Cunego Wins Amstel Gold Race
Damiano Cunego (Lampre) has won the Amstel Gold Race. The Italian took a two-up sprint from Frank Schleck (CSC) to win the rugged, 257.4-km race in 6:35:29. Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) finished third.
One hundred eighty riders began racing in sunny conditions. Early on, there was little activity in the peloton. Only at 40 km did Albert Timmer (Skil), Kristof Vandewalle (Topsport), and Yuri Krivtsov (Ag2r) escape. The trio forged a 12-minute lead before Rabobank and Gerolsteiner went to the front to peg the fugitives' advantage at 8:00 with 100 km left.
With 75 km left, after the second breasting of the Cauberg, the peloton began to pursue seriously. CSC joined Rabobank and Gerolsteiner at the front, and riders attacked from the peloton. On the Wolfsberg, with about 40 km remaining, Niki Terpstra (Milram) attacked. He bridged up to the leaders, but the bunch reeled in all four riders on the Loorberg with 36 km remaining.
The attacks continued. On the Loorberg, Robert Gesink (Rabobank) attacked and took Mario Aerts (Silence), Igor Astarloa (Milram), Philippe Gilbert (Francaise des Jeux), and Kim Kirchen (High Road) with him. Gerolsteiner rode down the move.
Lampre paced the field up the Guiperberg (229 km). The pace reduced the peloton to about 40 riders. Carlo Scognamiglio (Barloworld) and Denis Cattado (Liquigas) made solo attacks that the peloton reeled in. With 18 km left, Kirchen attacked on the Eserbosweg and Johan Van Summeren (Silence) joined him.
Van Summeren dropped Kirchen. Sergei Ivanov (Astana) surged into the lead, and Christian Pfannberger (Barloworld) joined him. Rabobank chased. On the Keutenberg (247 km), the day's penultimate climb, Schleck attacked and Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Cunego, Valverde and Joaquim Rodriguez (both from Caisse d'Epargne), Karsten Kroon (CSC), and Thomas Dekker (Rabobank) joined him. The chasers caught and dropped Pfannberger and Ivanov.
With 11 km left, Rebellin attacked his companions. They reeled him in with five km remaining. Rodriguez towed Cunego and Valverde up the Cauberg. Kroon took over and paced Cunego, Schleck, and Valverde. Kroon pulled off, and Schleck bolted into the lead. He led Cunego by a bike length before the 2004 Giro champion passed him in the last 25 m.
After the race, Cunego expressed surprise at his victory. "To be honest," the Italian said, "I'm surprised that I won today. I came here to make a test ahead of Fleche and Liege, but the legs responded in the key moments. There were so many attacks in the end. I had to bridge across to the final group, and I was worried that maybe I used too much energy. The finale was very hard. I had to give everything to be able to come around Schleck."
Cunego said that he rode the Amstel Gold Race to prepare for the Ardennes classics. If he won his tune-up race, what can we expect from him in the Ardennes? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!