"There was nothing we could do against him," said Oscar Freire after he had crossed the line in sixth position at Sunday's Amstel Gold Race, which saw a spectacular Philippe Gilbert repeat his 2010 victory. The Belgian took matters into his own hands in the race finale and overpowered late escapee Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek) on the final climb of the Cauberg, leaving Rabobank riders in awe of his superiority.
"I've not seen this kind of supremacy very often," Freire told Sportwereld. The Spanish sprinter tried his best on the uphill finish but could not prevent his squad's defeat, the tenth since a Rabobank rider last won the only Spring Classic in the Netherlands.
Yet the team was in an excellent position, with four riders remaining in the top group chasing Schleck. Apart from Freire, there was also Rabobank's top climber Robert Gesink, who it was hoped would do well on the Cauberg. However, the Dutchman cramped on the penultimate climb and ultimately finished ninth.
"I felt good, but when I wanted to get it on on the Keutenberg my legs cramped all over. What a shame, as it looked good for us with four guys in the first group. But on the Cauberg all of us were so knackered that we couldn't set up a proper sprint. I just couldn't do any better," Gesink told the Telegraaf.
Rabobank's directeur sportif Erik Dekker, who was Rabobank's last winner of the Amstel Gold Race back in 2001, defended his team strategy not to chase behind Schleck and let the race favourite do the work instead. "We weren't going to take Gilbert there in an armchair," Dekker commented.
"When Gesink gave in on the Keutenberg, I started to realise what was happening. Every attack was suicide, just like the Schleck's. We hoped that Freire could do something in the sprint." But it was not to be.