It’s another busy week in Europe, highlighted by the Vuelta a Castilla y León in northern Spain and the Amstel Gold Race in the Limburg region of Holland.
Saxo Bank’s Frank Schleck did not start Thursday’s fourth stage at the Vuelta al País Vasco, but the former Amstel Gold Race champion is expected to race the Ardennes classics later this month.
Luís León Sánchez (Caisse d’Epargne) came up first in the opening stage of the Circuit de la Sarthe on Tuesday in France.
Organizers of the Amstel Gold classic have announced the last of six wildcard teams invited to the April 18 event. Twenty four teams will participate. The new wildcard teams announced Monday by race director Leo van Vliet are Cervelo TestTeam, BMC Racing Team, Topsport Vlaanderen and Landbouwkrediet. Earlier, the Dutch pro continental teams Skil-Shimano and Vacansoleil received a wildcard.
Luxembourg's Frank Schleck has pulled out of Wednesday's Fleche-Wallonne race and is doubtful for Sunday's Liege-Bastogne-Liege after his fall in the Amstel Gold Race, his Saxo Bank team revealed on Tuesday. Schleck was taken to hospital after falling spectacularly during the Dutch race on Sunday but was discharged shortly afterward. The 29-year-old had hoped to compete in all three Ardennes classics this season, but his team said the seriousness of his fall prompted them to take extra precautions.
Beer wasn't atop my list of cravings as I inched up the Cauberg, rolled under the jumbotron and crossed the final finish line of the Amstel Gold Race cyclosportive. Pedaling 250 kilometers through Hollands hilly Limberg region had me wanting to get off my bicycle – pronto. The freezing rain that fell for the final two hours also didn't exactly put yours truly in the mood for some chilly suds. And after stuffing waffles and the sugary Euro sports drink Isostar down my pie hole for 10 hours, I craved something salty: corn chips, popcorn or frites.
Even though he didn’t race this weekend, Heinrich Haussler (Cervélo TestTeam), retained the top spot in the UCI world rankings. The German-Aussie sprinter headed to the beach following his impressive spring campaign and skipped Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race, but he held enough of a margin to retain the lead of the updated rankings released Monday. In fact, there were no major shakeups, with the exception of Philippe Gilbert (Silence-Lotto), who catapulted from 21st to ninth after finishing fourth in the Dutch classic.
Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank) and Matt Lloyd (Silence-Lotto) crashed heavily in Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race and left the course in ambulances, wearing cervical collars around their necks. Schleck, who won here in 2006, never lost consciousness and was later diagnosed as having suffered a mild concussion, according to his team. There was no immediate word on Lloyd’s condition. "It is not as serious as we first feared," said Saxo Bank sporting director Kim Andersen. "Frank is fine and that is the most important thing. I was really concerned for him when I saw him lying on the ground!"
Sergei Ivanov (Katusha) won the 44th edition of the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday in a dramatic two-up sprint with Saxo Bank's Karsten Kroon as a frantic chase fell just a few seconds short of success. "For me it's the biggest win of my career," said a clearly delighted Ivanov after emerging the strongest of a final three-man break that also included Robert Gesink (Rabobank), who hung on for third on the steeps of the Cauberg, just a few seconds ahead of the charging peloton.
Defending champion Damiano Cunego is among the favourites going into Sunday's Amstel Gold Race, the only spring classic which takes place in the Netherlands. The 258.6km road race leads from Maastricht to Valkenburg in the hilly Limburg region in the south of the country, near the borders with Belgium and Germany. It features 31 torturous climbs, culminating in a 1000m ascent of the notorious Cauberg, and makes a grim mockery of the Netherlands' reputation as a flat country.
Cervélo TestTeam has been the surprise of the 2009 spring classics. The new squad has been racking up impressive results, including podiums in the opening three classics with Thor Hushovd (third at Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix) and the sensational Heinrich Haussler (second at Milan-San Remo and Flanders). That trend continued this week with Dominique Rollin notching his first European podium with third at the Belgian semi-classic Scheldeprijs on Wednesday.
