Amstel Gold Race
Spaniard grabs 2nd behind Kreuziger (TST), shows excellent form in the Amstel Gold Race before the Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, already conquered by the Blue rider
Third in the 2008 race, Alejandro Valverde started the 48th Amstel Gold Race with the aim of conquering the only Ardennes classic still not in his palmarès, and the Movistar Team proved to have the legs needed to make it onto the highest step of the podium. The Spanish rider took 2nd behind Roman Kreuziger (TST) after covering the 34 climbs and 251 kilometers between Maastricht and Valkenburg, with the four passages through the Cauberg as race deciders. The work from the telephone squad into the first crucial loop of ascents, in the final 80k, thanks to Lastras and Erviti contributed to reduce the gaps with the day’s first break and prepared the race for Valverde to respond within the strongest uphill specialists.
A seven-man attempt in the last circuit -with the climbs of Geulhemmerberg and Bemelerberg before a last ride through the Cauberg- served as launch ramp for Kreuziger, who reached the foot of the final climb -whose summit was less than 2k from the finishing line- with around twenty seconds, enough to make him unreachable by the favourites. Valverde, supported until the last climb by Visconti and Amador -involved in crashes with no consequences, that still ruined his chances-, responded quickly to the move by Philippe Gilbert (BMC) and Gerrans (OGE), and once the trio of favourites was caught, completed his great race sprinting to 2nd, back to the podium in Limburg -seven months after the bronze medal in the Worlds- and full of confidence before the Flèche Wallonne (Wednesday) and Liège-Bastogne-Liège (Sunday), where he already raised his arms victorious.
REACTION / Alejandro Valverde: “The finale was similar to the Worlds one, because Gilbert went away with equal strength and made the difference there. This time I was able to follow him and beat him at the finish. It was sad Kreuziger was still at the front, but he did an impressive work and deserves this victory. I’mr really happy with my second place. I’m not disappointed at all, because we could perform well and my feelings were good. I feel like I have more stamina and reach the finale of such long races in better condition than in the past. This obviously gives me confidence for the two classics coming up. More than Flèche, which I will approach in a more cautious way, I’m focused on Liège, the one that suits me the best. We could see I was strong today. Let’s hope we have some luck on Sunday to chase for that big goal.“