Liege - Bastogne - Liege 2003
He was spectacular in his ability to set the pace, with Casagrande, along the hardest stretch of the Redoute, and then with legs and courage he found the ideal moment to attack, 3 km from the finish line, along a false-flat stretch on the ramp that heads into Ans.
Thus Hamilton crowned his team’s magnificent work in carrying the tight group of the best riders up to the three fugitives: Armstrong, Sanchez and Shefer.
Armstrong was very strong today, but perhaps too exuberant and generous. He stood out early, on the Cote du Rosier climb 65km from the finish, and again at the summit of the Redoute and on the following series of false-flats.
Too early, at the top of the Cote de Sprimont, after 230 km, Armstrong pushed out, taking along a handful of riders: Bartoli, Sanches, Moreni and Schefer.
He attacked again on the Sart-Tilman climb, leaving Bartoli behind (mistake!). But some 30-40 seconds behind him a group made up of CSC and LAMPRE began to work hard to get on the fugitives.
The last three climbs of the Liege (Sprimont, Sart-Tilman and Saint Nicolas) have grades of between 3-6%. The riders speed to 26-28 km/hr, and at those speeds the rider in the wheel, drafting, he has a considerable advantage: the energy savings equals about 50 watts in the wheel of a single rider, while a rider protected by a group can save at least twice that. And if there are headwinds or crosswinds, the difference is even greater.
The descents and flats between the climbs allowed protected riders to eat and save precious energy. On the other hand, lead riders burned reserve residues of glycogen while fighting against wind resistance, as Axel Merckx, who put on a fine solo performance at the end of the race, knows too well.
Once again, the race wasn’t particularly selective: too many riders (more than 40) gathered at the foot of the final climb and no team managed to make the competition really difficult by imposing high rhythms far from the finish.