Enrico Gasparotto takes a thrilling victory in the Amstel Gold Race
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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Enrico Gasparotto takes a thrilling victory in the Amstel Gold Race

by Ben Atkins at 11:16 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Race Reports and Results, Amstel Gold Race
 
Three-way sprint taken by Italian after Oscar Freire caught in the final metres

Enrico GasparottoEnrico Gasparotto (Astana) claimed victory in the closest Amstel Gold Race for many years, to go two places better than his third place of 2010.The 30-year-old Italian outsprinted Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol) and Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) on the Cauberg finish line, to take the biggest victory of his career. The three riders battled out the victory only after a late attack from Oscar Freire (Katusha) had been chased down, with the three-time World champion caught with just 90 metres to go.

Gasparotto, Vanendert and Sagan had all followed the attack of defending champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), who seemed to have recovered some of his familiar form after struggling for most of the spring. The Belgian champion faded close to the top however, as Sagan surged past, but the Slovakian champion was also unable to sustain his pace; as the three leaders finally overcame Freire, Vanendert made a dash for the line but a late charge from Gasparotto overcame the Tour de France stage winner on the line.

“I knew I could do it,” Gasparotto told the TV cameras as he waited to go onto the podium, “because I got third here two years ago; it was possible to arrive second, but in the last twenty metres I went too slow.

“This year I remembered that, and I was really concentrated for today’s race because I feel that it is a race for me; perfect for me.”

“I think my teammates did a good job for me,” he explained. “They stayed all day with me; so, for me, after 2005, when I won the Italian championship, it’s another big victory.”

Freire, having jumped clear inside the final seven kilometres, managed to hold on to take fourth place, and Brabantse Pijl winner Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) outsprinted the struggling Gilbert for fifth.

“Oscar Freire was in the breakaway and, I think, Philippe closed the gap and started his sprint too early,” recounted Gasparotto, “Sagan was strong, but maybe because of the crash [the Slovakian came down mid-race - ed]... the last metre was a bloc and I stayed in the right wheels…”

The battle between the favourites came about only after the long break of the day was pulled back. Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale), Pello Bilbao (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Cédric Pineau (FDJ-BigMat), Raymond Kreder and Alex Howes (both Garmin-Barracuda), Steven Caethoven (Accent.jobs-Willems Verandas), Simone Stortoni (Lampre-ISD), Sébastien Delfosse (Landbouwkrediet) and Eliot Lietaer (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator) escaped early in the race and managed to open up a lead that peaked at 13’20” in the first 100km.

The group was steadily reeled in by work from the Katusha and BMC Racing teams, but Bardet managed to hold out until seven kilometres to go; the 21-year-old Frenchman was only caught after the steep, penultimate climb of the Keutenberg, which led to Freire’s late bid for glory.

Rain and win welcomes the peloton to the southern Netherlands but the break goes anyway

The peloton set out from Maastricht in cold, wet and windy conditions and, after the usual flurry of early moves, Bardet, Bilbao, Pineau, Raymond Kreder, Howes, Caethoven and Stortoni managed to get away inside the first hour.

Delfosse and Lietar followed a few kilometres later, and managed to bridge across to complete the nine-man breakaway group. Once it was formed, the break was allowed to build huge lead over the peloton; BMC Racing and Katusha were setting the pace behind but, as they climbed the Cauberg for the first of three times - the seventh of 31 climbs after 72km - the nine leaders were 13 minutes clear.

The rain soon stopped falling, but the roads remained wet until late in the race, and occasional light drizzle continued throughout the day.

As RadioShack-Nissan sent men forward to join the working line at the front of the peloton however, the lead began to gradually come down. As the leaders hit the climb of the Loorberg after 97km, their advantage was down to 11’30” and was still falling; with 100km to go it was down to just 5’50”.

As the speed began to rise further, under the impetus of the same three teams, groups began to break off the back of the peloton. As the race hit the climb of the Sibbergrubbe with 80km to go, the gap to the leaders was down to 5’05”; more riders were shed by the peloton, with Tour de France champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) among those left behind.

First time over the Cauberg and the favourites are already getting nervous

Up the Cauberg and over the finish line for the second time, with 75km to go, the nine leaders were 4’37” ahead. RadioShack-Nissan, BMC Racing and Katusha were still leading the peloton, but Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Rabobank and Astana were beginning to lurk near the front in numbers.

