Simon Gerrans (Orica GreenEdge) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) have made a habit of going toe-to-toe for the podium in recent seasons. So far, the Spaniard is ahead 3-1 with Amstel Gold Race just the latest edition of the rivalry, where the pair raced for second place behind escapee Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff).
"It's true, Alejandro and I have had some great battles," admitted Gerrans, third place across the line in Valkenburg.
"Unfortunately today we were racing for second place. He just beat me for second place but I'm pretty happy with my third place today.
"I think I did everything that I could as did my teammates who did some great work for me. As much as it would have been nice to have been racing for the victory, Roman [Kreuziger] was too strong and we couldn't quite catch him."
Today's result followed Valverde's stage win on Old Willunga Hill at the Tour Down Under in 2012, Gerrans's overall victory at the same race and then the Movistar rider's narrow win at Lac de Vassivière in last year's edition of Paris-Nice.
Gerrans was also quick to praise the gritty attack from teammate Pieter Weening who attacked off the front of the main peloton on the Eyserbosweg with just under 40km to go, while he waited for the final ascent of the Cauberg.
"I'm not quite sure how it unfolded and how Kreuziger got away but Pieter did a really strong ride to be attacking from so far out and to stay up the front like that," Gerrans said. "It was my aim to race the final really aggressively, so I'm really pleased with how my teammates rode today."
With Kreuziger up ahead on the Cauberg, Gerrans had been piloted into perfect position by Simon Clarke and Daryl Impey with two kilometers left to race at Amstel Gold. Teeth gritted, he sat to one side on the wheel of Philippe Gilbert (BMC) while Valverde had the other.
"I was in the front and ready to attack and then Philippe came in just before me so I was right there in perfect position to follow him," Gerrans explained. "He just rode over the top and put a little distance into myself and Alejandro but then I was able to come back to Philippe. The plan wasn't really to attack Philippe, it was to attack myself."
Gerrans' form has been on the rise with two stage wins in as many weeks at Volta a Catalunya and Pais Vasco, indicating that he was again on target to perform well at the Ardennes once more having previously finished third at Amstel Gold in 2011 and also boasting top 10 finishes at Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2009.
At present, Gerrans is still on Orica GreenEdge's start list for Wednesday's race, but a definitive answer on his participation will be made in the hours following his podium at Amstel Gold.
"This is a real confidence boost leading into Liege," the 32-year-old Australian admitted. "I've had a real good preparation heading into the Ardennes and today just reassured me. It gives myself, and I think my team, plenty of confidence heading into next weekend.
"It's probably a little difficult to race all three Ardennes races for the victory," he continued. "So I was going to wait until after today to decide whether I'll do it."
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As a sports journalist and producer since 1997, Jane has covered Olympic and Commonwealth Games, rugby league, motorsport, cricket, surfing, triathlon, rugby union, and golf for print, radio, television and online. However her enduring passion has been cycling.
Jane is a former Australian Editor of Cyclingnews from 2011 to 2013 and continues to freelance within the cycling industry.
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