Mauro Gianetti (Switzerland) snatched his second World Cup victory in a week by winning today's Amstel Gold race. The victory puts the 31-year-old rider in the lead in the World Cup standings with 100 points after five of the 11 races over the season. Gianetti was ranked only 117th in 1994, and now he's leading the World Cup competition.
Gianetti, blood showing from a crash early in the race said, "I knew I was in good condition and I knew I could take my chance in a sprint. Today I did very well because I saw the big names like Museeuw, Bugno, and Fondriest were following with all the rest, and I saw a chance to escape."
He dropped most of a seven-man break on the Halambaye climb, 16 kilometers from the finish, with only Davide Cassani (Italy) able to hold his wheel. Cassani's attack came as the finish banner approached, but Gianetti was strong enough to counter and win by a wheel.
Pre-race favorite Johan Museeuw (Belgium) managed only seventh place. Another favorite, Gianni Bugno (Italy), finished 22nd, out of any World Cup points, sliding into a tie for 13th in the overall standings, down from a previous 10th.
1. Mauro Gianetti (Switzerland) Team Polti 06:38:52 2. Davide Cassani (Italy) MG-Technogym s.t. 3. Beat Zberg (Switzerland) Carrera + 27 secs. 4. Olaf Ludwig (Germany) Deutsche Telekom 5. Jesper Skibby (Denmark) TVM 6. Alberto Elli (Italy) MG-Technogym 7. Johan Museeuw (Belgium) Mapei-GB 8. Steven Rooks (Netherlands) TVM 9. Gianluca Bortolami (Italy) Mapei-GB 10. Michele Bartoli (Italy) Mercatone Uno 11. Stefano Zanini (Italy) Gewiss Ballan 12. Andrea Ferrigato (Italy) ZG Mobili 13. Claudio Chiapucci (Italy) Carrera 14. Heinz Imboden (Switzerland) Ceramiche Refin 15. Francesco Casagrande (Italy) Mercatone Uno 16. Laurent Roux (France) Castorama 17. Enrico Zaina (Italy) Carrera 18. Sammie Moreels (Belgium) Lotto 19. Maarten den Bakker (Netherlands) TVM 20. Jens Heppner (Germany) Deutsche Telekom all same timeVideo in Words - The As I See It Story from Steve Bak
Today's course is 256km long and contains 28 (mainly short, sharp) climbs.
Very soon after the start, Gan's Eddy Seigneur makes a run for it, pulling out a maximum lead of 20 minutes. Whilst fairly usual, it is rather uncommon for someone of Eddy's standing to do this. I doubt if he will finish the race - during the last 25 minutes he has been caught for a full 8 minutes.
87km to go
The 10 per cent climb of the Epperheide arrives and two Gewiss (Giorgio Furlan and Stefano Zanini) and an MG (Davide Cassani) break off the front for about 15 seconds. Just over the top, a five-man squad set out to chase. They give up two minutes later and drop back into the Peloton.
This is the first proper break of the day. I doubt if the bunch will let them get too far ahead, the memory of the falling leaves of '93 is still hanging around. Furlan and Zanini are looking good, Cassini is just there to police them so just hangs on to the back.
Tafi takes over the bunch. Andrea Tafi has been the Mapei workhorse all spring and starts to bring down the gap immediately. Belli is just behind ready to help out.
Cassani still doing no work and the gap is coming steadily down. Two more Mapei have joined Tafi, one of them wearing number one. This makes him last years winner, Johann Museeuw but he is not wearing the white jersey which belongs on the back of the current World Cup leader. Perhaps it is still in the laundry. Mapei swallow up Gewiss and the race is all together again. Well done Andrea!
The 600m, 17 per cent Kruisberg arrives. The third Mapei is still leading when they hit this hill. He weakens halfway. The road is just wide enough for three bikes here. As he weakens, a Gewiss starts to come through on his left but it is Lampre's Maurizio Fondriest who takes over the bunch pace on the right.
At the top of the climb, Fondriest looks around. He has strung them out well but not made any kind of real gap. Team mate Vladimir Belli joins him and then attacks almost immediately on a the slight downhill, making an instant gap.
79km to go
On the next climb, the 15 per cent eyserbos, the German Champion's jersey (Jens Heppner), Rolf Sorenson and a TVM attack to chase after Belli. The TVM turns out to be Jesper Skibby who, along with Heppner drop Sorenson and catch up to Belli. The big guns take over the bunch speed and fetch them all back. These 'big guns' include Gianni Bugno, Maurizio Fondriest, Johann Museeuw, Michele Bartoli, Claudio Chiappucci, Andrei Tchmile, Gianluca Botolami and Martin Den Bakker.
The race is all together again as they reach a dual carraigeway. Actually, there are only about 25 guys here, half of them going down each side of the central reservation. For some reason a motorcycle takes to the pavement on this, probably the widest part of the course!
