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41st Amstel Gold Race - PT

Netherlands, April 16, 2006

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Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Anthony Tan and Brecht Decaluwé

Live report

Live coverage starts: 10:15 CEST
Estimated finish: 16:40 CEST

A sea of umbrellas
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
(Click for larger image)

10:08 CEST   
Welcome to Maastricht's rather wet Grote Markt for the start of the 41st Amstel Gold Race, the baby of the spring classics. Although the finish is only about 15 km away at the top of the Cauberg in Valkenburg, the race is actually 253 km long. Figure that one out! Well, it shouldn't put the Hindenburg V under too much stress anyway.

The route twists and turns its way through Limburg, which is the southernmost tip of the Netherlands, and is wedged in between Belgium and Germany. Along the way are 31 short, sharp climbs, with the finish at the top of the Cauberg. The race also passes the Cauberg after 64 and 173 km.

Last year, Danilo Di Luca emerged out of the fog to beat Michael Boogerd and Mirko Celestino in a small group sprint. But it was difficult for the general public to see what went on because there were no TV images, as it was too dangerous to put the helicopters into the air. Luckily, there was the Hindenburg IV...

10:25 CEST   
As is usual when it's wet and 12 degrees, the riders wait until the last minute before signing on, and there is a big rush to get up on stage where the crowd can see them all. After rolling out of the Grote Markt at approximately 10:15, there is a short neutral section before the race proper begins at 10:21.

The first climb is the Maasberg after 9.6 km, as the riders head north along the Maas river.

The breakaway
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
(Click for larger image)

10:37 CEST    12km/241km to go
The race passes through Elsloo as it continues its northerly direction in the rain. There's also a bit of wind around, which will make staying in front even more important than usual. Most riders agree that it's a very selective race, and the wet weather is going to make it even harder at the beginning.

10:49 CEST    20km/233km to go
We're now looping back towards Maastricht, through Geleen and the second climb of the day, Adsteeg (110m). Hopefully the rain will ease to drizzle and maybe we might be lucky with some sun in the afternoon.

11:01 CEST    27km/226km to go
Climb two is now behind the riders, who have only 29 more to do. So simple is it. They're now entering the heart of Limburg, which is pleasant country to ride in. It's very green, with small forests and smooth, narrow roads and paths to ride on. It's very popular with recreational cyclists.

11:13 CEST   
Rabobank always come into this race as favourites, and usually don't disappoint, with a top three almost a certainty with the likes of Michael Boogerd and Erik Dekker. Oscar Freire is also part of the team, and while he possesses a useful sprint, he found last year that the Cauberg was too much for him. That was unfortunate for Michael Boogerd, who had been preparing to lead out Freire, thus sacrificed his own chances. Still, he did well to finish second behind Danilo Di Luca. Boogerd has an impressive record in this race, with one win, four seconds and a third.

Michael Boogerd was in his usual smiling mood this morning at the start: "This weather is great! Not like Curacao though," referring to the end of season ride at the sunny Caribbean island.

11:23 CEST   
Rabobank has another card to play in 21 year-old Thomas Dekker, who is being tipped as the next big thing by the Dutch press. Like Tom Boonen in Belgium, Dekker the Younger has all the expectation on him: the question remains whether he can deliver as Boonen has done. But Dekker has already proven himself on the ProTour circuit, winning Tirreno-Adriatico this year and four races last year (two time trials and two road races). He's a TT specialist, but he can handle himself in a bunch as well.

"People might not expect that I can already win the Amstel Gold Race," Dekker told Sportwereld. "I'm after all only 21. I come to cry in the corner. Of course I've got a small chance on a parcours where I've ridden my whole life as a young rider. In bed I can ride the whole Amstel in my head. Left, uphill, downhill, right, village, roundabout. I hope that there is an opening in the finale. If that doesn't happen and we ride in a group to the Cauberg, then it's all for Oscar Freire. If I feel good and a Rabobank rider wins this Amstel, then I'm satisfied."

Cyclingnews also spoke to him at the start, where he confirmed, "One day I hope to be on winners list of this race. Probably, it isn't going to be this year."

Referring to the bad weather he laughed: "My home is in Italy, it's more suitable for training rides than in Holland."

11:28 CEST    44km/209km to go
The peloton passes through the other side of Valkenburg but not the Cauberg yet. Another 20 km have to be covered before the bunch reaches the finish line for the first time. Climb 3, the Lange Raarberg, is done. Then the Bergseweg after 46 km.

Chris Horner (Davitamon-Lotto)
Photo ©: Brian O'Connor
(Click for larger image)

11:42 CEST   
American Chris Horner (Davitamon-Lotto) loves to ride in this Dutch classic: "I like this race very much," he told us at the start. "There will be enormous orange crowds on the sidewalks, the atmosphere is always great. Riding over here is very challenging, which I really like. On the other hand, I don't know if I ever finished," the American laughed.

Asked about when he will be happy after this race, Horner didn't care about the high risk of crashes with this kind of weather. "You know that's part of cycling, but of course you don't want it to happen. If you think about it too much, you'd better not start. The team counts on me; I'm one of the team leaders. Maybe I can support someone in the finale or deliver something myself. Our tactic should be to come into the picture as late as possible, still you need to ride in front all the time because of all the hills."

11:46 CEST   
An update from the race (and we'll have more info very soon). Rolling through Beek after about 20 km, Frenchman Christophe Moreau (AG2R) had a lead of about four minutes. Moreau was in the early break last year, but he had three others for company.

The peloton
Photo ©: Brian O'Connor
(Click for larger image)

11:48 CEST    59km/194km to go
Moreau has been joined by more: Erwin Thijs (Unibet.com), Michael Albasini (Liquigas), Bram Schmitz (T-Mobile) and René Weissinger (Skil-Shimano). The quintet have about 5 minutes lead on the peloton as they approach the first passage of the finish line.

12:00 CEST    66km/187km to go
The leaders come past the finish line for the first time, much to the the delight of the sponsors product-fuelled crowds (there are a lot of both the sponsors product and people at the finish). The gap has grown to 11'00, but was a maximum of 11'00.

12:16 CEST    78km/175km to go
The riders are heading back into Maastricht now, through Berg en Terblijt, back into the city, then southeast towards Cadier en Keer. The situation is now four riders in front: Christophe Moreau (AG2R), Erwin Thijs (Unibet.com), Michael Albasini (Liquigas), and Bram Schmitz (T-Mobile), with Rabobank chasing.

Eleven minutes later,
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

12:34 CEST   
Johan Van Summeren (Davitamon-Lotto) ad an incredibly good day in his first participation in the Amstel Gold Race a couple of years ago. It didn't result in a win, but he did receive the trophy Herman Kop for the most aggressive rider in the race. "I hope to do as well as I did then. I don't mind the weather, though you never know how your legs will react."

At the last time check, the break had 11 minutes on the peloton.

12:40 CEST    96km/157km to go
The leaders are now at the feedzone at Partij, having completed eight climbs. We'll get an updated time check as soon as we can.

12:52 CEST    105km/148km to go
A Dutch champion (Leon van Bon) in the only real Dutch classic has a mission: "This is an important day for me," said Van Bon at the start in Maastricht. "The team is ready to do really well. I was sick when the E3-prijs Harelbeke was on; a really bad moment because the most important weeks of the season are very close then."

The leaders are now gradually climbing up to the highest point in the race, the Drielandenpunt (320m), where the Netherlands meets Belgium and Germany. That will be in 20 km or so.

13:01 CEST    109km/144km to go
The gap now decreased to 6'50, due to the work of Rabobank guys in the front of peloton. De Groot, Dekker and Posthuma were leading the chase.

13:11 CEST    116km/137km to go
We spoke to Unibet.com's Erwin Thijs at the start, and he was very eager to get on with it. "I'm in a good mood today because this is my weather!" he said. He's now part of the early breakaway, which has just about reached the Drielandenpunt.

13:19 CEST   
There's been an interesting development in the break: René Weissinger (Skil-Shimano) has been disqualified by the commissaires for motorpacing back on after a puncture at the 50km mark. That leaves us with Christophe Moreau (AG2R), Erwin Thijs (Unibet.com), Michael Albasini (Liquigas), and Bram Schmitz (T-Mobile) in front.

13:26 CEST    122km/131km to go
The gap has grown again to 8'35, with Rabobank still making the pace behind the four leaders. It's not really time to chase yet.

13:37 CEST   
A bit of a weather update: it's still wet, but there are glimpses of sunshine in between the rain showers. It's basically been the same weather pattern as the last n weeks in this part of the world. And it looks like continuing next week. Excellent.

13:48 CEST   
The finish town of Valkenburg is a popular destination for cycling. The Tour de France also has a stage in Valkenburg on July 4 this year, and the European Championships are between July 12-16.

Valkenburg has 18,000 inhabitants and a bit of Roman history with some famous caves. Verily, we are waxing lyrical today.

13:53 CEST    138km/115km to go
The climbs continue as the race loops back again after its visit to the German border. With Eperheide behind them, that's 14 climbs out of the way, with another 17 still to do. It's a slow process of elimination, but after 200km, the peloton starts to thin down rapidly.

There's also the matter of a four man breakaway to be caught, but they are working harder than the bunch at the moment. Last year, Moreau lasted around 200km in front. Let's see if he can beat that this year.

13:54 CEST   
The last time check that we received was 6'40, so the peloton has things well under control at this stage of the bike race.

14:04 CEST    144km/109km to go
The four leaders power up the Gulperberg with a handy 7'14 over the peloton.

Christophe Moreau (AG2R) initiated the break, and was joined by Erwin Thijs (Unibet.com), Michael Albasini (Liquigas), and Bram Schmitz (T-Mobile). Rene Weissinger was also there, but got disqualified after pacing behind a car after a puncture.

Christophe Moreau (AG2R)
Photo ©: Elmar Krings
(Click for larger image)

14:06 CEST    146km/107km to go
Make that three leaders, as we receive a report that Christophe Moreau (AG2R) has been dropped. He's two minutes behind the leaders.

Also, in case you missed them, we have plenty of photos from the start in Maastricht, and a few of the race itself. Click here for our live photo gallery.

14:15 CEST   
Australian Allan Davis (Liberty Seguros) could do well in these kinds of races, but he told us that he wouldn't be one of the main men. "Our team is very strong today. I'll probably be in more of a working role for Angel Vicioso."

14:17 CEST    155km/98km to go
Up the Plettenberg, Eyserweg and Huls, the climbs start to come faster now. We still have three leaders, Erwin Thijs (Unibet.com), Michael Albasini (Liquigas), and Bram Schmitz (T-Mobile), with Moreau falling further behind and the peloton keeping the gap stable with some 100 km to travel.

Karsten Kroon (CSC)
Photo ©: Elmar Krings
(Click for larger image)

14:25 CEST   
CSC's Karsten Kroon was ready for a good race today. "This is it; this is the day. I've been looking forward to this race for a long time," said Kroon at the start.

14:27 CEST   
It's drying up now and the riders should have a slightly easier time of it in the finale.

14:31 CEST    167km/86km to go
The crowds are eagerly waiting for the next passage of the Cauberg, which should be very soon now. The umbrellas have been put away and it's just now a matter of keeping warm, as it's still a little overcast.

14:38 CEST   
The three leaders are looking a little bit ragged now as they negotiate another climb, with Moreau now three minutes behind.

14:39 CEST    171km/82km to go
Thijs leads the way as they near the foot of the Cauberg for the second time. The crowds lining the roads are very substantial, as usual.

14:40 CEST   
The peloton still follows at 7'05, so nothing much has changed there. And yes, it's still a seven man Rabobank orange train in front. The peloton is quite large, as expected, well over 100 riders.

14:42 CEST    172km/81km to go
Thijs is back on the front on the descent just before the Cauberg, with Schmitz and Albasini following. They take a left hander and begin the climb. Really huge crowds here!

Posthuma and Flecha
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

14:44 CEST    173km/80km to go
Thijs leads all the way up the steep climb, putting Schmitz in difficulty. The big Dutchman should hang on until the top though. They pass the line for the second time, with over five minutes lead.

14:45 CEST   
Thijs' teammate Matthé Pronk didn't care about the weather today: "I don't mind, probably it's even better for me," he said at the start. "I'll try to attack as soon as possible. My house is only eleven kilometres away from Maastricht. I want to do well in my region."

Well, it was up to his teammate to get in the break today.

14:48 CEST   
The peloton strings out with many riders choosing shorter routes via the bike paths around the corners. The big bunch is in Valkenburg now, just about to tackle the Cauberg. Weening and Flecha are at the front. Boogerd is up there too, checking things out.

The leaders are well over the top, through Berg en Terblijt now.

