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43rd Amstel Gold Race - PT

Netherlands, April 20, 2008

Complete Live report

Live commentary by Bjorn Haake and Hedwig Kröner

Hello and welcome back to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the Spring Classics. With the rattling and shaking over the kasseien, pavé or cobble stones finally (?) behind us, we are heading to the Ardennes classics, but not without a first stop at the Amstel Gold race in the Netherlands. In order to not lull the peloton, the organisers put a lot of turns into the course and a few bergs. The most famous, the Cauberg, will be done three times and will bring the decision after 257.4 kilometres.

Stefan Schumacher is the defending champion
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

11:13 CEST   
There is one team that has the luxury of having two former winners. Gerolsteiner has Davide Rebellin and Stefan Schumacher in the line-up. Cyclingnews talked to the two riders on the eve of the big day.

11:21 CEST   
The race started in Maastricht this morning at 10:21 local time. 181 racers rolled across the start line.

11:33 CEST   
One rider with great chances on the course today is Oscar Freire. The Spaniard is having a good year and if a bigger groups come to the bottom of the Cauberg he may have the legs to do it. He won the uphill finish into Castelfidardo, in Tirreno-Adriatico. So he is no stranger to tough finishes. Most recently he won Gent-Wevelgem.

11:47 CEST   
Information is currently hard to come by. It looks as if initially there was an attack by Albert Timmer (Skil-Shimano), Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick Step) and Yuriy Krivtsov (AG2R La Mondiale), from which it appears that only Krivtsov is on the front now. We have no information on the current gap, but will fill you in as soon as we can.

12:00 CEST   
The Ronde van Vlaanderen has 17 hellingen. Sounds a lot? Well, today there are no less than 31! It'll be a lot of ups and downs.

12:24 CEST   
Norway's Edvald Boasson Hagen showed his form is on target with the recent win in France. The 20 year-old of Team High Road will be working for team-captain Kim Kirchen today in Holland.

"I did good in my last race, the GP Denain, so I hope I am still good," confirmed Boasson Hagen. "My form?, I will ride today and see how it is.

"My role will be to watch after Kim Kirchen; however, t is only my first time to do this race. I am a little nervous, but no so much."

12:28 CEST    90km/167.4km to go
OK, the lead group is indeed three-riders strong. It is Kristof Vandewalle (Topsport Vlaanderen), Albert Timmer (Skil-Shimano) and Yuriy Krivtsov (AG2R La Mondiale) who are pacing on the front. Their gap is currently in the double-digits. The last check we got it was around 12 minutes.

12:40 CEST   
The gap of the three escapees is holding steady between 12 and 13 minutes for now. Albert Timmer is no stranger to breakaways. He just put in an impressive ride on the front at the Scheldeprijs, together with Koen Barbé (Topsport Vlaanderen), who is also in today's race. At the Scheldeprijs, things didn't work out, when the duo was caught in the second of three local laps (16km) that concluded the race Schoten, near Antwerp. Maybe they are luckier this time, though the gap isn't all that big.

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) won the sprint in Gent-Wevelgem. His team is the most watched in the Amstel Gold race
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

12:50 CEST   
Three-time World Champion Oscar Freire is one of the favourites going into this race. He rides for the Holland-based Rabobank team, which is always expected to ride well in its home race. "Relaxed? It is a very complicated race because everyone is watching Rabobank and expecting Rabobank to do something," explained the Spaniard to Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown. "We have all the responsibility in this race. It is not easy when everyone thinks like this towards us."

He confirmed the teams captains for the day, "We have a lot of good riders in this team. For the final it will be [Juan Antonio] Flecha, me and also [Thomas] Dekker. So, we will see. Also, maybe we can utilise [Joost] Posthuma, he is good. Overall we have a good team."

Freire's next races will be Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

12:56 CEST   
After the front trio passed the Wolfsberg (the seventh of the 31 'bumps' in the road) the gap was 12'43, so for now the peloton is content with the gap.

13:07 CEST   
Italy's Giovanni Visconti confirmed that he would be the team leader for Quick Step. "I am starting this race with the team completely at my disposal," said the national road champion, dressed in Italy's tricolore, at the race start in Maastricht to Gregor Brown.

He was looking forward to the role as head of the Belgium-based team. "It is my first Classic to race as a captain. This gives me a lot of motivation and extra grit. I don't feel any pressure from the team, but when I have a little bit of responsibility it usually pays back twofold."

