And today we saw an exciting race, once again.. with Philippe Gilbert being the nr. 1 favourite, the Schleck brothers predicted to go into the attack, with Alberto Contador showing his face for the first time this year in a spring classic.
After 258 km's of race we saw a familiar face: Once a hero for many.. one of the persons who kept the memory of his diseased friend Kivilev alive, the man who challenged Armstrong in the tour de France, placing attacks in unconventional ways and succeeding often this way.. Alexandre Vinokourov gained his enemies in the legion of cycling followers after being excluded in the 2007 Tour de France. 2 Years passed and while others who have gone through the same process were forgotten easily and gained back the cheers of their supporters, Alexandre seemed to have left a lastign impression on them: the reaction to his start at the 2009 Vuelta d'Espana prologue I witnessed in Assen last summer was quite striking. And quite sorry... Some others who were taken out of competition at the same time in 2007 were welcomed back by the audience.. The 'boo' sound was there for Vinokourov exclusively.
Today it was payback time for them as well.. Where some of the great heroes failed to escape, Vinokourov and Kolobnev quickly got a 30 second gap. And contrary to expectations about Gilbert coming back in the final climb of St. Nicholas... they managed to maintain their lead. One final jump in the last 500m's did it. Does it wash away 3 years? Well.. perhaps not. But he showed once again that he is a man to be reckoned with. A lesson Lance Armstrong will have to take into consideration when he starts the Tour this July. He knows that, despite the strength of Lance's team, his great rival Valverde will have one hell of a rider next to him.
A link to a small video of Alexandre Vinokourov, 5 years after his impressive first victory in Liege-Bastogne-Liege, only minutes after his second: