This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Roman Kreuziger of Saxo-Tinkoff won the Amstel Gold Race in a solo effort, joyously crossing the finish line after seven kilometers in the lead. World champion Philippe Gilbert's late attack on the Cauberg chase was fruitless, and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) out-sprinted him from a small chase group for second. Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) finished third.
Kreuziger attacked from the chasing peloton with 17 kilometers to go, and was part of a group which caught solo leader Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi). He left that small group at exactly the right moment and was able to hold onto his lead even after a powerful charge by the big-name contenders on the Cauberg.
Kreuziger finished 22 seconds ahead of the chasing group.
"It was special race. When I went we didn't know what would happen, if we'd stay away,” Kreuziger said.
“In the last kilometre they told me I had 15 seconds at the start of the Cauberg and that was when I started to think I could win. The Cauberg was never ending…”
How it happened
The skies may have been bleak in the bustling Markt Square in Maastricht for the start, but the peloton was wearing decidedly less layers of clothing than what they did throughout the Flemish Classics earlier this month and seemed much happier.
Soon after the 187-strong peloton departed for the 251km race to Valkenburg, Johan Vansummeren (Garmin Sharp) was the first man to attack, and was joined by Tim De Troyer (Accent Jobs-Wanty), Alexandre Pliuschin (IAM), Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel), Arthur Van Overberghe (Topsport Vlaanderen). With 50km of racing done, the group’s gap was out to nearly six minutes and the break of the day had formed.
In hot pursuit, was Nicolas Vogondy (Accent Jobs) and Klaas Sys (Crelan-Euphony) and by the time the front five hit the Cauberg for the first time, the gap between the two groups was down to a minute, while there was a total advantage of 10 minutes to the peloton, which was being marshaled by the Cannondale team for hot favourite Peter Sagan.
Content to let the breakaway revel up ahead, the gap had blown out to 11 minutes by the halfway mark.
Shortly before the peloton hit the Cauberg for the second time, a large crash brought down a number of riders including world champion and two-time winner, Philippe Gilbert (BMC), Laurens Ten Dam (Blanco), Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Rui Costa (Movistar) and Andy Schleck (RadioShack Nissan).
The Frenchman was taken to hospital while Schleck later abandoned -the fifth race where he has done so for this season. With the rest of the peloton taking to an open field adjacent to the blocked road, the Amstel Gold suddenly resembled a cyclo-cross race and numerous splits appeared on the roads for the first time. Blanco, despite having a man down, relished the conditions and took to the front to drive the pace, with Cannondale backing off.
On the second time up the Cauberg, the gap was starting to come down, with the lead group’s advantage down to 8:15. More teams started to show themselves at the front of the chase with Movistar, Omega Pharma – Quick-Step and Katusha making their intentions clear. It contributed to the breakaway’s lead continuing to tumble, and with 65km remaining the gap was down to 4:45.
On the Loorberg with just under 60km to go, Astarloza and Vansummeren rode away from their fellow escapees. Pliuschin caught back on but the new lead trio would be forced to work hard with the gap hovering at just over three minutes. It was the first sign that not all was well in the break, and then again on the Gulperberg when Astarloza rode away from Vansummeren and Pliuschin, the latter pair unable to match his acceleration, with the Spaniard going it alone.
Just as the race came alive in the peloton, Katusha’s main hope, Joaquim Rodriguez, crashed heavily near Gulpen, along with Michael Matthews (Orica GreenEdge). Vacansoleil’s Rob Ruijgh would also get back up, his back would be covered in thick mud. They all got back on their bikes but Rodriguez's race was over and he seemed worried about a knee problem.
The key attack
As the peloton hit the Kruisberg with 42km to go, Blanco and BMC hit the front with the remnants of the breakaway – Vogondy, Sys, De Troyer and Overberghe less than a minute up ahead. Up the Eyserbosweg, Pieter Weening (Orica GreenEdge) launched an attack. He has some good form having collected a pile of top-10 showings at Vuelta al Pais Vasco and looked strong. However other riders came across from the peloton, including Blanco pair David Tanner and Lars Petter Nordhaug, Astana’s Andriy Grivko and later Kreuziger.
While the peloton mistakenly waited for the last Cannondale rider to chase, the attackers pressed on, smelling a chance of victory. Kreuziger looked the strongest and decided not to risk his chips and go all in on a solo attack.
Using his good time trial skills he surged clear and never looked back, carving out enough of a lead for the final climb of the Cauberg.
Behind him the peloton picked up the chasers, including Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp), who had made a huge effort to get across the gap. However Kreuziger was already over the top of the Cauberg and out of reach of Gilbert and the other chasers.
