Movistar Team leader finished in 4th place behind superior Gilbert (BMC), Vanendert (LTB), Gerrans (OGE); full commitment from team-mates in first race of Ardennes trio
Second in 2013, third in 2008 plus bronze medalist in the Worlds held over the same finishing circuit of today’s race… Alejandro Valverde keeps nailing victory in Valkenburg, finish of an Amstel Gold Race that witnessed the third career victory by Philippe Gilbert (BMC) in its 49th edition. The Movistar Team leader took 4th place after a consistent gamble by the whole telephone squad all the way through the 251km, with 34 small climbs, in the region of Limburg.
Iván Gutiérrez, Imanol Erviti and Jesús Herrada were the main three names by the Blues from the very start. Together, the Blue trio drove the pace into the bunch from the 80th kilometer, shrinking gaps of the early break, which got almost fifteen minutes. After several crashes -which left Joaquim Rodríguez (KAT), among others, out of contention- and the wear and tear caused by the Spanish team, Gorka Izagirre became the sole help for Valverde in the finale 25km. A late attack, including Van Avermaet (BMC), Voeckler (EUC) or Fuglsang (AST), wasn’t brought back until the penultimate ascent, the Bemelerberg.
Valverde started the final Cauberg climb in very good position and rode through it on the wheel of Kwiatkowski (OPQ) and Gerrans (OGE), but Gilbert’s strong move diminished the opposition and forced the Spaniard to contest the final sprint for a podium ultimately occupied by Vanendert (LTB), who jumped away after the top, and Gerrans. Sour taste for Alejandro, who will have two more shots next week at the Flèche Wallonne (Wednesday 23) and Liège-Bastogne-Liège (Sunday 27), both won by the ‘Bala’ previously.