Hamilton Becomes First American To Win Liege-Bastogne-Liege
Tyler Hamilton (CSC) has become the first American to win Liege-Bastogne-Liege. The man from Marblehead surged away from six companions to win the 258.7-km classic in 6:28:50. Iban Mayo (Euskaltel) finished second at 0:12, and Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) took third at 0:14. Peter Van Petegem (Lotto) remains the World Cup leader.
At the start of the race, a headwind greeted the riders. After an hour's racing, Victor Hugo Pena (U.S. Postal Service), Martin Elmiger (Phonak), Benoit Vaugrenard (La Francaise des Jeux.com), and Marco Pinotti (Lampre) rolled off of the front. At 98.5 km, the four riders led three pursuers (Marc Streel of Landbouwkrediet, Kurt Van De Wouver of Lotto, and Michel Van Haecke of Palmans) by about 3:00 and the peloton by 9:45.
When the bunch reached Bastogne (98.5 km), it began to pursue. All of the escapees were reeled in by 165 km. Mario Aerts (Lotto), Alexander Shefer (Saeco), Marcos Serrano (ONCE), and Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel) countered, but the peloton overhauled them by 194 km.
Axel Merckx (Lotto) attacked with Gerrit Glomser and Igor Astarloa (both from Saeco), Cristian Moreni (Alessio), Angel Vicioso (ONCE), and Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner). On the Cote de la Redoute (233 km), Merckx, Vicioso, Moreni, and Astarloa dropped their companions and forged a 0:48 lead on a group that included Lance Armstrong (U.S. Postal Service), Hamilton, and Boogerd.
With 25 km left, Merckx dropped his companions, but Armstrong, Shefer, Michele Bartoli (Fassa Bortolo), and Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) caught the Belgian. On the Cote de Sart-Tilman (242 km), Armstrong attacked and dropped Bartoli and Merckx. Armstrong, Shefer, and Sanchez led the nearest pursuit by 0:30, but behind the leaders, a group of 25 riders overtook Hamilton's group. This group contained two of Hamilton's teammates, Carlos Sastre and Nicki Sorensen. The two towed Hamilton to the leaders. Hamilton reached them at the base of the Cote de Saint Nicolas (252 km).
Boogerd attacked at the top of the climb. His companions, who were led by Mayo and Sanchez, reeled him in. Hamilton countered and soloed to victory.
In the World Cup, which will adjourn until after the Tour de France, Van Petegem leads despite abandoning Liege-Bastogne-Liege. He has 200 points to 140 for Boogerd, who got 70 points for second place in LBL. Dario Pieri (Saeco) is in third place with 117 points.
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