Armstrong 4th At Amstel
– Reported by Dan Osipow For Tailwind Sports –
After two near misses over the last three years – both times finishing second in a two-rider sprint to the line – the United States Postal Service Pro Cycling Team’s Lance Armstrong once again rode for victory in the Amstel Gold Race today in Maastricht, Holland. And once again, this time in a four rider sprint, Armstrong was unable to win the event he dearly covets, placing fourth as Fassa Bortolo’s Michele Bartoli took the victory.
Bartoli’s victory, his fifth career World Cup win, gave Italy its fourth win out of the five World Cup events this season while Armstrong’s performance gave the USPS team its third top-four finish at a World Cup event this season. Tom Boonen placed third place at Paris-Roubaix two weeks ago while George Hincapie took fourth at the Tour of Flanders three weeks ago.
Armstrong, Bartoli, 1999 Amstel Gold winner Michael Boogerd of Rabobank and Bartoli’s teammate, Serguei Ivanov, made the decisive move of the race with just less than 40 kilometers remaining in the 254 km event, which featured 33 short but difficult climbs. After attacking and leaving the peloton, the four breakaways caught the last remnants of an earlier six-man breakaway and with 25 kms remaining rode clear to a 45 second advantage over the main group. With the Fassa Bortolo riders holding all the cards over Armstrong and Boogerd, Armstrong aggressively countered moves by both Ivanov and Bartoli before Ivanov brought back Armstrong’s final attack to go clear over the last climb of the day with eight kms remaining. Then it was Armstrong who reeled in an attacking Ivanov several times over the final five kms prior to the final sprint to the line, setting the stage for Bartoli.
“(It was a) tough call,” Armstrong said. “When you have numbers in cycling, you normally win. And it was two strong Fassas (today). (It was) tough to do much.
“I felt good,” Armstrong added. “I was sick two nights before so I didn’t expect much, but I was surprised. I tried to hang tough and see how it went. It’s a great event with great fans. The people of Holland, and specifically the people from the Limburg region, are incredible.”
After five events, the World Cup schedule will resume in early August in Germany and now takes a back seat to the sport’s great stages races, with the Tours of Italy and France on the horizon. .
As for Armstrong and his upcoming preparation, he said, “I feel fine. It’s hard to compare from previous years, but I’m satisfied where I am. The next two months will dictate whether or not I can win the Tour again. I need to really focus, lose some kilos, and not have any problems.”
AMSTEL GOLD RACE
1. Michele Bartoli, Fassa Bortolo: 254 kms in 6:49:17
2. Serguei Ivanov, Fassa Bortolo; s.t.
3. Michael Boogerd, Rabobank; s.t.
4. Lance Armstrong, U.S. Postal Service; s.t.
5. Oscar Freire, Mapei-Quick Step; at :52
27. Christian Vande Velde, U.S. Postal Service; at :53
33. David Clinger, U.S. Postal Service; at 4:23
61. Josй Luis Rubiera, U.S. Postal Service; at 8:21
74. George Hincapie, U.S. Postal Service; at 11:36
DNF – Floyd Landis, U.S. Postal Service
DNF – Pavel Padrnos, U.S. Postal Service
DNF – Matt White, U.S. Postal Service
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