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44th Amstel Gold Race - UPT

Netherlands, April 19, 2009

Complete live report

Live commentary by Susan Westemeyer

11:30 CEST   
Good morning and welcome to the Amstel Gold Race! The exciting Spring Classics season continues, and this race promises to be as thrilling as ever!

11:35 CEST    31.6km/227km to go
Things got off to a fast and furious start. The start was promptly at 10:15, and before they even got out of Maastricht the first break had formed. Kristof Vandewalle (Topsport Vlaanderen), Reiner Honig (Vacansoleil), Thierry Hupond (Skil Shimano) and two others whose names we have not yet heard took off and now have a whopping 11 minute lead over the peloton, with Borut Bozic (Vacansoleil) giving chase, only 45 seconds back.

11:38 CEST   
Daniel Lloyd of Cervélo wasn't at the start this morning, so the black-clad team sent only seven riders to the start.

11:41 CEST   
Amstel Gold Race: 31 climbs over 258.6km through the Dutch countryside, with tons of fans all along the way. The biggest names of those climbs is the Cauberg, a nasty little climb right up to the finish line: 2.4km long, with an average gradient of 12%. Oh yes, and that will be third time up the Cauberg for those happy racers.

11:43 CEST   
We now hear that the list of riders in the break may not be right, but that it contains so-far unnamed riders from Milram, Katusha, Diquigiovanni, Skil-Shimano and Bouygues Telecom.

11:46 CEST   
We have names! Yukiya Arashiro (Bouygues), Sergei Klimov (Katusha), Niki Terpstra (Milram), Rubens Bertogliati (Diquigiovanni) and Albert Timmer (Skil) are now said to be the lead group, with Bozic still 45 seconds back.

11:46 CEST   
Oops, now we see that Bozic has joined the leaders.

11:52 CEST   
We have a beautiful day today, sunshine and blue skies, but a few clouds. A bit of wind though, as Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé tells us.

11:55 CEST   
"Ah, I am happy to be back after my crash in Flanders," Carlos Barredo (Quick Step) said to Gregor Brown. He fell on the Koppenberg. "I did not fracture my rib, but there was some damage and I still have some pain.

"My first race back was Scheldeprijs on Wednesday. I was lucky not to be involved in either of the two big crashes. We had a guy go down on the cobbled sector and then of course Tom [Boonen] crashed in the sprint."

11:58 CEST   
Amstel Gold Race: 31 climbs over 258.6km throughout the Dutch countryside, with tons of fans all along the way. The biggest names of those climbs is the Cauberg, a nasty little climb right up to the finish line: 2.4km long, with an average gradient of 12%. Oh yes, and that will be third time up the Cauberg for those happy racers.

12:01 CEST   
So who is going to take the race today? Check out the new Cyclingnews forum and let us know.

12:11 CEST    65.6km/193km to go
The lead is shrinking -- it is now all of 15 seconds less, with the peloton at 9.45 behind the six leaders, who are now getting ready to tackle the Cauberg for the first time.

12:13 CEST   
"I am going well and we have a strong team here. You know the team wants to get some wins," explained Matthew Lloyd (Silence-Lotto) to Cyclingnews' Brown.

"I am building for the Giro, and I really like the looks of the route this year, however it would me nice to do something nice here.

"I was going well last year in Amstel, and then I took a wrong turn towards the end of the race. All the guys now joke with me about that turn, saying, 'don't forget to turn here.'"

"The team has a lot of options to play here, Gilbert, Dekker, who is crazy about this race. And there is Cadel [Evans]."

12:15 CEST   
One rider here whom you might not have expected to see is Carlos Sastre of Cervélo TestTeam. It is the Spaniards's first appearance since 2003 for CSC, when he apparently didn't finish. The 2008 Tour de France winner is not looking to win here today, though. "I'm here to build up competition rhythm, not to battle for the win," Sastre said to Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé when rolling up the sunny market square in Maastricht this morning.

12:18 CEST   
So who is the favourite today? We have lots of big names here who could take the honours, like 2008 winner Damiano Cunego, or 2006 winner Fränk Schleck. How about Alejandro Valverde or Samuel Sanchez or Robert Gesink – or even Davide Rebellin, who won here way back in 2004, on his way to becoming the only man ever to win the Amstel-Flèche-LBL triple.