Visconti continued talking of the parcours and his rivals. "I know the roads well because I have done this race twice before. It is always a very nervous race, but when I am going well I overcome any problems. ... Anyway, today, there are many riders that I can expect to see going strong, including the Italians like [Davide] Rebellin, [Damiano] Cunego... It will be a very hard race."

13:09 CEST   
Sergey Ivanov talked with Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé this morning. The Russian was all smiles because of the great weather at the start. "It's similar to the weather we had at the start of the Ronde van Vlaanderen in Brugge [Belgium], but that turned around quite badly," Ivanov said. During the Ronde van Vlaanderen - two weeks ago – the riders encountered rain, hail and even snow halfway through the race. The Russian rider from Team Astana looked relaxed and entrusted to Cyclingnews that he could win the race. "I have a chance. I'm not in better form than other years, but I'm fresher. I'll try to sneak away before the big guns are firing," Ivanov said.

13:12 CEST    107.4km/150km to go
The peloton is picking up the pace ever so slightly and the gap is starting to shrink. It has dropped under the 12-minute mark. It is currently around 11 and a half minutes.

It's the first year that Michael Boogerd is not racing in 'his' race.
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

13:16 CEST   
Michael Boogerd was at the start in Maastricht. He was not racing for the first time, as he retired last year. His record on the Amstel? He won 1999 and finished second a staggering four times. Add to that a couple of third places and you know why he likes the race...

13:20 CEST   
Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé talked with last year's winner Stefan Schumacher yesterday and then the German explained that he wasn't too keen on riding in the rain. This morning the German was proudly wearing the number one on his jersey. Schumacher seemed a little nervous, which can be considered normal when you line up at the start of this important week. The German smiled when referred to the weather doubts from yesterday. "I'm happy that it is dry. I heard that it might rain during the finale, but at least we can start in good conditions which is good," Schumacher said to Cyclingnews.

13:23 CEST   
The gap is dropping quicker now. It has dipped into the single digits, currently around nine and a half minutes.

13:28 CEST   
Michael Boogerd is telling Dutch television about the strong men of the Netherlands. Martyn Maaskant, who rides for the USA-based (Slipstream Chipotle - H30), Niki Terpstra (Milram) and Sebastian Langeveld (Rabobank).

The latter was not able to start, due to his ongoing knee problems, sustained in a crash in Paris-Roubaix.

There is another rider who didn't make it this morning – Riccardo Riccò, the Italian of Saunier Duval-Scott. Too bad, this would have been a good finale for him.

13:30 CEST   
Riccò stayed back in Italy with a fever. Better not take any risks, although sometimes the athletes will do so, especially if they want to get through a stage race. We'll hope Riccò is back on his feet soon and out on the roads, racing his bike.

Kim Kirchen is one of the favourites
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

13:32 CEST   
Besides Maaskant, Slipstream also has Ryder Hesjedal.
"I have ridden this race twice before with Postal and Discovery Channel," confirmed a very calm looking Ryder Hesjedal to Gregor Brown.

The Canadian is enjoying a good spring with 10th in Eroica and eighth overall in Tirreno-Adriatico, and was looking forward to starting Holland's biggest one-day race. "It is definitely a special race. It is Amstel Gold and everyone knows its uniqueness. If you can arrive at the end, on the final wall, it is an accomplishment."

His calmness was in stark contrast to the loud announcer and tension building as the race start neared. Are you always this calm? He laughed and then responded, "I keep it mellow off the bike because there is so much tension in racing and training, and you have to balance it out when you are not racing. I am keeping relaxed and focused on what needs to happen."

13:37 CEST   
A relaxed looking Kim Kirchen enjoyed the sun at the start this morning. The Luxemburger had a good season last year and is again looking to do well at the Cauberg.

13:40 CEST   
There are four past winners in the race. Besides the already mentioned Stefan Schumacher (2007) and Davide Rebellin (2004) of Gerolsteiner, there is also Erik Zabel (Milram), who won in 2000 and Fränk Schleck (Team CSC), winner of the 2006 edition. Additionally, Maarten Den Bakker (Skil-Shimano) finished second to Rolf Järmann in 1998.

13:42 CEST   
The racers have to deal with the Cauberg and its 12 percent once a year. What about the average Joe? The postal delivery man said that "What Boogerd can do, I can, too!" He rides the route every day (except Sundays of course). On a single speed Postal bike, held in red colours.

