Di Luca foils the Rabo plan

40th Amstel Gold Race - PT

Netherlands, April 17, 2005

ProTour standings

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas-Bianchi) confirmed his status as a favourite for the 40th Amstel Gold Race by outsprinting Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) and a bunch of 30 riders to the top of the Cauberg on a misty day in southern Limburg. Di Luca is no stranger to this climb, finishing third here in the 1998 U23 World Championships, third in the 2003 Amstel Gold Race and fourth in last year's Amstel. After a generally disappointing 2004 season, the attacker from Abruzzo is back.

"This was a great win for me today," he said after the finish. "It was a great race and my (Liquigas) team was great, too. Today the race was really hard; the weather was bad, it was cold and humid and that doesn't make your legs feel good. With the early break, it was a strange Amstel. We rode at a regular pace behind the break most of the day and so a lot of riders were together at the end.

"In the sprint, I knew that the Cauberg is a good finish for my characteristics. Boogerd took off early as he usually does and then I managed to get up to him and win it.

Boogerd, who already had finished second three times and had one win in the Amstel up until today, hadn't planned to do the sprint for himself. Instead, he and the Rabobank team tried to orchestrate a leadout on the Cauberg for Oscar Freire, with Erik Dekker, Karsten Kroon, and Boogerd as the last three men. But when Boogerd went hard with 300m to go, Freire couldn't hold his wheel, while Di Luca had a relatively comfortable run up to the line.

"It isn't a good feeling," said a disappointed Boogerd at the end. "We arranged the sprint for Oscar. First Erik Dekker and then Kroon. Than a Phonak rider passed us, so I jumped on his wheel, but he stopped. So I went further and thought Oscar was still in my wheel...I didn't lose the sprint. I was there for Freire. He said he was very strong and then normally he wins."

When asked later if he had spoken to Freire post-race, Boogerd gave a round "No" in response. The disappointment was there for everyone to see.

That didn't stop Danilo Di Luca from celebrating, and the Italian said, "I want to dedicate my win today to my grandmother, who passed away recently. She was one of the few people who helped me last year, it was a bad year for me. I had problems with my health and then people didn't believe in me. But I feel good now and finally it's my year.

"After this win today, I'm feeling relaxed and looking to L-B-L. It's my favourite race and I'm really hoping to do well there," finished Di Luca.

Third place went to Mirko Celestino (Domina Vacanze), who showed that he is also in form for next week's Ardennes classics. "Today turned out to be a pretty good race for me," he said afterwards. "This kind of weather is good for me because I don't like the heat. And we all knew that Di Luca would be good after his win (in Pais Vasco)...but I'm satisfied with my performance today because I ended up on the podium and hope it will help out team with the Giro d'Italia coming up."

How it unfolded

194 riders gathered in cold, misty, and damp conditions in Maastricht's Grote Markt ready for 251 km of riding through the hilly district of southern Limburg, with 31 climbs to master. The weather didn't change at all throughout the day, much to the dismay of the Dutch TV network NOS that was due to cover it live. It was deemed too dangerous to put any helicopters in the air with an airport very close by, and television viewers had to be content with images from fixed cameras on the side of the road, including at the finish on the Cauberg.

That didn't deter the riders of course, and it took only four kilometres before the break of the day was started by Belgian Erwin Thijs (MrBookmaker) and Dutchman Alain Van Katwijk (Shimano-Memory Corp). The pair were pursued and caught by Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole) and Andriy Grivko (Domina Vacanze) at km 10, and that was that. After 18 km, the gap was 2'20, then it grew to 5'55 at km 30, and 12'30 at km 57, the maximum advantage enjoyed by the four. 46 kilometres were covered in the first hour in the damp, and the peloton was happy to let these men ride.

The gap remained fairly steady at 12'00 after the first passage of the Cauberg (km 64) and the break started to settle down. The peloton began to increase the tempo after 110 km and brought the gap down to 10'10, and from then on, the break was fighting a losing battle. It became even harder when Van Katwijk was dropped and Grivko punctured at km 125, leaving just Moreau and Thijs to tough it out, 9'20 ahead of the bunch. The two chasers gradually fell back and were caught on the second passage of the Cauberg at km 152, with the two leaders holding out well at 8'00.

