Amstel Gold - Another classic, but not classic racing
The Amstel Gold Race reveals who might be bouncing back into form and who is being bounced out of contention.
Another weekend, another classic. To be clear I don't mean "classic" in the sense of an exciting race and one that will go down in the annals of cycling history. Instead the Amstel Gold Race was a litmus test for those whose form might be returning.
That said I don't want to take anything away from Enrico Gasparotto from Astana . I would dare anyone out there to say he was your pick for the day! But in that final fifty meters at the summit of the Cauberg he stabbed past Jelle Vanendert and my pre-race favorite Peter Sagan.
While the only action of the day was the final one kilometer climb to the finish line, Amstel Gold showed who was on the rebound.
In pre-race interviews Team BMC Racing's Philippe Gilbert was constantly deflecting about his chances in this hilly Dutch classic, and who could blame him. He is nowhere near the form he had last year and he knows it. But lo and behold, driving the peloton whenever a break got up the road was the red and black of BMC! I almost spit out my morning coffee in surprise.
Then on the final ascent there was Gilbert again and for a few seconds, as he bore down on Oscar Freire, I thought the Belgian might actually win. While he didn't (6th place), it showed that he was coming around to maybe some decent form. So the question I ask - can he bounce back for Liege-Bastogne-Liege?
Speaking of bouncing - Andy Schleck bounced his way to the back of the bunch at Amstel - continuing his underwhelming season - finishing 91st, over five minutes behind Gasparotto. His older brother Fränk declared he was one of the strongest with his 12th place on the day. It looks like those Tony Robbins motivational tapes are working...
But going back to Gilbert, I'll be the first to admit that I've given him a share of professional criticism these past few months. Perhaps this is all behind him and Amstel was the race that has given him better morale for the upcoming Ardennes races. I hope for BMC's sake that's the case as Cadel Evans DNF'ed complaining of a cold. Now, hot off the Team BMC media press machine, Evans is a non-starter at Liege-Bastogne-Liege and instead will be spending time at home recovering from his sinus infection.
In the big picture the Australian's performance in these classics aren't as critical as defending his win in the Tour de France. Sure, getting in the race miles is part of the build-up, but it's better to err on the side of recovery than push through and ruin his July. Because let's face it - at the end of the day potential BMC bike buyers will be motivated by the memory of a recent Tour de France win rather than finishing Liege in the middle of the bunch. And that's what matters at the end of the day - showing team sponsors the love.
Since I brought up the Tour de France allow me some