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Amstel Gold Race 2015

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Good morning and welcome to our live coverage from the 2015 Amstel Gold Race.

You join us in  Maastricht for the 50th running of the first Ardennes Classic of the season. The riders have just gone through the neutralized zone and are now officially racing.

And once again the Cauberg will take center stage, with four ascents of the climb scheduled in the race, the final time coming less than two kilometers before the finish line.

And we've already had the first attack of the day with Team Sky's Wout Poels looking to set up an early break. A new signing for Team Sky this season, Poels will be looking to break into the team's grand tour squad later this year. The British team had a successful cobbles campaign with wins in Omloop, E3 Harelbeke and a podium in Gent-Wevelgem. They missed out in Flanders and Paris-Roubaix but arrive at the Ardennes with a different set of riders to focus on, including Peter Kennaugh, Lars Petter Nordhaug, and Sergio Henao.

Last year, of course, we had an eight-man break go up the road with Pim Ligthart (Lotto Belisol) attacking from the gun and later joined by Van Hecke, Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Matej Mohoric (Cannondale), Manuel Belletti (Androni Venezuela), Pirmin Lang (IAM Cycling), James Van Landschoot (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Nicola Boem (Bardiani CSF).

One rider who comes into the race as a bit of an underdog is Michael Matthews. He rode here for the first time last year and made the top 15. He returns as Orica's go-to guy with some uncertainty surrounding the form and fitness of Simon Gerrans.

Onto the third climb of the day in this year's race and there's another short-lived attack, this time from  Van Ginneken (Team Roompot) and Boom (Astana). Again though, it's snuffed out by the peloton, who are scurrying along these twisty, tight roads at a ferocious pace.

But now we have a more significant move coming from the front of the peloton with six riders going clear: De Vreese (Astana), Polanc (Lampre), Roosen (LottoNL-Jumbo), Gerdemann (Cult Energy), Van Zyl (MTN-Qhubeka) and Terpstra (Team Roompot). They have a slim but important 15 second advantage over the peloton. 230km to go.

223km remaining from 258km

We've covered 35km so far and the action has been sparse but these six riders have a chance of forging clear. No big names in the move - it's not that Terpstra but his younger brother Mike - although Linus Gerdemann once looked like a rider who would really make waves in the peloton.

A reminder of the six men in the break: Laurens De Vreese (Astana), Jan Polanc (Lampre), Timo Roosen (LottoNL-Jumbo), Linus Gerdemann (Cult Energy), Johann Van Van Zyl (MTN-Qhubeka) and Mike Terpstra (Team Roompot).

Back to Orica GreenEdge, if I may, and the working relationship between Gerrans and Matthews for today's race, here's what the younger rider had to say:

214km remaining from 258km

While we wait for the main contenders to warm up, why not pick out your top three for today's race and let me know on Twitter at twitter/dnlbenson. No prizes as such, just the glory and immense personal satisfaction of having your Tweet ripped off and used in our live coverage.

Ahead of today's race CN's Sadhbh O'Shea sat down with world champion Michal Kwiatkowski to talk about his form and his chances for today. You can read the full story right here, if you wish.

210km remaining from 258km

Center does not hold and with that the gap moves out to an extended 6:12 with just over 200km of racing remaining.

Dan Martin is a contender for today His past two Ardennes campaigns have been strong, with victory at Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 2013. He looked set to repeat that last year before a crash in the final corner. The Cannondale-Garmin rider was confident at the start in Maastricht and believes that his team can take it to the big contenders.

Daniel Martin:

As you'd expect the crowds are out in force today and the sun is out as the break crest the top of the Cauberg for the first time today. Their lead is still at over six minutes with the peloton content to trundle along for now.

Frank Schleck (Trek Factory Racing) is one of many defending champions racing at Amstel Gold today. Schleck, who won the race in 2006, is on the comeback trail after a crash at Paris-Nice but he’s hoping to use his experience to deliver the team to a good result.

Of course Bauke Mollema comes into the race as Trek's main contender for victory. The new signing has started well this year but a recent crash has set him back in terms of training. Piece by piece though, he's turning into a mature and accomplished leader for the WorldTour squad.

