By Shane Stokes
2006 ProTour champion Alejandro Valverde had targeted the Amstel Gold race as his major spring goal but the Caisse dEpargne rider came up short on the objective of winning the race, finishing sixth.
He crossed the line 27 seconds behind Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner), who jumped away from the leading group of seven with three kilometres to go. Valverde and the other contenders were hampered by the presence of Schumachers team-mate Davide Rebellin in the break, knowing that if they chased, the Italian would have a free ride to the finish
Although he was undoubtedly disappointed with how things turned out, he put a positive spin on things. "In the first part of the race, my team-mates did a great job to control the breakaway," he stated. "Later, in the final, when the break with the favourites went, I was too far behind and I had to spend a lot of energy to come in front. That was surely the key moment of my race, but at the same time I have to admit that the Team Gerolsteiner was really strong today with three riders in front of the race.
"After Schumacher attacked, I was the only one to work to try to catch him. After that, when Kessler attacked, I understood that I had not even a chance to finish on the podium, but anyway I am satisfied before the Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Today I saw that my rivals are very strong, but not superiors."