Tyler Hamilton becomes first American cyclist to win Liege - Bastogne - Liege classic

LIEGE, Belgium, April 27 (AFP) Tyler Hamilton finally cut the ties to his former team boss Lance Armstrong on Sunday after pipping his American compatriot to an historic victory in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the oldest of the one-day classics.

The 32-year-old, who rides for the Danish CSC team run by 1996 Tour de France winner Bjarne Riis, came in ahead of Spaniard Iban Mayo, of Euskaltel, with Dutchman Michael Boogerd, who rides for Rabobank, coming third.

The American's astonishing victory, although deserved, left a host of race favorites down in the minor placings after Armstrong had opened up a significant gap at the front to break up the rest of the field.

Armstrong, who has twice been runner-up, had been training specifically all week to claim his first Liege crown but finally finished in 20th at 50 seconds back.

Hamilton, meanwhile, was having trouble lapping up the plaudits after becoming the first ever American to win a race, which was first held in 1892.

Hamilton's win partly came down to a crucial miscalculation by Armstrong. US Postal's team leader looked poised to finally claim victory, after runners-up placings in 1994 and 1996, after surging ahead in the latter stages only to see the peloton engulf him on the last of the day's 10 climbs.

Hamilton, having spent most of the day among the front groups, took his own chance on the final ascent to finally add the star-spangled banner to a winner's list which is dominated by Belgian and Italian flags.

Despite pipping his famous compatriot, Hamilton then admitted he "owes everything" to the man he has helped win three of his four Tour de France yellow jerseys.

"Lance was very strong and maybe I was lucky he burned a few matches out there today," said former US Postie Hamilton, who still lives in the same building as Armstrong in the Spanish city of Girona.

"I'm sure Lance is happy for me. I know that if the roles were reversed, I would be happy for him."

Hamilton left US Postal at the end of 2001 in a bid to find his own niche as a team leader in the CSC outfit.

So far, he has not managed to match Armstrong on that level and even said he would not be anywhere if not for Armstrong.

"In the years I spent at US Postal I learned a lot from Lance Armstrong, and I helped him win three Tours de France.

"So if it wasn't for him I don't think I'd be here today," added Hamilton, who was still having trouble accepting he'd actually won the race.

"I don't think I could say I was one of the most dangerous riders in the group," he said.

"I'm more of a diesel engine and I was up against the real sprinters, but I gave it a whirl and it paid off.

"To be the first American to win here is just incredible. It's not quite sinking in yet. But it's great to have won what I believe is the hardest race in the World Cup."

Results, 89th Liege-Bastogne-Liege (258.5 km), April 27, 2003:

1. Tyler Hamilton (USA) CSC 6hr 28min 50sec
2. Iban Mayo (SPA) at 12secs
3. Michael Boogerd (NED) 14
4. Michele Scarponi (ITA) 21
5. Francesco Casagrande (ITA) 29
6. Samuel Sanchez (SPA) same time
7. Javier Pascual (SPA) s.t.
8. Danilo Di Luca (ITA) s.t.
9. Eddy Mazzoleni (ITA) s.t.
10. Ivan Basso (ITA) s.t.
11. Frank Vandenbroucke (BEL) 40
12. Oscar Pereiro (SPA) s.t.
13. Davide Rebellin (ITA) s.t.
14. Gianni Faresin (ITA) s.t.
15. Patrik Sinkewitz (GER) s.t.
16. Andrea Noe (ITA) s.t.
17. Aitor Osa42
18. Matthias Kessler (GER) s.t.
19. David Etxebarria (SPA) 45
20. Lance Armstrong (USA) 50

22. Michele Bartoli (ITA) 1:13
29. Jan Ullrich (GER) 1:27
30. Axel Merckx (BEL) 2:00
35. Oscar Freire (SPA) 3:59
55. Richard Virenque (FRA) 7:08
DNF: Brad McGee (AUS), Corey Sweet (AUS), Christopher Jenner

UCI cycling world rankings (as of April 28, 2003):

1. Erik Zabel (GER) 2217 points
2. Dario Frigo (ITA) 2030
3. Lance Armstrong (USA) 1942
4. Paolo Bettini (ITA) 1907
5. Davide Rebellin (ITA) 1798
6. Aitor Gonzalez (SPA) 1502
7. Robbie McEwen (AUS) 1485
8. Mario Cipollini (ITA) 1428
9. Roberto Heras (SPA) 1427
10. Tyler Hamilton (USA) 1360
11. Francesco Casagrande (ITA) 1344
12. Joseba Beloki (SPA) 1305
13. Danilo Di Luca (ITA) 1275
14. Michael Boogerd (NED) 1246
15. Laurent Brochard (FRA) 1216
16. Santiago Botero (COL) 1131
17. Baden Cooke (AUS) 1041
18. Igor Astarloa (SPA) 1020
19. Mikel Zarrabietia (SPA) 1001
20. Michele Bartoli (ITA) 1001
21. Jaan Kirsipuu (EST) 994
22. Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (SPA) 992
23. Iban Mayo (SPA) 973
24. Gianluca Bortolami (ITA) 943
25. Peter Van Petegem (BEL) 931

1. Quick Step (BEL) 2829 points
2. Saeco (ITA) 2619
3. Rabobank (NED) 2541
4. Telekom (GER) 2505
5. Fassa Bortolo (ITA) 2401
6. ONCE (SPA) 1786
7. Gerolsteiner (GER) 1666
8. Kelme (SPA) 1627
9. Alessio (ITA) 1618
10. Euskaltel (SPA) 1604
11. AG2R (FRA) 1591
12. Milaneza (POR) 1568
13. La Boulangere (FRA) 1537
14. CSC (DEN) 1531
15. Lampre (ITA) 1520
16. ibanesto.com (SPA) 1494
17. Cofidis (FRA) 1460
18. Lotto (BEL) 1425
19. fjdeux.com (FRA) 1399
20. Sidermec (ITA) 1397
21. Domina Vacanze (ITA) 1104
22. Credit Agricole (FRA) 1026
23. Phonak (SWI) 1017
24. US Postal (USA) 961
25. Fakta (DEN) 734
26. Landbouwkrediet (BEL) 729
27. Jean Delatour (FRA) 586
28. Coast (GER) 559
29. Palmans (BEL) 517
30. CCC (POL) 204

World Cup standings
1. Peter Van Petegem (BEL) Lotto 200 points
2. Michael Boogerd (NED) 140
3. Dario Pieri (ITA) 117
4. Tyler Hamilton (USA) 100
5. Alexander Vinokourov (KAZ) 100
6. Paolo Bettini (ITA) 100
7. Frank Vandenbroucke (BEL) 92
8. Mirko Celestino (ITA) 91
9. Serguei Ivanov (RUS) 79
10. Danilo Di Luca74
11. Viatcheslav Ekimov (RUS) 74
12. Iban Mayo (SPA) 70
13. Michele Scarponi (ITA) 68
14. Francesco Casagrande (ITA) 68
15. Stuart O'Grady63
16. Luca Paolini (ITA) 59
17. Fabio Baldato (ITA) 55
18. Erik Zabel (GER) 54
19. Davide Rebellin (ITA) 53
20. Frederic Guesdon (FRA) 46

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