13:47 CEST   
Schumacher won last year by attacking at the bottom of the Cauberg. He talked about the race to a Dutch reporter, while watching a replay on a laptop. He wasn't sure back then about his form, as he had received 14 stitches just prior to the race. But he had a team-mate in the break (former winner Rebellin) and the attack at a roundabout, where the group was stretched, was perfect timing. Schumacher said that "It was the best moment of my life."

13:49 CEST   
The gap of Timmer, Krivtsov and Vandewalle is down below eight minutes.

The broom wagon is being set up, ready to gobble up the strugglers
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

13:53 CEST   
Kim Kirchen surprised Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé this morning by expressing his hope for bad weather. "I hope it will rain a little bit during the last hour. I've always won my big races in the rain," the Luxemburger explained. The Team High Road rider is in good condition and could claim his first win in a Spring Classic today. "I think I can win," Kirchen agreed. On the other hand he pointed out that he might be better during the next two races. "Amstel is always a strange race for me after Pais Vasco. I need a little more time to recover, so normally I'm better in Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. But every year is a new year, so I could do well today. I feel pretty good," Kirchen explained.

The Luxemburger didn't fancy the many corners and narrow streets around Valkenburg, either. "Maybe for me it's a little bit too nervous, but I can defend my position in the front. If I'm up front in the last 20 kilometres then I have a good chance to win."
Last week during the País Vasco stage race Kirchen won two stages in the sprint. When it comes down to a sprint on the Cauberg, Kirchen has a good chance, although he explained that a sprint in the Amstel Gold Race is different. "Every race is different and this time there are more than 250 kilometres to cover before a possible sprint. The legs decide and the strongest pair will win," Kirchen explained that a sprint in a Spring Classic isn't comparable with any other sprint.

"I haven't been training too long because the season goes on for a while with the Tour de France, the world championships and the Olympics. It's a good day and I think many riders have the same level," Kirchen said before joining the other riders at the start line this morning.

14:00 CEST    145.4km/112km to go
The peloton is starting to get serious. The lead has dropped almost seven minutes. And still over 110km to race.

Current race situation

  • Kristof Vandewalle (Topsport Vlaanderen), Albert Timmer (Skil-Shimano) and Yuriy Krivtsov (AG2R La Mondiale)
  • Peloton at 7.34

14:10 CEST   
The leading trio is on a descent and flying down the small Dutch country roads. As mentioned earlier it is very sunny out there. The three look a bit like they already have done some serious racing. Vandewalle is sucking down a power gel.

14:11 CEST    149.4km/108km to go
They still have to race over 100 kilometres. Those classics are really long races!

14:13 CEST   
Timmer is emptying his bottle. They come up on one of the traffic islands and pass it on the left. The gap is now 7'40, so after initially dropping rapidly, the peloton has slowed down again.

The lead group at km 51, here with Vandewalle on the front
Photo ©: Elmar Krings
(Click for larger image)

14:17 CEST   
Vandewalle is leading the trio over the next hellingen, which is the Gulperberg - climb 15 of 31. Can you hear the riders sighing?

14:21 CEST   
Vandewalle's team director is coming up while the Topsport Vlaanderen rider is pulling. The sports director is giving some advise, in addition to another power gel. Anything helps now!

14:23 CEST    156.4km/101km to go
Timmer is taking over as the three take a right-hand turn in Wittem. A Caisse d'Epargne rider is on the front of the peloton. He may feel lonely, being followed by three Rabobank riders. Where are his Spanish mates?

14:26 CEST   
As the peloton makes it up the Gulperberg they are cheered on by a ton of fans . But Patrick McCarty of Slipstream finds the pace a bit hard and drops back, together with a Lotto rider - looks like Olivier Kaisen. A Française des Jeux rider has a flat, but the change is quick.

14:29 CEST   
It is Sandy Casar. He is now trying to get back to the peloton, which isn't going all out, but still, trying to catch the tail end is hard when you are by yourself. Fortunately the Frenchman is getting help from Euskaltel. No, nobody from the Basque team has dropped back, but the team car provides good drafting opportunities.

The peloton gets split in the middle by a traffic divider. Too bad for those who were riding on the right hand side - a left turn is coming up!

14:35 CEST   
The days of arm and leg warmers are definitely over, at least for now. Kaisen and McCarthy have made it back to the peloton, but they are hanging on the back. High Road is now helping with the chase, followed by Gerolsteiner. Former winner Den Bakker (Skil Shimano) is there, as is Fränk Schleck (Team CSC). We see Fabian Wegmann at the back of the peloton, while Japanese rider Yukihiro Doi is hanging out with his Skil mates, more towards the front.

14:37 CEST    163.4km/94km to go
Nick Nuyens (Cofidis), Dirk Bellemakers (Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner) and Johan Van Summeren (Silence-Lotto) also enjoy being towards the back for now – don't expect that too last.

14:43 CEST   
Speed bumps! It is supposed to slow down the cars, but it doesn't have an effect on the riders, except making it a bit more uncomfortable if they don't see it coming. Vansummeren in the mean time follows some other riders, crossing in front of a parked car to the left sidewalk, jumping the curb and gaining a few positions through the sharp left hand turn.

14:45 CEST   
Tyler Farrar is there, at the end of the peloton, for the Slipstream Chipotle - H30 team. We also see Steven Kleynen (Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner) and Michael Barry, the Canadian on the High Road team.

14:46 CEST   
Rabobank has taken over at the front again, flying down the road like there is no tomorrow. The gap to the front trio has dropped to 6'10.

14:46 CEST   

Current race situation

  • Kristof Vandewalle (Topsport Vlaanderen), Albert Timmer (Skil-Shimano) and Yuriy Krivtsov (AG2R La Mondiale)
  • Peloton at 6.10

14:51 CEST   
The pace is now extremely high. The peloton takes a sharp right into one of the many very small Dutch country roads. How do you fit 170+ riders into a three-metre wide road? It means the peloton stretches and Tony Martin (High Road) is towards the end now. He recently won his first pro race, when he escaped with Adam Hansen in a two-man High Road break. That race (Mergelland) was in the Netherlands, too, but it was raining cats, dogs and water. Maybe it is to dry today for the young German?

It apparently is too hot for Tom Stubbe (Française des Jeux). Or at least the pace is, he is dropping back on one of the little rises. So is Steven Kleynen (Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner)

Slipstream was attentive in the bunch early in the race
Photo ©: Elmar Krings
(Click for larger image)

14:52 CEST   
Swedish champion Magnus Backstedt didn't have high hopes for a good result in the Amstel Gold Race. "I took a couple of days off this week and I'm getting back into it now. We'll see," the giant Swede said to Cyclingnews. The man didn't have a real mission today and being in the breakaway wasn't his goal, either. "It depends on how the race evolves," Backstedt said. "I'm not going to be chasing to be in the breakaways, but if I'm in the right spot on the right moment, then why not."

14:54 CEST    175.4km/82km to go
The leaders take a left hand turn and are out of the saddle, as the tackle the Sibbergrubbe. A few more kilometres and we will hit the Cauberg for the second of three times.

14:58 CEST    178.4km/79km to go
Magnus Backstedt takes a left hand hand turn at full speed. The Giant makes it around the bend, but just about. The leaders are going up the Sibbergrubbe, which is a bit of an irregular climb. It flattens out, but not quite, before kicking back up. It almost looks like a paved wave. The residents are out in force, cheering on the riders and hoping for a souvenir. With the weather like it is, there will be many bottles available.

14:59 CEST   
The peloton is split again, with a few riders on the right and left using the bike path to gain positions. But currently they are separated by a patch of grass and get over. Erik Zabel is safely in the bunch.

15:01 CEST    180.4km/77km to go
The reason why riders are trying to move up is the Cauberg. Good positioning required to not lose contact with the front group. The strong riders can catch back on, but it requires energy, which is better saved.

The number of spectators is unbelievable! Good thing they have barriers.

15:02 CEST   
Timmer is out of the saddle, as he leads the break up the Cauberg. He looks to be hurting, which is not surprising after the long break the three had already endured.

15:03 CEST   
The trio is at the top, making it through the finish for the second time. Soon, we will know the exact gap to the peloton.

15:05 CEST   
Oh, the peloton is a big mess right now, taking a right hand turn and riders cutting across the bike path, then hopping back on the road. But they make it without crashes. Backstedt is in an aero position – just to try to hang onto the tail end of the peloton. The Swede will not be looking forward to the Cauberg.

