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Rodriguez, Freire, Valverde to Amstel Gold Race

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Oscar Freire (Katusha) second in Brabantse Pijl

Oscar Freire (Katusha) second in Brabantse Pijl
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Katusha Team) on the podium

Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Katusha Team) on the podium
(Image credit: Susanne Goetze)
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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was banged up and a bit stunned after crashing.

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was banged up and a bit stunned after crashing.
(Image credit: Rafael Gómez Alonso)

Both Katusha and Movistar are sending their big guns to the Amstel Gold Race, the first major race of the Ardennes Classics. Joaquim Rodriguez, Oscar Freire, and Alejandro Valverde will all look to emulate last year's winner Philippe Gilbert.

Rodriguez finished second to Gilbert in 2011. “This season, Rodriguez will try again to win this Classic, leading Katusha Team together with Oscar Freire,” the team said. Rodriguez has three wins this season, including two stages at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, where he finished second overall. Freire, most recently second in the Brabantse Pijl, has two wins on the year.

Movistar made no secret of its hopes for the race, calling it “one of the longest-awaited moments of Movistar Team's 2012 season”. The team will be led by Valverde, “already winner of the Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège”.  Giovanni Visconti and Jose Joaquin Rojas will play the joker's role at the Dutch race.

Katusha squad for Amstel Gold Race: Xavier Florencio, Oscar Freire, Alberto Losada, Daniel Moreno, Luca Paolini, Joaquim Rodriguez, Alberto Vicioso, Eduard Vorganov

Movistar squad for Amstel Gold Race:  Alejandro Valverde, Giovanni Visconti, Jose Joaquin Rojas,  Ángel Madrazo, Pablo Lastras, Imanol Erviti, Rui Costa and Vasil Kiryienka