193km remaining from 258km

At the start this morning we also caught up with Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). The Spaniard is always an Ardennes contender but has never won Amstel Gold. Before Valverde walks away from the sport, who would bet against him winning this race.

Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo) has enjoyed a long break from racing after his last appearance at Milan-San Remo. Kreuziger is one of two riders who have won on the new parcours, getting the jump on his fellow chasers with almost 20 kilometres still to run in 2013. Cyclingnews caught up with the former winner who will be working for Danish champion Michael Valgren today. Kreuziger has of course his CAS hearing to come, and it would be some kind of miracle if the anti-doping authorities had wrapped up the case by now. Alas, it looks like the rider will take part in the Giro too, before a final hearing. An unfair situation for everyone involved.
 

Back in the bunch and it's BMC and CCC who are on the front. There's still not planned chase and the peloton are content with simply rolling through and taking a few gentle turns.

Well the lead has actually pushed out to nine minutes but there's still little chance of a break surviving here - it happens so rarely, especially these days, and in the major one day races.

The winner of Amstel Gold back in 2008, Italy’s Damiano Cunego (Nippo Vini Fantini) says he regards this year’s race “as a good test because I’ve been training for the last 20 days at altitude on Mount Etna.”


“But the big objectives are the Giro di Trentino and the Giro d’Italia. Here I’ll be seeing what I can do, I don’t particularly like the way the race finishes a little after the top of the Cauberg now, the old finish was better for riders like me.”

Fifth in Paris-Roubaix, tenth in Flanders, Swiss National Champion Martin Elmiger (IAM Cycling) has been one of the most consistent one day riders this spring and is one of the few riders who have been a factor in the cobbled Classics and who are now gunning for a result in the Ardennes as well.


“Amstel is my last race before I take a break,” Elmiger says at the Amstel Gold start, “we’re starting with just six guys today because two of our guys are not able to take part [Dries Devenyns and Thomas Dagand] because of sickness, so it’s up to us to do as best we can. Breaks, or whatever.”


“Personally, this isn’t my biggest goal, that was Roubaix or Flanders, but my condition has been very good, ever since Catalunya, and we’ll see what we can do, both me and [co-leader] Sylvain Chavanel.”
 

Onto the second lap of the course and the Eyserbosweg and Keutenberg are coming up. The peloton look like they're starting to to get into their rhythm but there's still no concerted effort to try and start closing the gap to the six riders in the lead. The gap is at just over nine minutes with 175km to go.

The lead pushes out to ten minutes as the break head through the feedzone.

Enrico Gasparotto (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) was the last rider to win Amstel Gold when it still finished on the top of the Cauberg in 2012. The Italian, who was riding for Astana at the time, out-kicked Jelle Vanendert and Peter Sagan to take one of the biggest wins of his career. The finish has since moved 1.8 kilometres down the road but Gasparotto is still hopeful of a good result at Amstel.
 

The break are ticking through the kms at a pretty decent rate, and their gap is still over nine minutes after 110km of racing. The bunch are now going through the feedzone, no major incidents to report from them.

Sammie Sanchez (BMC Racing) acted as a foil for team leader Phillipe Gilbert in last year’s Amstel Gold Race, making an attack on the Cauberg which - given his similar build to Gilbert - drew a lot of the Belgian’s rivals attention. But the 2008 Olympic gold medallist is doubtful, as he tells Cyclingnews at the start of the Amstel, “that we’ll be able to pull off the same trick twice.” But he reckons the final climb will once again be decisive.


“After the Vuelta al País Vasco, both me and Philippe are in good shape, and we’ll try and do our best here - which in Philippe’s case, means winning a fourth time.”


“I think the Cauberg is going to be decisive, putting that extra section at the top means riders tend to play it very cautiously and wait for the last climb. Plus it’s a warm, dry day, no wind, so it could be a very similar race to last year. Philippe’s the favourite, but that’s not necessarially a good thing. He’s won three times here and I’ve won several times on the same finish in some races, too, and it’s like I told him yesterday, sometimes you’re so closely watched as a favourite it’s much harder to make your move.”

