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89th Liège - Bastogne - Liège
Belgium, April 27, 2003

Hamilton first American to win Liege classic

LIEGE, Belgium, April 27 (Reuters) - Tyler Hamilton became the first American to win the 258-km Liege-Bastogne-Liege World Cup classic when he rode alone across the finish line on Sunday.

Hamilton, leader of Danish team CSC, used to be a domestique for friend, compatriot and Tour de France maestro Lance Armstrong who finished 20th, 50 seconds down.

The winner took control with 4 km to go and completed the race in six hours 28 minutes and 50 seconds. Spain's Iban Mayo (Euskaltel) came in second 12 seconds later and Dutchman Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) was third, 14 seconds after the American.

Hamilton, 30, moved into fourth place in the overall World Cup standings on 100 points, 100 behind leader Belgian Peter Van Petegem who abandoned after the second feeding stage.

Hamilton said: "I thought for sure someone was going to catch me. The last two km were probably the hardest two km in my life. I was suffering a lot."

He added: "I just put my head down and went as hard as I could and I won. I cannot believe it."

The American, second in last year's Giro d'Italia, made his break after the leading group of favourites had regrouped on the second to last climb, the Cote de Saint-Nicolas.

A dangerous move including Armstrong, Spaniard Samuel Sanchez and Kazakh Alexandr Shefer was only retaken at the foot of Saint Nicolas.

World Cup pace-setter van Petegem, who leads Sunday's third-place man Boogerd by 60 points, said: "This isn't my kind of race, but I have maintained the lead which was my main objective and I will come back in August for the summer classics."

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