Schleck's big breakthrough

After he crashed out of the Tour of the Basque Country and spent a couple of days in hospital, Sunda

After he crashed out of the Tour of the Basque Country and spent a couple of days in hospital, Sunda

PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM

At Team CSC they've been expecting it for some time now, and on Sunday it finally came - the big breakthrough for Frank Schleck thanks to his victory in the Amstel Gold Race, writes Susanne Horsdal.

Ahead of the race Karsten Kroon and Frank Schleck had been made CSC's captains, but after a bad crash in the Tour of the Basque Country that cost the Luxembourg champion two days in hospital, his own hopes of doing well in the Dutch spring classic were not too high.

"I knew I've been good in the last few weeks, the whole team has, but I never thought I could win here. It's a dream come true. This is my first big one," said an overjoyed Schleck.

The plan to launch what turned out to be the decisive attack came when it turned out that Michael Boogerd was isolated in the front group that had formed within the last 20 kilometres of the race. When Kroon and Schleck realised that Boogerd was the only Rabobank rider present, they decided to make a move.

"I decided to take the initiative on the Keutenberg. I was the first to go because Kroon is more explosive than me, and I couldn't wait till the Cauberg (the last uphill climb to the finish line), so I just went. I had (CSC manager) Bjarne Riis shout in my ear: 'Go, go, go,' and he knows what to do here (Riis won in 1997), that's why I didn't have to think about it," explained Amstel's winner.

The victory is no less impressive considering it's only about two weeks since Schleck crashed hard in the Tour of the Basque country. "I didn't break anything but I was knocked unconscious and spent two days in hospital so I lost a bit of morale. But Bjarne Riis, Kim Andersen and my family helped me," said Schleck, who turned 26 on Saturday.

For Riis, the victory was a confirmation of something he's seen coming. "This means everything for Frank. Now he's had his breakthrough and he deserves it, because for a long time he's almost been there. Today he showed his potential and this is not the last we've seen of him," said a very happy Riis, who decided on a shift in focus during the race.

"I could tell that Rabobank was having a hard time and that they were working themselves to pieces, but also that T-Mobile were strong, so I told Frank and Karsten to move their focus onto them and Bettini. And they did that just right," said Riis.

This was CSC's second consecutive spring Classics victory following Fabian Cancellara's win last Sunday in Paris-Roubaix, and with Ivan Basso coming in for Flche Wallonne and Lige-Bastogne-Lige the team seems the obvious one to watch. But that doesn't worry Riis.

"Sure, there will be a lot of focus on us in the coming races, but we can deal with that and we have a strong team for it," said a confident team manager.

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