Great team outing by Blues, with five riders making the main selection, brings no success against biggest rivals at first Ardennes classic, won by Enrico Gasparotto (AST)
The final rush didn’t get well to the Movistar Team riders after a solid performance during the 256-kilometer Amstel Gold Race, the opening race in the Ardennes week with 31 small climbs on the way from Maastricht to Valkenburg, in the heart of the Dutch region of Limburg. Well protected into the peloton chasing the 9-man break leading almost all race, with up to 13 minutes of advantage in the opening phase and surviving until the final 8k via a late move by Bardet (ALM) and Howes (GRM), the riders directed by Eusebio Unzué and Yvon Ledanois took a serious effort to make the big split and took a majority of their group -Valverde, Visconti, Costa, Kiryienka and Madrazo- into the 35 man getting together into the penultimate climb of the day, the Keutenberg.
At that point, just 10k from the end, Valverde was the best placed from the telephone squad into the main group that, firstly in pursuit of Voeckler (EUC) and Sagan (LIQ) and later behind Óscar Freire (KAT), came with winning chances at the foot of the Cauberg. However, the enormous effort to keep the pace -Rojas went out of energy and faded with 8k left- and a gap provoked by a crash in the final 500 meters ruined the Blues’ chances to get a good result in the first event in the Ardennes, with two stops to go yet: the Flèche Wallonne (Wednesday 18) and Liège-Bastogne-Liège (Sunday 22).