12:24 CEST   
Defending champion Damiano Cunego of Lampre is looking to take the win today with strong support from his team. "In the early months of the year I worked with my teammates in order to be ready for these races," he said. "Amstel is the first main appointment; I'll be there with the necessary calm." Check out our interview with him.

12:27 CEST   
Thomas Dekker is one of the local favourites and he hopes to battle for the win today. "I think the strongest team will be the Selle Italia team. Cunego is the man to beat. It will be hard for me to win because I didn't have a perfect build-up towards this race; I had some crashes and couldn't race a lot. Who's going to win it? Sanchez is my pick," Dekker said this morning.

12:29 CEST   
We apologize for the lack of up-dates, but we are having trouble getting news of what is actually happening out there on the road.

12:32 CEST   
"I like the style of racing here: the stop-starts, the windy roads, the punchy climbs," said Simon Gerrans (Cervélo TestTeam) to Brown.

"Different than Australia? For sure, but I don't race there anymore and I have been here in Europe for 10 years."

You will lead the team today? "Yeah. It is more my type of race than Carlos'. He is the leader, but it is not the type of race that suits him. He says he loves racing the classics, but it is a preparation race for him for the Giro d'Italia."

Will you have your chances to win a stage like you did a the Tour de France? "I will go to the Giro to help Carlos. It would be great to win a stage. I need to look at the course better, thought I have studied the guide book."

Where do you want to make your mark in the Ardennes Classics? "I am not fussy, I will take any one of them.“

12:34 CEST   
Spanish champion Alejandro Valverde is under much pressure these days but said on the start podium that he wanted to ride up front during the finale. He is, as you know, facing a hearing before the Italians on charges of being involved in Operación Puerto..

12:38 CEST   
Austrian champion Christian Pfannberger (Katusha) was sporting his national champion's jersey. "I hope I can show it during the finale. First I have to see how the legs are but normally this should be a good race for me. I'm not afraid of anybody. I want to have good race. I'll be happy when I'm in the mix for the win, I'm not judging my race solely on the result," Pfannberger said to Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé after signing on this morning.

12:40 CEST   
By the way, the peloton came over the Cauberg all of 14 minutes behind the escape group. Valverde was near the back of the peloton, as was Nick Nuyens. And the last one over the top was Pfannberger, who seems to be taking it quite easy so far.

12:45 CEST   
The sun is shining today, the sky is blue and the trees are giving off lots of pollen. That doesn't make Nick Nuyens of Rabobank happy. Like so many of us, he suffers from pollen allergies, and is now going around with too little breath, watering eyes and a stuffed-up nose. He had hoped for rain, to calm things down.

12:49 CEST   
Robert Gesink of Rabobank has good chances to win today as an outsider, according to his team director Erik Dekker. He is only 22, but is a promising star for the Dutch team, finishing 21st here last year. This year he finished 8th overall in the Tour of California, where he won the best young rider jersey, and was 11th in Tirreno-Adriatico and 7th in País Vasco.

12:51 CEST   
A UCI medical team led by inspector Marc Vandevyvere visited five teams this morning, between 7am and 8:25 am: Cervélo TestTeam, Bbox Bouygues Telecom, Caisse d'Epargne, Fuji-Servetto and Garmin-Slipstream. They took 39 blood samples for the biological passport.

12:57 CEST   
Gesink couldn't wait for today's race, or actually, this week's three races, as they are his first season highlight. He wants to win one of them – any one of them would be just fine and dandy – but realizes that today's race, being Dutch, is probably bigger for his sponsors.

Sergey Klimov (Katusha) led the break first time through the finish
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

13:04 CEST   
Team Silence-Lotto is having a tough time of it this season, and has sent its big guns to the start today. Philippe Gilbert, Cadel Evans and Thomas Dekker are all apparently sharing the captain's role. Gilbert isn't too thrilled by that, as he says the cobble classics suit him better. He has ridden this race three times previously, in 2004 (34th), 2006 (69th), and 2008 (29th).

13:07 CEST   
Those three Silence-Lotto captains have divided up the three races this week among themselves. Thomas Dekker is captain today, with Cadel Evans heading things up for the Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday and Philippe Gilbert for L-B-L on Sunday.

