Fifth on the same climb where he claimed the World Championships seven months ago, Philippe Gilbert (BMC) said that even if he was not the strongest at Amstel Gold Race, he feels he is hitting top form just in time for the remaining Ardennes Classics.
A crash mid-race had not made the Amstel Gold any easier for the Belgian, and his late attack, whilst searing, lacked the final sizzle that had seen him shake off all his pursuers in the World Championships in 2012.
Sitting at the foot of his team bus just a few hundred yards from the Cauberg finish, Gilbert said "I was not the strongest today, if I was I'd have won - but I was amongst the favourites, I'm getting stronger with each race and that's important, too."
"It was also very special to be able to go up the Cauberg wearing the rainbow jersey, particularly the last time - a very good feeling. It gave me some good memories."
He also said he regretted that Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) had not, in his opinion, collaborated on the Cauberg to try to bring back Kreuziger: He knew that the Czech rider was a very dangerous candidate because "he's already taken a top five in Liège and that doesn't happen by chance."
As for the accident which had him picking himself up off the pavement with some 90km left to race, he said, "It happened when a rider fell just ahead of me, I don't know who it was, I was about 15 guys back and skidded about 15 meters. Fortunately it wasn't too bad and John [Lelangue] was able to help get me back up to the peloton fairly quickly," a maneuver that Gilbert said that despite being necessary after his crash, might end up costing the team a small fine.
Gilbert said the unusual weather - humid and overcast, first chilly with light rain in the morning followed by a much warmer, brighter afternoon - had played a factor in the race. "The teams with personnel on the side of the road waiting to hand up bidons were important. I myself drank ten, [five liters] and that's a lot. You can risk stomach problems, but if you don't then you risk getting cramps.
"For example I saw that Sagan was looking very sweaty and his face was streaked with salt with about 50 kilometers to go, and I knew he wasn't on a good day."
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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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