By Brecht Decaluwé in Valkenburg
Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) may have had the best record of all the riders at the 2007 Amstel Gold classic, with one win, four second places and two thirds since 1999, but his dream of scooping a second victory in what is his final appearance at his home event was dashed. He had to make do with fifth, while Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) and Paolo Bettini (Quickstep-Innergetic) both appeared slightly off their best form and they finished sixth and seventh respectively, 27 seconds back.
Boogerd was undoubtedly disappointed, but was also remarkably gracious in defeat. "It is good like this," he said, putting a positive spin on things. "I have never been fifth. Besides, I am happy that this was the last time I had to sprint up this hill. I am tired but I feel great." The Dutch rider noticed that there were numerous fans on the pavements to support his final Amstel Gold. "There were so many people, I've never seen that many in this race," Boogerd said.
Although he once again got into the crucial move, the composition of the break meant that it was going to be very tough to win the race. "The front group had the best guys in the world at this type of racing," he noted. "Actually I think this was the strongest front group of the last few years. Because of the speed there weren't any lesser guys returning. The ones that did come back were world class riders [like Valverde].
"I couldn't fight against three Gerolsteiner riders but with Schumacher, the best rider won because he had already attacked a few times and also because he opened the finale," Boogerd said.
At the foot of the Cauberg Matthias Kessler (Astana) was the first to react on Schumacher's final escape but by doing that he created the perfect lead-out for the Italians in the group. Kessler was clearly disappointed but looked at the result in a positive way. "Today was okay because I've been ill in the Basque country, I was ill for six days. This is moral-boosting and I hope to go even better in Liège," Kessler said at the finish.
Steffen Wesemann (Wiesenhof-Felt) was in the attack with Voigt and Righi just before the Wolfsberg with about 45 kilometres to go but the peloton didn't allow them to get too far. Just before the Kruisberg - with 24 kilometres to go - they were brought back by the peloton. "It was the good break with (Jens) Voigt (Team CSC ) there but we were caught back at the wrong moment. If we could've gone five kilometres further then we had a chance. But that's cycling, you need luck," Wesemann said.
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