There is large group is off the front of the bunch at least 20 seconds. So far, I believe the following are in there:- Yates, Merckx, Den Bakker, Chiappucci (or it could be Chiesa), Bartoli, Gianetti (hey, he's here again), Jonker, Bugno, Fondriest, Museeuw, Tchmile, Bortolami, Skibby and Heppner. There are others in this very high powered group. A serious attack from here could well form the final selection. Yates attacks, Chia in his wheel, just probing, back they come.
67km to go
A steady hill and Patrick Jonker has a go but gets marked by, er... well, everyone else in the bunch.
Next to try is a Castorama rider, marked by Heppner. Next is an MG. Den Bakker and Sammy Moreals shut that one down. Apparently, the Castorama team are experimenting with a strange new shape of chainring, a cross between bio-pace, eggrings and a square (!!??) The UCI have asked to take a serious look at it to consider if it should come under the rules of homologation - which AIUI means broadly that if I can't buy it in the shops, they can't use it. No doubt we'll be have the details in the news soon.
Museeuw, on the front of the Peloton is looking around, it dawns on him that he and about eight other riders are off the front; Belli, Cassani, Dietz, Den Bakker, Moreels, Goubert, Zberg and Van Bon are in Johann's company.
There is confusion. The bike cameras are all over the place showing all manner of riders attacking, dropping back and catching but giving no indication of what is really happening. At one point, Miguel Indurain seems to be bringing up a chasing bunch but no indication to (of from) whom.
As the fog (in my mind) clears, it appears that the riders are all together again. Museeuw seems to be leading a group of about 80 riders, the biggest bunch I've seen today.
60km to go
At the foot of the 2km long, 8 percent Sibbergrubbe, MG's Cassani is on the front of this very large group. At the back we have Motorola's Stephen Swart, preceded by what looked like Baldato, then a TVM, then Cipollini, complete with helmet and pony tail, and I think it is Steve Bauer just in front. Nothing happens on this relatively long climb.
On the 12 percent Cauberg, Skibby attacks, marked by a Mapei and then Heppner, Ekimov, Fondriest and a Lotto are the second wave just a few seconds behind. Skibby is still powering up the climb. It is Museeuw in his wheel. Heppner and Fondriest are there and last week's winner Mauro Gianetti has got up to them. The gap is not enough for a proper split, though.
A minute later, Skibby and Gianetti are about 100m up the road with another rider and Jens Heppner (!) is jumping over the gap to them. A couple more minutes and they are all back together again.
The speed is very high until we arrive at the 8 percent Geulhemmerberg. Fondriest decides to have a go. Claudio Chiappucci sticks to his wheel and Ekimov goes with them. Fondriest eases up and Chiappucci attacks, Bortolami gives chase and goes past to take over the pace. Belli with a Mercatone and a Lotto. MG's Gianni Bugno leads the Peloton to fetch them back. Novell's Van Hooydonck is right up there.
Belli attacks again but he isn't trying to get away, just softening up the others I think. As he goes back in, Miguel Indurain comes to the front and Gianluca Bortolami attacks, taking a catapult from the Spaniard's wheel. Bortolami is travelling very quick, Indurain chases after him and sits on his wheel. The pair are 100m up the road and Telekom's Olaf Ludwig is crossing the gap. Ekimov and some more come over and that is the end of that one.
Lotto's Sammy Moreels attacks again and is hunted down by - yet again - Jens Heppner. They come back. Another MG opens fire and yet again, Heppner stamps it out. The attacks have been almost constant for the last half hour but the riders seem to have settled down now as they approach the last feed.
47km to go
After a good breather, a group of seven riders drift off the front of the Peloton. Gianetti, Zberg, Heppner, Cassani, Madous, Van de Laer and Cattai. The Peloton don't seem to be too worried. Tafi is again on the front to chase alone. On the 10 percent Muizenberg the gap is 25 seconds as three Gewiss riders move up to chase. Not very hard because the gap goes up to 35" and looks to be growing further.
38km to go
The group of seven leaders are working well to stay up the road as the gap goes up more, to 50 seconds. Time to take stock. After 227km have been covered we enter Belgium. There is a break of seven riders less than a minute up the road. They are; Mauro Gianetti (Polti), Beat Zberg (Carrera), Jens Heppner (Telekom), Davide Cassani (MG), Laurent Madous (Castorama), Jim Van de Laer (can't remember) and Stefano Cattai (ZG Mobili).
The leaders are still sharing the work but not nearly as smoothly as before. The Peloton do not seem all that interested. On or around the front of the bunch, Bugno, Ekimov, Volpi and Ludwig are hovering.
26km to go
On a steady hill, Belli attacks again and is quickly marked out.
Gianetti attacks the leaders and Fondriest attacks the chasers. Gianetti is caught but continues to make the pace until Heppner helps out. The gap is 45" to Fondriest who is only about 300m up the road from the bunch, which is now less than 30 riders strong. Maurizio Fondriest is really hammering away and is within 30 seconds of the leaders. The gap drops rapidly to 21 seconds.
