What's Cool In Road Cycling

Amstel Race Report

Armstrong almost there for Tour
Bartoli beats Boogerd on home ground

Michele Bartoli and Seguei Ivanov had the better of the Gold Race today because the teammates composed a duet in the leading quartet. But unlike Liege last week, they didn’t arrive in a pair. The names of their
adversaries were just a little too big. Michele Bartoli, Serguei Ivanov, Michael Boogerd and Lance Armstrong, that was the order in Maastricht this sunday.

Lucky for Boogerd he’d already won Amstel two years ago, and he’s been his country’s champion before in the Dutch Mountains. Because losing the Valkenburg World Championships here to Oscar Camenzind in 1998 might have posed enough trauma for the ever so nervous Rabobank frontman, now without the injured Erik Dekker. Dekker, recovering from a broken hipbone, beat Armstrong in the sprint in 2001. Boogerd did the same in 2000. Ergo, the Amstel trauma should now be with Armstrong. After three consecutive losses in Amstel Gold Race, we now know that His Majesty has
one weakness: Lance Armstrong just can’t seem to win a sprint after 200+ kilometers. But be assured: Lance looked strong and almost ready for the Tour de France.

On the difficult climb of Eyserbos, 25 km before the finish, Michael Boogerd decided that the remains of a group that had led since almost the beginning had done their job.The group that had stayed in front for 215 kms had already begun to fall apart on Gulpenerberg, with his Rabobank teammate Bram de Groot and
former teammate Bram Schmitz (now Bankgiroloterij- Batavus) lasting in front and the other young riders Stefan Kupfernagel (Phonak) and Stefan van Dijk (Lotto) overtaken just seconds before Boogerd’s attack.

Immediately after Boogerd, Armstrong, Bartoli and Ivanov reacted. And that was it, even though Lotto and Telekom took their responsibility and tried to get closer for Van Petegem and Zabel.

In the typical Dutch weather conditions (wind and rain, 7 C), most Italian and Spanish riders had given up long before that. Lucky for them, the area around Maastricht and Valkenburg where the Gold Race is laid out is so small that you’re never more than 10 kms away from the showers. Pity though that the we didn’t see those light-weighted Southern Europeans on today’s piece de resistance, the 22% Keutenberg. Because that’s where De Groot and Schmitz had to let go of the four new
front runners and where the race was really decided just like Redoute a week before – all in all the Amstel race story became almost a copy of last week’s Liege-Bastogne Liege.

After that, it was Ivanov and Bartoli taking turns in trying to get away, thus fatiguing Armstrong and Boogerd. In the streets of Maastricht, Bartoli won the sprint only because Ivanov (also very strong in Liege) had done too much work for him.

Man of the day: Definitely an incredible performance by Bram Schmitz. Even though he couldn’t keep up with the leaders on Keutenberg, the 24-year old still finished 17th in the bunch to grab some worldcup-points. And that after having stayed in front for just about the whole race like Erwin Thijs did in Flanders. Pity this was the only WorldCup race the 2nd division Dutch Bankgiroloterij- Batavus team were allowed to ride.

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