13:08 CEST    99.6km/159km to go
The gap is still at 13 minutes, and the peloton seems finally to have realized it needs to wake up. Caisse d'Epargne, Rabobank and Euskaltel are trying to organize things, and have sent their men to the front of the group.

13:10 CEST   
Krystian K. of Poland wants to know whether Kim Kirchen is back on the bike at last. He certainly is, and is not only riding today, but was also in the Scheldeprijs earlier this week.

13:13 CEST   
Looks like we may have exaggerated a bit on our description of the Cauberg. Ewoud Dronkert of the Netherlands tells us that it is 1.4km long and not 2.4km. The average gradient is 5%, not 12%, although the steepest point is 12%.

13:17 CEST   
Daniel Martin of Garmin-Slipstream is riding all three of the Ardennes Classics, and then "I am doing all three and then I will head to Romandie, Catalunya and Dauphiné," he told Cyclingnews' Brown.

"Today is all about Ryder Hesjedal and Martijn Maaskant, but I don't know how much I will be able to help them since it is my first race back. I will do what I can at the start and try to get some experience out of the day because it is my first time to do the race.

"I have no idea what to expect, but I have done the Cauberg a few times in an Under 23 race."

What are you early memories of Amstel Gold? "I always remembered it as a hard man's race that is decided on the Cauberg. I love watching them and to be here is pretty special. These are great races – Amstel, Flèche and Liège – for a climber, like myself."

13:22 CEST   
Team Columbia-Highroad sees Kim Kirchen working on his comeback after breaking his collarbone in the Tour of California. He also hurt his hip when he crashed last Wednesday in the Scheldeprijs, but is supposed to be ok. He is not captain today, though, as the team will look more to Marco Pinotti, Michael Rogers and Marcus Burghardt.

"But rather than waiting for the finale as we would do if we had a top contender, we'll be looking at getting into breaks and seeing what we can do from the word go,“ said DS Valerio Piva. „That strategy worked out pretty well for us in the Basque Country, where we won two stages, and chances are it could be successful again in Amstel Gold."

13:26 CEST   
We have to make yet another correction: Kim Kirchen is NOT riding today.

"I have done this race four times and last year I finished it for the first time, so I know the roads well," said Marco Pinotti (Columbia-Highroad) to Gregor Brown. The Italian is on good form as proved with his País Vasco stage win last week.

"The team goes into the race without a leader, but we will try to be in every move in the final kilometres. If is a break with more than five or six riders we will try to have a man in the group, even myself. Last year we raced for Kim Kirchen, but this year it is different without him here."

13:31 CEST   
"I will maybe have my chance into a group in the finale if I have good legs. I hope my legs are still good after the Northern Classics," Marcus Burghardt (Columbia-Highroad) said to Brown.

"It is a very important race here. You have to be strong or you will dropped and stuck at the back on the climbs. Nervous? No, not so much."

13:35 CEST    119.6km/139km to go
Caisse d'Epargne, Rabobank and Euskaltel are keeping up their good work, and have now cut the lead down to 8:20.

13:39 CEST   
Damiano Cunego (Lampre-NGC) said, "Amstel is the most nervous race of the three thanks to its sharp and short climbs. They say there are only 31 climbs, but I see more than 40. All of the climbs are low, the 'Cima Coppi' is only 320 metres, but the gradient is stiff. The roads are narrow. All in all, it is completely up and down, back and forth."

13:42 CEST   
W apologize again for the lack of race information, and are doing what we can, but there is just not much information coming through.

13:45 CEST   
"I had a little bit of flu this week, I was down for one day, but it seems better now. For sure I will be better for Flèche and Liège. I am happy to be in Maastricht, it is great to race the Amstel Gold Race," Davide Rebellin (Diquigiovanni-Androni) said to Cyclingnews just prior to starting the 44th race.

13:51 CEST   
The US-based Garmin team has two leaders for the Amstel Gold Race: Martijn Maaskant and Ryder Hesjedal. "I have a protected role in the team. I'll help Ryder Hesjedal who has been going strong since the Tirreno-Adriatico. He can use someone who knows the way in this area. I live nearby in Lanaken [across the border, in Belgium] which is only 5km from here. Many riders who rode Paris-Roubaix are done with this part of the season while for me there's one more race to go. I can go well if I have good legs," Garmin's Martijn Maaskant said to Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé.

