Amstel Gold Race: Roman Kreuziger takes his biggest ever one-day victory
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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Amstel Gold Race: Roman Kreuziger takes his biggest ever one-day victory

by Ben Atkins at 11:19 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Race Reports and Results, Amstel Gold Race
 
Czech escapes a breakaway group with seven kilometres to go and holds off the World champion

 Roman KreuzigerRoman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff) took the biggest singe-day win of his career in the 2013 Amstel Gold Race as he escaped a breakaway group inside the final ten kilometres and soloed to victory. The Czech rider had escaped the indecisive peloton on the penultimate climb of the Cauberg with just over 20km to go, then attacked his companions on the Bemelerberg and managed to hold off the chase all the way to the line.

A three man group of Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) escaped on the final ascent of the Cauberg, under the impetus of an attack from Gilbert. Unlike in the 2012 World championships, however, which had finished on exactly the same spot, Gilbert was unable to shake off the others, and the trio was unable to close the considerable gap to the lone Kreuziger.

Hesitation in the three-man chase group saw the remains of the peloton catch them on the line, but Valverde still managed to sprint into second place, with Gerrans taking third. Gilbert was just unable to hold off Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), however, as the Polish rider took fourth place.

“It’s a big surprise but the team was excellent and my legs were very good,” said Kreuziger at the finish. “I am very happy to win this race after my friend Enrico Gasparotto won last year.”

The Czech rider paid tribute to the tactics and hard work put in by his Saxo-Tinkoff team.

“Today, we had two captains, Nicki Sørensen and me and with Karsten Kroon as our GPS, we were in a good position to achieve our goal,” he said. “The whole team did an excellent job out there and I was fully prepared for the finale and I was feeling strong all the way. On the final climb of Cauberg, I just looked down and pedalled without thinking so much. I'm really happy about this win and it goes to the whole team for a job well done.”

Kreuziger was able to climb the Cauberg alone, and felt the support from the hoards of Dutch and international fans who lined the barriers.

“I heard only the people who called my name and gave my best,” he said. “When I got to the top, I saw I had about twenty seconds and I was thinking only that I had to do it.”

The race saw a long distance breakaway from Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Tim De Troyer and Nicolas Vogondy (Accent.jobs-Wanty), Alexandre Pliuschin (IAM Cycling), Arthur Van Overberghe (Topsport Vlaanderen-Wanty), Johan Vansummeren (Garmin-Sharp) and Klaas Sys (Crelan-Euphony). The seven riders were 11 minutes clear at the halfway point, before the peloton began to close them down and, as the group hit the tough, hilly finale, it began to split up until Astarloza set off alone with 46km to go.

The Basque rider was caught on the penultimate climb of the Cauberg by a group of counterattackers, made up of Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEdge), Lars Petter Nordhaug and David Tanner (Blanco) with Andriy Grivko (Astana), with Pliuschin managing to hold on.

Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM) then attacked from the peloton, was joined by Kreuziger and Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha), and the three riders managed to join the six up front. The pace rose in the final 18.5km circuit, until Kreuziger attacked alone on the Bemelerberg with seven kilometres to go; there was no real co-operation in the rest of the group and the Czech managed to build a winning lead by the time he hit the Cauberg for the final time.

Despite the attack from Gilbert, with Gerrans and Valverde, Kreuziger was far enough ahead to take a comfortable victory.

Vansummeren pulls a break away as the peloton refuses to respond

The 251.8km race was made up of the usual sprawling snake around the Limburg province of the southern Netherlands, featuring a total of 34 climbs. The peloton would climb the Cauberg, in Valkenburg, a total of four times, with the finish line moved from its previous spot at the top, to Berg en Terblijt some 1.7km further on to the spot where the 2012 World championships had finished.

The breakaway was initiated by an attack from Vansummeren in the early kilometres, with the Belgian pulling Astarloza, De Troyer, Pliuschin and Van Overberghe away. Vogondy and Sys set out in pursuit; the two riders were 50 seconds behind the leading group as they crossed the finish line after 56km, and they caught up to complete the seven-man group shortly afterwards.

Meanwhile, the lethargic peloton was 10’43” behind as it crossed the line; the gap was then held largely static for several kilometres, but it was to peak at eleven minutes shortly before the leaders reached the halfway point.

Shortly before the race was to hit the Cauberg for the second time a crash near the front of the peloton saw it split into three pieces, with Gilbert among those delayed by the incident. The first part of the peloton was led by Blanco, as the Dutch team sought to make it hard for the World champion - and several others - to rejoin and, as they crossed the finish line for the second time with 86.6km to go, they had cut the gap to 7’25”.