With 62km to go Sagan came down in a small crash, but was calmly paced back up by teammate Daniele Ratto, and rejoined at the foot of the Bemelerberg; the gap was just 3’34” at the top, as Rabobank’s Matti Breschel dropped out.

A low speed crash at the top of the climb saw most of the Lotto-Belisol team come down, including team captain Jurgen Van Den Broeck. The Belgian had dropped his chain in the incident, and took a long while to get moving again; luckily it had happened at the top of the climb and the chase back on was not too difficult, and - with the aid of the Lotto-Belisol team car - Brian Bulgaç and Francis De Greef calmly paced him back over a number of kilometres.

With 45km to go the gap to the leaders finally dipped below three minutes, just as Van Den Broeck and his teammates made contact at last. BMC Racing was setting the pace but, as the Wolfsberg approached, the other teams began to bring their captains forward, with Gilbert’s Belgian champions jersey visible, as well as the golden helmet of Olympic champion Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), while Voeckler was moving up on the left side of the road.

The nine riders up ahead were still working well together, but their lead was down to 2’23” as they started the climb with 40km to go.

At this point Astana suddenly surged forward, putting almost all of its riders on the front. Many of the favourites began to nudge their way forward as the climb began, but the Kazakh team managed to regain control over the top, and the gap to the leaders had been slashed to less than two minutes.

The peloton is closing in and the break begins to fragment

This was a signal to those up front to end their day long cooperation and an acceleration from Bardet on the Loorberg, with 35km to go, pulled Stortoni, Howes and Bilbao away from the others. On the false flat that followed, Kreder and Delfosse managed to claw their way back up to the four leaders, but Pineau, Caethoven and Lietaer were now out of it.

BMC Racing was back in control at the head of the bunch and, with 30km to go - as the three riders dropped from the break were picked up - the gap was just 1’11”.

On the steep slopes of the Gulperberg, Bardet accelerated again, and this time only Howes was able to go with him. Liquigas-Cannondale led the peloton up the climb, with Sagan in second wheel, but Simone Ponzi (Astana) attacked over the top and managed to get away. The peloton was less than 35 seconds behind the two leaders with 25km to go, and was briefly gaining but, as Howes and Bardet began to work together one more the gap began to go out again.

Katusha pulled Ponzi back and GreenEdge came forward to help as they began to pick up the remains of the break.

Onto the Kruisberg - the fifth from last climb with 22km to go - BMC Racing came forward again, with Gilbert looking strong in fourth wheel. Several riders tried to come past on the steep slopes, but Greg Van Avermaet brought his captain through in the lead. The black and red team was now gaining on the narrow descent, and its pace had taken its toll on the climb; several riders had lost contact, with one group containing both Van Den Broeck and Sánchez.

The Olympic champion looked to have been caught out of position, rather than actually dropped, but faced a hard chase to regain the ever-shrinking peloton before the Eyserbosweg arrived.

Into the closing kilometres Bardet and Howes are still holding out

As the climb began, with 20km to go, the gap to the two leaders was still 28 seconds, but BMC Racing was up there in force once more. Bardet had looked the stronger on every climb until this point and, as the steepest part began, he left Howes behind.

Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) attacked behind them, with Van Avermaet and Gilbert bringing the peloton up behind him, and over the top they were just 18 seconds adrift, as Howes fought his way back up Bardet.

On the approach to the Fromberg the peloton had the two leaders in sight, as 2006 winner Fränk Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) showed himself at the front for the first time. Bardet and Howes took the climb together, but were watching one another all the way up, and had just a handful of seconds left over the top.

The pace set by BMC Racing saw Robert Gesink (Rabobank) and Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) dropped on the climb but, over the top with 13km to go, Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky) attacked.

The Keutenberg, with its slopes of up to 22%, saw Howes attack Bardet, but he couldn’t force his way ahead of the Frenchman. Boasson Hagen was caught by the shattered peloton, which was still led by Van Avermaet, and it was bearing down on the two leaders as they crawled their way towards the top.

There were now just ten kilometres to go, and Bardet was finally alone as he sprinted along the narrow road towards Valkenburg. As Fränk Schleck hit the front again, Gasparotto attacked, but the peloton was on him straight away.

It’s all over for the breakaway but an old champion escapes

This saw Bardet’s slim lead disappear entirely, and it was finally all over for the Frenchman with nine kilometres to go. This led to an immediate attack from Voeckler, with Sagan in tow, but Katusha was closing every move down at this point, with Joaquim Rodríguez and Oscar Freire both still present in what was left of the peloton.