14:50 CEST    176km/77km to go
The gap is 4'30 at the top, as Thomas Dekker waves to the crowd. Moreau has been caught.

14:50 CEST   
Moreau has abandoned at the finish.

14:52 CEST    175km/78km to go
Posthuma drives the peloton through the feed zone, with Weening and Flecha in tow.

The leaders are on the Geulhemmerberg, climb number 22. Thijs is still the strongest.

14:56 CEST    177km/76km to go
Flecha, Posthuma and Weening are doing most of the work now. Rabobank, as usual, has done much of the job in front today. Garzelli moves up, as does Kashechkin. The gap reduces to 3'40. It's coming down fast now.

15:01 CEST    183km/70km to go
The pace eases in the bunch as Maarten Tjallingii (Skil) chats to Boogerd while drinking a can of coke. Matt Wilson rides up the side of the peloton, leading a teammate.

Although it's dry at the moment, the sky is very grey. It's not foggy like last year.

15:05 CEST   
The bunch strings out again as the race goes back into the centre of Maastricht. Flecha and Posthuma keep the Rabobank train ticking over, 3'10 behind the three leaders.

Cristian Moreni (Cofidis) has crashed, but looks OK. He takes his time in getting back on the bike again.

15:07 CEST   
We're almost back where we started in Maastricht, but with over 180km covered now. Flecha leads the bunch in his typical style, with forearms resting on the tops of the bars at 50 km/h.

15:13 CEST    190km/63km to go
The battle for position is starting in the peloton, as it's so important being up front now. Rabobank will push the pace as hard as it can on the next climbs to try and reduce the bunch. The gap is 2'30.

Posthuma in front now, also using the forearms on tops of handlebars position.

15:16 CEST    193km/60km to go
Schleck takes a turn in front for CSC - the first variation we've seen for a while. Zberg takes a shortcut on the bike path and finds himself in front of the peloton.

Among the leaders, Schmitz drops off Thijs and Albasini on the Bemelerberg.

15:17 CEST    194km/59km to go
Schmitz looks to be history now as the two leaders have 30 seconds on the descent after the Bemelerberg.

15:22 CEST    196km/57km to go
The news that Schmitz has been dropped sends T-Mobile to the front of the peloton. Now other teams are trying to take the lead from Rabobank.

Wesemann attacks on the Bemelerberg, and is marked by Flecha and a few others.

Thijs continues to pound away in front, with Michael Albasini struggling to hold his wheel, 1'40 in front.

15:24 CEST    197km/56km to go
The chasing group grows with Steffen Wesemann, Kessler, Mazzoleni (T-Mobile), Juan Antonio Flecha, Erik Dekker (Rabobank), Philippe Gilbert (FDJ), and Filippo Pozzato (Quick.Step) all there (a dozen in total), and a few more, but the peloton is chasing hard.

Schmitz is caught and dropped.

15:25 CEST    198km/55km to go
Wesemann continues to keep the pressure on, but doesn't get much help.

The bunch is now very strung out, with Langeveld in last wheel.

Thijs and Albasini reach Cadier en Keer, climbing again.

15:27 CEST    199km/54km to go
Bettini is also in the chasing group, which is slowly being caught by the peloton. The bunch has split to pieces as a result of that attack.

Pozzato and Mazzoleni do some strong turns.

15:29 CEST    200km/53km to go
Thijs is doing all the work in the front group as they ride through a wet section of road. They have 40 seconds on the chasing group of 13, which is dangling just in front of the bunch. They're caught.

15:30 CEST    203km/50km to go
The leaders reach Honthem with CSC's Sorensen attacking the bunch with Flecha, Pozzato and Kessler able to follow. They catch Thijs and Albasini.

15:34 CEST    204km/49km to go
The peloton splits again in pursuit, with a group of maybe 20 riders closing in on the six leaders. Now it's a Gerolsteiner rider and Flecha going on the attack. Nope, all back together.

Not for long, Wesemann attacks. Baguet and Merckx mark him, and Sorensen again.

15:37 CEST    206km/47km to go
The bunch strings out in a crosswind, then the pace eases a bit. There are maybe 50 riders in front, then a very long tail of chasers.

Kroon punctures, and is chasing on behind the Phonak car.

15:39 CEST    208km/45km to go
Kroon passes the Phonak car and reaches the Saunier Duval car. It's tricky getting back on through the caravan, but he does it and moves up to the front straight away. That was good work by Kroon, as he had no teammates to help him.

