Top 3: Schleck (Team CSC), Wesemann (T-Mobile) and Boogerd (Rabobank) on the podium. Photo copyright Fotoreporter Sirotti.
Schleck Wins Amstel Gold Race
One day after his 26th birthday, Frank Schleck (CSC) has given himself and his team a gift.
One day after his 26 th birthday, Frank Schleck (CSC) has given himself and his team a gift. The <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /?> Luxembourg champion surged into the lead in the last 10 km to win the rugged, 253-km Amstel Gold Race in 6:25:39. Steffen Wesemann (T-Mobile) finished second at 0:22, and Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) took third at 0:46.
The race was ridden in rainy, windy conditions. The hostilities began at 20 km , when Christophe Moreau (Ag2r) attacked and Erwin Thijs (Unibet.com), Michael Albasini (Liquigas), Bram Schmitz (T-Mobile), and Rene Weissinger (Skil) joined him. At 35 km , the quartet led by 6:00. On the first ascent of the Cauberg, Weissinger punctured and was disqualified for being paced by his team car. The other four proceeded without him, and they led the field by 11:00 at the summit of the Cauberg.
Rabobank began to chase. At 109 km , the break?s lead was down to 6:50. On the Gulperberg, the 15 th of the day?s 31 climbs, Christophe Moreau abandoned. On the second ascent of the Cauberg, Schmitz was dropped, although he managed to claw his way back on. Attrition was taking its toll.
With 60 km to go, the peloton was within 3:00 of the break. On the Bemelerberg, the 23 rd of the day?s climbs, Schmitz was dropped permanently. Thijs and Albasini picked up 0:30 on the descent.
T-Mobile led the peloton?s charge up the Bemelerberg. Wesemann attacked and about a dozen other riders followed, but the peloton chased down the move. A series of sallies followed, but Rabobank brought the field together with 40 km left.
Wesemann attacked on the Loorberg, and Igor Astarloa (Barloworld) and Leonardo Bertagnolli (Cofidis) followed. Wesemann dropped them and forged a 10-second lead with Rabobank continuing to chase. The German?s lead maxed out at 0:30.
On the Fromberg, with about 15 km left, Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) attacked. The Olympic champion bridged up to Wesemann, and a chase group composed of Sergei Ivanov (T-Mobile), Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner), and Schleck was 0:10 behind. On the Keutenberg, Wesemann slowed to allow Ivanov to join him, and a regrouping occurred. The lead group consisted of Wesemann, Ivanov, and Patrik Sinkewitz (all from T-Mobile), Bettini, Karsten Kroon and Schleck (both from CSC), Boogerd, Martin Perdiguero (Phonak), Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel), and 2004 Amstel Gold winner Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner).
Schleck attacked. His strength and a disorganized chase gave the Luxembourger a 15-second lead at 248 km . At the base of the final ascent of the Cauberg, Schleck led by 0:20. Wesemann set out after him, but the T-Mobile man?s efforts were too little and too late. Boogerd took his second third-place finish to go with three runner-up spots and his 1999 victory.
Naturally, the biggest victory of Schleck?s career elated him. ?I'm so happy right now and it's really hard to put into words how I feel, because this is such a great moment for me. I've been close so many times before, but have often lacked that last bit of luck.