Amstel Gold Race: Travel woes of volcanic proportion
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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Amstel Gold Race: Travel woes of volcanic proportion

by VeloNation Press at 11:11 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Amstel Gold Race

The eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull glacier in southern Iceland has created the first decisive split in this Sunday's Amstel Gold Race.  The volcano has left several would-be participants stranded due to the ash cloud that has taken residence over the skies of northern Europe.

Recently added to the list of non-starters are Caisse d'Epargne's pair of race favorites Alejandro Valverde and Luis Leon Sanchez, Briton Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) and the Cervélo TestTeam duo of Carlos Sastre and Volodimir Gustov.  Others have been forced take alternative means of transportation as they work their way north.

The Liquigas-Doimo team decided to improvise by making the journey via bus, Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Farnese Vini) has opted for a long train ride, and Cervélo TestTeam's Xavier Tondo decided to drive his car some 1500 kilometers from Gijón, Spain when his flight was canceled.  Tondo took a brilliant win in stage six of Paris-Nice last month, when he attacked the main break of the day 39 kilometers from the finish and powered his way to the line alone.

Others that feel they're in with a chance for a big result have made sure to find their way north for the first of the Ardennes Classics.  Team Katusha's Joaquim Rodriguez said he was fortunate to have found a way to The Netherlands.

"The truth is that I was lucky," admitted Rodriguez.  "When I arrived on Friday the airport had suspended flights to Brussels and Cologne, but they had one in Zurich that I could catch."

The Spaniard has had an impressive start to the season, winning the Volta a Catalunya, the GP Miguel Indurain and a stage in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco.  Last year's Liège-Bastogne-Liège runner-up was determined to take advantage of his good form.  Once in Switzerland, he met up with teammate Filippo Pozzato, and the two rented a car for the long drive to The Netherlands.

"The drive was good. We had taken turns at the wheel and got to the team hotel at twelve o'clock at night," he added.

Rabobank's Oscar Freire also had be be creative with making the trip from his home in Lugano, Switzerland to Maastricht.   Freire headed to Basel, Switzerland, by train after his flight to Düsseldorf, Germany was canceled, where he was then picked up by Rabobank's press manager Luuc Eisenga and driven by car.  Earlier this week the Spaniard said he was the team's best chance at a result, and after his win in Milan-Sanremo, would like to add another Classic to his win column.

The Footon-Servetto-Fuji made a concerted effort not to miss the Classic, with Dane Martin Pedersen driving 850 km from Copenhagen, Denmark to get to Maastricht, his Austrian teammate Markus Eibegger, who lives in Spielberg, taking a train to Cologne and driving the rest of the way, and Portuguese Manuel Cardoso and Spaniards Rafael Valls and Aitor Perez Arrieta heading from Santander, Spain for a 1300 kilometer drive.  Austrian Matthias Brandle and Italians Fabio Felline and Eros Capecchi drove 850 kilometers from San Bernardino, Switzerland with team manager Mauro Gianetti.

"This is force majeure. Nothing can be done against this," said race director Leo van Vliet yesterday.  "Several teams have contacted our organization in the meantime. There is a day tomorrow, but they are already taking all measures to be in Limburg on time. That is clever [of those that are making other arrangements]. My opinion is that the problem will solve itself, but most important is that the ash cloud disappears soon."

Those that raced the Brabantse Pijl in Belgium earlier this week will have already made the trip to Holland, but the others will have to make due without ideal preparation for the 257 kilometer race from Maastricht to Valkenburg.  Sunday's test will see the peloton take in 31 small climbs on small winding roads through The Netherlands.  Yesterday Vliet said that he expected all teams to be at the start line tomorrow, but his comments on the situation being a "force majeure" seem to indicate that he would make exceptions for teams that have difficulty meeting the six rider minimum requirement to start.


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