LIEGE, Belgium (VN) — Maxim Iglinskiy (Astana) didn’t exactly create a media storm when he showed up to the team presentation Saturday.
In fact, there was hardly a stir. Journalists and fans seemed more interested in chasing Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) than the defending Liège-Bastogne-Liège champion.
Last year, Iglinskiy powered out of obscurity with a dramatic, late-race counter-attack to reel in the attacking Nibali and solo home to victory for his Astana team.
A year later, Iglinskiy is seemingly once again just another starter among the 200 riders lining up for Sunday’s 99th edition of “la doyenne” despite racing with the No. 1 bib.
“Yes, my victory was a surprise last year, even for me,” Iglinskiy told VeloNews. “It was a beautiful victory. It’s my most important win and I am very proud.”
The 32-year-old Kazakh has picked up a few wins and has posted some solid rides in the classics since turning pro in 2004, including a victory in the 2010 Strade Bianche, a third-place finish in the 2009 E3 Prijs Vlaanderen, and an eighth-place result in the 2010 Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders).
His victory last year wasn’t totally out of the blue, but as Iglinskiy admitted, he even surprised himself. His win was part of Astana’s phenomenal spring classics campaign that included Enrico Gasparotto’s win at Amstel Gold Race and third-place finish in Liège.
This year, Astana has been more discreet in the classics. Borut Bozic scored a pair of podiums with runner-ups in Ghent-Wevelgem and Dwars door Vlaanderen.
The arrival of Nibali, hot off winning the Giro del Trentino, raises the expectations for Astana in the classics closer.
Last year, it was Iglinskiy who overtook Nibali on the Saint Nicholas climb. This year, they’re riding as teammates.
“Yes, he and I have talked about last year’s race. Now we are riding together,” he said. “We will ride as a unit, whether it’s me, or Nibali, or Gaspa [Gasparotto] attacking. What’s important is that the team wins.”
Iglinskiy said the Liège win was important, even if he admits that it might be a once-in-a-lifetime performance.
“It’s changed my life a little. I was able to show that I was strong,” he said. “To win a race like Liège, it’s something I could never have dreamed about.”