The bunch was soon back together again, however, although the seven leaders were just 5’25” clear with 70km to go.

Onto the Loorberg with 53km to go, Astarloza, Pliuschin and Vansummeren dropped the other four riders and, as they hit the Gulperberg with 46km to go, Astarloza attacked and went on alone. The peloton was now just three minutes behind the Basque, with several riders now preparing to counterattack.

On the steep climb of the Keutenberg, with 34km to go, Weening burst clear of the peloton, and made short work of catching and passing both Vansummeren and Pliuschin. Nordhaug, Tanner and Grivko also broke away on the climb, and caught up with Pliuschin; the four rider group soon joined up with Weening but, with 25km to go, the Euskaltel-Euskadi rider was 1’26” clear the group, with the peloton now at 2’12”.

Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) then attacked from the peloton, which was being led by the Cannondale, BMC Racing and Omega Pharma-Quick Step teams, and managed to get several seconds clear as he approached the Cauberg for the penultimate time.

Onto the climb Astarloza was visibly beginning to tire, while Cunego was beginning to close on the chasers. Marcus Burghardt (BMC Racing) led the peloton not far behind the Italian, however, and he was swept up midway up the climb.

The final loop approaches and Kreuziger seizes the initiative

Gilbert and Gerrans rode up side by side at the front of the pack, but neither put in any sort of aggressive move. There were attacks from numerous other riders though, with Marcato getting away, to be joined by Kreuziger and Caruso; Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) also tried, but he was chased down before he could get far.

Over the line with 18.5km to go, Astarloza was 27 seconds ahead of the Weening group, with Kreuziger, Marcato and Caruso now just five seconds behind them. The peloton was just 55 seconds back, however, and seemingly poised to shut the race down.

On the Geulhemerberg for the last time Astarloza was hunted down by the chase group, as Kreuziger took to the front. The pace dropped Tanner and Pliuschin but the remaining six caught up with the Euskaltel-Euskadi rider just before he hit the top.

Behind them there were several attacks from the peloton, with Peter Velits (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol) and Gerrans among those to get a few seconds clear, but the group that formed was soon swept up as Cannondale led the chase.

With Velits’ move quashed Omega Pharma-Quick Step took over the head of the peloton and the gap began to gradually come down; with ten kilometres to go it was just 24 seconds.

On the Bemelerberg Grivko accelerated, which got rid of Marcato and Astarloza, but it was Nordhaug that got clear as they approached the top. This saw Grivko himself dropped, as only Caruso, Weening and Kreuziger could follow, but the Ukrainian champion caught up as they hit the flat section that followed.

Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) attacked from the peloton with seven kilometres to go, just as Kreuziger was escaping the front group. With no co-operation between the other four riders Nordhaug also jumped away; the Norwegian was chased down with five kilometres to go but Kreuziger was still increasing his lead.

Hesjedal caught up with the chase group on the descent to Vankenberg, with Ben Hermans (RadioShack-Leopard) also trying to make it across. Kreuziger alone as he hit the foot of the Cauberg, however, with the five chasers still more than 20 seconds behind him, while the peloton was beginning to wind up the pace in preparation for the expected battle.

Hermans was not far behind the chase group as he rounded the corner at the foot of the climb, but he was quickly swept up by the peloton. Gilbert then launched himself off the front - as he had done twice before to win the Amstel Gold Race, and once the previous September to win his World title - but Gerrans was gamely holding on to his wheel.

Valverde was holding on to Gerrans’ back wheel as they flew past the chasing group, but Gilbert was edging away from both of them. The World champion was clear as he crested the top, but he was still more than 20 seconds clear. Gerrans had been doing all the chasing up to this point but, as Valverde accelerated past the Australian, the two of them caught up with Gilbert as he passed under the flamme rouge with one kilometre to go.

Kreuziger was a long way clear, however, and was still pounding his pedals in the finishing straight. The Czech had plenty of time to sit up and celebrate, punching the air with both fists as he crossed the line to take his biggest one-day victory to date.

Having been caught Gilbert was watching the others on his wheel and the remains peloton was gaining. Valverde launched his sprint just in time though, and won the sprint for second place ahead of Gerrans, but Kwiatkowski managed to throw his front wheel ahead of Gilbert’s as they hit the line.

Result
1. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Saxo-Tinkoff
2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team @ 22s
3. Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
4. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
5. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team
6. Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky
7. Björn Leukemans (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM
8. Pieter Weening (Ned)
9. Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Team Astana
10. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Blanco Pro Cycling

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