The peloton finally move into their stride and steal a minute off the break, who see their lead dropped to a still relatively healthy, eight minutes.

And at the moment the work on the front is being done by Nippo - Vini Fantini, BMC Racing and Movistar.

The continuous climbs are starting to take their toll on the front group, and they continue to ship time to the peloton, who are now 6'54 back with 147km to go.

Tom Dumoulin is leading the Giant-Alpecin team today, as they look to continue the fantastic run of results that John Degenkolb has given the team. The Dutch rider seems to be coming into form at just the right time with victory in the time trial at País Vasco.
 

Three hours into the race and the average pace so far is 40kph. The break of Laurens De Vreese (Astana), Jan Polanc (Lampre), Timo Roosen (LottoNL-Jumbo), Linus Gerdemann (Cult Energy), Johann Van Van Zyl (MTN-Qhubeka) and Mike Terpstra (Team Roompot) hold a six and a half minute advantage over the chasing peloton.

Astana near the front too. They come into the race with Nibali and Fuglsang as potential candidates. The Italian hasn't hit top for yet and has one eye on Liege-Bastogne-Liege, a race he's finished second in before. Fuglsang has performed here before and could well be a factor in the race, he may need to make a move before the final ascent of the Cauberg though, as he doesn't have the explosive acceleration of a Gilbert or Rodriguez.

Former world champion, Rui Costa, leads the line for Lampre Merida today too. The 2013 world champ has been building form in recent weeks, while Valls Ferri and Diego Ulissi also line up for the team.

One team desperate for a result today will be Lotto Jumbo who have gone without a win all season. They line up with Wilco Kelderman as their leader today, another rider who might need to try and make a move before the final climb.

BMC have now moved a few more men near the front of the peloton as they start to increase the pressure on the break - their advantage is still over six minutes.

The six leaders have been out there since before the 40km banner and they're still plugging away with a six minute gap on the peloton. Still three more ascents of the Cauberg to come although the pace in the bunch is starting to increase.

Still blue skies overhead as BMC are joined by Movistar at the front of the peloton. Trek are also present, Katusha too.

Former winner, Frank Schleck, is one of the Trek Factory riders helping to set the pace for Mollema.

And the peloton start to line out, with Movistar providing the most firepower, with several members of the only Spanish WorldTour team setting the pace.

100km remaining from 258km

Peter Kennaugh in his national champions kit, is near the front as the peloton crest another short, sharp climb.

The break hit the Cauberg once more with Polanc setting the pace. The gap is still holding at over six minutes, which is decent effort from the break considering how much work Movistar and BMC are putting in.

The peloton roll towards the climb, and their effort is finally paying off with the gap now under six minutes at 5'55.

A crash for Westra, and the Astana rider is out of the race.

Lars Boom is working for Fuglsang on the climb, and you can see the Danish rider neatly tucked in behind the wheel of his teammate. Nibali, it seems, has a mechanical problem and is slowing to the back of the peloton.

Nibali makes it back to the peloton after his puncture. A bit of pacing back by his teammates but the Tour champion looks cool and collected as he makes his way back to the front of the peloton.

82km remaining from 258km

inCycle sat down with Gilbert and he talked through his winning ride from twelve months ago - you can watch the video, right here.

Orica have also moved a rider to the front of the peloton with Michael Mathews in mind. The Australian is one of the favourites for the win after a strong start to the season and an impressive debut here twelve months ago.

The break have lost another minute and with 74km to go the gap is down to 4'11.

It is Orica-GreenEdge and Movistar at the front of the bunch setting the pace and they're having an impact at the gap continues to fall to just over 3 minutes.

This year's race is the 50th edition of the Amstel Gold Race. The organisers through a big bash last night to celebrate, which included an bewildering interview with Erik Dekker while the Dutchman was sat on a massage table in nothing but a towel. (You're guess is as good as ours).

This year's race is the 50th edition of the Amstel Gold Race. The organisers through a big bash last night to celebrate, which included an bewildering interview with Erik Dekker while the Dutchman was sat on a massage table in nothing but a towel. (Your guess is as good as ours).

