Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) admitted that it was almost impossible to catch Philippe Gilbert's race-winning attack at Amstel Gold Race but said that he had given it everything after finishing fifth.
The Polish rider, who took fourth here last year, started the final ascent of the Cauberg in second position with compatriot Michal Golas leading him. That turned into somewhat of a disadvantage within a matter of seconds, however, when Samuel Sanchez (BMC) launched a decisive move with three kilometres remaining. Isolated and now on the front, Kwiatkowski was forced to reel the Spaniard in with Simon Gerrans and Alejandro Valverde glued to his wheel. With Sanchez caught, Gerrans issued his own acceleration, and again Kwiatkowski was forced to chase.
"I felt great and I had so much support from my teammates. You could see Golas supporting me really well and I started the Cauberg as well as possible by trying to follow Samuel Sanchez. Then there was the attack from Gerrans and the attack from Gilbert was pretty impressive," Kwiatkowski told Cyclingnews as he sat on the steps of the Omega Pharma team bus afterwards.
"I did what I could today," he shrugged, "but we lost Tony Martin in a key moment and I missed him at the end and I was pretty nervous. We were trying to control the gap to the breakaway and then we lost Stybar from that move and started to pull but what can I say, I did my best."
Until the final climb up the Cauberg the race had followed its standard blueprint of a war of attrition. QuickStep did not place a rider in the early break but did send Zdenek Stybar into a dangerous move that contained among other Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC). The Czech rider was distanced by his companions and Tony Martin lost contact after he crashed too but despite a few missed notes, Golas and Kwiatkowski were still present for the final chorus call.
"I think I've still improved on last year because I was able to follow on the climb but that's the race," Kwiatkowski told Cyclingnews.
"Gilbert really knows the Cauberg and has won here so many times so he knows when it's time to go. I started pretty early and paid a little bit for that but in the end I'm happy."
Any hopes Kwiatkowski, Gerrans and Valverde had of catching Gilbert on the run-in to the finish were extinguished when the trio failed to collaborate. Valverde appeared unwilling or unable to take a turn, although he was strong enough to reel in Kwiatkowski after the Pole had created a small gap. But even Kwiatkowski couldn't pretend that Gilbert was anything but the strongest rider in the race.
"I don't know why Alejandro didn't want to work. He didn't even pull one time. Gerrans was trying to help me catch Gilbert and even though it looked impossible we tried. We should have worked together and Alejandro didn't. Even if he had I don't think we would have caught Gilbert but Jelle Vanendert [who finished second] wouldn't have caught us if we'd worked."