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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Monday, April 20, 2015

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories

Upcoming Racing

After a big weekend of super racing, it looks like everyone is going to take a rest. The next race we're going to report on will be held Tuesday, the 21st, the Italian stage race, the Giro del Trentino. On Wednesday, we'll have the single-day Belgian classic La Flèche Wallonne.

Post Amstel Gold Race Team Reports

We've got complete results, photos and race story posted for this year's Amstel Gold Race.

Orica-GreenEdge did well at Amstel Gold and had this to say:

2015 Paris-Nice stage winner Michael Matthews has sprinted to his second Classics podium this season, finishing third at the Amstel Gold Race today. Matthews successfully followed the threatening wheel of three-time winner Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) up the final ascent of the Cauberg but a chase group caught the pair ahead of the line.

The 24-year-old sprinted with everything he had left for third place, equal to his Milano-Sanremo result, and was visibly exhausted after the finish. “For my first time attempting the final at Amstel, I have to be happy with the result,” Matthews said. “I’m happy with the way I rode, I left everything out there. It’s just unfortunate that it wasn’t for the victory.”

Michael Matthews

Michael Matthews on the Gulperberg in this year's Amstel Gold Race.

“I went quite deep to follow Gilbert on the climb and I used a lot of energy trying to stay with him. I thought going over the climb we were clear of everyone else but the bunch had a few too many guys and were able to come back to us.

“I was hoping it was going to be just Gilbert and I in the sprint because I was quite confident in that situation but in the final sprint I just had nothing left and it was just a grovel.”

World champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx Quick-Step) sprinted to victory from the select group ahead of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) and Matthews.

Sport director Matt White said the ORICA-GreenEDGE team rode tactically to perfection. “We went in with a plan of how we wanted to attack the race and the guys did it to perfection,” White said.

“Gilbert is renown for going on the Cauberg. The years he has gone clear he has stayed away to win so that was our plan, to give Michael as much protection as possible during the day so he was able to go with Gilbert on the last climb.

“He had the advantage of a well-drilled team including Simon Gerrans, who has podiumed here in the last two years, and that sort of firepower is invaluable. Michael was able to react to the Gilbert move on the climb and he gave himself every chance for the win.”

The earlier action was shaped with a breakaway of six riders that established in the first 30km of racing. The group of Laurens De Vreese (Astana Pro Team), Linus Gerdemann (Cult Energy Pro Cycling), Jan Polanc (Lampre-Merida), Timo Roosen (Team LottoNL-Jumbo), Mike Terpstra (Team Roompot Oranje Peloton) and Johann Van Zyl (MTN – Qhubeka) worked out to a maximum lead of eleven minutes ahead of the 100km mark before the peloton reacted to reduce the advantage.

As the race approached the final 80km and the gap sat around five minutes, ORICA-GreenEDGE committed its first rider to the chase, Canadian Christian Meier. Ten kilometres later, the peloton was just three and a half minutes behind and by the 50km to go mark the gap sat around one minute for De Vreese, Polanc and Gerdemann who remained as the final three escapees.

As the race all but drew together 35km from the finish, Simon Clarke attacked with David Tanner (IAM Cycling), dropping two surviving early breakaway riders who briefly tacked on to their move. Three additional riders joined them after an unfortunate crash broke up the original chase group of seven.

Down to four riders on the penultimate ascent of Cauberg, the break wasn’t 100% committed and outfits began to arrange themselves at the front of the peloton.

Recognising the lack of cooperation, Clarke went alone in a last effort of support for the team, finally caught with eight kilometres to race. “It’s a pretty predictable race with this new parcours and there is only a couple of areas where you need to be in certain moves,” White said.

“Like the last two years with Pieter Weening, you are always better to be on the front foot.  When you have someone in the breakaway, especially of the caliber of anyone from our team, it takes the pressure off behind.

“We needed someone in that counter move, Clarkey did a good job and it allowed us to sit back and concentrate on the final.”

After a brief but unsuccessful attack of a BMC Racing teammate, Gilbert made his famous move on the last ascent, followed closely by Matthews. The pair was caught over the top of the climb by a group of 15 who joined them to contest the select sprint finish.

Here's Lotto-Soudal's Amstel report:

Tony Gallopin finished in the top ten of the Amstel Gold Race. In a sprint with eighteen riders the Frenchman was sixth.

