Rabobank went into Amstel Gold Race determined to win it, but yet again came up short. “Our goal was first place. Now we are standing here with empty hands and did not win our home race,” Directeur Sportif Erik Dekker admitted. “We are extremely disappointed.”
Rabobank is the only Dutch team in the ProTour and Amstel Gold Race is the only Dutch Spring Classic, it is “surely on of the most important races for us in the spring. We have to also accept that everyone in the Netherlands is disappointed. But that's only logical,” Dekker said on the team's website.
Coincidentally, Dekker was the last Dutch rider and Rabobank rider to win the race, in 2001. Before him, Rabobank's Michael Boogerd won in 1999.
The race went as planned for the team – at least until the climb to the finish atop the Cauberg. Robert Gesink and Oscar Freire were co-captains. “We had agreed that if Robert was not at the front at the Keutenberg, then we would go for Oscar. And that plan worked out well.”
Not well enough, though. Freire was unable to conquer the Cauberg or get anywhere near winner Philippe Gilbert. The team's highest finisher was German Paul Martens, 11th at 11 seconds, with Freire 17 seconds down in 14th place and Gesink was 23rd at 1:38.
"It's especially disappointing when the plan you create is well executed and only the final outcome is missing," said Dekker.
Freire won Milan-San Remo, one of the year's most prestigious races this year, but Dekker said that the team is not satisfied with its rides in the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and Amstel. "We still have to deal with this. We must also not let our heads hang, because it is not that everybody has bad legs. We just need to find a way to convert our good performances into results. We have to have more to show than we have done in these three races."
Freire says he would have to be lucky
Freire has ridden the Amstel Gold Race more than 10 times, but has never finished higher than fifth. Why has he never won it? “I ask myself that, too,” he told the Gazet van Antwerpen newspaper. “I'm still confident but I will have to be lucky.”
The Spaniard admitted that “two or three times I was in the finale in good position for a shot at the win. But then I didn't have the legs at the right moment. The year that Erik Zabel won (2000) should have been mine. But then I sprinted so badly that it wasn't possible.”
Gesink “simply not good enough”
Gesink was hoping to improve on his third place finish from last year, especially in light of his good performances this year in Tirreno-Adriatico and Vuelta a Pais Vasco. It didn't happen. "Today I was simply not good enough to do. That is a shame but it's the truth," he said on the team's website.
He fell back on the final climb of the Eyserbosweg, saying “I could not follow the pace up front when they accelerated. This is very bitter because I live near here. But I couldn't help it.”
The Dutch rider said that most of the race “was relatively easy for me, but obviously things exploded in the last 50 km, and when it happened, I felt immediately that this was not my day.”
Gesink was disappointed, not only for himself, but for his team as well. "This must be our race. We haven't done well in recent years but I wanted to try and win it. I think it's possible."