Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) was in fighting form for the first time this season as he went on the attack at the Amstel Gold Race. The Italian has been quiet so far this season, but showed that he was coming into form when he bridged over to a chasing group that contained his teammate Diego Rosa.
The team had endured some bad luck earlier in the race with Lieuwe Westra crashing hard early on and abandoning. Nibali’s attack did spark some panic behind but he insisted the move had not been for his own purposes.
"The attack was to try and set up Jakob Fuglsang at the end," Nibali said after the race. "It was too bad that we didn’t have Diego Rosa at the end but up until then we were trying to get away."
Rosa had been doing a lot of work on the front but just as the chasing group were about to join forces with the leaders, the Astana rider was taken out by BMC’s Damiano Caruso, who had overcooked the corner. Both he and Caruso were able to continue but that was the end of Rosa’s contribution to the chase. Nibali continued to drive the pace and they did eventually come together, before he attacked once again on the penultimate ascent of the Cauberg. He was eventually brought back by the peloton with 12 kilometres to go.
"Neither Martin nor Caruso were working, so when I went through the corner I decided to attack there. Caruso had a chance to respond and crashed into the back of Rosa," explained Nibali. "Later in the attack it was obvious that Martin was trying to save his energy but it was clear that Clarke was very strong and could do it, so I made the decision to let Clarke go because the peloton were only nine seconds behind us."
Fuglsang did try his hand around five kilometres later in a move that almost mirrored that of last year, as he was joined by Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) but the two were eventually caught. Fuglsang was the team’s best finisher in 17th place. There was some good news for the team though with Laurens De Vreese earning the award for most combative after getting into the early break.
For Nibali, while his performance in the escape didn’t bear fruit, it bodes well for a good result Liège-Bastogne-Liège at the end of next week, which will be just what the team needs with the imminent Licence Commission decision.