San Luis Obispo, California, 17th April 2009 - Columbia-Highroad is heading to the Amstel Gold Race in Holland on Sunday with no clear leader but with some key riders clearly approaching top condition for the Ardennes Classics. “I wouldn’t say my form is fantastic, but my winning a stage in the Tour of the Basque Country last week is a very encouraging sign all the same,” says Italian Marco Pinotti. “Amstel isn’t a race which suits me 100 percent, but we’ve got a very well-balanced squad and hopefully I’ll be able to do something to support the team’s overall effort.”
Sunday’s menu calls for beer and bergs in southern Holland as the top riders in the world tackle the Amstel Gold Race, the hilly classic named for its sudsy title sponsor. This marks the 44th running of Amstel, which, along with Belgium’s Fleche-Wallonne (April 22) and Liege-Bastogne-Liege (April 26), comprises the Ardennes week of racing. But while Belgium has already enjoyed a full week of Classics, the Netherlands has not. It’s no surprise that beer swilling Dutch cycling fans arrive en masse to watch their country’s premier cycling event.
Carlos Barredo will have some big shoes to fill as Quick Step enters the Ardennes classics without the dominating presence of Paolo Bettini. Quick Step has grown accustomed to dominating the spring classics, first with Tom Boonen and Stijn Devolder on the cobbles and then with Bettini in the hilly classics such as Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. With Bettini enjoying retirement, Quick Step is looking to the 27-year-old Barredo to step up and carry the team colors across the Ardennes.
Oft-injured Óscar Freire will be a surprise starter at this weekend’s Amstel Gold Race, something that will make title sponsor Rabobank happy. The three-time world champion is still on the comeback trail from his crash at February’s Tour of California that left him with two broken ribs and kept him out of Milan-San Remo. Freire made it through the demanding Vuelta al País Vasco last week and Rabobank team officials confirmed Tuesday that Freire will ride at Amstel.
It’s time for pedal-bashers like Tom Boonen and Stijn Devolder to head to the beach. For anyone with some gas left in the tank, there’s still some unfinished business at Sheldeprijs, typically the final sendoff for riders like Boonen before they take a break ahead of new goals later this season. After that, the whippet-thin climbers and hilly course specialists step center stage to dominate headlines for the hilly classics of eastern Belgium and southern Holland through the end of April.
Nothing was going to spoil Damiano Cunego’s good mood after winning in Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race. Not even a journalist asking him if he still believes he can be a GC threat in grand tours. In fact, it’s the question that perhaps Cunego is better suited to the classics than three-week tours that sometimes irks Italy’s “Little Prince.” Despite some hiccups since his breakthrough 2004 Giro d’Italia victory, he’s never lost faith that he can shine in both.
The Cauberg climb was the scene of a stunning finale Sunday of a wild, action-packed Amstel Gold Race that saw Damiano Cunego (Lampre) score a huge victory against the attacking Frank Schleck (CSC). Realizing his only shot against faster rivals such as Cunego and third-place finisher Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) was to attack, the Luxembourger surged away with a vengeance with 500 meters to go to drop everyone out an elite group of nine riders except Cunego. Schleck’s raid almost worked, but Italy’s “Little Prince” had another ending in mind.
The list of favorites for Sunday's Amstel Gold Race seems nearly as long as the number of years the race has been held: 43. For the first time in more than a decade, neither one of Holland’s eternal favorites for Amstel Gold — Erik Dekker or Michael Boogerd — can be counted on to carry national pride. Each won Amstel once, beating Lance Armstrong each time in what was one of the biggest wins in each of their respective careers.
Reigning Olympic and world champion Paolo Bettini has ruled out the possibility that he will ride Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race in the Netherlands. The 34-year-old two-time world road race champion has not recovered from the fractured rib he suffered last Thursday in the Tour of the Basque Country. According to his Quick Step team, the Italian hopes to be recovered in time for next week’s Tour of Trentino, (April 22-25), and be fully race fit for Liége-Bastogne-Liége classic on April 27.
