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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, April 18, 2016

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary

Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence. - Vince Lombardi

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Amstel Gold Race team reports

Here's the report from winner Enrico Gasparotto's Wanty-Groupe Gobert team:

A historic victory of Enrico Gasparotto in the Amstel Gold Race

Wanty-Groupe Gobert rode this Sunday the Netherlands' only WorldTour Classic, the Amstel Gold Race between Maastricht and Berg-en-Terbijt (248,3 km). After a second place in Brabantse Pijl, Enrico Gasparotto won a historic victory for Wanty-Groupe Gobert.

"I had incredible legs today. Everything went as we planned. It is the most beautiful victory for the team", Enrico Gasparotto said. "The team did a really good job. We had a rider in the break and then Björn Thurau in a chase group. The rest of the team protected me very well. It was perfect."

Enrico Gasparotto

Enrico Gasparotto wins Amstel Gold

The team lined up with Mark McNally, Frederik Veuchelen, Marco Minnaard, Enrico Gasparotto, Björn Thurau, Marco Marcato, Kenny Dehaes and Tom Devriendt. The first goal was to be in the breakaway. The breakaway of the day of eleven riders with our rider Tom Devriendt got the green light after an hour of racing. They received maximum lead of 4'45" on the peloton. At 62 kilometres from the finish, Björn Thurau attacked with three other riders in a chase group.

At 16 kilometres from the finish, the breakaway was caught by the peloton. In the first meters of the Cauberg, Enrico Gasparotto attacked. Nobody could follow him on the climb. The Dane Michael Valgren made it back to Gasparotto as they passed the summit. "I knew I had to attack because Orica-GreenEdge was controlling the race for Michael Matthews. If I had sprinted againt him, I would have been beaten."

They rode together and increased their gap. Gasparotto beat Michael Valgren (Tinkoff) in a two-rider sprint. "I had to wait for the good moment because there was a huge headwind in the last meters. After the Volta a Catalunya I trained two weeks in Spain. I felt already good in Brabantse Pijl. This victory is for Antoine Demoitié’s family. Today, I had an angel on my schoulder. When I thought about Antoine, I went faster."

"After the tragic event we hoped to win a race. This victory is a reward for the whole team. A WorldTour-race for a Pro-Continental team is fantastic. I would like to thank the entire team", an emotional Hilaire Van der Schueren said.

General manager Jean-François Bourlart spent the day with different sponsors. Both sponsor and Bourlart were extremely happy with this victory. "After the tragic event of the last weeks, this victory will provide happiness and support to the whole team. It is Wanty-Groupe Gobert’s most beautiful victory since the creation of the team."

Here's Tinkoff's Amstel Gold news:

Tinkoff continued their strong season with Michael Valgren taking second place at the Amstel Gold Race. The podium position is the first time the 24-year-old Danish rider has been in the top three in a UCI WorldTour race, and was the result of a calculated move in the closing kilometres of the race that saw Michael and the eventual winner finish clear of the chasing peloton.

The 51st edition of the Amstel Gold Race started on a beautiful spring morning in Maastricht, with a hard course made up of thirty-four testing climbs and some technically-challenging roads ahead of the riders. The race was the first of the Ardennes Classics, where the one-day specialists hand off to the climbers and stage race specialists for the more testing, hilly courses. Highlights of the day were to be the Cauberg, which the race climbed four times, and was part of the uphill finish, while the route’s other climbs reached gradients of up to 22%, with others averaging 9.4% over their distance. This was never going to be an easy day.

For a one-day race, it took some time for a breakaway to stick. While there were attacks early on, it took 35km for a proper break to form, before a second chasing group formed 65km from the finish. With two groups in front of the peloton it was important for teams that these breaks didn’t gain too much time in advance of the finish, and while the six riders in the front group worked hard together, they were never much more than two minutes in front of the main group.

At 50km out however, the rain started falling. While this was only a passing shower, this made the roads slippery and cooled the riders down, as well as slowing both of the breaks as they took more care not to crash. As the climbs started coming with increasing regularity and with fewer rests in between, the riders started to drop off the back of the breakaways, as well as from the peloton itself.

As the race came closer to the finish, so too did the gap to the breakaway, with the peloton catching the chasing group at 40km out. With the chasing group caught and the breakaway in the peloton’s sights, the attacks came to bridge the gap. 14km from the finish, the breakaway that had stuck for so much of the stage was pulled in and the race to the finish started.

8km out, Tinkoff’s Roman Kreuziger attacked, testing the legs of the peloton in advance of the finish. While the peloton dug deep to stay on his wheel, there remained a gap between him and the bunch, until passed by another attacker and pulled in. With the attack gaining ground, the peloton started working again, but as the front of the group pushing hard to catch, Tinkoff could be seen riding calmly behind. With the final climb of the Cauberg to come, as well as the race’s finish, a more frenetic, frenzied mood descended on the peloton.