Lotto NL have joined the chase too but they seem intent on just keeping their leader, Kelderman out of trouble. The break have 2'40, 59km to go.

Roman Kreuziger had a problem and is being brought back to the peloton by his teammates.

Lotto, BMC and Movistar are all trying to assert control on the front of the peloton and the pace is rising once more as we head towards a really technical section where the road narrows just before another set of climbs. Being near the front makes such a massive difference in terms of energy saved.

And it's BMC who move all their men towards the front in one concentrated effort. Astana, Etixx, and Trek are also present as the gap to the break drops down to 1'30.

Gilbert looks strong, as we see him sit just behind a shield of BMC riders, while Valverde watches on from around 20 riders back. The Spaniard is once again in the hunt for an Ardennes Classic, but has never won this race.

The race has been relatively quiet so far, hence why there are so many strong domestiques left in the race. We should see the peloton start to fracture on the next set of climbs, however.

Onto the Gulpenerberg and the six man move have just 51 seconds left. They had led the race by nearly ten minutes. This climb peaks out at 15 per cent and the break are really struggling.

Reynes has a coming together at the back of the peloton with a Giant-Alpecin rider. Couldn't see who it was but Reynes kindly identifies him as 'asshole' as they exchange a few frank words before riding off again.

45km remaining from 258km

Valverde had to go back to the cars and he's now coming back through the peloton as Giant Alpecin race to the front. Here's a pivotal point as teams look to create attacks before the final climb.

Tony Martin is looking after the world champion as they take a crucial left hand corner. Everyone makes it through the corner safely.

Lampre are lined out near the back so it looks like Rui Costa was in trouble earlier and needed to chase back on.

The 2013 World champion is near the back of the pack but he should be able to move up soon enough. Valverde has made it right to the front of the peloton in no time at all.

39km remaining from 258km

David Tanner has made a move and he's marked by Tony Martin, and a rider from Orica GreenEdge.

And the break are caught.

The Eyserbosweg is proving to be crucial with this Tanner the one Orica rider with him. Then we have Martin and his group that includes another three riders.

It's Simon Clarke who is with Tanner as Martin looks to drag his group up to the leaders.

Clarke is driving on with two riders from the early break joining him and Tanner. Nibali is in the chase with Kelderman and Martin. That's the make up of a really dangerous group. They have 11 seconds on the peloton.

Kelderman, Caruso, Rosa, Nibali, Martin among the chasers

If the two leading groups link up then Astana will have three men on the attack. Movistar really need to chase this one down because they've missed out.

The Martin - Nibali group have nearly twenty seconds on the peloton with 33km to go.

Kelderman overcooks it on a corner and is now forced to chase the Nibali group. The peloton have both groups at under 25 seconds but Clarke is pushing on and really giving it 100 per cent on the next climb. Tanner is just about able to hold his wheel.

Tanner and Clarke lead the Nibali-Martin group by about 10 seconds with the peloton now at 46 seconds.

The gap is edging out to a minute now as Tinkoff Saxo start to set the pace at the front of the peloton. With 30km to go the race is starting to become interesting with a very dangerous move clear.

Diego Rosa is setting the pace for the Nibali group and he's doing a huge job for his team leader.

And there's a crash in the Nibali group, Rosa i think goes down and he takes out the BMC rider from the break too. Caruso.

That will take the string out of the Nibali group as they now link up with the two leaders. 28km to go and the race is wide open.

And Nibali has attacked with 28km to go from the group that contains Marin, Howes, Clarke and Tanner, with the peloton at 47 seconds. Nibali easily caught by Martin and co this time.

Five leaders, 27km to go and the gap still over 30 seconds on the peloton. Nibali curbs his attacking for now and takes a turn. Howes isn't taking a single turn at the moment as we see Movistar leading the chase, and Kelderman caught. The gap is out to 47 seconds.

BMC will have to join the Movistar chase and Tanner has gone clear of the break - they're not working well together at all.

And as a result the gap comes down to 36 seconds. Both Lotto teams are leading the peloton.