The next move of interest came after 193 km when Leon van Bon (Davitamon-Lotto) counter-attacked from the peloton, while the two leaders were still 5'00 in front. Van Bon was caught by Steffen Wesemann (T-Mobile) after a few kilometres, and the pair made big inroads into the leaders, with the peloton following at 0'30. Jens Voigt (CSC) tried and failed to get across to the two chasers, and at the foot of the Kruisberg at km 227, Van Bon and Wesemann had closed to Moreau and Thijs, while the Rabobank-led peloton breathed down their necks at 0'15.

After being away for 220 km, Moreau and Thijs lost contact on the Kruisberg. On the following climb - the steep Eyserbosweg - Wesemann rode away from Van Bon, but was joined by David Etxebarria (Liberty), Mark Lotz (Quick.Step) and Karsten Kroon (Rabobank). The quartet made it to the top of the Fromberg (km 233) with 22 seconds lead over the peloton, and pulled it out to 35 seconds on the penultimate climb, the Keutenberg, with 12 km to go.

A chase group of 10 riders formed behind the four leaders, with all the big riders: Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Rodriguez (Saunier Duval), Leukemans (Davitamon-Lotto), Valverde (Illes Balears), Sinkewitz (Quick.Step), Celestino (Domina), Kirchen (Fassa), Di Luca (Liquigas), Boogerd and Freire (Rabobank). The 10 became 30 with 9 km to go, leaving the four dangling in front at 10 seconds. But on the descent of the Sibbegrubbe, just before the final climb of the Cauberg, it all came together for a "bunch" sprint.

Rabobank clicked into action on the Cauberg, hoping to lead their World Champ Freire out for the victory. Erik Dekker set the tempo at the foot of the climb, before Kroon took over at 500m to go. Then it was Boogerd, who had Freire on his wheel before Di Luca muscled up on the left. Boogerd lifted the tempo with 300m out, and the wheels fell off the Rabobank orange bus as Freire dropped off Boogerd's wheel. The lanky Dutchman realised too late that he was Rabobank's only chance, but couldn't do anything when Di Luca powered past him with 150m to go to take a big win. Boogerd held on for second ahead of Mirko Celestino, but again had to be satisfied with a minor placing.

Race day photography

For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Jonathan Devich/epicimages.us

  • The break gets up the road early on.
  • A windmill creates the scenic backdrop for the peloton.
  • All smiles at the start.
  • Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole) powers the break.
  • Fog created an eerie background for today's racing.
  • Erwin Thijs (MrBookmaker - SportsTech) leads Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole) on the Bemelerberg.
  • Erwin Thijs (MrBookmaker - SportsTech) leads the break again.
  • The bunch makes its way up the climb near Noorbeek.
  • Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole) seemed in good form today.
  • Roberto Petito (Fassa Bortolo) calls for a new wheel.
  • Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) on the Bemelerberg.
  • The bunch on one of the many climbs.
  • George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) looking good during the day.
  • Nicolas Jalabert (Phonak) makes his way up.
  • Bradley McGee (Française des Jeux) amazes the crowd.
  • Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) leads teammate Davide Rebellin.
  • The bunch climbs after the break.
  • Up they go.
  • George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) crosses the line a little worse the wear.
  • Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas-Bianchi) shows who's boss.
  • Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas-Bianchi) gladly accepts the winner's spoils.
  • Big crowds showed up for the finish in Valkenburg.

