20

93. Pieter Ghyllebert (B), Chocolade Jacques – T Interim, 10:41

94. Christophe Moreau (F), Credit Agricole, 10:41

95. Patrick Calcagni (Swi), Liquigas-Bianchi, 10:46

96. Koen De Kort (Nl), LST, 10:46

97. Renaud Dion (F), R.A.G.T. Semences-MG Rover, 11:07

98. Cyril Dessel (F), Ag2r Prevoyance, 11:07

99. Gerrit Glomser (A), Lampre, 11:09

100. Wim Van Huffel (B), Davitamon-Lotto, 11:09

101. Koos Moerenhout (Nl), Davitamon-Lotto, 11:09

102. Steffen Wesemann (G), T-Mobile, 11:09

103. Sergio Miguel Moreira Paulinho (P), LST, 11:09

104. Addy Engels (Nl), Quickstep, 11:09

105. Francisco Mancebo (Sp), Illes Balears, 11:09

106. Arnaud Gerard (F), Francaise des Jeux, 11:12

107. Oliver Zaugg (Swi), Saunier Duval, 11:14

108. Freddy Bichot (F), Francaise des Jeux, 11:22

109. Theo Eltink (Nl), Rabobank, 11:23

110. Sylvain Calzati (F), Ag2r Prevoyance, 11:30

111. Finot Frédéric (F), Francaise des Jeux, 11:32

112. Thomas Dekker (Nl), Rabobank, 11:32

113. Francesco Bellotti (I), Credit Agricole, 13:10

114. Camille Bouquet (F), Mrbookmaker.Com – Sports Tech, 14:54

115. Mauro Facci (I), Fassa Bortolo, 14:59

116. Steven Kleynen (B), Chocolade Jacques – T Interim, 15:06

117. Jef Peeters (B), Chocolade Jacques – T Interim, 15:06

118. Marcos Antonio Serrano (Sp), LST, 15:12

119. Isidro Nozal Vega (Sp), LST, 15:13

120. Philip Deignan (IRL), Ag2r Prevoyance, 20:26

121. Nicolas Vogondy (F), Credit Agricole, 20:32

122. Markel Irizar (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 20:32

123. Unai Etxebarria (Vz), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 20:32

124. Mikel Astarloza (Sp), Ag2r Prevoyance, 20:34

125. Inigo Chaurreau (Sp), Ag2r Prevoyance, 20:45

126. Olivier Kaisen (B), R.A.G.T. Semences-MG Rover, 21:18
209 starters – 126 finishers

Current Pro Tour Standings

1. Danilo Di Luca (I), 131 points
2. Tom Boonen (B), 112
3. Oscar Freire (Sp), 94
4. Alessandro Petacchi (I), 93
5. Davide Rebellin (I), 86
6. Bobby Julich (USA), 75
. George Hincapie (USA), 75
8. Danilo Hondo (G), 70
9. Juan Antonio Flecha (Sp), 65
10. Thor Hushovd (N), 55
11. Michael Boogerd (Nl), 45
12. Alejandro Valverde (Sp), 43
13. Andreas Klier (G), 41
14. Nico Mattan (B), 40
15. Alberto Contador (Sp), 36
16. Peter Van Petegem (B), 35
. Aitor Osa (Sp), 35
. Fabrizio Guidi (I), 35
. Constantino Zaballa (Sp), 35
20. Erik Zabel (G), 33