13:52 CEST    129.6km/129km to go
The gap continues to get smaller, as the chasing peloton has now chipped another minute off of it. They are now 7:20 behind.

13:58 CEST   
Team Milram was ecstatic to have its second win of the season yesterday when Robert Förster won in Turkey, and would love nothing more than to have its third win today. The German team will be looking to Fabian Wegmann, the German national champion, who finished 11th here last year and 13th in 2007. The Ardennes Classics „are the absolute season highlight for me,“ he said.

Milram has Terpstra in the break, and the young Dutch rider would be overjoyed to take such a large win in his home land.

14:05 CEST   
Let's take a look at the members of the escape group, and start with the most exotic of the six. Yukiya Arashiro is a 24-year old Japanese rider in his first ProTour year. He previously rode for Cycle Racing Team Vang, Nippo Corporation and Meitan Hompo-GDR.

14:08 CEST   
Sergei Klimov of Katusha is a 28-year-old Russia who first signed with Team Tinkoff in 2006. His successes so far have been on the track and in team time trials.

14:10 CEST   
You can find today's updated start list here. Also check out the pre-race pictures from our ground crew.

14:13 CEST   
Niki Terpstra is a 24-year-old Dutchman riding for the German Team Milram. He won the mountain title at the Tour of Deutschland in 2007. The youngster is also a track rider. He went to Beijing last summer but didn't make it to the races, as he crashed on his way to the event and broke both arms. He is recovered now, and finished ninth in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad earlier this year. Terpstra is looking forward to a personal highlight this summer, as he will become a father.

14:14 CEST   
Things are a little slow around here at the moment, so why don't you take a minute to scope out the new Cyclingnews forum?

14:16 CEST    139.6km/119km to go
Valverde's Caisse d'Epargne teammates are leading the charge and the gap is now down to 6.15.

14:22 CEST   
The peloton is moving swiftly along through a village, which is surrounded by beautiful flowering trees. Beautiful to look at, but they won't make Nuyens and all the other allergy-sufferers happy!

14:24 CEST   
Hmm, instead of leading the peloton, we now see three Caisse d'Epargne riders at the other end of things.

14:26 CEST   
A very sharp left turn for the peloton, but everyone makes it through safely.

14:27 CEST   
Rubens Bertogliati, 29 years old, is with Diquigiovanni. He won the first stage of the 2002 Tour de France and wore the leader's jersey for two days. He also finished fourth overall in the 2007 Tour of Georgia.

14:28 CEST   
The field dashes through another village, dodging traffic islands.

14:29 CEST   
Lots of sunshine and blue sky today, but we see more and more clouds in the sky. Hope it stays dry!

14:32 CEST   
Albert Timmer is 23 years old and rides for Skil-Shimano. The young Dutchman rode for Team Löwik Meubelen before joining Skil in 2007.

14:34 CEST    148.6km/110km to go
A Euskaltel rider leads the group up the next climb. The gap is now 5.20.

14:37 CEST   
Borut Bozic (Vacansoleil) was the last to join the escape group, so he is the last to be profiled. The 28-year-old Slovenian turned pro in 2005 with Perutnina Ptuj, joining LPR in 2007 and Collstrop in 2008, where he won a stage of the Etoile des Bessèges.

14:39 CEST    153.6km/105km to go
The Euskaltel orange continues to lead the way. Now we see Oscar Pereiro safely within the peloton.

14:40 CEST   
4.55 is the gap right now, as the peloton bumps merrily over some speed bumps.

14:41 CEST   
The leading sextet is on a narrow country lane now. Things will be tight here when the peloton hits this stretch.

14:50 CEST   
Some problems for Fränk Schleck, who won here in 2006. But his teammates are taking care of him, and now he back at the team car getting some repairs.

14:51 CEST   
More repairs for the Saxo Bank rider, but now he seems to be on his way again, with three teammates there to bring him back into the peloton.

14:52 CEST   
Some parked cars on the side of the road have brought down a handful of riders, including Cervélo's Dominique Rollin. But all are up and going again.

