A rider should probably be happy if he can finish as runner-up behind the impressive Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) in the Amstel Gold Race. Spanish cycling star Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) realized there wasn't much more he could have done to beat Gilbert, who powered past him in sight of the finish line. It's not the first time the Spaniard has gone head-to-head with Gilbert and lost on an uphill finish as the Belgian also bested him to win stage three of the 2010 Vuelta a España
"It's not my nightmare to meet him in a race. In a race with a finale like today he's the strongest and you can only try to follow him. On Wednesday [at Flèche Wallonne], though, the roles are turned around and I'll be the favourite," Rodriguez said.
As often, deep into the finale of the Amstel Gold Race the race would be decided on the final ascent of the Cauberg, the famous climb in Valkenburg. Tour de France star and former Liège-Bastogne-Liège winner Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek) was leading the race after an attack on top of the Keutenberg. Gilbert's teammate Jelle Vanendert did most of the work in the twelve-man chase group but suddenly Gilbert started pulling too.
"I thought he was loco or super strong," Rodriguez said as it was clear that Gilbert was wasting energy just before they were about to reach the tough final climb. The group was closing in on Schleck and the Luxembourger was soon to be caught on the Cauberg when Rodriguez launched a surprise attack.
"I thought it was possible to beat him by attacking from far out. He turned out not to be mad but super strong. The way he accelerated... super. Super-Gilbert. He pulled off a great numéro.
"To finish second is a great achievement and hopefully I'll feel as good in Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège," Rodriguez said. The top rider in 2010 on the UCI rankings aims to get a win in one of the upcoming races and then he'll aim for a good result in the overall classification of the Giro d'Italia.
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