A visibly exhausted but satisfied Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) pulled off a breakaway that totalled 241 kilometres of the 251 that made up the Amstel Gold Race. First part of a seven rider move, then alone 50 kilometres from the finish, Astarloza was only reeled in with nine kilometres to go before dropping back in the final seven.
Having hugely livened up what was not one of the most exciting editions of Amstel Gold, Astarloza told Cyclingnews he was “very pleased even if I’m really exhausted.”
“I decided to try it from a long way off because I knew I wouldn’t have much chance if I left it for the finale. The break was good, we worked together well, but there came a point when I had to strike out alone.” Asked if he thought he could possibly win it, he said “hope is the last thing you lose but with 40 kilometres to go I only had one and a half minutes gap, so I just went for it as much as I could.”
“Then when the breakaway caught me, I decided I’d hold on for as long as possible, and see what happened.”
Going up the Cauberg at the head of the field on the second to last lap is something that no-one will be able to take away from him, though, “and it’s great that I was able to do it. It’s a world-famous climb and I’m delighted about that. I’ve done some long breaks, it’s the big changes of rhythm that aren’t my strong point, and on a race like this which is one short, punchy climb after another, I prefer to go at my own pace on each one.” His next objective will be Flèche Wallonne, “a race I like a lot,” followed by Liège - Bastogne - Liège, “but the first thing I have to do is rest.”
A bizarre series of decisions had Astarloza spun around in confusion: first told he would not be receiving the ‘Most combative rider’ award, then apparently awarded it, he ultimately failed to receive it in the end.
Astarloza asked at the finish if he had any “podium duty”, was told that he would not be needed, and headed to the Euskaltel-Euskadi bus for a well-earned shower. However, race organisation then turned up and informed the Basque team management he would be needed.
Having got out of the shower and dressed in team kit again and climbed off the team bus, by this stage the organisation appeared to have changed its mind again and told him he would not be needed. Astarloza, understandably angry, then headed back into the bus.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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