Sometimes you get great legs, good luck and redemption all in one race.
Roman Kreuziger won a thrilling solo victory in Amstel Gold and put plenty of disappointment behind him on the famous Cauberg climb.
The Czech stage racer made a bold move attacking out of the chasing peloton with 17K, bridged up to the break, rode them off his wheel and then held off the favorites by 22 seconds.
Not even World Road Race Champion Philipe Gilbert (BMC) could pull the Saxo-Tinkoff rider back. On the Cauberg, the Belgian went full turbo — happy that rival Peter Sagan was nowhere to be seen — and for a second it looked like Kreuziger was doomed.
However, Kreuzinger kept most of his gap and Gilbert didn’t even make the podium. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Simon Gerrans (Orice-Green-Edge) were the only riders who could hold his wheel and that spelled trouble. In the mad sprint for second, they both pushed Gilbert down into fifth — just like the fourth that teammate Greg Van Avermaet earned in Paris-Roubaix. Gilbert, BMC’s Nearly Man of the moment.
It was sweet redemption for Kreuziger, after his two disappointing seasons with Astana. Given the captain’s role in last year’s Giro d’Italia, he finished an underwhelming 15th overall and people started saying he didn’t have the talent to be a grand tour winner when the pressure was on.
At Amstel Gold, Kreuziger put it all together — tactics, good fortune, excellent form and the extra motivation that comes with knowing you’ve got a decent gap at the base of the Cauberg.
“In the last kilometer they told me I had 15 seconds at the start of the Cauberg and that was when I started to think I could win,” said Kreuziger. The Cauberg was never ending…”
According to DS Philippe Mauduit, the ending couldn’t have been any better. “Roman does this race perfectly and attacks at a time and a place which everyone around him knows is crucial but no one had the legs to follow him and he’s going solo to the finish line taking one of the most beautiful wins this Spring,” said Mauduit.
Well, the beer will be flowing tonight and Russian beer tycoon Oleg Tinkoff couldn’t be happier. No doubt, team manager Bjarne Riis will also hoist a few cold ones. After barely scraping together enough UCI points to crawl into the WorldTour, Saxo-Tinkoff banks eighty big ones.