14:53 CEST   
The break group now heads up another of those nasty little climbs, which is, of course, lined with encouraging fans.

14:54 CEST    166.6km/92km to go
Four minutes now for the leading group. Doesn't look like they will be able to stay away to the end.

14:55 CEST   
Rollin is putting in time behind his team car in his attempt to get back to the peloton.

14:55 CEST   
Fränk Schleck will look to repeat his 2006 win here today, with support from, among others, younger brother Andy. Schleck the Elder has finished in the Top Ten the last three years, including a close second to Cunego last year. When he won, he did it with a solo attack of 10 km, which he knows is better for him. "I prefer to finish the race like I did three years ago, it is better and you have more time to enjoy it. Especially for me, I am always in trouble when it comes to a sprint."

14:56 CEST   
Now the peloton heads up the Vrakelberg, 700 meters long.

The six-man lead group is still ahead
Photo ©: ISPA
(Click for larger image)

14:58 CEST   
The way is narrow and the riders are nearly single file, as they have brought the gap down to 3.40. Meanwhile the six leaders dash through a tunnel before coming out again into the blinding sunshine.

14:59 CEST   
We have 22 Dutch riders in the race today, with three Dutch teams: Rabobank, Skil-Shimano and Vacansoleil. Skil has the most Dutch riders here (six), with Rabo bringing five and Vacansoleil three. Garmin also has three Dutch riders here today.

15:00 CEST   
The peloton flies across the fields nearly single file as the gap drops to 3.30.

15:04 CEST   
Philip of Belgium wants to know if native son Philippe Gilbert will hit the Top Five today. We won't make a prediction (because when we do, we jinx that poor rider) but will say that Gilbert has his eyes aimed more at LBL next weekend.

15:06 CEST   
Some of the riders have jumped off the road and on to the nearby bike path. This is not really good idea, as the fans tend to stand there, and there has been at least one terrible accident this season.

15:07 CEST   
The Schleck brothers seem to like the team car today. Andy was just back there getting some repairs.

15:10 CEST   
The six leaders are not giving up, as they tear through a town and, yes, up the Cauberg again!

15:12 CEST   
Up they go! Arashiro leads the way this time. One more time up that climb, guys, and that will be all!

15:13 CEST   
The peloton isn't all that far behind. A Rabo rider dashes out from the peloton -- who is it?

15:14 CEST   
The Rabo rider has now been joined by three other riders, and they have about a 10 second lead over the peloton. They cross the line 2.04 behind the six leaders.

15:15 CEST   
The Rabo rider is Pieter Weening.

15:16 CEST   
Those four riders have been joined by a few others, including someone from Columbia.

15:18 CEST   
Here is the group: Weening (Rabobank), Van den Broeck (Silence-Lotto), Tony Martin (Columbia), Agnoli (Liquigas), Gavazzi (Lampre) and Honig (Vacansoleil).

15:22 CEST   
A Lotto rider is down, as is Fränk Schleck. We hate to say it, but it doesn't look very good for either of them. We are not sure whether Schleck is conscious or not.

15:23 CEST   
Schleck has just moved one of his legs, so that is a good sign. However, he has blood on his head and is being fitted with a neck brace.

15:24 CEST   
We understand that the other rider is Matthew Lloyd, who also appears to be injured.

15:24 CEST    190.6km/68km to go
The gap is now 1.25.

15:25 CEST   
By the way, the peloton has re-absorbed the small group that got away on the Cauberg.

15:29 CEST   
A group of eight has gotten away from the peloton. We will work on getting their names. We also understand that Schleck and Lloyd are being put into an ambulance now.

15:30 CEST   
Pereiro, Van den Broeck, Albasini and Martin are among those in the chase group. But their lead is only a few seconds and they will be caught again momentarily.

15:31 CEST   
And the six escapees will be caught again any moment now. Hm, there seems to be a small split in the peloton. A group of 20 or so are about 15 seconds ahead.

And Terpstra won't give up. He attacks out of the escape group.

15:33 CEST   
Lloyd has been placed in the ambulance. The workers are taking their time with Schleck.

15:34 CEST   
Freire has and two companions have opened a small lead over the field. Terpstra continues to lead from the break group.

