Damiano Cunego triumphs in Amstel Gold Race

Italian wins nine man sprint on Cauberg

Damiano Cunego (Lampre) has won the 43rd Amstel Gold Race, defeating Fränk Schleck (Team CSC) and Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) in a lung busting sprint to the top of the Cauberg in the Dutch town of Valkenburg.

Luxembourg's Frank Schleck took second, Spanish cyclist Alejandro Valverde in third with Davide Rebellin and local favourite Thomas Dekker behind.

The leaders surged ahead of the peloton 12km from the line to swallow up Russia's Sergei Ivanov and Christian Pfannberger who had made a break shortly before.

This was the 26-year-old Cunego's first win in a major spring classic and the 2004 Tour of Italy victor, nicknamed 'the little prince' of Verona said: "This was my first time here but I was lucky to have teammates who knew the circuit well and advised me before tackling bumps or dangerous bends.

"As for the final kilometre, Schleck attacked and I just gritted my teeth.

"This is a race where you have to keep calm and be in front in the closing stages. It's very nervy. the last climb hurt. I was waiting for the last 100 metres to pull out."

CSC rider Schleck revealed his end-game plan of being out in front in the closing stages didn't quite pan out as he'd envisaged.

"I knew I couldn't do it in a sprint with Cunego and Valverde but with Cunego in control my fate was sealed. Now I'm targeting the next two classics, Fleche-Wallone and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. I'll be trying to win them. Let me repeat, I didn't say I was going to win them, I'm going to try."

Valverde for his part said: "I'm satisfied, this is my best placing in the Amstel and I've been less prepared for these classics than in previous years."

For full results, report and photos, visit Cyclingnews.com.

© BikeRadar & AFP 2008

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