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First Edition Cycling News, Monday, April 19, 2010

Date published:
April 19, 2010, 1:00 BST
  • Gasparotto satisfied with Amstel Gold Race placing

    Enrico Gasparotto (Astana)
    Article published:
    April 18, 2010, 17:46 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    Astana leader says he will return for the win at Dutch Classic

    Italy's Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) tried desperately to take second place behind Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) at Amstel Gold Race on Sunday, but was just beaten by Canada's Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions) at the summit of the Cauberg.

    Gasparotto drowned his sorrows with a beer during the post-race press conference, but was satisfied with third place in just his second ever participation at the Dutch Classic.

    Gasparotto often missed the race or had to sacrifice his chances when he rode with Liquigas and Lampre because other riders wanted the team built around them. On Sunday, Gasparotto was the protected rider at Astana for the 2010 race and proved the tough uphill finish sprint suits him perfectly. Only a super strong Gilbert stopped Gasparotto becoming the sixth Italian to win the Amstel Gold Race after Stefano Zanini (1996), Michele Bartoli (2002), Davide Rebellin (2004), Danilo Di Luca (2005) and Damiano Cunego (2008).

    "I was ready for the sprint but Gilbert was the strongest and there was nothing I could do when he accelerated away," Gasparotto told Cyclingnews as he acknowledged the strongest man had won the day.

    "Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas-Doimo) closed me against the barriers a little bit in the sprint but Gilbert is Gilbert and he was unbeatable in the finale. Maybe I could have got second instead of third but I couldn't have won. I'm still happy. I've always said this race suits me and so now I'll target it more in the future and hopefully be even stronger next year."

    Like many rider in the race, Gasparotto was forced to drive to the Netherlands from Italy because of the transport problems caused by Volcano Eyjafjallajökull.

    "I'd been training at altitude with Maxim Iglinskiy in Tenerife and we only got back to Italy on Friday and then we had to drive up here like everyone else," he said.

    "I didn’t feel great because of that and so the team kept telling me 'stay on...

  • Hesjedal boosted by Amstel Gold result

    Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions) got past Gasparotto to take second.
    Article published:
    April 18, 2010, 18:16 BST
    Daniel Benson

    Garmin-Transitions to bolster squad for Flèche, Liège

    Ryder Hesjedal delivered on his pre-Ardennes promise to be more aggressive with second place in a closely fought Amstel Gold Race on Sunday. The Canadian made it to the final climb of the day, the Cauberg, in a group containing all the pre-race favourites.

    As Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) flew away for the win, Hesjedal and Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) were the only riders able to mount a serious counter attack. Hesjedal edged his Italian rival out at the line to claim his best result in a Classic.

    "I couldn’t be more pleased. It’s insane," he told Cyclingnews as he drove to the post-race press conference with team manager Jonathan Vaughters.

    "This means a lot. I started to see myself as a rider for these races a few years ago and I’ve got nothing but the utmost respect for them. This is my fifth Amstel and it was one of the first races in did in 2004. I remember coming off the back after 180 kilometres and I couldn’t fathom how you got to the finish - now I realise," he said.

    Hesjedal came into the race as 150/1 long-shot for the win, but after winning a stage in last year’s Vuelta a España and a strong start to the season in the Tours of the Basque Country and Catalunya, he was confident.

    Despite missing out on the first few decisive splits with the likes of Gilbert, the Schleck brothers (Saxo Bank), Serguei Ivanov and Alexandr Klobonev (both Katusha), Vaughters believes that this result bodes well for the remainder of the Ardennes, especially when the team bring in reinforcements to back-up Hesjedal.

    "Ryder can win Flèche or Liège, but we’ve got to have the team to back him. We’ve got Cam Meyer and Dan Martin coming in so it will be more solid for those races than it was here. But we’ve got to get him in a position where it’s a bigger group. You could see that when it was three or four guys on the climb he’s not quite...

  • Kolobnev's aggressive Amstel ride almost pays off

    Alexander Kolobnev tries in vain to hold off the sprinting bunch behind.
    Article published:
    April 18, 2010, 18:45 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    Russian awarded Herman Krotte Trophy after brave late-race attack

    The official result sheet at the Amstel Gold Race shows that Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) finished in 22nd position, 1:11 behind winner Philippe Gilbert, yet the raw race statistics explain little of the Russian's aggressive ride.

    Kolobnev made the key selection that formed over the Keutenberg climb, getting away with Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Fränk Schleck (Saxo Bank) Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Farnese Vini) and teammate Serguei Ivanov.

    When Gilbert was pulled back after an attack, Kolobnev went for it, accelerating hard through a corner and quickly opening a ten-second gap. He then put his cards on the table and fully committed to a lone attack with seven kilometres left to cover. He stayed away right to the foot of the Cauberg and went tantalisingly close to victory.

    But the steep 800-metre climb often cracks any lone attacker and almost always favours the chasers, and that was the case yet again this year.

    "We knew that Gilbert would be the strongest on the Cauberg and so we had to do something before the sprint. Ivanov had tried further out but we were both in the move, so it was right I tried," Kolobnev told Cyclingnews.