The early breakaway consisted of six riders. They had a maximal lead of eleven minutes. In the peloton Movistar, Orica-GreenEdge and mainly BMC led the chase. Before halfway the race Jelle Vanendert hit a car. He has abrasions and hurt his left shoulder and hip. Normally he will be able to start in the Flèche Wallonne. On the Eyserbosweg, the 28th hill of the day, Simon Clarke and David Tanner bridged to the last two escapees. Later three others, one of them was Nibali, joined Clarke and Tanner. With eight kilometres to go all escapees were caught. A reduced peloton started the last ascent of the Cauberg with top at 1.7 kilometres from the finish. Tim Wellens tried to answer an early move of Ben Hermans. On the top Philippe Gilbert and Michael Matthews had a small gap. A group with Tony Gallopin could return and a sprint decided about the victory. World champion Michal Kwiatkowski won. Alejandro Valverde was second, Michael Matthews third. Tony Gallopin finished on the sixth place.

Tony Gallopin: “I have mixed feelings. Top ten was my minimum goal. The sixth place isn’t a bad result, but it could have been better. At first I wasn’t positioned well, but thanks to a strong effort of Jürgen Roelandts I could come to the front at the beginning of the Cauberg. Five hundred metres before the finish I lost some energy due to the wind. When Kwiatkowski passed me by I didn’t have any power left to react and to conquer a podium place. It was the first time I played a role in the final here, that’s encouraging for the future.”

Tony Gallopin

Tony Gallopin climbs a hill in this year's Amstel Gold Race.

Tim Wellens: “I’m disappointed I wasn’t good enough to follow the best on the Cauberg and I didn’t get to the finish with the first group. At the bottom of the last climb I was positioned well and when Ben Hermans attacked I tried to bridge. I soon felt a top result wasn’t possible. The next races are different, so I won’t make a drama of this.”

Marc Sergeant, manager Lotto Soudal:  “There was a lot of speculation if there would be attacks before the final ascent of the Cauberg or not. We decided not to join an early breakaway. The scenario showed that was the right decision. The counterattack of Nibali was a strong attempt. Afterwards it got back together again and the last ascent of the Cauberg was decisive. Because of the circumstances Jelle couldn’t defend his chances. Tim wasn’t strong enough for top ten. Tony could get a top ten place. We came for a podium spot, but we didn’t achieve that goal.”

Here's what I got from Tinkoff-Saxo about Amstel Gold:

Tinkoff-Saxo finished outside the top ten at Amstel Gold Race but with a good sensation ahead of the remaining Ardennes Classics, as team captains Roman Kreuziger and Michael Valgren proved capable in the undulating terrain. 2013-winner Kreuziger finished 14th in the first group after a post-Cauberg sprint decision won by Michal Kwiatkowski.

After the conclusion of the Dutch classic, team leader Roman Kreuziger says that his shape was where it should be. “Amstel is a race that I personally like and it was nice to be there in the final. When you have four weeks without racing, it’s nice to get a confirmation that the shape is good. You never know how you are in Amstel, but I felt pretty good and I really look forward to the next two races in the Ardennes. Now, in my vision, the most important is to recover and rest before Fleche Wallone and Liège-Bastogne-Liège”, says Roman Kreuziger before adding:

“I had a puncture going into the final part of the race at a critical time but my teammates brought me back quickly. I was there in the final group after Cauberg but against guys like Valverde and Kwiatkowski it’s difficult. Valgren was a bit too far back at the bottom of Cauberg, but he can become the guy that can win a race like this. It’s important that he raced as co-leader in order to get experience from a difficult race like this”.

Roman Kreuziger

Roman Kreuziger in 2014

With 258 kilometers, 34 climbs and more than 4,000 altitude meters, Amstel Gold Race took its usual toll on the riders. Before the race finale on Cauberg, Tinkoff-Saxo had five riders in the decimated peloton, where Chris Anker Sørensen and Manuele Boaro successfully brought back the final breakaway.

Up Cauberg, however, the field exploded and regrouped in an 18-man front group, where Kwiatkowski proved the fastest with Kreuziger finishing 14th. According to team sports director Sean Yates, improvements could have been made in the finale while the race revealed a mounting shape.

“Amstel showed that the condition of our guys is good and I think that Roman did a really fine race. There was not much he could do in the sprint, as he’s not the explosive kind of rider but he led by example and showed that he is where he should be. Valgren was just too far back at the bottom of Cauberg, otherwise he would have been there in the front group. He had the legs to follow and he could have done a good result in the sprint”, explains Sean Yates.

“However, the idea with putting Michael as the co-leader was to give him the experience.  So after today, he knows that if you ride for more than 250km and you’re not at the front in the finale, you don’t cash in on all of your work. Ultimately, the team did a good race and Chris and Manuele put in a good effort at the end and committed to the team strategy. We now know that the guys are in good shape and we look forward to Fleche and Liège”, adds Sean Yates.

Young Danish champion Michael Valgren finished 22^nd after making his way up the dismantling peloton on Cauberg.  Crossing the finish line, he explains that this year’s Amstel Gold Race was a step in the right direction.

“Amstel is a very chaotic race, it’s up and down and left and right all the time, which makes it really difficult to control and stay together. It’s simply a fight for positioning all the time. I had to piss four times, so it was difficult to stick to the front, but I managed to move forward in the last part of the race, expect the last time up Cauberg”, notes Michael Valgren. “I had good legs and my sensations were better than they have been for a while. So today is naturally a source of motivation for me, as it’s a big improvement from last year. The team rode really well for Roman and me and in terms of the effort made, I think we can be satisfied”.

The Ardennes Classics continue Wednesday, as the riders face Flèche Wallonne and the dreaded Mur de Huy.

LottoNL-Jumbo had this to say about Amstel Gold:

The Team LottoNL-Jumbo riders went on the offensive in the 50th Amstel Gold Race. Timo Roosen, 22, made the early breakaway and Wilco Kelderman rode at the front in the final of the race. However, they fell outside the top ten, which was led by World Champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-Quick Step).

It was clear from the beginning that Team LottoNL-Jumbo was trying to show itself in the Dutch one-day classic, which essentially is a home race. Roosen showed that with his part in the breakaway.

“It was good for me to be in that leading group,” he said. “There was a lot of wind, which made it extra tough. In the bunch, there is a real high pace on the climbs and between them it’s a little bit easier. You’re able to save more energy when you’re in the breakaway.”

Wilco Kelderman

Wilco Kelderman in 2014. Sorry, don't have a 2015 pic yet.

Sports Director Merijn Zeeman was satisfied with the aggressive mindset and the way the team worked for Wilco Kelderman and Paul Martens.“It went exactly the way we wanted it,” Zeeman said. “The fact that Wilco was able to attack at the right moment was a team effort. It is an enormous fight to be in front of the race at that point. I was glad that we successfully reached that target.”

The effort was a positive note for Kelderman after a period with difficulties. “I felt really good,” the Dutch climber explained. “I was looking forward to this race a lot. I was waiting for the moment to attack. With the Dutch crowd on the climbs, it almost feels like a world championship for us.”

Kelderman miscalculated the turn in one of the descents afterwards. “I knew that there would be gravel, but I wasn’t thinking about it because of my adrenaline. I felt my wheel slipping away so I was forced to go straight into the field. Otherwise, I would’ve fallen."

When Kelderman could not return to the front on the Keutenberg, the team gave its all for Paul Martens.

“The team did that perfectly,” Paul Martens said. “We were at the right place on every main point in the race and everyone was able to keep me in position perfectly.  “It went smoothly for six hours and 25 minutes, it’s just that in the last three kilometres, I suffered cramps. That was a big disappointment for me. “The Amstel Gold Race is my favourite race and this was the first time that I was the front man of the team. You’re extra disappointed when you don’t finish the way you want to. Especially since this was the best Amstel Gold Race we ever rode as a team.”

Lampre-Merida sent me this Amstel Gold report:

Rui Costa never betrays and each time he's at the start of a race, there's the certainty that he'll fight for being protagonist. This happened in Amstel Gold Race too, where the Portuguese rider obtained the 4th place, preceded in the final sprint by Kwiatkowski (1st), Valverde (2nd) and Matthews (3rd).

The race was led after 30 km by a six-man breakaway. From Lampre-Merida there were Bono and Polanc, two very reliable attackers, so it was simple for the sport directors Mauduit and Pedrazzini to have one rider in the main breakaway and this time the blue-fuchsia-green attacker was Polanc, who managed to lead the race for 200 km. The breakaway was neutralized at 25 km to go.

