Alaphilippe comes 6th in Amstel Gold Race
The young Frenchman went one place better than last year, in an event decided once again on the Cauberg.
After a fast first hour of racing in Amstel Gold Race (Maastricht – Valkenburg, 248.7 km), with an average speed of 46.8 km/h, 11 riders were allowed by the peloton to go in the break and get a maximum gap of 5 minutes: Giacomo Berlato (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Matteo Bono (Lampre-Merida), Josef Cerny (CCC Sprandi-Polkowice), Laurens De Vreese (Astana), Tom Devriendt (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Laurent Didier (Trek-Segafredo), Fabien Grellier (Direct Energie), Alex Howes (Cannondale), Matteo Montaguti (AG2R), Kevin Reza (FDJ) and Larry Warbasse (IAM Cycling).
Soon, Orica-GreenEdge and Team Sky moved to the front and reduced the advantage of the 11 men, and when it hit 3 minutes, a group of four took off from the peloton. Among these was also Etixx – Quick-Step's Gianni Meersman, but unfortunately the action was a short-lived one, even if the rain came into play on Sunday for about half an hour, thus making things more difficult for the pack.
On the penultimate ascent of Cauberg (800 meters, 6.5%), Luxembourg champion Bob Jungels – in his first race after an altitude camp – made his way to the front of the pack and attacked in order to stir things up, only Enrico Battaglin (LottoNL-Jumbo) being able of following him. On the final passage of the finish line, the two had just a handful of seconds and were soon caught. On the flat run-in to the last climb of the race, the same Cauberg, Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) attacked and got 17 seconds in an instant, which prompted the fast reaction of Pieter Serry. The Belgian came to the front and began to chew into Wellens' advantage, which dropped until the foot of the hill.
Attacks came on Cauberg, but the one which got to stick was that of Enrico Gasparotto (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Michael Valgren (Tinkoff). They built a gap of 10 seconds and managed to keep it on the plateau that came after the top of the climb, before the Italian outkicked the young Dane and took his second victory at Amstel Gold Race. From the peloton, Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani) sprinted to third, thus rounding out the podium of the 51st edition.
Also in the chasing group was Julian Alaphilippe, who had Czech champion Petr Vakoč working for him, thus repaying the great job he did at Wednesday's Brabantse Pijl. The Frenchman, riding Amstel Gold Race for the third time in his career, improved his result of last season, finishing 6th, a good omen ahead of the next two Ardennes appointments, Flèche Wallonne (April 20th) and Liège–Bastogne–Liège (April24 th).
"We came here with the ambition of getting a strong result and we managed to be up there in the final. On a personal note, I really enjoyed the race and was happy to be in the main group in the closing kilometers after what was a complicated first part of the season for me due to health concerns", said Julian Alaphilippe at the finish in Valkenburg. "I missed some power to follow Gasparotto when he went, so I decided to wait for the sprint. I came 6th and considering everything I am happy, especially as I crashed during the race and had to change my shoes and chase back. After a long time I had good feeling today, and that gives me a lot of confidence."
After winning Brabantse Pijl, where he pulled off the biggest victory of his career, Petr Vakoč came at the start line in Maastricht as one of the riders to watch, and he led the way on the last ascent of Cauberg, before taking pulls at the front in order to help his good friend Julian close the gap to the two leaders on the road: "I was feeling good today, but I got quite cold when it started raining, so it wasn't easy for me, as my legs were hurting. Still, I continued to fight and after the top of Cauberg I worked hard and tried to bring the attackers back. I didn't have the same legs as Wednesday, but it was a nice experience and all in all I am content with my ride."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele