Rebellin Wins Fleche Wallonne
Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) has won the Fleche Wallonne. Rebellin powered into the lead in the last 200 m to win the hilly, 202-km classic in 4:48:06. Defending champion Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) outsprinted Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) for second at 0:06.
As has often been the case this spring, the riders began racing in warm, fair conditions. At four km, Freddy Bichot (Agritubel), Morris Possoni (Lampre), and Paul Manning (Landbouwkrediet) escaped but were quickly reeled in. The same fate befell Hugo Sabido (Barloworld), Manning, Inigo Landaluze (Euskaltel), and Didier Rous (Bouygues Telecom), who escaped at 18 km but whom the Rabobank-led peloton caught after four km in the lead.
At 40 km, Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel), Bichot, David Loosli (Lampre), and Christophe Le Mevel (Credit Agricole) rolled off of the front. By 50 km, the quartet led by 5:00. When the break reached the summit of the Mur de Huy for the first time, it led the field by 6:50, although the bunch took a minute out of the escapees on the climb.
Caisse d'Epargne chased in support of Valverde. By 80 km, the fugitives' lead was down to 5:40. At 108 km, Ivan Rovny (Tinkoff) attempted to bridge up to the break, but the peloton, now led by Caisse d'Epargne, Liquigas, Gerolsteiner, and Astana reeled in the Russian. The break's lead dropped to 2:50 with 76 km left and to 1:25 with 70 km to go.
Axel Merckx (T-Mobile) attacked, and the peloton accelerated in pursuit of him. Le Mevel was dropped, and Loosli gave up. With 58 km left, Verdugo dropped Bichot.
Benny De Schrooter (Chocolade Jacques) attacked from the peloton and picked up Bichot. The two set out after Verdugo. Their efforts were for naught because the bunch reeled in them and Verdugo with 40 km remaining.
Philippe Gilbert (Francaise des Jeux) attacked. Alexander Efimkin (Barloworld), Joaquim Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne), and Matthias Kessler (Astana) attempted to bridge up to the Belgian, but Liquigas chased down the move.
With 25 km left, Sergei Ivanov (Astana) attacked and took a 0:30 lead. On the Cote de Ahin, the day's next-to-last climb, Juan Jose Cobo (Saunier Duval) bridged up to Ivanov. Again, Liquigas led the chase.
Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile), Di Luca, and Rodriguez attacked with 10 km remaining. They bridged up to the leaders, and the leading quintet led a chase group consisting of Valverde, Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel), Thomas Dekker (Rabobank), and Cristian Moreni (Cofidis) by 0:06. What remained of the peloton was at 0:20.
Rodriguez attacked, and only Kirchen could follow. Di Luca, however, bridged up to the move. Behind, the peloton, led by Astana, Predictor, and Ag2r, chased. The bunch caught the break with two km left. The Mur de Huy would decide the race, as it almost always does.
Kessler attacked, and Rebellin took his wheel. With 200 m left, Rebellin passed Kessler for the win. Valverde and Di Luca took the minor placings.
Many of today's riders will cross paths in Liege-Bastogne-Liege on Sunday. How will they fare? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!