Kreuziger is Surprise Winner of Amstel Gold Race
The Czech rider surged away from the lead group in the last seven km to win the hilly, 251-km race in 6:35:21. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) outsprinted Simon Gerrans (GreenEdge) for second at 0:22.
Overcast skies greeted the peloton at the start in Maastricht. Not long after the start, John Vansummeren (Garmin-Sharp) attacked, and Tim De Troyer (Accent Jobs-Wanty), Alexander Pliuschin (IAM Cycling), Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi), and Arthur Van Overberghe (Topsport Vlaanderen) joined him. Nicolas Vogondy (Accent Jobs-Wanty) and Klaas Sas (Crelan-Euphony) pursued the quintet and bridged up to it. At 61 km, the break led the bunch by 10:43.
At about 150 km, on the second ascent of the Cauberg, a crash disrupted the chase. World road race champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC), Laurens Ten Dam (Blanco), Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Rui Costa (Movistar), and Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Leopard) were among those who were caught up in it. Voeckler abandoned with a broken collarbone, and Schleck abandoned as well, but without injury. The peloton rode around the crash through a field.
Blanco took control at the front. On the second trip up the Cauberg, the fugitives’ advantage was down to 8:15. Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Movistar, and Katusha joined the Dutch squad at the front. The break’s lead was down to 4:45 with 65 km remaining.
On the Loorberg, Vansummeren and Astarloza dropped their companions. Pliuschin joined the pair, and the trio’s lead hovered at about three minutes. On the Gulperberg, Astarloza set off on his own.
With 43 km to go, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) crashed along with Michael Matthews (GreenEdge) and Rob Rujigh (Vacansoleil-DCM). The Spaniard abandoned with a contusion of the left biceps muscle, and his status is in doubt for Wednesday’s La Fleche Wallonne and next Sunday’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege
Blanco and BMC led the peloton up the Kruisberg with 42 km left. Vogondy, Sys, De Troyer, and Overberghe were less than a minute ahead of the bunch. On the Eyserbosweg, Pieter Weening (GreenEdge) attacked, and Lars Petter Nordhaug and David Tanner (both from Blanco) joined him, along with Andriy Grivko (Astana), Kreuziger, Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha), and Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM). The chase group swept up Astarloza, and with 17 km left, Kreuziger made his move.
With 10 km remaining, the septet led the field by about 25 seconds. Nordhaug attacked, and Kreuziger, Weening, and Caruso joined him. Kreuziger made an attack of his own, and his companions had no answer. He breasted the Cauberg alone. Behind, Gilbert set out in pursuit, but Gerrans and Valverde joined him. The Spaniard and the Australian took second and third, respectively, while Gilbert settled for fifth.
Kreuziger was happy about today’s victory, but he stressed that he and his team would keep it in perspective. “Today, we had two captains, Nicki Sorensen and me…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 pedaled without thinking so much. I’m really happy about this win, and it goes to the whole team for a job well done. Maybe we’ll have a glass of champagne tonight, but there’s a tough week ahead of us, and we have to focus on the job.”
The next two Ardennes classics are La Fleche Wallonne on Wednesday and Liege-Bastogne-Liege next Sunday. Most of today’s riders will tackle those races. How will they fare? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!