Meanwhile, Johan Vansummeren (Davitamon) has attacked. Two riders chase, then the peloton close behind. The Belgian is caught and Den Bakker does a turn through Mheer.

15:39 CEST   
Den Bakker gets a gap and is joined by Chavanel from Cofidis.

15:42 CEST    210km/43km to go
Gusev, Schumacher, Mazzoleni and Horner join the leaders to form a sextet.

15:43 CEST   
Paolo Bettini also rides across to the leaders, then Baguet and Sinkewitz. Moerenhout is there and Benoît Joachim.

15:44 CEST    211km/42km to go
The leaders: Den Bakker (Milram), Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), Gusev and Joachim (Discovery), Schumacher (Gerolsteiner), Mazzoleni, Sinkewitz (T-Mobile), Bettini, Baguet (Quick.Step), Moerenhout (Phonak), and Horner (Davitamon).

15:45 CEST    212km/41km to go
Bettini looks very comfortable up in this group, but there's still a fair way to go. He's got Baguet there to make the tempo and the Belgian champion does as they reach the Wolfsberg.

15:45 CEST   
Interestingly, there are no Rabobank riders in the lead group, which is 10 seconds ahead of the peloton.

Posthuma is bearing the marks of a crash.

15:46 CEST    213km/40km to go
Joachim does a turn in front for his teammate Gusev. Meanwhile, Moerenhout sits last wheel. Rabobank is mounting a serious chase with Flecha and Posthuma. That must be hurting.

15:47 CEST   
Chavanel punctures out of the break. Bad luck for the Frenchman. He won't get back.

15:48 CEST    213km/40km to go
The cooperation is very ordinary as Baguet does a turn on the Wolfsberg. Rabobank is very organised behind, with Flecha and Weening working to bring back the break, and they succeed. Peloton back together.

15:51 CEST    215km/38km to go
Wesemann attacks with Astarloa and Bertagnolli. They get 10 seconds.

Erik Dekker now makes the tempo on the Loorberg, with Boogerd on his wheel. Bettini keeps himself in front.

15:52 CEST   
Axel Merckx punctures. That's gonna hurt, getting back on.

15:53 CEST    217km/36km to go
Bertagnolli, Astarloa and Wesemann now have a nice gap of 10 seconds as they take another corner and power along in front. The peloton is in full pursuit, led by Erik and Thomas Dekker. Freire and Boogerd move up.

15:56 CEST    218km/35km to go
It's double Dekker in front of the peloton, with Thomas and Erik sharing the work. Rabobank still has the race in hand, but it's not easy. The leaders are just 6 seconds ahead.

15:56 CEST   
Kroon sits in fifth wheel behind the Rabobank train as Wesemann goes it alone in front.

15:57 CEST   
Wesemann hammers along, looking very smooth as usual. He has 7 seconds on the peloton, and checks behind him.

15:59 CEST    219km/34km to go
Erik Dekker sits on the front at a comfortable chasing tempo. Moerenhout moves up again and puts himself in a good spot before the Gulperberg.

16:01 CEST    221km/32km to go
Wesemann extends his lead to 14-15 seconds as he reaches the narrow road before the Gulperberg. He's flying along, looking very solid. Meanwhile, Ballan moves himself up to the front in the dirt. Den Bakker attacks and then reaches for the little gear.

Wesemann is on the Gulperberg.

16:03 CEST    223km/30km to go
Den Bakker explodes and Gerolsteiner comes up behind with a second front.

Flecha and M. Zberg are dropped, along with half a dozen others on this step climb. Flecha recovers a bit an tries to chase back on over the top. But he could be cooked now.

Schumacher leads the reduced peloton 15 seconds behind the impressive Wesemann.

16:04 CEST    225km/28km to go
The Kruisberg is next, and it's the 27th climb. How long can Steffen Wesemann last in front? He keeps looking behind, but he looks quite smooth. Schumacher, Rebellin and Ivanov are the first three in the peloton.

16:05 CEST    227km/26km to go
It's a battle for position again with the Rabos moving up behind the Gerolsteiner mini train. Pozzato (Quick.Step) is there, then T-Mobile get on the front to try and slow things down.

16:05 CEST   
Kirchen (T-Mobile) has punctured.

16:07 CEST    228km/25km to go
Wese reaches into his pocket for some food, and gets it. Maybe 50 riders left to chase him at the moment. As always, it's an elimination race. 20 seconds.

16:08 CEST    230km/23km to go
As the sun starts to shine at last, Wesemann takes another couple of corners and hits the Kruisberg. The bunch is in a line behind him, led by Den Bakker.

16:09 CEST   
Wese rides alone on the Kruisberg, pursued by Den Bakker and Grivko. Boogerd is well placed, as is Kroon.

Erik Dekker flats and abandons the race. His work is done for the day.

16:10 CEST    232km/21km to go
Ivanov is also well placed in front, while behind, riders are being dropped again.

Iñaki Isasi (Euskaltel) suffers to hold on.

Grivko accelerates with Kroon and Ivanov on his wheel. Ouch, this has really hurt the bunch.

16:12 CEST    233km/20km to go
Wesemann has 10 seconds has the bunch splits to bits over the top of the Kruisberg. It's a very long line with many gaps. The roads are still damp and muddy in places, but they're rideable.

Wesemann is in Eys and now he will find it hard going on the 16% Eyserbosweg. He looks back - 20 seconds. The bunch has regrouped. Garzelli moves up.

16:13 CEST   
Ivanov leads the bunch at a relaxed tempo, but no-one will come around him. Garzelli sits next to the Russian champ, with Kroon on his wheel.

16:14 CEST    234km/19km to go
Wesemann now has 30 seconds, and it's looking dangerous for the others. Alex Moos is up in front for Phonak, and finally Kroon attacks. Ivanov marks him, as does Kroon. The CSC rider stretches the peloton with a very long attack, then Bettini cruises up and counters. Hard.

16:16 CEST    235km/18km to go
Boogerd marks Bettini, as does Ivanov, Ballan, Schleck, Kroon, Moerenhout and several more. Maybe 10 riders chasing Wesemann, who has lost 10 seconds of his lead.

Leukemans was there, but has a mechanical. He's caught by Wegmann, Rebellin and Sinkewitz, and they catch the chase group.

16:18 CEST    236km/17km to go
Bettini drives the chase group hard behind Wesemann. Riders: Bettini (QS), Boogerd (Rabobank), Ivanov and Sinkewitz (T-Mobile), Ballan (Lampre), Schleck, Kroon (CSC), Moerenhout (Phonak), Leukemans (Davitamon), Wegmann, Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Sanchez (Euskaltel). Wese has 13 seconds as he reaches the Fromberg.

16:19 CEST   
Wegmann, Ivanov and Leukemans get a gap on the Fromberg and Ivanov actually does a turn as T-Mobile could end up with two out of four in front.

16:21 CEST    237km/16km to go
The chasing group grows as Chavanel joins and then punctures immediately. Race over.

Bettini bursts out of the group like a rocket, and gets a gap. Four riders in front of him.

16:22 CEST    238km/15km to go
Paolo Bettini is powering across to Wesemann alone. A correction: Ivanov and co are caught by the bunch, but Ivanov is attacking again with Schleck.

16:23 CEST    239km/14km to go
Wesemann sits up a little and Bettini closes in. Behind, it's Wegmann, Ivanov and Schleck chasing.

Wesemann is caught by Bettini.

16:25 CEST    240km/13km to go
Paolo Bettini takes the lead in front with the next three riders at 10 seconds. No sign of Boogerd yet. Ivanov doesn't have to work in the chase group. Neither does Wese in front. Good tactics from T-Mobile.

16:25 CEST   
Schleck does a big turn as Bettini and Wese hit the Kuitenberg. This is going to hurt a lot, as it's over 20 percent at its steepest. Bettini piles on the pressure, but can he crack Wesemann?

16:26 CEST    241km/12km to go
Bettini looks back and sees Ivanov's group coming. Then the bunch is close behind. Regrouping before the finish?

16:27 CEST   
The bunch is very small at the top, with Bettini leading over. Wesemann, Schleck, Ivanov, Boogerd are all there.

16:28 CEST    242km/11km to go
Rebellin is also with the lead group, as is Kroon and Sinkewitz. And Sanchez and a Phonak rider.

16:30 CEST    243km/10km to go
The lead group has many T-Mobile riders: Steffen Wesemann, Ivanov, Sinkewitz (T-Mobile), Bettini (QS), Schleck (CSC), Boogerd (Rabobank), ? (Phonak), Kroon (CSC), Sanchez (Euskaltel), Rebellin (Gerolsteiner).

Freire, Valverde and Thomas Dekker are in the first chase group.

Schleck attacks with Sinkewitz trying to chase, but exploding. Or waiting.

16:31 CEST    244km/9km to go
Schleck powers along and gets a little gap. Nice riding, and it will help his team leader Kroon. Ivanov chases, with Kroon marking him. Bettini does a lot of work too.

16:32 CEST    245km/8km to go
Luxembourg's Frank Schleck is leading the race by 10 seconds as he battles the wind. One more climb to come: the Cauberg.

16:33 CEST    246km/7km to go
Schleck puts it in the biggest gear as Perdiguero (Phonak) tries to get the chasers working. 18 seconds!! Schleck is not home yet, but he looks good.

16:34 CEST    246km/7km to go
The T-Mobiles are mounting a chase now with Wesemann and Sinkewitz. Kroon in third wheel yells at the moto to get out of the way.

Frank Schleck is riding well, smoothly and powerfully.

16:35 CEST    247km/6km to go
Kroon is in an excellent situation too, as the others all must chase. Bettini does another big turn. He is still a good chance of winning, but he'll have to get Schleck back. Boogerd sits towards the back of the break. He's a little outgunned here.

16:36 CEST    248km/5km to go
Wesemann gets a gap as Perdiguero lets the wheel go. Boogerd sprints up to the German, then Bettini. They catch him, as do the rest of the chasers. But Schleck still has 15 seconds. Now Wesemann has to bury himself.

16:37 CEST    248km/5km to go
Wesemann leads the chase all the way as Frank Schleck reaches the flat in Sibbe, then gets another downhill. 15 seconds is the advantage for the CSC rider.

16:38 CEST    249km/4km to go
The speed picks up on the descent after Sibbe, and Frank Schleck is still then man. Now Ivanov puts in a huge attack on the descent, but gets Bettini for company. This could be fatal for Schleck. 12 seconds. Kroon is in third wheel.

16:39 CEST    250km/3km to go
Schleck hits 3 km to go and looks back. He has about 12 seconds. He's in Valkenburg now, and is nearing the Cauberg for the final time. Another roundabout...nearly there.

16:40 CEST   
Ivanov eases up. That could be enough for Schleck. Now Wesemann attacks!

16:41 CEST    251.5km/1.5km to go
They're all saving themselves for the Cauberg, and now T-Mobile doesn't have to chase with Wese in second on the road.

Schleck is nearly at the final kilometre.

16:41 CEST    252km/1km to go
20 seconds for Schleck at the foot of the Cauberg. Can he hold on? He goes under the kilometre to go banner.

16:42 CEST   
Schleck grits his teeth as he hurts at the bottom of the climb. The bunch is too far, surely. Can Wesemann do it though?

16:42 CEST   
Frank Schleck gets out of the saddle and gets to 300m to go. He's got it!

16:43 CEST    253km/0km to go
Frank Schleck sprints to the line and wins the Amstel Gold Race!!!! Fantastic effort by the Luxembourger!! Brilliant attack!

Wesemann will take second after a very good ride.

16:44 CEST   
Michael Boogerd takes third - of course he has to be on the podium in the Amstel Gold Race. Kroon follows him in for fourth.

16:52 CEST   
Well, there ya go. No Rabobank win, no T-Mobile win, despite them controlling for much of the race. But CSC has done it again with a great performance from Frank Schleck, who is a very emotional and deserving winner of the Amstel Gold Race. Fine performance by Wesemann for second place, and the ever consistent Boogerd shook his head as he crossed the line for third, throwing his hands up as if to say "what could I do?".

Until next time: The Tour de Georgia next week and La Fleche Wallonne/Liege Bastogne-Liege. We'll be busy in the blimp.


1 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC
2 Steffen Wesemann (Swi) T-Mobile Team
3 Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank
4 Karsten Kroon (Ned) Team CSC
5 Patrik Sinkewitz (Ger) T-Mobile Team
6 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner
7 Miguel Martin Perdiguero (Spa) Phonak
8 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quickstep-Innergetic
9 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner
10 Sergey Ivanov (Rus) T-Mobile