Three Times Third for Simon Gerrans at Amstel Gold RaceSun 20 Apr 2014
Simon Gerrans rounded out the podium at the Amstel Gold Race. The Australian National Champion matched his previous best result, making it three times third in Valkenburg. Gerrans’ acceleration up the Cauberg capped off a plan perfectly executed by his ORICA-GreenEDGE teammates.
“Everyone did their job today,” said Gerrans. “We all did everything we could. We were beaten by a stronger guy on the day. We couldn’t have done much more, so we have to be proud of that.”
“Third time third – particularly with third last year – is a little disappointing,” Gerrans added. “I would have loved to have improved my result. The goal was to win today, so anything less would always have felt like we had fallen a bit short but to finish on the podium of Amstel Gold is still a pretty satisfying result.”
An eight rider move provided the early action. Pim Ligthart (Lotto Belisol) accelerated off the line, inspiring the formation of the escape that included Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Manuel Belletti (Androni Venezuela), Matej Mohoric (Cannondale), Pirmin Lang (IAM Cycling), Nicola Boem (Bardiani CSF), James Van Landschoot (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Preben Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen).
The group swelled to include ten when Christophe Riblon (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Jaroslaw Marycz (CCC Polsat Polkowice) bridged across to the leaders.
“We said in the meeting that if there were several riders from the big teams, we had to be there, too,” explained Sport Director Laurenzo Lapage. “There weren’t too many big teams in the break, so it wasn’t necessary for us to be there."
“Eventually, we had to put someone on the front to chase,” Gerrans added. “Albasini took on that responsibility, and he did a great job.”
BMC and Movistar had already begun the chase work by the time Albasini assumed his position at the front of the bunch – and that’s where he would stay for the next 100+ kilometres. Their combined efforts saw the gap tumble in the second half of the race. Forty kilometres from the finish, the breakaway had splintered, and the lead group was reduced to three. The trio clung to a three minute advantage.
“Mat Hayman had looked after me for the majority of the day,” noted Gerrans. “He stayed with me for the first 200 kilometres. When we hit the climbs, Mat moved me to the front. I needed to stay there from that point on so that I would be in a good position to respond to any attacks that it might be necessary for me to cover.”
When Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) attacked over the Kruisberg, in an attempt to bridge across to the three leaders, Pieter Weening spotted the danger move and jumped on the wheel. Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) and Tim Wellens (Lotto Belisol) had a similar idea. A six rider chase group with a small but steady advantage emerged.
“Everybody has his own thing to do in the race,” said Weening. “My thing was to go with breaks later in the final. When we’re not in the breaks, we have to chase, so it’s always better to have someone in it. The break was perfect for us. The other guys wee safe in the bunch, and they didn’t have to do anything.”
“I was there, and I was riding a bit,” Weening added. “I was not riding full to stay away. If I did too much work, we could have two minutes in front, and then it wouldn’t be possible for the other teams to bring us back. If Gerro had said in the end that he wasn’t feeling ok, then I would have gone full gas to stay away.”
With the third ascent of the Cauberg looming, counter-attacks began to come from the bunch. Weening’s group grew to include nine before the peloton upped the ante, overtaking the chase group and remnants of the break in the run in toward the line. Seven kilometres from the final passage of the finish, the race had come back together.
When ORICA-GreenEDGE put all remaining riders on the front of the field, it looked as if a small but mightly team time trial had taken shape to place Gerrans in the best possible position ahead of the final ascent. An army of blue, white and green jerseys massed ahead of the rest of the bunch, drilling the pace as they charged toward the Cauberg.
“Coming into the finish, Pieter and Simon placed me perfectly into the bottom of the climb,” Gerrans explained. “They gave me the opportunity to attack the last time up the Cauberg. Philippe attacked right past me, and he got a gap straightaway. There wasn’t any cooperation behind, so we were left racing for the minor places.”
Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Belisol) edged out Gerrans for best of the rest. Gerrans snared the final spot on the podium. Michael Matthews was the team’s next best placed rider in 12th in the race
“The teamwork today was perfect,” said Lapage. “We were never under any pressure. Our plan worked, but the strongest guy won. We’re happy with the teamwork, and we’re happy with the result – third in a WorldTour event. I’m really proud of the team.”
“I had felt really good coming into the race,” added Gerrans. “I was happy with my preparation. I wasn’t expecting a result, but I was certainly hoping for one. I was confident in the team and myself coming into the race today, and we all did a fantastic job. We would have liked to have won, but when you race the way we raced and come away with the podium, it’s a good day.”