Fränk Schleck’s (Leopard Trek) hopes of victory at Amstel Gold Race on Sunday were ruined when he crashed along with his teammate Fabian Cancellara. The Luxembourg champion was directly behind Cancellara when he came down, and Schleck was unable to avoid riding into him.
Although Schleck was deeply disappointed to miss out on the chance to form an attacking tandem with his brother Andy in the finale, he was quick to absolve Cancellara of any blame.
“Let’s face it, he’s the best bike handler we’ve ever seen, he crashes once every five years,” Schleck said afterward. “Today I was on his wheel because you can trust him with your eyes closed and today he’s crashed.”
Schleck was unsure of the precise cause of Cancellara’s crash, although it appears that a touch of wheels brought the Swiss rider down.
“I don’t know, I was just following the big master Fabian,” Schleck said. "Normally you can trust him blind and follow him with your eyes closed. I can trust him and be confident with and everything. He actually felt sorry afterward. He just crashed in front of me. I don’t know how it happened but I just tumbled over him.”
It was Schleck’s second crash of the afternoon, and with the pace rising at the head of the race, his chances of taking the win went up in smoke.
“After the second time I had to change the bike and it was the key moment,” Schleck said. “Andy did a great race, Jakob [Fuglsang] did a great race but for me it was a punch in the stomach. I’ve been working really hard, I believe that I’m in really, really good shape. But after a down, there’s always an up.
While Fränk Schleck was removed from contention by the crash, his younger brother Andy went on the attack in the final stages, hitting out over the top of the Keutenberg with 13km to go, and surviving until the final haul up the Cauberg.
The brothers had planned a dual offensive from further out, however, and in the confusion following his Fränk’s crash, Andy Schleck delayed his effort.
“We wanted to go in the Eyserbosweg or even the climb before the Keutenberg and put on the pressure there,” Fränk Schleck explained. “Andy and myself would have gone on the Eyserbosweg. As far as I know, Andy went later as he didn’t know what was going on. In those key moments, everything changes.”
Andy was eventually reeled in by winner Philippe Gilbert and his Omega Pharma-Lotto squad on the short, sharp climb to the finish on the Cauberg. While Fränk Schleck applauded Gilbert’s victory, he warned that the Belgian’s domination of the Ardennes Classics was not a foregone conclusion.
“He also won last year here, but he didn’t win Flèche and he didn’t win Liège. We’ll see what happens [this year],” Schleck said. “I have to admit that he raced very cleverly. He left Andy out there. Maybe he could have taken him back earlier but he left him out there and he was confident about his sprint, so hats off to him."