A large group approached the final passage on the Cauberg, Gilbert attacked and he selected a 18 riders group in which there was Rui Costa too, who managed to be very close to the podium.

"Today my feelings were good and, thanks to my team mates, I managed to drive my Merida bike in a competitive way on the winding roads of the Amstel Gold Race - Rui Costa explained - I only had a problem in the approach of the Eyserbosweg, at 40 km to go, when two riders that were preceding me crashed and I could avoid the first one, but not the second one. I did not suffer consequences and so I managed to come back to the bunch and be in the head position in view of the final kilometers.

Amstel gold finish

Amstel Gold finish. Rui Costa is just behind winner Kwiatkowski.

"The group was still counting many riders and Gilbert's action was good but not enough for allowing him to win, so the chasing group in which I was pedaling could join him. I was still having energy for the sprint, but I was very close to the fences so I must brake and this hesitation made me miss the best moment to start the sprint and the possibility to be on the podium. Anyway, the fourth place is a very good result, also taking into consideration the value of the opponents, and a good start for this important week".

Here's Cult Energy's Amstel news:

Today, Cult Energy Pro Cycling experienced their biggest challenge in the history of the Danish team by taking part of the World Tour race, Amstel Gold Race covering 258 undulating kilometers in the Limburg region in the southern part of Holland. DS, Michael Skelde had announced two objectives in this race; to be noticed in a breakaway and to pull a good result. Cult Energy’s Linus Gerdemann executed the first part of the plan but in the finale, World champion, Michal Kwiatkowski proved invincible.

The German all-rounder took of the early break consisting of six riders and created a gap well over ten minutes to the pack where Movistar was controlling the pace to set up their captain, Alejandro Valverde. Pretty soon, the cocktail consisting of high pace, narrow roads, road furniture and the number of short, steep climbs slowly but surely drained the riders of power before the thrilling finale.

With 50 kilometers to go, the front group split up as they increased the pace to pro-long the time in the sun ahead of the field. But it was pro-longing the inevitable and 35 kilometers to go, a new front group consisting of Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Simon Clarke (Oreca-GreenEdge), David Tanner (IAM Cycling) and Tony Martin (Etixx-Quick Step) was formed. But they couldn’t agree and Clarke decided to take matters in his own hands and soloed his way in front of the race. Entering the final eight kilometers, Clarke was caught by the speeding peloton animated by BMC. In the first counter-attack, Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) leaped off with Greg van Avermaet (BMC) who didn’t want to pull while Tinkoff-Saxo decided to fire up the engine in the peloton and drag the tandem back in.

Hitting the foot of Cauberg, the pack was complete and Philippe Gilbert (BMC) decided to attack with 2 kilometers to go but Michael Matthews (Oreca-GreenEdge) was on his tail immediately but as he didn’t have the strength to help pulling, they were caught by a chase group. Rushing towards the finish line, World Champion, Michal Kwiatkowski (Etiss-Quick Step) jumped up from out of nowhere to take the prestigious win.

Cult Energy Pro Cycling's Rasmus Guldhammer was in the pack hitting the foot of Cauberg and finished 37th: "It was an awesome experience getting to ride this race. It's stressfull, hilly and suits me perfectly if it ended after 200 kilometers and not 260. However, I  made it to Cauberg and was completely out of power. But now I got a taste of Amstel and I really hope we can be back next year. I need more race kilometers to compete with the best today."

Rasmus guldhammer

Rasmus Guldhammer. I know, I've got to get another photo of Rasmus. Hear that, Cult Energy?

DS, Michael Skelde states: "We had two objectives from the start of the race. First of all, we wanted to show that we were in the race and Linus did a perfect job executing the first part of the plan by being out there in front of the field most of the day. Our second objective was to land a top-10 result with Fabian Wegmann but unfortunately, he was struck by a puncture just as we entered the finale and three riders supported him back up to the field. But he was out of fuel and was dropped soon after.  Surely, his illness in the weeks prior to the race can explain the lack of endurance. Overall, I'm happy that we made an impact on the race and the riders demonstrated the unity that they truly are and there was nothing we could have done in the finale to improve this result. Rasmus needs a few more races like these and he could be a finale contender already next year," concludes Skelde.


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