Images by Fotoreporter Sirotti

  • The peloton rides en masse.
  • The peloton stayed largely together until the race's final moments.
  • Twists and turns all are part of the Amstel Gold Race.
  • The early breakaway formed at around the 10 kilometre mark.
  • A rather relaxed peloton let the leaders dangle, some 13 minutes ahead at one stage.
  • Good crowds still lined the roads, despite the damp conditions.
  • Not 200 metres to go just yet...
  • Andriy Grivko (Domina Vacanze) leads the four-man break.
  • One of the pre-race favourites, Michael Boogerd (Rabobank).
  • Riders in the mist. (Is that a new movie?)
  • Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole) thoroughly enjoying his 220km escapade.
  • Erik Zabel (T-Mobile Team) sits in second wheel, followed by Erik Dekker (Rabobank).
  • Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) has T-Mobile's Alexandre Vinokourov glued to his wheel.
  • Our Amstel coverage wouldn't be complete without the obligatory windmill shot...
  • or two...
  • Okay, that's enough windmills - back to the race!
  • That's one big bunch
  • The Rabo boys pile the pressure.
  • Erik Dekker (Rabobank) is well-placed, but Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas-Bianchi) isn't far behind...
  • Di Luca's team-mate Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas - Bianchi) was some way off the pace today.
  • Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas - Bianchi) puts on his race face up the Cauberg.
  • Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas - Bianchi) takes a comfortable win ahead of Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) and Mirko Celestino (Domina Vacanze).
  • Yeeaaah!
  • Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) awaits the official results.
  • Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) really enjoyed that.
  • So did Erik Zabel.
  • Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole) still did okay in the end, finishing in 68th place.
  • It's easy to smile when you've won.
  • Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas - Bianchi) soaks up the applause.
  • Now, what should I win next...
  • The podium - and a little fella.
  • 2005 is turning out to be Danilo Di Luca's year.
  • Well, at least Daddy's happy...
  • This is my equipment.
  • Good thing Danilo's not camera-shy.

Images by Elmar Krings

  • Last year's winner Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) keeps a close eye on proceedings.
  • The breakaway containing Moreau is caught after a 220km escape.
  • Jens Voigt (CSC) on his way to a top 30 finish.
  • Uros Murn (Phonak) hits the front on the Cauberg.
  • Pieter Weening's lanky figure wasn't quite suited to the Cauberg climb.
  • The bunch split to pieces on the Cauberg
  • Not the front group.
  • Definitely not the front group.
  • Walter Beneteau (Bouygues Telecom) shows the wrong way to climb the Cauberg.
  • Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas - Bianchi) checks out his opposition.
  • Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas - Bianchi) goes for it!
  • George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) gets a lift.
  • Jussi Veikkanen (Française des Jeux) enters the Palace of Pain.
  • Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) and Sergei Ivanov (T-Mobile Team) finished more than three and a half minutes down.
  • All over - time to go to the pub and sink a few Amstels.
  • What goes up - A horde of spectators make their way back down the Cauberg.

Images by Andrea Hübner/www.velo-photos.com

  • Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile)
  • Erik Zabel (T-Mobile)
  • Ryder Hesjedal (Discovery Channel)
  • Igor Astarloa (Barloworld)
  • Unai Yus (Bouygues Telecom)
  • Jussi Veikkanen (La Francaise des Jeux)
  • Patrick Sinkewitz (Quickstep) smiling before the start
  • Bradley McGee (La Francaise des Jeux)
  • Benoit Poilvet (Crédit Agricole)
  • World Champion Oscar Freire (Rabobank)
  • Joost Posthuma (Rabobank)
  • Winner of the Amstel Gold Race 2005 Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas)
  • Alejandro Valverde (Illes Balears)
  • Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner)
  • George Hincapie (Discovery Channel)
  • Isidro Nozal Vega (Liberty Seguros) on the way to the start
  • Jörg Jaksche (Liberty Seguros)
  • The peloton on the Cauberg in Valkenburg
  • Joost Posthuma (Rabobank)
  • Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears)
  • Christophe Moreau (Crédit Agricole)
  • The last 300 metres before the finish on the Cauberg
  • Pieter Weening (Rabobank)
  • Bradley Wiggins (Crédit Agricole)
  • Nicolas Loda (Liquigas)
  • Mirko Celestino (Domina Vacanze) is happy with 3rd place
  • Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas)
  • Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) and his son on the podium
  • Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) and Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas)
  • Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) in an interview after the race

Results - 251 km

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