Gasparotto wins Amstel stunner

Enrico Gasparotto (Astana Pro Team) won a thrilling Amstel Gold Race, timing his sprint to perfection atop the Cauberg, to win ahead of Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Belisol Team) and Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale).

Three time world champion Oscar Freire (Katusha Team) finished fourth after his bold attack in the closing 7 kilometres was caught in the final meters of the race. Two-time defending champion, Philippe Gilbert, (BMC Racing Team) had to settle for sixth behind Thomas Voeckler (Europcar).

BMC had controlled the race throughout much of the closing stages but Gilbert was left to do all the work on the final ascent of the Cauberg. His acceleration first brought back Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma QuckStep) and then Freire's dying legs to within touching distance. However the move proved as a spring board for the podium placers.

Sagan was the first rider to come around the Belgian champion but he too ran out of gas, with Gasparotto accelerating on his left and Vanendert on his right.

Maastricht treaty lasts until opening climbs

The riders had left the chilly start city of Maastricht with a blessing of rain drops and a cold northern wind on their noses. Typically many riders tried break clear on the first of the 31 climbs but nobody gained enough in the first hour of the race, which was covered at 45kph.
After nearly 60 kilometers of racing a large group finally was allowed to go. Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale), Pello Bilbao (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Raymond Kreder (Garmin-Barracuda), Alex Howes (Garmin-Barracuda), Steven Caethoven (Accent Jobs-Willems Veranda), Cedric Pineau (FDJ-Big Mat), Simone Stortoni (Lampre-ISD), Sébastien Delfosse (Landbouwkrediet-Euphony) and Eliot Lietar (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator) were the lucky men.

During the second hour they gathered a maximum lead of 13:30 on the peloton, with no teams wanting to chase. Eventually RadioShack-Nissan, BMC and Katusha took the responsibility and gradually the gap went down.

When approaching the second ascent of the Cauberg the pace in the peloton increased even more and after the Vrakelberg a first group of riders was caught behind the peloton, including outsider Cadel Evans (BMC). In front, the breakaway group lost ground. On top of the Cauberg the gap was down to less than five minutes and that was also where Evans abandoned the race.

With 55 km to go the breakaway group still had four minutes on the peloton. Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) went down on the Bemelerberg and even though he was assisted by a couple of teammates his race was almost over. When the pace increased inside the final 30 kilometres he was dropped. Meanwhile Danish rider Matti Breschel (Rabobank) also abandoned the race.

The Wolfsberg, at 41km from the finish line on the Cauberg, was the first of the last string of eight climbs. It proved to be the ground where the Astana moved forward. The gap quickly dropped below two minutes and the speed went up another notch when Chris Anker Sorensen (Saxo Bank) attacked the peloton, without much success.

In front Bardet, Bilbao, Howes and Stortoni dropped their fellow breakaway companions although Kreder and Delfosse returned little later. The six remaining leaders entered the last 30km with an advantage of 1:10.

The break split further when Bardet and Howes accelerated again.

Boasson Hagen was the first contender to attack inside the final 15 kilometres but the Sky rider was unable to gain more than 100 meters, with the BMC trio of Mauro Santambrogio, Greg Van Avermaet and Gilbert holding court at the head of the race.

Avermaet, was the perfect teammate, sacrificing his chances for Gilbert, who was either confident of taking on Sagan in the sprint or lacked the legs to attack earlier.

On the penultimate climb of the Keutenberg, Boasson Hagen was swiftly brought back, with Bardet shelling his breakaway companion for the second and final time.

Sky, Astana and Katusha were able to send probing attacks off the front, and Thomas Voeckler and Sagan went briefly alone, but it was Freire who struck a decisive blow with 7km to go, just after Bardet was finally swallowed up.

Freire has never made the podium in Amstel and with Rabobank having such a poor race with Breschel out and Gesink already dropped, Freire's former Dutch team must have been reeling when the Spaniard had a gap of 13 seconds.

But it wouldn't be a Spring Classic without Omega Pharma-Quickstep having their say, and Niki Terpstra accelerated away in pursuit of the Spaniard as the race descended from the Keutenberg.

At the foot of the Cauberg Terpstra had failed to make contact, with a tiring Van Avermaet leading a 20-strong group with Gilbert latched to his wheel.

Gilbert's attack displayed elements of panic and reluctant acceptance at the same time, the rider well aware that everyone was watching him, while also knowing that Freire was on the cusp of a shock win.

Terpstra was quickly reeled in and Gilbert's second acceleration caused the chase group to splinter. Damiano Cunego (Lampre) crashed along with Lars-Peter Nordhaug (Sky), and with a fading Freire unable to hold on the race came down to the strongest, but also the freshest in the sprint for the line.

Full Results

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Pro Team Astana6:32:35
2Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Belisol TeamRow 1 - Cell 2
3Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale0:00:02
4Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Katusha TeamRow 3 - Cell 2
5Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team EuropcarRow 4 - Cell 2
6Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing TeamRow 5 - Cell 2
7Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel - EuskadiRow 6 - Cell 2
8Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Garmin-Barracuda0:00:04
9Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La MondialeRow 8 - Cell 2
10Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling TeamRow 9 - Cell 2
11Maxim Iglinsky (Kaz) Pro Team AstanaRow 10 - Cell 2
12Frank Schleck (Lux) Radioshack-NissanRow 11 - Cell 2
13Elia Favilli (Ita) Farnese Vini - Selle ItaliaRow 12 - Cell 2
14Dries Devenyns (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep0:00:09
15Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-BarracudaRow 14 - Cell 2
16Nicki Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank0:00:12
17Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha TeamRow 16 - Cell 2
18Thomas Dekker (Ned) Garmin-BarracudaRow 17 - Cell 2
19Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Movistar TeamRow 18 - Cell 2
20Simon Gerrans (Aus) GreenEdge Cycling Team0:00:19
21Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col) Sky ProcyclingRow 20 - Cell 2
22Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team0:00:22
23Karsten Kroon (Ned) Team Saxo BankRow 22 - Cell 2
24Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha TeamRow 23 - Cell 2
25Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:00:30
26Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Movistar Team0:00:36
27Vasili Kiryienka (Blr) Movistar TeamRow 26 - Cell 2
28Niki Terpstra (Ned) Omega Pharma-QuickstepRow 27 - Cell 2
29Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Pro Team AstanaRow 28 - Cell 2
30Alex Howes (USA) Garmin-Barracuda0:00:47
31Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - ISD0:00:51
32Mikael Cherel (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:01:05
33Paul Martens (Ger) Rabobank Cycling TeamRow 32 - Cell 2
34Chris Anker Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo BankRow 33 - Cell 2
35Daniele Pietropolli (Ita) Lampre - ISDRow 34 - Cell 2
36Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing TeamRow 35 - Cell 2
37Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-QuickstepRow 36 - Cell 2
38Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team0:01:17
39Gianni Meersman (Bel) Lotto Belisol TeamRow 38 - Cell 2
40Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Sky ProcyclingRow 39 - Cell 2
41Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat0:01:30
42Vincent Jerome (Fra) Team EuropcarRow 41 - Cell 2