    Kolobnev was swept up as the climb filled his legs with lactic acid and Gilbert began his powerful charge to the line. Kolobnev lost 1:11 in the final 600 metres of the race, but his bravery was recognized by the race organizers and he was awarded the Herman Krott Trophy, named after the creator of the Amstel Gold Race and awarded to the most aggressive rider.

    "I think I attacked at the right point but I didn't have any information about the gap and wasn't sure what to do. I decided just to go for it and give it everything I could to stay away. I tried to look behind me a little but there was so many motorbikes behind me that I couldn't see the others riders and thought I had a chance of winning."

    "I did everything I could before the Cauberg and it was difficult to keep...

  • Gilbert in complete control at Amstel

    Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) wins the Amstel Gold Race.
    Article published:
    April 18, 2010, 19:54 BST
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Omega Pharma-Lotto captain sizing up the five Monuments

    Belgian star Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) dealt perfectly with high expectations as he claimed the victory in the first of the Ardennes Classics, Amstel Gold Race, on Sunday. Gilbert will now be one of the top favourites in his home race, Liège-Bastogne-Liège next weekend.

    At the end of last season, the Wallonian one-day specialist racked up an impressive series of wins, including Paris-Tours and the Giro di Lombardia. On Sunday, he made another leap forward by grabbing his first major Spring Classics victory. His uphill sprint win also sealed the first victory of the 2010 season for his Belgian team.

    "I started as a favourite, so it's just beautiful to be able to win it and live up to the expectations," a proud Gilbert said at the post-race press conference in Valkenberg, The Netherlands.

    Earlier, Gilbert had told Belgian television that he felt he was the strongest rider in the race. "I waited in the sprint until 350 meters to go. Then I went like I did last year in the sprint for fourth place. That last fifty meters I had time to enjoy the victory, those were the most beautiful seconds of my career," he said.

    Gilbert was dominant in the sprint to the line, but had also been active in the 20 kilometers leading up to the finale. The eventual winner always seemed in control of affairs. "I was feeling good right from the start. I received a lot of help from the team and always rode near the front among the first thirty or forty riders. We also had several riders in the finale like Daniel Moreno and Jurgen Van Den Broeck, that was a great help," Gilbert said.

    His victory rewarded the decision to hold back during an attack 10 kilometres before the finish. "The course started bending to the right, getting me more and more into the headwind; that was hard. Marc Sergeant told me to wait a bit through the radio. That was a vital decision in helping me to the victory, otherwise I would've been caught back...

  • Gerrans comes up short at Amstel Gold

    Simon Gerrans (Team Sky) talks to the press
    Article published:
    April 18, 2010, 20:34 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    Sky confident of improvement through the Ardennes

    While everyone outside the Omega Pharma-Lotto team bus celebrated Philippe Gilbert's victory at Amstel Gold Race with hugs and big smiles, the mood just a little further down the road at the Team Sky bus was a little more sombre.

    With Edvald Boasson Hagen out of action due to injury and Bradley Wiggins unable to make it to the Netherlands due to transport problems, the team had hoped Simon Gerrans and Kjell Carlström could get a result.

    Gerrans finished seventh in last year's race but has been fighting to re-find his form after crashing out of the Critérium International last month. He and Carlström both failed to go with the decisive split that formed when Andy Schleck attacked with just over 25 kilometres-to-go.

    "I was much better than Wednesday at Brabantse Pijl, but I was not good in the last 30 kilometres. I sort of got popped on the Eyserbosweg, but up until that point I wasn't going too badly. I hope to get better throughout the week," Gerrans said on the Team Sky website.

    Senior directeur sportif Scott Sunderland identified one possible reason for Gerrans' difficult day.

    "The boys were working for Simon who was right up there with about 25 kilometres to the finish, but when Andy Schleck put the hammer down he just didn't have it. We're not 100 per cent sure what the reason was and we'll take a look at it to try and find the cause," Sunderland said.

    "It was about five degrees hotter than it had been which sort of caught everyone by surprise and might have been a factor. But everybody had to cope with that and Philippe Gilbert obviously managed best of all. We're not too disappointed though and I'm very confident the riders will bounce back much stronger first on Wednesday [at Flèche Wallone] and also next Sunday [at Liège-Bastogne-Liège]."

    Team Principal Dave Brailsford was at Amstel Gold Race and knew how to take a bad day on the chin.

    "We set out with a...

  • Horner nets a top 10 in Amstel Gold Race

    Chris Horner (Radioshack) and Karsten Kroon (BMC) rolled in for the top 10
    Article published:
    April 18, 2010, 21:17 BST
    Daniel Benson

    American continues to show good form after Basque Tour win

    Chris Horner (Radioshack) continued his fine spring form, finishing tenth in Amstel Gold Race on Sunday. His arrival on the start line was success in itself, with the American forced to drive 1,800 kilometres from Spain.

    During the race Horner was in the thick of the action but ran out of gas on the final climb as Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) soloed to victory.

