Kreuziger backs Valgren as future Amstel Gold Race winner
Tinkoff-Saxo lined up at Amstel Gold Race with former winner Roman Kreuziger and Danish national champion Michael Valgren as its two leaders and while neither rider finished inside the top-ten, Kreuziger explained he was content with his showing and the potential of his 23-year-old teammate.
"Amstel is a race that I personally like and it was nice to be there in the final. When you have four weeks without racing, it's nice to get a confirmation that the shape is good. You never know how you are in Amstel, but I felt pretty good and I really look forward to the next two races in the Ardennes. Now, in my vision, the most important is to recover and rest before Flèche Wallone and Liège-Bastogne-Liège," said Kreuziger.
While Kreuziger was in the front group, Valgren found himself out of position at the bottom of the final ascent of the Cauberg, explaining this was something he struggled with throughout the entirety of the race.
"Amstel is a very chaotic race, it's up and down and left and right all the time, which makes it really difficult to control and stay together," said Valgren. "It's simply a fight for positioning all the time. I had to piss four times, so it was difficult to stick to the front, but I managed to move forward in the last part of the race, expect the last time up Cauberg.
"I had good legs and my sensations were better than they have been for a while. So today is naturally a source of motivation for me, as it's a big improvement from last year. The team rode really well for Roman and me and in terms of the effort made, I think we can be satisfied."
Kreuziger added that his younger teammate had demonstrated his capabilities are suited to the race and will have learned important lessons from his first appearance.
"Valgren was a bit too far back at the bottom of Cauberg, but he can become the guy that can win a race like this. It's important that he raced as co-leader in order to get experience from a difficult race like this," Kreuziger explained.
Sport director Sean Yates added that the team's decision to make Valgren a co-leader for the race was justified but lamented that he was too far back for the decisive final climb.
"Valgren was just too far back at the bottom of Cauberg, otherwise he would have been there in the front group. He had the legs to follow and he could have done a good result in the sprint," said Yates. "However, the idea with putting Michael as the co-leader was to give him the experience. So after today, he knows that if you ride for more than 250km and you’re not at the front in the finale, you don’t cash in on all of your work."
LottoNL-Jumbo aggressive in Amstel Gold Race with little reward
Amstel Gold Race is a special race for for the Dutch LottoNL-Jumbo team with the-day WorldTour taking place on home roads. With Timo Roosen in the early break and then Wilco Kelderman in the finale, the two riders ensured the team was active throughout the 258km race but with little reward for effort as LottoNL-Jumbo remain the sole WorldTour team without a win in 2015.
"It was good for me to be in that leading group," Roosen said of the race. "There was a lot of wind, which made it extra tough. In the bunch, there is a real high pace on the climbs and between them it's a little bit easier. You're able to save more energy when you're in the breakaway."
LottoNL-Jumbo sport director Merijn Zeeman explained he was pleased to see his team racing aggressively regardless, highlighting the efforts of Kelderman.
"It went exactly the way we wanted it," said Zeeman. "The fact that Wilco was able to attack at the right moment was a team effort. It is an enormous fight to be in front of the race at that point. I was glad that we successfully reached that target."
With Kelderman part of a late group that included Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep), Vincenzo Nibali and Diego Rosa (Astana), Damiano Caruso (BMC) and Alex Howes (Cannondale-Garmin), the 24-year-old was impressing on his debut until he miscalculated a corner, effectively ending his chances of a high result.
"I knew that there would be gravel, but I wasn't thinking about it because of my adrenaline. I felt my wheel slipping away so I was forced to go straight into the field. Otherwise, I would've fallen," said Kelderman who finished in 62nd place.
Lotto-Soudal disappointed to miss Amstel Gold Race podium
There was no repeat podium for Lotto-Soudal and Jelle Vanendert in 2015 with Tony Gallopin the team's best finisher in sixth place. Last year's runner up Vanendert was involved in an accident with a car mid way through the race, eventually finishing in 34th place, leaving Gallopin as the team leader. While Gallopin recognised it was the first time he had arrived at the finish line with the first group, he expressed his disappointment with missing the podium.
"I have mixed feelings," Gallopin said. "Top ten was my minimum goal. The sixth place isn't a bad result, but it could have been better. At first I wasn't positioned well, but thanks to a strong effort of Jürgen Roelandts I could come to the front at the beginning of the Cauberg. Five hundred metres before the finish I lost some energy due to the wind. When Kwiatkowski passed me by I didn't have any power left to react and to conquer a podium place. It was the first time I played a role in the final here, that's encouraging for the future."
Team manager Marc Sergeant explained that his riders lacked the strength to fight for a top result which had been the ambition on the morning of the race
"Because of the circumstances Jelle couldn't defend his chances. Tim wasn't strong enough for top ten. Tony could get a top ten place," Sergeant said. "We came for a podium spot, but we didn't achieve that goal."
Watch Michał Kwiatkowski's winning sprint in Amstel Gold Racebelow and click here to subscribe to the Cyclingnews video channel