It would take a true trivia buff to remember the last time a rider won a spring classic with a dozen stitches in his knee, but 26-year-old German Stefan Schumacher of Gerolsteiner did just that at the 42nd Amstel Gold Race on Sunday in the Netherlands. Schumacher, who crashed during the final stage of the Tour of the Basque Country on April 14, came into the Ardennes Classics quite unsure of his fitness, after taking four days completely off the bike in the week before Amstel Gold. He rode on the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday leading into the race, and decided to give it a go.
The second phase of the Spring Classics season begins Sunday with the 42nd running of the Amstel Gold Race on a 252km route of three differing but concentric circuits that begin in the city of Maastricht and end in nearby Valkenberg. Left behind with the cobbled classics are the unseasonable heat and dust of Paris-Roubaix; the weather forecast for Sunday’s race through the rolling green hills of Dutch Limburg in the southeastern Netherlands is 74 degrees and sunny. Also absent will be the majority of hard men who spent the past few weeks racing over the cobblestones of Belgium and northern
Many experts predicted that Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race would end in a bunchsprint up the climb to the finish on the infamous Cauberg hill in Valkenberg.The experts were wrong, and after a blizzard of attacks in the final 60km,CSC’s Frank Schleck emerged from a 10-man break with 10km to go and scoredhis first-ever classics victory. “It never hurts to attack,” said Schleck, who is the first rider fromLuxembourg to win a classic in more than 50 years. “I saw that [Sergei]Ivanov attacked, I saw that [Paolo] Bettini attacked, so I decided to takemy chance.”
Olympic champion Paolo Bettini is the hot favorite to win Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race, the eighth event in the 2006 UCI ProTour. The Italian has never won this challenging Dutch classic, but he came in third on his last appearance at the race two years ago, and he has won most of the world’s other hilly classics: Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2000 and 2002, the Clasico San Sebastian in 2003, the Championship of Zürich in 2001 and 2005, and last October, the Tour of Lombardy. At age 32, Bettini is at his peak. His climbing strength has improved over the years, his sprint is better than ever (as he
When does a classic become a classic? That question has often been asked about the Amstel Gold Race because it wasn’t founded until 1966. That’s 72 years after the oldest of the classics, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and even 30 years after the youngest spring classic, the Flèche Wallonne. But now that the Dutch race has reached its 40th anniversary, most people in the sport agree that Amstel Gold (which is actually "a sturdy, full-flavored bock beer" brewed by Heineken’s Amstel brewery in Maastricht) is finally a true classic. That certainly wasn’t the case with the first edition. Original race
You can’t help but feel the anguish of Michael Boogerd. Although he did win the Amstel Gold Race in 1999, by narrowly outsprinting Lance Armstrong, Rabobank’s lanky Dutchman has since been the runner-up no less than four times. The cruelest of those second places came on Sunday, when the latest man to beat him to the line was Danilo Di Luca, the revitalized Liquigas-Bianchi team leader who last week won the Tour of the Basque Country.
To celebrate the 40th edition of the Amstel Gold Race, the Dutch organizers are hosting this weekend as many of the past winners as could come. Among those who could accept the invitation are the inaugural 1966 winner Frenchman Jean Stablinski, now a septuagenarian, and the event’s most prolific winner, Dutchman Jan Raas, who won the race five times between 1977 and 1982. The Amstel champion who has traveled the farthest, literally from halfway around the world, is 1983 winner Phil Anderson. “This is the first time I’ve been back since I retired,” said the bronzed Aussie, who’s growing his
It had been seven years since Gerolsteiner’s Davide Rebellin had taken back-to-back World Cup victories at the Clasica San Sebastian and Championship of Zürich. And despite having won 30 races since then, he was desperate to regain the prestige that had been grabbed in recent years by his fellow Italians Paolo Bettini and Danilo Di Luca.