15:07 CEST   
It looks like *everyone* in the town of the Valkenburg is out to see the race today. The masses are unbelievable. The peloton is now on the climb, led by High Road and Gerolsteiner. A Swedish flag is flying - maybe some motivation for the Slipstream rider Backstedt in his Swedish champion outfit.

15:09 CEST   
The peloton is on the last 300m. They ride tempo The gap is 4'53 as they pass the finish line.

15:13 CEST   
How convenient, the top of the climb is the feed zone. The riders grab their musette and check out what the soigneurs have packed. A smiling Backstedt and a team-mate make it up, almost seven minutes behind the leaders.

The feed zone is always a mess and it looked like a Milram rider lost one of his precious milk products. Marco Marzano (Lampre) has to swerve to the left a little bit.

Cyclingnews also checks its musette. No surprise in the Netherlands – it's a cheese sandwich!

15:15 CEST    185.4km/72km to go
The peloton hits the Geulhemmerweg – still 72 kilometres to go.

15:15 CEST   
Despite the recent feed zone, Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) takes on a ton of bottles. He will now ride back through the bunch and looking out for his Liquigas riders to hand them the Liqui-Water.

15:18 CEST   
A quick lull to take on the food has been finished and the peloton is back to full speed. We see Vladimir Gusev (Astana), and the Slipstreamers Maaskant and David Millar riding in the long line of a stretched-out peloton.

15:18 CEST   

Current race situation

  • Kristof Vandewalle (Topsport Vlaanderen), Albert Timmer (Skil-Shimano) and Yuriy Krivtsov (AG2R La Mondiale)
  • Peloton at 3.10

15:21 CEST   
The speed didn't help the break and they are now only a good three minutes ahead. The peloton is split again through a traffic divider and a following left hand turn leaves the guys on the right taking the longer route. But this is followed by a roundabout and a turn to the right. Everything equals out! The only hope is that with the nervous racing and jumping curbs and cutting in and out that nobody will hit one of the many traffic signs, windmills, spectators or any other obstacles that you encounter in the Netherlands.

15:22 CEST   
Cyclingnews' journalists at the finish spotted some guys who were dropped on the Cauberg. Among them were some Skil riders, but also Koen Barbé who was in the breakaway with Timmer during the Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen on Wednesday. Barbé clearly didn't recover too well from that effort.

15:24 CEST   
Some spectators have indeed jump to safety, as the fast flying peloton takes a left hand turn. Bike racing can be dangerous to watch if you don't realise these guys are coming at you with some 50km/h.

Flecha is coming up through the team cars! He must have had a mechanical. But he makes it back no problem.

15:28 CEST   
Albert Timmer is getting a bottle from his team car and some instructions. With only three minutes over the bunch, the breakaway riders know they might not last much longer in the front. Especially with Rabobank leading the peloton out on home soil...

15:30 CEST   
A CSC rider at the front of the bunch *just* avoided the motorbike camera, swerving around a roundabout. Those TV pilots better watch out as the pace has picked up for the race finale!

15:32 CEST    198.4km/59km to go
Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) is at the back, while Michael Barry (High Road) finds his work at the front enough for the day, as he drops back. Julien Loubet (AG2R La Mondiale) is also on the wrong end of the peloton.

The gap is 'up' again to 3'23. A Gerolsteiner rider is leading out now.

15:36 CEST   
Garcia Acosta (Caisse d'Epargne) has done his share of work for team leader Valverde. Jason Donald (Slipstream) also dropped out of the back as the bunch hit another climb.

15:38 CEST    203.4km/54km to go
Things are starting to get nervous at the front of the bunch, as riders start looking at each other, trying to break things up. The bunch is strung out. The gap is down to 2'10. Time for the race finale!

15:44 CEST   
A Crédit Agricole rider is trying to get away now, but no chance. The terrain is constantly up and down, and after more than 200 kilometres raced, the pace is doing some damage in the bunch. They will soon be at the Wolfsberg.

Errata corrige: Just before the race crossed the finish line a while ago, they climbed the Cauberg for the second time, not the first time as we initially wrote. The climb will be on the menu for the third time just before the finish.

15:47 CEST   
CSC's Kroon digs in again on a climb inside a village, but sits up right away. Testing, testing, testing... who's still got some juice?

15:49 CEST   
Good for the riders the weather is still nice today in the Netherlands. Still, the racing is dangerous with those traffic islands in the middle of the road, splitting the bunch up once again. Everybody made it through on their bikes, though. Phew!