With seven kilometres to go though, as Voeckler and Sagan were caught, Freire himself attacked. Van Avermaet took up his station on the front again, but the four-time World champion had opened himself a healthy lead as he hit the outskirts of the finishing town.

With 5km to go Freire had a lead of 17 seconds, but this was down to 12 seconds with 4km to go. Inside the final three kilometres Terpstra attacked again, and began to reel in the lone Spaniard, but Freire was still clear as he hit the foot of the final climb to the Cauberg.

Freire was climbing out of the saddle, as was Terpstra behind him, but Gilbert had hit the front and the Dutchman was being reeled in. As he caught the Dutchman, the Belgian champion accelerated and, in the fight to follow his wheel, 2008 winner Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) and Lars Petter Nordhaug (Team Sky) came together and went down.

Gilbert was gaining on Freire with Gasparotto, Vanendert and Sagan glued to his wheel but, the winner of the last two editions of the race was clearly not in the form of previous years, and began to fade as they neared the top.

Sagan surged past Gilbert, and finally passed Freire with just 90 metres to go; Vanendert went to the Slovakian champion’s right, and looked as though he may have done enough, but Gasparotto sprinted on the left hand side of the Liquigas-Cannondale rider and hit the line just ahead of the Belgian, who brought his fist down on his handlebars in frustration.

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Amstel Gold Race, Netherlands (WorldTour) Results: Maastricht to Valkenburg (256.5km)

