Ivanov Wins Amstel Gold Race 2009
Sergei Ivanov (Katusha) has won the Amstel Gold Race. The Russian took a two-up sprint from Karsten Kroon (Saxo Bank) to win the hilly, 257.8-km classic in 6:38:31. Robert Gesink (Rabobank) finished third at 0:08.
Sunny skies greeted the racers and remained with them all day. Early on, Niki Terpstra (Milram), Rubens Bertogliati (Serramenti PVC), Sergei Klimov (Katusha), Yukiya Arashiro (Bouygues Telecom), and Albert Timmer (Skil) escaped, and Borut Bozic (Vacansoleil) bridged up to the escape. The sextet ran up a 14-minute lead.
Rabobank, which was unrepresented in the break, began to chase. Euskaltel and Caisse d'Epargne joined the Dutch squad, and within 50 km the gap between bunch and break had been halved.
On the second ascent of the Cauberg, Peter Weening (Rabobank) attacked. Oscar Freire (Rabobank) accelerated and split the peloton, with a 20-man group closing to within 0:45 of the leaders. On the Geulhemmerweg, Freire attacked again, and an 18-rider group forged a 90-second lead over the bunch. Behind, a crash took Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank) and Matthew Lloyd (Silence) out of the race.
Terpstra attacked on the Bemelberg. Freire kept attacking and eventually caught the Milram man. Marcus Burghardt (Columbia) and Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas) joined the pair, and the four led a Caisse d'Epargne-led chase group by 0:20. With 36 km left, the chase group caught the quartet on the Loorberg.
Dries Devenyns (Quick Step) and Koen De Kort (Skil) attacked, and Michael Rogers (Columbia) followed. They were caught on the Gulperberg. Devenyns tried again, and Enrico Gasparotto (Lampre), Roman Kreuzinger (Liquigas), Rogers, Matteo Carrara (Vacansoleil), and Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) joined the Quick Stepper. The peloton, however, reeled in this move as well.
Kreuzinger attacked, but the peloton kept him on a short leash. Ivanov attempted to bridge up to Kreuzinger but failed. On the Keutenberg, the day's penultimate climb, Simon Gerrans (Cervelo) caught Kreuzinger, and Ivanov, Gesink, Philippe Gilbert (Silence), Andy Schleck, Michael Albasini (Columbia), Christian Pfannberger (Katusha), and Kroon followed the Australian.
With 10 km left, Gesink attacked, and Ivanov and Kroon followed. With eight km remaining, the trio led by 0:20. The chase closed to within 0:06, but Kroon attacked on the Cauberg and Ivanov followed. Gesink was dropped. He struggled back to the pair, but Kroon attacked again, and Ivanov followed.
Ivanov was too strong for Kroon. He led the Dutchman with 200 m left, but Kroon could not pass. The Russian said, "I started my sprint with Karsten, but he was on my right, so I took him all the way to the right and he had to brake."
Ivanov added, "It's the victory of the group. Today, I had a strong team. Above all, [Luca] Mazzanti and [Alexandre] Botcharov that did very good near to me. But everyone did a strong performance....I took the win of my dream. It was ten years that I try to win this race." Thus did Ivanov hail the biggest victory of his career.
The Ardennes classics will be ridden this week. Many of the riders who took on the Amstel Gold Race will do battle in La Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Who will prosper? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!