By Brecht Decaluwé in Valkenburg, Netherlands
With no Tom Boonen or Peter Van Petegem at the start in Maastricht, Cyclingnews was curious to see who would be the best Belgian in today's Amstel Gold.
Björn Leukemans, who finished in 46th place, wasn't the first Belgian at the line but he was there when things unfolded at the Eyserbosweg. However, when we saw him, Leukemans was swearing at everyone and anybody, asking for team assistance at the top of the climb: "My chain almost dropped there," he said.
"There was a gap and we had to work extremely hard to close it down. I couldn't recuperate from that effort and was dropped immediately at the Fromberg. Until the Eyserbosweg, I didn't do anything unnecessarily, but I immediately felt that I wasn't as strong as I wanted to be. Last year, I could follow all these riders, so I expected far more from [myself in] this race. We all know that my form will not improve enough in one week in time for Liège-Bastogne-Liège."
Also in the picture today was Belgian Unibet rider Erwin Thijs, who found himself in the early move, and his penchant for the EB (early break) leads us to make comparisons with the always attacking Frenchman Jacky Durand, who is now retired: "He is a big example for me," admitted Thijs.
Cyclingnews first spoke with him at the start in Maastricht, who said he was ready for an early move and that the bad weather was to his advantage. "It's my goal to get into those early breaks once or twice in the big Spring Classics. This year, I couldn't manage to do so at the Tour of Flanders, so I had to wait a bit longer," he said.
And just like last year, Christophe Moreau was also in the early break, so did Thijs make an arrangement with the French rider? "Yes, we did, right at the start line. He was riding very strongly but suddenly he was dropped; I don't know what happened with him. Next week we'll try it again, but now I'll have to recuperate from this hard day at the office," he said.
Nonetheless, the Unibet.com rider looked pleased with his efforts. He gave us a look at his bike computer: six hours and 30 minutes on the bike with an average heartbeat of 156; burning some 7319 calories. "I'll need five [plates of] pasta this evening to get those calories back," said Thijs, laughing.