15:51 CEST    212.4km/45km to go
The lead trio is still working together fine, but they know their time in the spotlight is soon up.

Skil's Yukihiro Doi is sitting just behind Stefan Schumacher right now. Greetings to our Japanese readers!

15:55 CEST   
Matthew Lloyd (Silence-Lotto) had to unclip his right pedal, coming round a traffic island.

And we have a crash! No surprise. A Milram rider is down, but unhurt. He gets some assistance from his team mechanic.

15:57 CEST   
We have five Gerolsteiner riders at the front of the bunch now. Pretty impressive. The German team would love a third consecutive win, of course.

The three breakaway riders are on the Wolfsberg now.

15:59 CEST   
Niki Terpstra (Milram) is trying to jump away from the bunch, mouth wide open. He looks back and realizes he's got a gap. And he's got the three breakaway riders in view now!

16:02 CEST   
Niki Terpstra has caught the three, but the peloton is close behind, only 17 seconds.

16:03 CEST   
The peloton hits the Loorberg, with a max of 16%. An Euskaltel and a Caisse rider try to go, but the peloton is not letting them get away. The break is almost caught.

16:04 CEST   
The break has been caught now and the next to go is a Rabobank rider - it is Robert Gesink, the young Dutch talent.

16:07 CEST   
Five riders have gone clear now. Joining Gesink are Kim Kirchen (High Road), Igor Astarloa (Team Milram) and Mario Aerts (Silence-Lotto), as well as a Française des Jeux rider. That is Philippe Gilbert.

16:08 CEST   
But the gap is small and the five are being caught again on a little descent. An Astana rider immediately attacks, but also doesn't last.

16:09 CEST   
It came all back together, as Cofidis and Rabo are taking control of the bunch, together with CSC. A Lotto rider moves up on the left. That could be Vansummeren.

16:10 CEST   
The peloton is stretched out so long that the front riders have made the left hand turn some 30 seconds before the tail end will get to do it. There is a good reason why you want to be at the front in this race if you don't want to miss the attacks.

16:13 CEST   
An AG2R rider rides over the left sidewalk, but needs to switch back because there too many spectators, carefully avoiding the poles.

Florencio of Bouygues Telecom crashed. He looks shaken and hurt his tail bone. Some riders have to get around him on the sidewalk on the left.

16:13 CEST    227.4km/30km to go
Everything is together now, 30km from the finish. It is CSC pulling again.

16:15 CEST    229.4km/28km to go
And Rabobank is there, of course. Anything but a win would be a disappointment for the orange squad. But there are a lot of good riders here, as the peloton tackles the Gulperberg.

16:17 CEST   
Vansummeren is near the front again. Lampre and Cofidis are leading over the steep climb. This is the sixth-to-last climb. Yuriy Krivtsov is now being dropped. He was in the break of the day. Florencio, who just crashed a few minutes ago, is back.

16:19 CEST   
The peloton is calling it a truce for now, as the Gulperberg didn't bring a decision. This allows the dropped riders to get back and Carlo Scognamiglio (Barloworld) to slip off the front.

16:20 CEST   
But this also doesn't last, as the former Milram rider, who lives near Bergamo, is caught.

16:21 CEST   
We just passed six hours of racing time. Phew, a long work day in the saddle. The next to try to check out before his colleagues is a Liquigas rider, Dario Cataldo.

16:22 CEST    234.4km/23km to go
If he wants to go solo he has another 23km to go, and a lot of turns, as he takes a left-right-left combination at tremendous speed.

16:23 CEST    235.4km/22km to go
The gap for the Liquigas rider is not too big, but he hits the Kruisberg before the others. A max of 11%!

16:25 CEST   
The peloton catches the Italian before they are even halfway up. Joost Posthuma and Flecha(Rabobank) are getting dropped! That is a surprise.

16:26 CEST   
All of a sudden Rabobank is not looking so hot anymore. Only one of its riders at the front of the peloton for the moment. The next climb is coming up soon.

16:27 CEST   
Kirchen attacks! He wants to get up the Eyserbosweg before the others and seek a decision. He is joined by a Lotto rider. Could be Vansummeren again.

16:28 CEST   
The max is 16%. Vansummeren is struggling on the Luxemburger's wheel. The peloton is content to let the duo go for now. The Belgian takes a pull now, too. In fact he puts a gap between himself and Kirchen!

