Gasparotto Surprises With Win at Amstel Gold Race
Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) has stunned the cycling world with the biggest win of his career.
Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) has stunned the cycling world with the biggest win of his career. The Italian veteran took a three-up sprint to win the 256.5-km Amstel Gold Race, the first of the Ardennes classics, in 6:32:35. Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Belisol Team) finished second, and Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) took third at 0:02.
Cold, wind, and rain greeted the riders at the start in Maastricht. Many riders attempted sallies, but not until nearly 60 km did a break get free. Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale), Pello Bilbao (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Raymond Kreder (Garmin-Barracuda), Alex Howes (Garmin-Barracuda), Steven Caethoven (Accent Jobs-Willems Veranda), Cedric Pineau (FDJ-Big Mat), Simone Stortoni (Lampre-ISD), Sébastien Delfosse (Landbouwkrediet-Euphony), and Eliot Lietar (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator) were the escapees. Initially, the peloton did not lift a pedal to stop them, and within an hour the bunch led the break by 13:30.
The peloton woke up, and RadioShack-Nissan, BMC Racing Team, and Katusha began to chase. At the summit of the second ascent of the Cauberg (181.5 km), the break's advantage was under five minutes. About 15 km later, four minutes separated bunch from break.
The accelerations were putting paid to the aspirations of some riders. Tour de France champion Cadel Evans (BMC) was dropped and abandoned during the second ascent of the Cauberg. Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto Belisol Team) crashed on the Bemelerberg, rejoined the bunch, but was dropped for good when the pace picked up in the last 30 km. Matti Breschel (Rabobank) abandoned as well.
With 41 km remaining, Astana took command on the Wolfsberg. The chase cut the break's lead to below two minutes. Chris Anker Sorensen (Saxo Bank) set out in pursuit of the fugitives, which created another acceleration.
Ahead, Bilbet, Bilbao, Howes, and Stortoni dropped their companions, but Delfosse and Kreder got back on. With 30 km to go, the escapees led the bunch by 1:10. BMC began driving the peloton on behalf of defending champion Philippe Gilbert.
Fifteen km later, Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) attacked, but with BMC leading the chase, the Norwegian did not get far. The bunch reeled him in on the Keutenberg, the day's next-to-last climb. Ahead, Bilbet and Howes dropped their companions for good.
Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) made attacks that were reeled in. With seven km left, Oscar Freire (Katusha) attacked. The three-time world champion forged a 13-second lead on the pursuit.
Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) attacked while BMC led what remained of the peloton (about 20 riders). At the base of the last ascent of the Cauberg, Gilbert, afraid that Freire might stay away, attacked. The chase group caught and dropped Terpstra before splitting. Damiano Cunego (Lampre) and Lars-Peter Nordhaug (Sky) crashed while the peloton overtook Freire.
Sagan passed Gilbert, who was spent, but Gasparotto and Vanendert charged past the Slovak for the win. Vanendert angrily pounded his fist on his handlebars as he crossed the finish line.
Gasparotto, whose previous major wins were the Italian road championship in 2005 and a stage win in the 2007 Giro d'Italia, has spent his career as a spear career for others. "I have always been working for the others in these races," he said. "In 2009, I was working for Damiano [Cunego], and I had my best legs that year. Today, I was following the wheels, because I knew I couldn't beat a guy like Sagan in a sprint. Luckily, I was kind of an underdog and BMC had to do the work to bring back Freire."
Many of today's riders will meet again in La Fleche Wallonne on Wednesday and in Liege-Bastogne-Liege on Sunday. Who will prosper in the Ardennes? Who will falter? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!