15:35 CEST   
Bjarne Riis is on his mobile phone, looking very serious, as he sees his rider in the ambulance.

15:37 CEST   
Freire and Co. have been joined by a handful of other riders, but the peloton isn't far behind.

15:39 CEST   
It looks like the group of six around Freire has pulled away a bit from the peloton. Pinotti of High Road is in the group, too. They have caught and passed the former escape group -- all except for Terpstra.

15:41 CEST   
Ryder Hesjedal, Valerio Agnoli and three of the former escape group are now in the chase group. Bozic and Bertaglioti have fallen back.

15:42 CEST   
The group's lead is only 15 seconds. Not sure where Terpstra is right now.

15:45 CEST   
Everyone is practically all together now. Agnoli and Freire have caught Terpstra.

15:46 CEST   
Marcus Burghardt of Columbia has jumped up to join the three leaders.

15:49 CEST   
Now they are saying it is Tony Martin and not Marcus Burghardt.

15:52 CEST   
Schleck took a hard blow to the head, as was obvious. Albert of RTL Radio in Luxembourg told us that he heard Schleck wanted to get up and continue the race – running, as he knew his bike was broken. We think the hospital is a better place for him right now.

And we are now back to the official opinion that it is indeed Marcus Burghardt in the lead group.

15:56 CEST   
Terpstra is at the back of the group, and both Burghardt and Freire have indicated to him that he needs to do his share of the lead work. So what does he do? The Dutchman takes off again and had a small lead over the trio before they catch him. And he is once again -- at the end of the group!

16:00 CEST    215.6km/43km to go
The gap has picked up a little -- 20 seconds.

16:02 CEST   
Caisse d'Epargne wants Valverde to win this race, and moves to the front of the peloton.

16:03 CEST   
Terpstra is doing his lead work now, as the foursome goes up the Wolfsberg.

16:07 CEST   
The four leaders seem to be working together well now.

16:09 CEST   
Chris Anker Sørensen of Saxo Bank joins the four leaders, and a few other riders try to make the jump. Looks like Terpstra has finally had to drop back.

16:10 CEST   
Also Burghardt seems to be losing contact with the lead group.

16:11 CEST   
The peloton is really not at all far behind, though. Terpstra has really dropped back, as he is now at the end of the peloton. He was in the lead for a long time though, so he can be satisfied with his day's work.

16:12 CEST   
The next to jump is Dries Devenyns of Quick Step.

16:13 CEST    224.6km/34km to go
The peloton lets the Belgian rider go as they head up the next climb.

16:15 CEST   
The speed is up as the peloton is strung out single file.

16:15 CEST   
The field is still not far behind Devenyns, but he has a definite lead.

16:18 CEST   
Another crash, in the middle of the road. A Quick Step rider was under three or four others. Another rider seems to have landed on his face -- he is taking his time getting up. That is a Topsport Vlaanderen rider, who is now getting a new bike and continuing on.

16:19 CEST    225.6km/33km to go
There are now three riders in the lead group, as Devenyns has been joined by Michael Rogers (Columbia) and Skil Shimano's Koen de Koert.

16:21 CEST   
Saxo Bank DS Kim Anderson says the preliminary report on F. Schleck is no broken bones, no serous injuries -- thank goodness.

16:22 CEST   
De Koert has dropped back on the climb and Rogers and Devenyns have been joined by a handful of other riders.

16:24 CEST    230.6km/28km to go
The six riders in the lead have a gap of 20 seconds or so.

16:25 CEST   
Andy Schleck of Saxo Bank is in the lead group. If one brother can't win it, maybe the other one can!

16:26 CEST   
Gasparotto, Kreuziger, Rogers are also all in the lead group.

16:27 CEST   
Caisse d'Epargne leads the chase through a town with many tight turns and corners. The lead group has been caught.

16:29 CEST    234.6km/24km to go
A steep climb, and Burghardt has mechanical problems.

16:30 CEST   
Lots of riders are falling off the back now. Some of those legs are having a very tough time on the little climbs.

16:31 CEST    237.6km/21km to go
The peloton moves into Eys and the speedy peloton is zipping along again in single file.

