For the third time in eight years, Kazakhstan has taken a victory in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege, this time thanks to Maxim Iglinskiy, 31, with a solo triumph.First Alexandre Vinokourov in 2005 and 2010, and now his Astana team-mate Iglinskiy have captured La Doyenne. Their latest triumph concludes a fantastic week for the Kazakh squad, starting with Amstel Gold Race last Sunday and finishing with another victory in the greatest of the Ardennes Classics.A devastating attack by Vincenzo Nibali in the Cote de la Roche aux Faucons seemed almost certain to net the 2010 Vuelta winner his first great Classic. But instead Iglinskiy’s dramatic counter-attack almost within sight of the finish netted the Kazakh what he recognised was clearly “the greatest victory of my career.”
Anton the first crash victim
The first important event of Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2012 took place even before racing proper got underway, as Igor Anton (EUS) crashed in the neutralised zone, and was taken to hospital with a broken collarbone. As a result, 199 riders started the race.
Three and three make six
After a frenetic start, three riders moved ahead at kilometre 38: Dario Cataldo (OPQ), Simon Geschke (ARG) and Kevin Ista (ACC). Ten kilometres later, another three counter-attacked and by km 55 they had managed to bridge across: Reinier Honig (LAN), Ista’s team-mate Gregory Habeaux (ACC) and Alessandro Bazzana (TTI). At km 57, the advantage was already 8-05 and by the time they reached the first climb of La Cote de Roche-en-Ardenne (Geschke led the break across the top), their advantage was 9-55. The maximum gap reached was 12-35 at km 79.
The tide starts to turn
Katusha, riding for Joaquim Rodríguez, began to drive even before the race reached its most southerly point at Bastogne, bringing the break back to 12-00 by km 93.
At km 116.5, the summit of the Côte de Saint-Roch, with Geschke once again claiming the top points, the half-dozen leaders had an advantage of 8-00, but their lead was dropping fast.
Not so easy
After the Cote de Saint-Roch, the gap dropped to 6-40. However, it then began to rise once more briefly, reaching 8-10 before the truce ended and Katusha, helped by RadioShack-Nissan started to drive again as the race reached the final 100 kilometres. By the summit of the Cote de Wanne, with 97.5 kilometres to go, the lead group’s advantage was down to 5-23.
At the foot of the Cote de Stockeu (km 166.5), Simon Geschke (ARG) crashed, losing contact with the main break and dropping back to the bunch. RadioShack, led by Horner and Bakelants whittled the gap down to 2-55 by the summit of the next climb, the Cote de la Haute Levee (km 172), where three counter-attackers - Kiryenka (MOV), LeLay (SAU), Rolland (EUC) - went away over the summit and tried to bridge across. On the long Cote de Rosier (km 185), the three whittled back the gap considerably, joining the front five just before the summit, with 72.5 kilometres to go.
On the Cote du Maquisard (Km 198), seventh of the 11th climbs of the day, Honig (LAN) was dropped from the break of eight, whilst the gap remained stable at around 1-30. On the following climb, the Mont-Theux (km 208), Habeaux (ACC) was the next to be dropped, and Ista (ACC) also cracked. Just five riders remained in the break by the summit.
On the approach to the crucial Cote de La Redoute, Mads Christensen (Saxo Bank) attempted an unsuccessful lone chase. Then as BMC upped the pace on the climb, cutting the bunch down to around 30 riders, Valverde had a mechanical, and changed bikes with another team-mate. Three riders from the break now remained ahead as they approached the unclassified Cote du Sprimont climb - Cataldo, Rolland and Kiryienka, with an advantage of 45 seconds. Together with Valverde, Frank Schleck (RNT) was also dropped on the climb.
Nibali alone but then...
With an advantage of 25 seconds with 25 kilometres to go, the three breakaways had no chance of staying away on the ultra-steep Cote de Roche aux Faucons (km 238.). After Gilbert and BMC had warmed things up, then with 18.5 kilometres to go, Nibali launched a devastating and went clear.
Closely pursued by Joaquim Rodriguez (KAT) and Maxim Iglinskiy (AST), the Vuelta 2010 winner Nibali had an advantage of 25 seconds on the duo at the foot of the Cote de Saint-Nicolas. Last year’s winner Gilbert was in difficulties, and two other favourites, the Schleck brothers, were also unable to make an impact. Rodriguez cracked half-way up, with Iglinskiy chasing hard behind and finally reaching Nibali with a kilometre to go.
Iglinskiy goes for it alone
Almost immediately, Iglinskiy went clear, taking a solo win ahead of Nibali by 21 seconds, with Amstel Gold winner and Astana team-mate Enrico Gasparotto outsprinting Thomas Voeckler (EUR) and Dan Martin (GRM) for third.
The 2012 Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner Maxim Iglinskiy (Astana) has recognised that he owes a huge debt to team-mate, compatriot and former double Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner Alexandre Vinokourov.
Vinokourov was victorious both in 2005, ahead of Jens Voigt in a two-man break, and then again, in Astana colours, in 2010. And according to Iglinskiy, Vino called him this morning from Turkey, where the veteran Kazakh is racing, to tell him that he could win La Doyenne “if I managed to keep my cool and didn’t panic."
“When I went for it, chasing after Nibali, I thought I had no chance of victory. I though I was fighting for second.”
“But then I managed to catch him,I saw he wasn’t in a good place, and went for it straight away. It’s the biggest win of my career by a long way.”
Iglinskiy added that he first had taken part in Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 2005, the year of Vinokourov’s first victory. Although he had taken stages in hilly races like the Dauphine Libere in 2007 and the Tour of Romandie in 2008 - as well as the Strade Bianche in 2010 in Italy - “I thought I could do better in cobbled Classics like Ghent-Welvegem and E3 Harelbeke, not in a Monument like this one. But I was wrong.”
Next up for the 31-year-old veteran will be “helping Vinokourov and Janez Brajkovic in the Tour de France, Vino’ for a stage and Brajkovic for the overall. If I can get a stage win myself, that’d be the icing on the cake.
1. Maxim Iglinskiy (AST)
2. Vincenzo Nibali (LIQ)
3. Enrico Gasparotto (AST)
4. Thomas Voeckler (EUR)
5. Daniel Martin (GRM)
Enrico Gasparotto, meaning Astana have scooped two of the top three places
Kazakh Maxim Iglinskiy has won Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Second Nibali at 19 sec.
Iglinskiy away alone now, looking like he’s got this one in the bag
Iglinskiy has dropped Nibali just before the final km banner!