Reigning champion Alexandre Vinokourov leads a growing list of contenders for victory at Sunday's Amstel Gold Race, where the Dutch hosts will be hoping that Michael Boogerd's ship comes in. Along with compatriot and Rabobank teammate Erik Dekker, the 31-year-old Dutchman is the most popular rider in the country, but since his only win here in 1999 he has had to stop short of the top step on his other three visits to the podium. Dekker has also won the race, in 2001. Last year, “Boogie,” a stage winner on the 2002 Tour de France, had to shuffle with Lance Armstrong in the final kilometers
No one expected Telekom’s Alex Vinokourov to win Sunday’s 38th Amstel Gold Race. Least of all him. “I’ve never won a one-day race until today,” the 29-year-old Kazakh said after the finish. [nid:24206]That is, except for a criterium or two in post-Tour de France appearances. But a criterium is little league compared with the mega-status of a classic like Sunday’s. “I rode the last 80km of the course on Friday,” Vinokourov said. “I learned that you have to be at the front all the time. It’s very technical, turning, left, right, up, down, on very narrow roads.”
Former two-time world junior road champion Nicole Cooke of Great Britain won the biggest event of her young pro career on Sunday: the Amstel Gold Race, fourth round of the 2003 World Cup. The 20-year-old Welsh rider on the Ausra-Safi team – which is affiliated to the Italian Acca Due O squad – bridged up with the Spanish rider Teodora Ruano of Prato-Marathon to solo leader Oenone Wood of Australia, who went clear on the Keutenberg with 11km to go. The three joined forces on the descent of the Sibbergrubbe with 4km to go, then Cooke attacked on the finishing climb, the Cauberg. “We could
Try as he might, Lance Armstrong just can't win Amstel Gold. Second here in 1999 and 2001, Armstrong finished fourth behind born-again Italian Michele Bartoli in an exciting, attack-riddled race Sunday in the Limburg region of Holland. It's not as if he isn't trying. Once again, Armstrong was among the main protagonists in the 37th edition of this unofficial finale of the spring classics. Armstrong, along with longtime nemesis Michael Boogerd of Rabobank, made the decisive attack on the Eyserbosweg climb 40 kilometers from the finish in the 254km circuit race.
Year - Winner -- Average speed2001 - Erik Dekker (Nl), 38.265 (kph)2000- Erik Zabel (G), 41.304 (kph)1999- Michael Boogerd (Nl), 38.547 (kph)1998- Rolf Järmann (Swi), 38.276 (kph)1997- Bjarne Riis (Dk), 41.851 (kph)1996- Stefano Zanini (I), 42.688 (kph)1995- Mauro Gianetti (Swi), 38.509 (kph)1994- Johan Museeuw (B), 37.261 (kph)1993- Rolf Järmann (Swi), 37.344 (kph)1992- Olaf Ludwig (G), 38.323 (kph)1991- Frans Maassen (Nl), 40.135 (kph)1990- Adrie van der Poel (Nl), 39.599 (kph)1989- Eric van Lancker (B), 40.354 (kph)1988- Jelle Nijdam (Nl), 37.383 (kph)1987- Joop Zoetemelk
Lance Armstrong’s bad luck run at the Amstel Gold Race in the Netherlands continued Saturday with an ugly repeat of a narrow loss to a Rabobank rider. Two years ago, Armstrong lost by inches to Rabobank’s Michael Boogerd, heralding the Texan’s dramatic return to racing following his comeback from testicular cancer. In a repeat of a bad dream, Armstrong lost to Rabobank’s Erik Dekker this year as the pair charged into the finish in Maastricht clear of the chase group.
When most people think of Holland, they think cheese, windmills and tulips. Maastricht is all that, plus some surprisingly tough hills, that, when packed in tight make for a formidable challenge for the 36th Amstel Gold Race on Saturday, the fifth leg of the 2001 World Cup. While the hills, or beklimmingen in Dutch, at only a few hundred meters each hardly rival the giants of racing lore, 29 climbs over the 254km (152-mile) course at breakneck World Cup speed can prove punishing. In the tradition of the spring classics, weather forecasts call for a cold, blustery day with a chance
Organizers of the classic Amstel Gold Race have been forced to alter the event's course due to fears of foot-and-mouth disease, the Dutch news agency said Tuesday. New sections had to be added as roads along the border between Belgium and the Netherlands have been closed. In particular, the Pietersberg climb, the final difficulty in the race, has been eliminated as the road is closed to traffic. All bicycles and accompanying vehicles will be disinfected before the race gets underway in Maastricht on April 28. The Amstel is the fifth event in the UCI World Cup and one of the