After two difficult years at Astana, Kreuziger is back to his best under Bjarne Riis' influence and gave the Danish team a much needed Classics win.
|1||Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Saxo-Tinkoff||6:35:21|
|2||Alejandro Valverdo Belmonte||0:00:22|
|3||Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge|
|4||Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step|
|5||Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team|
|6||Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col) Sky Procycling|
|7||Björn Leukemans (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team|
|8||Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica-GreenEdge|
|9||Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Astana Pro Team|
|10||Bauke Mollema (Ned) Blanco Pro Cycling Team|
|11||Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Katusha|
|12||Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Garmin-Sharp|
|13||Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Belisol|
|14||Nicki Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo-Tinkoff|
|15||Lars Petter Nordhaug (Nor) Blanco Pro Cycling Team|
|16||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team||0:00:23|
|17||Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team||0:00:25|
|18||Simon Geschke (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano||0:00:36|
|19||Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Katusha||0:00:37|
|20||Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Astana Pro Team|
|21||Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha|
|22||Benoît Vaugrenard (Fra) FDJ|
|23||Julien Berard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale|
|24||Yukiya Arashiro (Jpn) Team Europcar|
|25||Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida|
|26||Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp||0:00:38|
|27||Paul Voss (Ger) Team NetApp-Endura||0:00:46|
|28||Sergey Lagutin (Uzb) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||0:00:47|
|29||Ben Hermans (Bel) RadioShack Leopard|
|30||Paul Martens (Ger) Blanco Pro Cycling Team|
|31||Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi|
|32||Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz) Astana Pro Team||0:00:48|
|33||Daniele Pietropolli (Ita) Lampre-Merida|
|34||Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-Quick Step||0:00:57|
|35||Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team|
|36||Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling||0:00:58|
|37||Simone Ponzi (Ita) Astana Pro Team||0:01:07|
|38||Chris Anker Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo-Tinkoff|
|39||Tony Gallopin (Fra) RadioShack Leopard||0:01:11|
|40||Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre-Merida|
|41||Mikael Cherel (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||0:01:12|
|42||Andrey Armador Bikkazakova|
|43||Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Merida|
|44||Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Blanco Pro Cycling Team||0:01:13|
|45||Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick Step||0:01:31|
|46||Simon Clarke (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge|
|47||Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack Leopard|
|48||Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||0:01:32|
|49||Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi|
|50||Martin Elmiger (Swi) IAM Cycling||0:01:44|
|51||Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEdge||0:01:48|
|52||David Tanner (Aus) Blanco Pro Cycling Team|
|53||Kristof Vandewalle (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step|
|54||Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||0:02:13|
|55||Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica-GreenEdge||0:02:16|
|56||Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing Team||0:05:01|
|57||Pieter Serry (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step|
|58||Pieter Jacobs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise||0:05:27|
|59||Amaël Moinard (Fra) BMC Racing Team|
|60||Maxime Vantomme (Bel) Crelan-Euphony|
|61||Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Movistar Team|
|62||Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Argos-Shimano||0:05:28|
|63||Maxime Monfort (Bel) RadioShack Leopard|
|64||Reto Hollenstein (Swi) IAM Cycling|
|65||Matthew Busche (USA) RadioShack Leopard|
|66||Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling|
|67||Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling||0:05:29|
|68||Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJ||0:06:29|
|69||Matteo Montaguti (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale|
|70||Bart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto Belisol|
|71||Alexandr Pliuschin (Mda) IAM Cycling||0:06:30|
|72||Rob Ruijgh (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team|
|73||Karsten Kroon (Ned) Team Saxo-Tinkoff||0:06:31|
|74||Michel Kreder (Ned) Garmin-Sharp||0:06:34|
|75||Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin-Sharp||0:09:12|
|76||Francois Parisien (Can) Team Argos-Shimano|
|77||Pim Ligthart (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||0:09:13|
|78||Matthias Brandle (Aut) IAM Cycling|
|79||Stefan Denifl (Aut) IAM Cycling|
|80||Vincent Jerome (Fra) Team Europcar|
|81||Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Team NetApp-Endura|
|82||Sébastien Delfosse (Bel) Crelan-Euphony|
|83||Egidijus Juodvalkis (Ltu) Crelan-Euphony|
|84||Maciej Paterski (Pol) Cannondale Pro Cycling||0:09:14|
|85||Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Blanco Pro Cycling Team|
|86||Thomas Dekker (Ned) Garmin-Sharp|
|87||Roy Curvers (Ned) Team Argos-Shimano|
|88||Maurits Lammertink (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team|
|89||Gianni Meersman (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step|
|90||Mathew Hayman (Aus) Sky Procycling|
|91||William Bonnet (Fra) FDJ|
|92||Bram Tankink (Ned) Blanco Pro Cycling Team||0:09:15|
|93||Albert Timmer (Ned) Team Argos-Shimano|
|94||Johan Vansummeren (Bel) Garmin-Sharp|
|95||Sander Armee (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|96||Joshua Edmondson (GBr) Sky Procycling||0:13:15|
|97||Gilles Devillers (Bel) Crelan-Euphony||0:13:16|
|98||Nicolas Vogondy (Fra) Accent Jobs-Wanty||0:13:19|