Danilo Di Luca is looking forward to challenging for glory in next month's Giro d'Italia after victory in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege race on Sunday.
Di Luca is back to the 2005 form that saw him go well in the Giro
The 30-year-old Italian held off a late charge from Spanish star Alejandro Valverde, last year's winner, to win by three seconds.
Valverde's gutsy attack reeled in Frank Schleck with 600m to go but he ran out of road to catch Di Luca.
"This is a huge victory for me ahead of the Giro," said Di Luca.
"To win here, you need to have the legs. And today I showed I'm in great form.
"I hope to carry that over to the Giro where I want to be one of the main protagonists as I was in 2005."
It's the hardest race in the world - it destroys you
That was the last year Di Luca enjoyed similar success during the "spring classics" - he won the less prestigious Amstel Gold Race and then went on to finish fourth in the Giro, which this year begins on 12 May.
His triumph in Belgium, the biggest of his career, owed much to Schleck as it was the Luxemburger who attacked on the descent before the last of the race's 12 climbs to Ans.
Di Luca followed him and they worked together to hold off a star-studded chasing pack.
But the 27-year-old Schleck, riding for CSC, had nothing left in the final kilometre - hardly suprising as he had been riding with a broken rib - and Di Luca made a decisive move to claim the 262km one-day classic, cycling's oldest.
"It's the hardest race in the world. It destroys you," said Di Luca, who rides for the Liquigas team.
"I tried to save my strength as much as possible, but in the end my legs were totally destroyed."
When Di Luca and Schleck attacked, the other teams let me do all the chasing work myself, but I couldn't close the gap all on my own
Schleck was happy with his third-place finish and his race tactics.
"He was just too strong for me on the climb to Ans," he said. "It's one of the biggest races in the world. I don't know if I'll ever win it, but I will be dreaming about it from now on."
Valverde, however, was left to rue another near miss after last week's second in the Fleche Wallonne behind Davide Rebellin, another Italian.
"Like last Wednesday I felt great all day, and even better in the (penultimate) climb through St Nicolas," said Valverde.
"When Di Luca and Schleck attacked, the other teams let me do all the chasing work myself, but I couldn't close the gap all on my own.
"Now I will rest before concentrating on the Tour de France, which I will prepare by racing the Dauphine Libere."
Results from 93rd Liege-Bastogne-Liege one-day classic (262km):
1. Danilo Di Luca (ITA) Liquigas) 6hr 37min 24sec
Valverde (ESP/CEP) at 3secs
3. Frank Schleck (LUX/CSC) same time
4. Paolo Bettini (ITA/QSI) +6
5. Davide Rebellin (ITA/GST) s.t.
Michael Boogerd (NED/RAB) +7
7. Damiano Cunego (ITA/LAM) +9
Matthias Kessler (GER/AST) s.t.
9. Juan Jose Cobo (ESP/SDV) s.t.
10. Kim Kirchen (LUX/TMO) s.t.
Pro Tour standings
1. Davide Rebellin (ITA/GST) 157 pts
2. Alejandro Valverde
3. Danilo Di Luca (ITA/LIQ) 100
4. Oscar Freire
5. Stuart O'Grady (AUS/CSC) 79
6. Stefan Schumacher
7. Frank Schleck (LUX/CSC) 63
8. Juan Jose Cobo
9. Alberto Contador (ESP/DSC) 58
10. Tom Boonen