Tanner is brought back with 24km to go so we have five leaders once more as Valverde rides in second place in the peloton. The gap is at 31 seconds.

Nibali takes a turn, then looks around because he's not happy with the amount of work coming from some of the other breakaway riders.

Onto the Cauberg for the penultimate time and Nibali is setting the pace for the break, their lead down to 27 seconds.

Howes is starting to really suffer at the back of the group and has lost a bit of ground. BMC lead the chase.

The gap is down to 17 seconds as Howes is about to be caught by the peloton.

The break are all working together now, having dropped Howes. Over the finishline with the gap between the two groups at 16 seconds.

Three more climbs to go and BMC take the race by the scruff of the neck and lead the peloton on a sweeping descent. The four leaders have 12 seconds.

The gap is down to a few seconds so Nibali attacks once more but he can't drop the rest. Actually Tanner has lost contact.

15km remaining from 258km

Now Clarke has 17 seconds with 13km to go. Orica and Matthews are in a great position at this stage with two climbs remaining.

Clarke is on a long, flat, wide road so it's a really tough ask to keep this pace up but the former KOM in the Vuelta is relentless. He has 12 seconds on the BMC led peloton with 11km to go.

BMC and Wanty are on the front and we still have around 100 men left in the peloton. Clarke, meanwhile, has just nine seconds on the field. 9km to go.

BMC are doing an impressive amount of work as we hit the penultimate climb. Clarke has been caught with 8km to go as we see Kwiatkowski near the front.

And there's an attack from Fuglsang, Van Avermaet, Haas, as well.

There are two groups forming. Van Avermaet and Fuglsang are the first group but it looks like the BMC rider is simply marking the Dane at the moment.

The chase group only has a couple of seconds and should be caught. And is caught. Fuglsang and Van Avermaet have 5 seconds but the Danish rider is having to do all the work.

Van Avermaet still reluctant to take a turn and therefore Fuglsang sits up. That attack is about to be caught.

It's Tinkoff Saxo now leading the field with 4km to go .

The leading pair still have five seconds on the peloton but Fuglsang finally sits up for good.

BMC riders, two of them, then mark another attack. It's Gilbert or bust for the American team.

Matthews is near the front on the descent into the final climb. Clarke is doing the work for his team leader. Albasini there too.

Great timing by the Australian team.

And Etixx move up as well. There's a real race into the bottom of the Cauberg.

They make the left hand turn and Orica lead but Hermans attacks.

CCC chase him with Wellens too. The big guns are just waiting.

Katusha lead the chase and there's goes Gilbert.

Mathews is on his wheel. The pair have a gap.

Gilbert kicks again as Kwiatkowski tries to chase.

And Valverde launches a move and now we have three leaders with Matthews taking a turn as they go over the climb.

More and more riders are making it up to the leaders and Kwiatkowski is there.

1km to go and we have around a dozen riders to as BMC lead out. Dan Martin also there.

Van Avermaet leads out but here comes Kwiatkowski through the middle.

And the world champion takes it, beating Matthews to the line.

That was a huge effort from the world champion and that marks his first road race win as a world champion.

BMC led out, then Sky made a move on the right and Matthews was in a good position but Kwiatkowski came from a long way back, and took the win by over a bike length. It looks like Valverde was second.

We don't yet have the top ten but here's the top six:

So Matthews forced to settle for a podium spot. Hindsight is wonderful and hel'll be thinking about whether he made the right move to go with Gilbert on the climb but he can't be too disappointed given what Gilbert did last year on the climb in terms of creating big enough gap. The World champion just had more in the tank and Lefevere finally has his Spring Classic.

And Valverde on the podium once more in this race. He made a strong attack to bridge up to Gilbert and Matthews on the climb but once again just came up against a better rider on the day.

1 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Etixx - Quick-Step 6:31:49
2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team
3 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica GreenEdge
4 Rui Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida
5 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal
6 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
7 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx - Quick-Step
8 Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Wanty - Groupe Gobert
9 Maciej Paterski (Pol) CCC Sprandi Polkowice
10 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team

Thanks for joining us today. You can find our report, results and photos, right here.

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