16:29 CEST   
The street is lined with fans and Vansummeren is the first to emerge at the top. His gap is not too big, though, maybe 100m.

16:31 CEST   
Schumacher, Rebellin, Tanking, Lloyd, Cunego - there are a few players left in the Amstel Gold game. The front group is now maybe 20 riders!

16:32 CEST    240.4km/17km to go
Elmiger, Gesink and Nocentini are also in the group. Ivanov of Astana attacks! The tension builds, as the Fromberg is tackled.

16:34 CEST   
Ballan is in a group that looks like they are not making it back. Zabel is there as well. Ballan is struggling, probably not fully recovered from his Paris-Roubaix effort.

Ivanov is still up front, some 10 seconds ahead of the elite group.

16:35 CEST   
Christian Pfannberger (Barloworld) is catching up with Ivanov. Two hearts are better than one.

16:36 CEST   
The duo has maybe 200m. Rabo has three guys in front of the peloton and pulling hard. They want to bring it back for Freire. The gap is 16 seconds.

16:37 CEST    244.4km/13km to go
A sharp left for everyone, but Australian champion Matthew Lloyd didn't see it. He went straight, but soon noticed the lack of asphalt and spectators. He is now chasing behind, having lost the draft of the front group, which is about 20-25 riders strong.

16:39 CEST   
Pfannberger is pulling hard. He looks around, Ivanov is right there. Pfannberger leads the duo into the Keutenberg - the next to last berg!

16:40 CEST   
Pfannberger is from Austria and is used to bigger 'mountains' But he is leading Ivanov the whole way, out of the saddle and in a big gear. The peloton is closing in, some 100m behind.

16:41 CEST   
But the peloton is completely falling apart. Schumacher is in the fourth group or so. Ballan is even further back. Arvesen is also dropped. What a mess!

16:42 CEST   
The duo is caught. Rebellin, Cunego and Schleck have joined them. This could be the decisive move!

16:42 CEST   
Some riders have caught up and we have a nine-man group.

16:44 CEST   
The group is now starting to get tactical, which Rebellin doesn't like and slides off the front. Thomas Dekker is also in that group of nine - well, eight now, since Tintin is still off the front.

16:48 CEST   
There is Valverde, Rodriguez, Schleck, Pfannberger, Kroon, Dekker, Cunego, Ivanov and Rebellin, who has been pulled back, in the front group.

Gesink is pulling hard in the second group to get Freire back into contention. There is also Schumacher, who is profiting from the work of the Rabos. They don't seem to have confidence into Dekker in the front.

16:49 CEST    252.4km/5km to go
Only 5 more kilometres. The gap is less than half a minute.

16:50 CEST   
Rebellin sits at the back and takes a drink. But he is tired and half of it goes straight out into thin air.

16:51 CEST   
The nine front runners hit the last descent at full speed. Scary!

16:52 CEST   
The roundabout is where last year Schumacher made his attack!

16:53 CEST    255.4km/2km to go
It is Frank Schleck in the front, btw. His younger brother Andy is further back. Wegmann is in the second group also, along with Kirchen and Nocentini. They are 23 seconds back.

16:54 CEST   
Rodriguez is leading the break. He is pulling for Valverde.

16:54 CEST    256.4km/1km to go
The leaders pass the flamme rouge! No attacks so far.

16:54 CEST   
Rodriguez leads Cunego and Valverde. Pfannberger at the back.

16:55 CEST   
Kroon pulls hard. Dekker hangs on, Cunego and Valverde still there, 300m to go.

16:56 CEST   
Kroon goes off and Cunego takes over. Only a couple of hundred metres! Schleck is right behind him, Valverde is still there.

16:57 CEST   
And Schleck can't make up the gap! Cunego pulls through full speed, then sits up as he checks on Schleck. Enough time to celebrate and ride over the finish with both arms raised! A great sprint by the Italian!

16:58 CEST   
Schleck also has both arms off the handle bars, but just to show his disappointment, as he couldn't make it past Cunego.

17:01 CEST   
Cunego has shown good form lately and this kind of finish suited the Italian very well. He had tremendous speed over the final two hundred metres. Schleck couldn't get into the slipstream. Valverde got third, while former winner Rebellin ended in fourth and Rabobank rider Thomas Dekker in fifth.