16:32 CEST   
Several Rabobank trikots at the head of the group, as Grischa Niermann leads the way.

16:32 CEST   
Schleck, Evans, Valverde -- all are near the front as the go up yet another climb.

16:33 CEST   
Cunego is also near the front, but on the side. The path is narrow and he has to watch out for the bystanders.

16:34 CEST   
Ivanov takes off, but doesn't really come away.

16:35 CEST    239.6km/19km to go
He gives up his attempt.

16:35 CEST   
A Liquigas rider is next to go.

16:36 CEST   
The Liquigas rider is Roman Kreuziger. He has a decent little lead but keeps looking back.

16:37 CEST   
The peloton has shrunk dramatically -- there are only 50-60 riders in the first group, chasing Kreuziger.

16:40 CEST   
Ivanov of Katusha takes off again, in pursuit of Kreuziger.

16:41 CEST    243.6km/15km to go
Liquigas' Nibali has now joined Ivanov.

16:42 CEST    244.6km/14km to go
Ivanov and Nibali have Kreuziger in sight now. Was this all set up just to get Nibali up in the lead?

16:43 CEST   
Ivanov is not happy that he has to do all the lead work, and he lets Nibali know it. But he can't really expect the Italian to chase his own teammate. Meanwhile, Kreuziger builds up his lead!

16:44 CEST   
A Cervélo rider took advantage of the quarrel between the other two to jump in front of them. But now Kreuziger is caught, as the last climb was too much for him.

16:45 CEST   
The peloton has really been blown up now, as little groups force themselves over the last climb.

16:47 CEST    248.6km/10km to go
A group of 10 or so had a lead over the rest of the group. Andy Schleck is still in there. A Rabo rider -- none other than Robert Gesink -- has taken off. That could be the decisive move!

16:48 CEST   
Gesink most definitely does not look as tired as some of the others. His long lean legs are pedaling away smoothly.

16:49 CEST   
Ivanov and Kroon have caught Gesink.

16:50 CEST    250.6km/8km to go
The trio has a lead of some five seconds over the next group.

16:51 CEST   
The chasing group is about 20-30 strong. Will they be able to catch the leading trio?

16:52 CEST   
Let's make that a 20 second lead for the trio in front -- two Dutchmen and a Russian.

16:53 CEST    252.6km/6km to go
The three continue to work well together. But they still face the Cauberg one more time -- who will have the legs to jump away?

16:54 CEST   
Another series of speed bumps, or "drempels", for the leading trio.

16:54 CEST   
Their lead has dropped to 15 seconds.

16:55 CEST   
It is into the woods for the trio, as they approach the Cauberg.

16:55 CEST    255.6km/3km to go
Kroon leads as they go into Valkenberg.

16:56 CEST   
Ivanov takes off! The others follow, but Gesink seems to fall back slightly.

16:57 CEST   
10 seconds for the trio, which is together again. None of them trusts himself enough to take off.

16:57 CEST   
There is not far left to go, but the remaining 1 km is a tough one.

16:58 CEST    257.6km/1km to go
Ivanov goes and Kroon follows. the group is 6 seconds back. Gesink can't follow right now.

16:59 CEST   
Ivanov and Kroon eye each other and Gesink gives his all to catch them. The group is not at all far back.

16:59 CEST   
Ivanov does the lead work but Kroon looks like he is riding easier.

16:59 CEST   
The two are alone.

17:00 CEST   
Ivanov opens the sprint and Kroon can't match him! He doesn't even try!

17:00 CEST   
Ivanov takes the win ahead of Kroon, with Gesink securing third.

17:01 CEST   
Kroon didn't win but gets the best consolation -- a big hug and kiss from his partner.

17:01 CEST   
Philippe Gilbert won the sprint of the chase group, coming in fourth.

17:02 CEST   
That is the 12th season win for Team Katusha, quite an accomplishment for the young team.

Provisional results

1 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Katusha
2 Karsten Kroon (Ned) Saxo Bank
3 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank
4 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Silence-Lotto
5 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-NGC
6 Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
7 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale
8 Nick Nuyens (Bel) Rabobank
9 Christian Pfannberger (Aut) Katusha
10 Gustav Erik Larsson (Swe) Saxo Bank