Into the final 3km, Wanty-Groupe Gobert’s Gasparotto went, and managed to stay clear of the peloton, but with 1.6km to go, Tinkoff’s Michael Valgren bridged to him and started working, with Michael working hard to increase the gap in an attempt to finish clear of the group. In a sprint between the two, the Tinkoff rider finished just behind the Italian to take second, and his first podium of a UCI WorldTour race.

Amstel Gold podium

Amstel Gold Podium. From left, Michael Valgren, Enrico Gasparotto and Sonny Colbrelli

From the race’s finish, Sport Director, Steven De Jongh, was happy with the outcome. “It was a really nice result and a great way to start the Ardennes classics for the team! We knew that Michael could do it so it's a good result for him, 2nd, and it is his first podium in the WorldTour and at a classic is nice.”

Michael echoed his Sport Director’s comments. “I’m really happy. I’d have liked to have won the race – that’s what I was aiming for at the start, but the way it turned out, when it’s so close you’d like to win, but I am really happy.”

The Tinkoff riders weren’t seen towards the front of the group until nearer the end of the race, which was part of the team’s plan, as De Jongh explained. “The strategy was to make the other teams with fast guys tired, so it would be harder to bring it back together at the end, and this worked out. I’m really happy that the plan worked and with the result we got at the end.”

With the race behind him, Michael could look at his performance and use it to improve in future races. “My big mistake this year was to try and stay in front and I used some energy on that, but in the end it turned out pretty well. When me and Gasparotto were away he wasn’t able to work with me, so I figured ok, if I just go to the left and try to pull a hard tempo and keep the peloton away, maybe I could beat him in the sprint, but I was dead in the end.”

Michael continued, providing some insight into the last climb and the closing kilometres. “The Cauberg is always really hard, but the last time the crowd helped me fly over it so that was pretty nice. The last 2.5km was really painful. I didn’t attack to go to Gasparotto – I just pulled a hard tempo and the other guys didn’t want to pull with me, so I closed the gap and just had to continue with him.”

With such a strong finish, and a podium position to wet his appetite for coming editions of the race, Michael had his eye on similar performances in the future. “I hope to win Amstel Gold in the future. Already at last year’s race I was feeling really, really good and this is a race that suits me very well, but it’s a really hard race – hectic all day and you have to be lucky not to have crashes, and if you have a puncture you’re also in the back. I was lucky today, and strong, but in the future I hope I can be even stronger.”

After the end of the cobblestone classics and a change to both the type of terrain and the rider line-ups, this early strong performance was a great start to the Ardennes Classics, as De Jongh explained. “The boys worked hard, did all the could to support Roman & Michael. With all the climbs and the technical route today it's easier said than done. There were no crashes also on a hectic day, which was good. Now we look ahead to Wednesday at Flèche Wallone.”

Adding to his Sport Director’s comments, Michael was pleased to be part of Tinkoff’s strong performance in the season so far. “The team’s on a good streak. We’re first in the WorldTour and then first and second in the rider classification. I think we did something right this winter with the training, so we can be really proud of ourselves.”

Bardiani-CSF sent me this:

With a great performance Bardiani-CSF leader Sonny Colbrelli has taken today the third place in Dutch Classic Amstel Gold Race, one of the most important race in UCI World Tour circuit. Colbrelli, who won the sprint of the bests, arrived on the finish line just after the two escapees, Gasparotto (winner) and Valgren (second).

“Just after the finish I was disappointed, I felt the regret I have lost a big chance. I won the sprint only few meters after the first two riders, and I was feeling really good. Then, looking to the performance, thinking how prestigious is the third place in this race, I forgot the disappointment and just enjoyed the podium. Many great riders finished the race behind me, this is the proof I did a great race” said Colbrelli.

“It was a hard race, especially when started raining and hailing. Keeping the firsts position was the key to save energy and have chances in the finale. When we faced the Cauberg for the last time I was third. I saw Gasparotto attacking and many riders of BMC, Etixx-QuickStep and Orica around me. I decided to wait, even if I was feeling good, thinking they were able to close the gap… but, as everyone saw, didn’t happen”.

“This podium is a big boost of confidence for the future, and not just for this season. I always thought Amstel Gold Race was a race suited for me, I really like it. Today I was closed to make my dream real and I gained an important experience. I feel I made a quality step and I can look to the Classics with new ambitions” added Sonny.