The 16 per cent climb of the Halembaye arrives and Mauro Gianetti takes over the pace. As Fondriest is catching the leaders, Gianetti is also putting the presuure on them from the front. This pressure is telling. The leaders are stretching out and beginning to fall off the back. Withing 20 seconds, only Heppner and Cassani are still with Gianetti. The Swiss screws it on even more. He is torching the break and leaves them smouldering as he dissapears up the road alone.
At the same time, Fondriest is doing the same at the back. He has caught the straggling leaders. Straight past Cattani and then Jim Van de Laer as if they were spectators. The difference in speed is amazing.
Cassani goes over the top and storms down the other side at 50mph trying to catch the Swiss. Fondriest is still going flat out.
14km to go
Cassani has the advantage of being a much bigger man for this downhill and catches Gianetti. He sits in his wheel and shouts a few words at Gianetti. I don't know what he is saying. Tchmile attacks the bunch, Bortolami and Casagrande pull him back. That was short and sweet.
We now have a leading pair of Gianetti and Cassani. The Peloton are nearly a minute behind and there are five ex-leaders spread out between the leaders and the Peloton. In addition, Maurizio Fondriest is rampaging somewhere up the road, in front of the Peloton - probably amid the ex-leaders.
A short 8 percent climb comes and goes.
Gianetti has done all the work since Cassani caught him. Behind, Fondriest can see two riders about 300m up the road but I can't tell if these are more remnants of the old leading group or the leaders themselves. Neither Maurizio nor Mauro are letting up for an instant.
Ah! it is Zberg and Heppner in front of Fondriest. Maurizio catches and passes them easily but the pair find new energy and manage to jump on his wheel. Gianetti is still towing Cassani.
MG (Cassani's team!) are pulling the bunch. First Gianni Bugno, then Baldato. Museeuw refuses to come through. Gianetti is still towing Cassani, Fondriest is 25 seconds behind him and is still pulling Heppner and Zberg.
Gianetti gives a Cassani a rather dirty look and Davide comes through to take a short pull. Also, Heppner gives Fondriest a little help. Further down the road, Elli and Den Bakker are off the front of the bunch.
Suddenly Elli and Den Bakker have caught the Fondriest trio. They sit on the back for a while. After a minute or so, Elli has a chat with Zberg and discovers that they are not the leaders but a chasing group some twenty seconds or so behind a leading duo.
Gianetti is protesting vociferously at Cassani. The Swiss daren't let up the pace - not with a man like Fondriest just 20 seconds behind and chasing in a group. On the other hand, the MG seems intent on doing as little as possible until the finish straight.
5km to go
The last climb of the day is here. It is the 7 percent Zonnerberg. Cassani is still wheelsucking as Gianetti tries to drop him. No success but Mauro's efforts have stretched the gap to 38 seconds. On the same climb, Fondriest attacks. Elli goes with him. Den Bakker catches them by the top. Zberg gets back over the top.
The gap drops a little to 25 seconds. Gianetti might not be capable of holding this gap alone for the last few kilometers. Even if he does, the bigger Cassani should easily hammer him in the sprint. The MG hasn't done a tap all day and has the advantage. My heart goes out to Mauro - a very popular winner last week who is getting a crack at the lights now that he doesn't have Bugno and Abdu to look after.
What is left of the Peloton have the hammer down really hard and are pulling back both the chasers and the leaders. Fondriest is shattered and can do no more. He and his group allow the Peloton to swallow them up before the 1km marker. There are just a pair of leaders left, about 20 seconds up the road.
What a rider is this Polti chappie, Mauro Gianetti! He has shown he has the strength and the stamina and is now showing he has the character of a real winner. He has been in the showing since the TV cameras arrived. He played a real part in forming the final selection and in keeping it up the road. He dropped the rest of the break for a solo effort and has held off the likes of Fondriest and Elli for the last half hour. After all this, he is still giving his all, despite carrying another rider who will outsprint him on the line for the day's honours.
Gianetti is 600m from the finish when Davide Cassani makes his move. Having had a long rest, Cassani comes around the Swiss so easily and storms off up the road, the finish banner in sight. Gianetti still doesn't say die and gives it everything he has to go after the MG. From somewhere, the Polti finds the strength to get into the MG's slipstream and crawl back up to his wheel.
At 100yds, Gianetti even tries to come out of the big MG's draught and go for the line. Unbelievably, he succeeds and is pulling level as the line approaches. My heart stands still as Mauro risks bursting a blood vessel. They both lunge for the line and a second later Gianetti's right fist punches the air.
He did it! Last week Gianetti rode down the finish straight alone, holding his helmet in disbelief at winning a Classic and a World Cup Round. This week, he didn't have time to think about anything but Davide Cassani. Now he is finished, his delight is a joy to watch. Hugging and smiling at everyone in sight, this Gianetti chap looks a really nice guy and I don't recall ever seeing anyone happier after winning a race. It wouldn't surprise me if he started jumping up and down, clapping his hands.
A bunch sprint settles the remaining places.