  Click on the arrowsat the top of the column to sort the race results.
Country Result Name Team Time
ita ITA 1 Enrico Gasparotto (Astana Pro Team) 06:32:35
bel BEL 2 Jelle Vanendert (Lotto - Belisol Team) s.t.
svk SVK 3 Peter Sagan (Liquigas - Cannondale) 00:00:02
esp ESP 4 Oscar Gomez Freire (Katusha Team) s.t.
fra FRA 5 Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) s.t.
bel BEL 6 Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team) s.t.
esp ESP 7 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Euskaltel - Euskadi) s.t.
ger GER 8 Fabian Wegmann (Team Garmin - Barracuda) 00:00:04
ita ITA 9 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2R - La Mondiale) s.t.
ned NED 10 Bauke Mollema (Rabobank Cycling Team) s.t.
kaz KAZ 11 Maxim Iglinskiy (Astana Pro Team) s.t.
lux LUX 12 Frank Schleck (RadioShack - Nissan) s.t.
ita ITA 13 Elia Favilli (Farnese Vini - Selle Italia) s.t.
bel BEL 14 Dries Devenyns (Omega Pharma - Quickstep) 00:00:09
can CAN 15 Ryder Hesjedal (Team Garmin - Barracuda) s.t.
den DEN 16 Nicki Sørensen (Team Saxo Bank) 00:00:12
esp ESP 17 Daniel Moreno Fernandéz (Katusha Team) s.t.
ned NED 18 Thomas Dekker (Team Garmin - Barracuda) s.t.
por POR 19 Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Movistar Team) s.t.
aus AUS 20 Simon Gerrans (GreenEdge Cycling Team) 00:00:19
col COL 21 Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Sky Procycling) s.t.
esp ESP 22 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Movistar Team) 00:00:22
ned NED 23 Karsten Kroon (Team Saxo Bank) s.t.
esp ESP 24 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Katusha Team) s.t.
fra FRA 25 Romain Bardet (Ag2R - La Mondiale) 00:00:30
ita ITA 26 Giovanni Visconti (Movistar Team) 00:00:36
blr BLR 27 Vasil Kiryienka (Movistar Team) s.t.
ned NED 28 Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma - Quickstep) s.t.
cro CRO 29 Robert Kiserlovski (Astana Pro Team) s.t.
usa USA 30 Alex Howes (Team Garmin - Barracuda) 00:00:47
ita ITA 31 Damiano Cunego (Lampre - ISD) 00:00:51
fra FRA 32 Mickael Cherel (Ag2R - La Mondiale) 00:01:05
ger GER 33 Paul Martens (Rabobank Cycling Team) s.t.
den DEN 34 Chris Anker Sorensen (Team Saxo Bank) s.t.
ita ITA 35 Daniele Pietropolli (Lampre - ISD) s.t.
bel BEL 36 Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team) s.t.
fra FRA 37 Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma - Quickstep) s.t.
ned NED 38 Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil - DCM Pro Cycling Team) 00:01:17
bel BEL 39 Gianni Meersman (Lotto - Belisol Team) s.t.
swe SWE 40 Thomas Löfkvist (Sky Procycling) s.t.
fra FRA 41 Arthur Vichot (Equipe Cycliste FDJ - BigMat) 00:01:30
fra FRA 42 Vincent Jerome (Europcar) s.t.
bel BEL 43 Pieter Serry (Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator) 00:02:03
ger GER 44 Simon Geschke (Argos-Shimano) s.t.
bel BEL 45 Davy Commeijne (Landbouwkrediet - Euphony) s.t.
ned NED 46 Tom Dumoulin (Argos-Shimano) s.t.
bel BEL 47 Laurens De Vreese (Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator) s.t.
rus RUS 48 Eduard Vorganov (Katusha Team) s.t.
fra FRA 49 Kevin Reza (Europcar) s.t.
fra FRA 50 Benoit Vaugrenard (Equipe Cycliste FDJ - BigMat) s.t.
bel BEL 51 Pieter Jacobs (Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator) s.t.
ned NED 52 Robert Gesink (Rabobank Cycling Team) s.t.
bel BEL 53 Kevin De Weert (Omega Pharma - Quickstep) s.t.
esp ESP 54 Esteban Martinez () s.t.
ita ITA 55 Matteo Carrara (Vacansoleil - DCM Pro Cycling Team) s.t.
ned NED 56 Dirk Bellemakers (Landbouwkrediet - Euphony) s.t.
ita ITA 57 Manuele Mori (Lampre - ISD) s.t.
fra FRA 58 Anthony Roux (Equipe Cycliste FDJ - BigMat) s.t.
ned NED 59 Steven Kruijswijk (Rabobank Cycling Team) s.t.
ned NED 60 Michel Kreder (Team Garmin - Barracuda) s.t.
ned NED 61 Rob Ruijgh (Vacansoleil - DCM Pro Cycling Team) s.t.
nor NOR 62 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky Procycling) s.t.
esp ESP 63 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Movistar Team) 00:02:21
fra FRA 64 Romain Sicard (Euskaltel - Euskadi) s.t.
fra FRA 65 Geoffrey Soupe (Equipe Cycliste FDJ - BigMat) s.t.
ita ITA 66 Pier Paolo De Negri (Farnese Vini - Selle Italia) s.t.
ita ITA 67 Francesco Gavazzi (Astana Pro Team) s.t.
rus RUS 68 Evgeni Petrov (Astana Pro Team) s.t.
esp ESP 69 Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Euskaltel - Euskadi) s.t.
bel BEL 70 Ben Hermans (RadioShack - Nissan) s.t.