    "That hurt," Horner told Cyclingnews as he crossed the line and ground to a halt.

    "Coming into the last climb all I could think of was that I wanted it to be over. It's just pain and suffering. My legs were just done when we hit the last climb, they were done."

    Horner was forced to drive a staggering 1,800 kilometres from Spain with teammate Tomas Vaitkus after the Eyjafjallajökull volcano ground European flights to a standstill. Vaitkus did the lion share of the driving, with Horner taking just two one-hour stints at the wheel in order to protect his good form.

    "I'm used to flying between Europe and the US and racing the next day. I'm used to travelling it comes with the territory. It might have affected me, it's always possible, but I guess Gilbert didn't have that problem," he said.

    The race itself was run off in almost perfect conditions, with clear skies and little to no wind. Horner believes that the fine weather meant that the race wasn't selective enough and that had rain or crosswinds played a part, it would have split into a more selective finale.

    "The weather is too nice. Everyone at this level can climb on these kind of mountains. They need to be two times longer," Horner said.

    However with two Ardennes races still to play, Horner added that his form has held since wining the overall at Vuelta al Pais Vasco and that the tough climbs in Liège - Bastogne - Liège will suit him better. "The form is there, I like it. Hopefully when we get to Liège where the climbs are a little longer I can do...

  • Evans shows his strength while working for Kroon

    Cadel Evans (BMC) rode aggressively but could manage only 13th
    Article published:
    April 18, 2010, 21:42 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    World champion shows his form as Giro d'Italia looms

    World Champion Cadel Evans had promised to work for BMC teammate Karsten Kroon before the start of the Amstel Gold Race and the Australian kept his word, setting up the Dutchman in the finale and then sacrificing his own chances to chase after a dangerous key attack after the Keutenberg climb.

    Evans was in the front group containing all the big-name favourites that fought for victory on the Cauberg. He lost a few seconds on the tough climb to the finish and crossed the 13th at 11 seconds. Kroon was just a few places in front of him in ninth place, also at 11 seconds.

    BMC had perhaps hoped for a better result after Kroon's second place last year but Evans showed he is on form and will be a contender in Wednesday's Flèche Wallonne and next Sunday's Liège - Bastogne - Liège. His strong ride was also an indication that he is on track for a strong performance in next month's Giro d'Italia.

    "That was hard. It was also the best ever Amstel I've ever done but it was not quite good enough," Evans told Cyclingnews as he rode slowly to the BMC team bus.

    "I was actually okay until about 10km to go, but then I got cramps. By then I'd already committed my race to helping Karsten, which was fine and something I'm more than happy to do. But I surprised myself. I was good, I was good, I was good and then I was bad."

    Evans has spent the last three weeks training intensely for the rapidly approaching Giro d'Italia. Yet he had the strength and courage to fight for position and handled the 31 climbs in the race pretty comfortably.

    "At this point in the season I've got to work towards the Giro because that's what I'm going for," he said. "I haven't done many of these but if I'd been able to position myself a little bit better in the last kilometre of the climb my result could have been a bit better. I managed to get past Oscar Freire in the last kliometre but then on the last climb I wasn't that great....

  • Schlecks shut out in Amstel

    Andy Schleck leads his brother and Saxo Bank teammate Fränk on a climb.
    Article published:
    April 19, 2010, 8:15 BST
    Daniel Benson

    Good weather makes selections difficult

    Fränk and Andy Schleck were two of the biggest pre-race favourites for Amstel Gold Race but the brothers came up short in Sunday's Dutch Classics. Fränk finished the higher of the brothers, in seventh, while Andy crossed the line in 18th.

    Despite showing good form and aggressive race tactics, it was a disappointing result for the Saxo Bank duo, who had dreamed of dividing Amstel and Liège - Bastogne - Liège between them.

    However both riders were two of the strongest protagonists in today's race. Andy was the first genuine candidate to show his hand with a strong dig on the Eyserbosweg with around 20 kilometres to race. It whittled down the leaders to just a handful of riders, including Damiano Cunego (Lampre), Sergie Ivanov (Katusha) and eventual winner Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto).

    The group were soon caught, and Fränk immediately countered, but his move was also nullified. At the finish in Valkenburg Andy admitted that the good conditions had been a huge factor in keeping the race together for so long and that he was surprised that so many riders arrived at the final climb, the Caugberg, together.

    "It's been a good race but when we went on the Eyserbosweg we knew we had to go from far," he told Cyclingnews. "There were five or six of us at the top but I've not seen Amstel like that, maybe the conditions made it easier in years before because there were so many still there. After the Eyserbosweg it's not normally like that."

    With the leaders regrouping at the foot of the Cauberg, both Schlecks were unable to respond to Gilbert, who timed his move to perfection.

    "When we got to the final 10 kilometres I was cramping a bit. I had something missing on the last climb."

    Despite missing out on a win, the Schlecks will take confidence in the fact that they both have form. Andy missed the start of the season due to injury and Frank only recently recovered from a crash...