Iglinskiy stuns Liege cycling stars
Apr 23. Sky News Australia
Unheralded Kazakhstan cyclist Maxim Iglinskiy stunned a host of favourites to claim the biggest win of his career at a rain-hit Liege-Bastogne-Liege race on Sunday.
Italian Vincenzo Nibali, who looked to have secured his maiden victory in cycling’s oldest one-day classic until Iglinskiy overtook him on the 11th and last climb of the 257km epic, finished runner-up at 21sec.
It was Astana’s second major win inside a week, after Enrico Gasparotto’s victory at the Amstel Gold Race in the Netherlands.
Italian Gasparotto completed the podium after beating Frenchman Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Ireland’s Dan Martin (Garmin) to third place.
The best of the Australians was national champion Simon Gerrans in 19th place at 2min 11sec.
Astana team manager Guido Bontempi admitted Gasparotto had been their main hope for victory in the third of the Ardennes Classics races.
But Iglinskiy created his own chance for victory when he dropped one race favourite, Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez, on the climb to Saint Nicolas before chasing down a tiring Nibali and overtaking him with 1.1 km to race.
‘It’s the biggest win of my career,’ said the 31-year-old Kazakh, who revealed he had been spurned on to try his luck by former two-time winner, compatriot Alexandre Vinokourov.
‘Alexandre called me this morning and told me I could win this race, but that I had to try and get into a breakaway.’
Bontempi admitted: ‘It’s a big surprise for us. We came here looking for a good result and now we’ve won two out of the past three races, it’s amazing.’
Defending champion Philippe Gilbert of BMC was among several big contenders who failed to shine on a cold day marked by intermittent rain showers.
The Belgian, who had signalled his ambitions by finishing third behind Katusha team leader Rodriguez at the Fleche-Wallonne semi-classic midweek, was left trailing when Iglinskiy and Rodriguez attacked in a bid to reel in Nibali.
He eventually finished 16th at 1min 27sec behind.
Former two-time winner Alejandro Valverde was never in contention, the Spaniard spending key moments of the race at the back of the peloton before suffering a mechanical problem which later prompted him to borrow a teammate’s bike.