Next, Colbrelli will race the Giro del Trentino (April 19-22) and then have a rest to prepare for the Giro d’Italia.

Here's what Lotto-Soudal had to say about the Amstel Gold Race:

The 51st edition of the Amstel Gold Race was scheduled today and it became a hard day for the riders. Again it was a knockout race and the final passage on the Cauberg determined the result. The pace was very high right from the beginning but eventually a break was formed. Eleven riders managed to obtain a significant gap and they remained ahead for a while. At 64 kilometres from the finish Tosh Van der Sande attacked, three other riders joined him. Van der Sande gave a good impression in the chasing group. Then the speed increased in the peloton on the Eyserbosweg so a lot of riders were dropped. At 30 kilometres from the finish Van der Sande and his companions were caught by a reduced peloton which contained about 45 riders.

In the meantime the front group was reduced to five riders, the remaining escapees were caught at fourteen kilometres from the end. After that Tim Wellens attacked and he obtained a gap of about twenty seconds. On the Cauberg he was passed by the group of favourites. That’s when Enrico Gasparotto accelerated, only Michael Valgren Andersen was able to follow the Italian. Jelle Vanendert gave his all to close the gap for the chasing group with Wellens and Tony Gallopin but Gasparotto and Andersen fought for the victory. Gasparotto easily won the sprint and he pointed to the sky, in that way he paid tribute to his teammate Antoine Demoitié. Tim Wellens eventually finished at the tenth place and he was awarded the prize for ‘the most combative rider’. Tiesj Benoot abandoned the race in the beginning of the day. The young Belgian didn’t feel good and will get the chance to gain strength the next few weeks.

Tim Wellens

Tim Wellens on the attack at Amstel Gold

Tim Wellens: “We decided before the race that we wanted to ride aggressively. Pim Ligthart and Tosh Van der Sande did a great job, Tosh eventually was in an escape. After that he did some useful work for myself and the other riders in the group of favourites. I knew I had to wait long enough to attack because there was a strong headwind in the finale. Nevertheless I decided to attack on the Bemelenberg but due to the strong wind and the fact I was alone, it was almost impossible to remain ahead. It was a pity that other riders from other teams didn’t join me. If we managed to get away with a few riders, perhaps we could obtain a nice gap.”

“At the beginning of the Cauberg I was twelve seconds ahead but I needed about 30 seconds to remain in front. When the peloton accelerates you know it will be difficult. Eventually I was able to stay in the first chasing group, in that way I obtained a top ten place. In general I’m happy about my race today, I had a really good feeling. I tried to win the race by taking initiative but unfortunately that didn’t work out. I feel better compared to last year though, then I was unable to follow the better riders on the Cauberg. The way I raced today and the good feeling in my legs are two very positive things with the coming races in mind.”

Lampre-Merida's Giro dell'Appennino news

The Italian team sent this report:

Interesting result as future perspective for the young climber of Team Lampre-Merida Simone Petilli in the Giro dell'Appennino.

The twenty-two year old Italian talent obtained 7th place at the end of the 196.6 km distance from the start in Novi Ligure and the arrival in Chiavari and the 6 climbs covered, which contributed to make the 2016 edition of the Giro dell'Appennino very interesting.

The competition was made selective not only by the climbs, but also by the descents, which were insidious because of the rain which made them wet, and increased the difficulty level of the Italian race which was won by Firsanov thanks to an attack at 20 km to go, on the climb of Ruta di Camogli, which allowed him to reach the arrival as a solo winner.

Lampre-Merida (which could not put Feng in the line-up because of the flu) too lost one of its most precious riders in the downhill from the Passo della Bocchetta (-100 km to the arrival), where many crashes happened and in one of them Durasek got involved: he quit the race because of bruises and abrasions, which however seem to be not serious.

The downhill from the Passo della Scoffera and the climb of Colle Caprile selected the group to 26 riders and in this group there were Petilli and Grmay, who supported his team mate in the approach to the Ruta di Camogli, where the group chasing Firsanov was reduced to 7 riders.

The Russian rider was out of reach, so the members of the chasing group battled for a place on the podium: Petilli was aware of the fact that he was not fast as other riders of this group and so he decided to anticipate the sprint by attacking in the final kilometer, however the opponents controlled him. The rider from Lampre-Merida was 7th.

"The rain made the race more demanding, as did the high pace - sports director Marzano explained - Even if we did not obtain a place on the podium, we had good feedbacks from Petilli, who demonstrated once again his good fit and his skills in managing his energies in the race.

Interesting info from Grmay too, fairly good performances for Niemiec and Meintjes. Important support to the tram by Xu in the early part of the race.
Durasek's condition after the crash did not seem serious, so he'll recover for the next appointments".

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