fra FRA 71 Jérome Pineau (Omega Pharma - Quickstep) s.t.
ita ITA 72 Federico Canuti (Liquigas - Cannondale) s.t.
pol POL 73 Maciej Paterski (Liquigas - Cannondale) s.t.
bel BEL 74 Maxime Monfort (RadioShack - Nissan) s.t.
irl IRL 75 Daniel Martin (Team Garmin - Barracuda) s.t.
aus AUS 76 David Tanner (Team Saxo Bank) s.t.
esp ESP 77 Pablo Lastras Garcia (Movistar Team) s.t.
ukr UKR 78 Andriy Grivko (Astana Pro Team) s.t.
ita ITA 79 Mauro Santambrogio (BMC Racing Team) 00:02:40
ita ITA 80 Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil - DCM Pro Cycling Team) 00:02:51
bel BEL 81 Sander Armee (Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator) 00:03:01
usa USA 82 Chris Horner (RadioShack - Nissan) 00:03:19
esp ESP 83 Angel Ruiz Madrazo (Movistar Team) 00:03:43
fra FRA 84 Arnaud Gerard (Equipe Cycliste FDJ - BigMat) 00:04:32
svk SVK 85 Martin Velits (Omega Pharma - Quickstep) s.t.
por POR 86 Bruno Manuel Silva Pires (Team Saxo Bank) 00:04:46
sui SUI 87 Michael Albasini (GreenEdge Cycling Team) s.t.
esp ESP 88 Imanol Erviti Ollo (Movistar Team) s.t.
bel BEL 89 Bert De Waele (Landbouwkrediet - Euphony) s.t.
bel BEL 90 Johan Vansummeren (Team Garmin - Barracuda) s.t.
lux LUX 91 Andy Schleck (RadioShack - Nissan) 00:05:39
bel BEL 92 Dennis Vanendert (Lotto - Belisol Team) s.t.
bel BEL 93 Francis De Greef (Lotto - Belisol Team) s.t.
fra FRA 94 Angelo Tulik (Europcar) s.t.
bel BEL 95 Jurgen Van Goolen (Accent.jobs – Willems Veranda’s) s.t.
ned NED 96 Lars Boom (Rabobank Cycling Team) s.t.
ger GER 97 Johannes Frohlinger (Argos-Shimano) s.t.
lux LUX 98 Ben Gastauer (Ag2R - La Mondiale) s.t.
den DEN 99 Christopher Juul-jensen (Team Saxo Bank) s.t.
fra FRA 100 Julien Berard (Ag2R - La Mondiale) s.t.
den DEN 101 Troels Ronning Vinther (Team Saxo Bank) s.t.
ger GER 102 Dominik Nerz (Liquigas - Cannondale) 00:07:00
ita ITA 103 Alessandro Spezialetti (Lampre - ISD) s.t.
ita ITA 104 Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas - Cannondale) s.t.
ita ITA 105 Leonardo Bertagnolli (Lampre - ISD) s.t.
esp ESP 106 Xabier Zandio Echaide (Sky Procycling) s.t.
fra FRA 107 Yann Huguet (Argos-Shimano) s.t.
aus AUS 108 Mathew Hayman (Sky Procycling) s.t.
ita ITA 109 Luca Paolini (Katusha Team) s.t.
ita ITA 110 Simone Ponzi (Astana Pro Team) 00:07:33
ger GER 111 Bjorn Thurau (Europcar) s.t.
ned NED 112 Pim Ligthart (Vacansoleil - DCM Pro Cycling Team) 00:08:02
ned NED 113 Bert-jan Lindeman (Vacansoleil - DCM Pro Cycling Team) s.t.
bel BEL 114 Jelle Wallays (Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator) s.t.
ned NED 115 Reinier Honig (Landbouwkrediet - Euphony) s.t.
esp ESP 116 Xavier Florencio (Katusha Team) s.t.
fra FRA 117 Matthieu Sprick (Argos-Shimano) s.t.
bel BEL 118 Jan Bakelants (RadioShack - Nissan) 00:11:26
bel BEL 119 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto - Belisol Team) s.t.
sui SUI 120 Michael Schar (BMC Racing Team) s.t.
bel BEL 121 Klaas Lodewyck (BMC Racing Team) s.t.
bel BEL 122 Eliot Lietaer (Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator) s.t.
ita ITA 123 Damiano Caruso (Liquigas - Cannondale) s.t.
ita ITA 124 Daniele Ratto (Liquigas - Cannondale) 00:11:31
fra FRA 125 Cédric Pineau (Equipe Cycliste FDJ - BigMat) s.t.
fra FRA 126 Giovanni Bernaudeau (Europcar) s.t.
ita ITA 127 Matteo Rabottini (Farnese Vini - Selle Italia) s.t.
fra FRA 128 Christophe Riblon (Ag2R - La Mondiale) s.t.
aus AUS 129 Wesley Sulzberger (GreenEdge Cycling Team) s.t.
ned NED 130 Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil - DCM Pro Cycling Team) s.t.
rsa RSA 131 Daryl Impey (GreenEdge Cycling Team) s.t.
ned NED 132 Bram Tankink (Rabobank Cycling Team) s.t.
den DEN 133 Mads Christensen (Team Saxo Bank) s.t.
bel BEL 134 Steven Caethoven (Accent.jobs – Willems Veranda’s) s.t.
aus AUS 135 Simon Clarke (GreenEdge Cycling Team) s.t.
ukr UKR 136 Oleg Chuzhda (Accent.jobs – Willems Veranda’s) s.t.
esp ESP 137 Pello Bilbao Lopez De Armienta (Euskaltel - Euskadi) s.t.
bel BEL 138 Sebastien Delfosse (Landbouwkrediet - Euphony) s.t.
slo SLO 139 Borut Bozic (Astana Pro Team) s.t.
jpn JPN 140 Yukihiro Doi (Argos-Shimano) s.t.
ita ITA 141 Simone Stortoni (Lampre - ISD) s.t.
fra FRA 142 Steve Chainel (Equipe Cycliste FDJ - BigMat) s.t.
ned NED 143 Raymond Kreder (Team Garmin - Barracuda) s.t.
ned NED 144 Brian Bulgac (Lotto - Belisol Team) s.t.
ita ITA 145 Marco Bandiera (Omega Pharma - Quickstep) s.t.

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