4/15/2012 - TEAM NEWS!
Gasparotto wins Amstel stunner
Italian gets first Classics victory
Enrico Gasparotto (Astana Pro Team) won a thrilling Amstel Gold Race, timing his sprint to perfection atop the Cauberg, to win ahead of Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Belisol Team) and Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale).
Three time world champion Oscar Freire (Katusha Team) finished fourth after his bold attack in the closing 7 kilometres was caught in the final meters of the race. Two-time defending champion, Philippe Gilbert, (BMC Racing Team) had to settle for sixth behind Thomas Voeckler (Europcar).
BMC had controlled the race throughout much of the closing stages but Gilbert was left to do all the work on the final ascent of the Cauberg. His acceleration first brought back Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma QuckStep) and then Freire's dying legs to within touching distance. However the move proved as a spring board for the podium placers.
Sagan was the first rider to come around the Belgian champion but he too ran out of gas, with Gasparotto accelerating on his left and Vanendert on his right.
Maastricht treaty lasts until opening climbs
The riders had left the chilly start city of Maastricht with a blessing of rain drops and a cold northern wind on their noses. Typically many riders tried break clear on the first of the 31 climbs but nobody gained enough in the first hour of the race, which was covered at 45kph.
After nearly 60 kilometers of racing a large group finally was allowed to go. 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 lucky men.
During the second hour they gathered a maximum lead of 13:30 on the peloton, with no teams wanting to chase. Eventually RadioShack-Nissan, BMC and Katusha took the responsibility and gradually the gap went down.
When approaching the second ascent of the Cauberg the pace in the peloton increased even more and after the Vrakelberg a first group of riders was caught behind the peloton, including outsider Cadel Evans (BMC). In front, the breakaway group lost ground. On top of the Cauberg the gap was down to less than five minutes and that was also where Evans abandoned the race.
With 55 km to go the breakaway group still had four minutes on the peloton. Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) went down on the Bemelerberg and even though he was assisted by a couple of teammates his race was almost over. When the pace increased inside the final 30 kilometres he was dropped. Meanwhile Danish rider Matti Breschel (Rabobank) also abandoned the race.
The Wolfsberg, at 41km from the finish line on the Cauberg, was the first of the last string of eight climbs. It proved to be the ground where the Astana moved forward. The gap quickly dropped below two minutes and the speed went up another notch when Chris Anker Sorensen (Saxo Bank) attacked the peloton, without much success.
In front Bardet, Bilbao, Howes and Stortoni dropped their fellow breakaway companions although Kreder and Delfosse returned little later. The six remaining leaders entered the last 30km with an advantage of 1:10.
The break split further when Bardet and Howes accelerated again.
Boasson Hagen was the first contender to attack inside the final 15 kilometres but the Sky rider was unable to gain more than 100 meters, with the BMC trio of Mauro Santambrogio, Greg Van Avermaet and Gilbert holding court at the head of the race.
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