Confirmation for Di Luca, disappointment for Boogerd, satisfaction for Celestino
By Jeff Jones in Valkenburg
There were, as always, mixed emotions among the three place getters after Sunday's 40th Amstel Gold Race, which finished in an uncharacteristic 30 rider bunch sprint on the Cauberg. But there were some similarities to last year's race, where Michael Boogerd was outgunned by a very strong Davide Rebellin in a two man sprint after Boogerd had led out from a long way out. This year, eventual winner Danilo Di Luca came off Boogerd's wheel with 150m to go, after the Dutchman had led out from 300m, and again made it look easy as he crossed the line with a few bike lengths to spare on Boogerd. And last year, Di Luca was fourth, whereas this year it was Rebellin's turn to finish fourth.
"It was very strange because we had a bunch at the foot of the last climb," Di Luca explained post-race. "I was in a very good position, almost in the lead. Boogerd started to sprint with 300 metres to go, I was on his wheel and it was absolutely no problem for me to pass him."
Both Rebellin and Di Luca said that their respective Amstel Gold Race wins were proof that they were back in business after previous seasons of health problems. "Of course [this was special] because last year I had a very bad year," said Di Luca. "In the Tour of the Basque Country, I was in excellent condition - the time trial there was the best one I have done since I was an amateur. So it was already a new start in the Basque Country, but today is really the day. I hope now for my future that it's on again."
Di Luca explained that in 2004, "I was feeling good at the start of the year. I was fourth in Amstel, second in Flèche, but then I was sick before Liege-Bastogne-Liege so I couldn't start. After that, my team wasn't accepted for the Tour, I wasn't in the national team for the World's and the Olympic Games, so it was really bad for me."
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