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"We did all of our tactics right, we waited the same as the other teams, and we were very, very strong. But the new course was a risk, and in the end we made the mistake of taking the wrong risks," sports director Stefano Zanini says

Photo: Sirotti








15.04.2013 @ 09:23 Posted by Jesper Johannesen

With defending champion Enrico Gasparotto in its ranks, Astana had high hopes when they lined up for yesterday's Amstel Gold Race. With a new finish, the team had to take some risks and even though they made a very visible presence throughout most of the race, their gambles were the wrong ones and they left the race with a 9th place for their Italian captain.


Last year Astana surprisingly turned out to be the dominating team of the Ardennes classics with Enrico Gasparotto winning the Amstel Gold Race and Maxim Iglinskiy taking home the Liege-Bastogne-Liege with Gasparotto in 3rd. This year they are back in the hilly one-day races to show that last year's results were no fluke.


With no less than 5 riders in the main group as they hit the bottom of the Cauberg climb for the final time and Andriy Grivko dangling off the front in a chase group, the team proved their strength in numbers and no other team was as massively represented in the final part of the race as the Kazakh team. At the top of the climb, both Gasparotto and Jakob Fuglsang were part of the chase group and it was due to the strong work of the Dane that they caught the trio of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Philippe Gilbert (BMC) and Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) just on the line.


Gasparotto is usually a fast finisher but this time he was badly positioned and had to settle for 9th in his title defence. The finish was changed to include 1800m of flat roads after the top of the Cauberg, and the defending champion said that it made for a much less selective final.


"The race changed after the Cauberg," he said. "The peloton came together and we knew we could not catch Kreuziger or the others, so we were already racing for fourth. When the race finished on top of the Cauberg, I did not know I had won until I crossed the line. This year was different, because the final group was smaller and the attacks all came back together over the top."


Wrong risks

Even though Gasparotto is fast, the team did not expect him to be able to beat major favourite Peter Sagan in a sprint. Hence, they had to focus on attacks in an attempt to anticipate their biggest rivals.


Andriy Grivko stayed ahead of the peloton for most of the final 40km but in the end he lacked the punch to follow Roman Kreuziger (Team Saxo-Tinkoff) when he made his winning attack. Sports director Zanini was glad to see his team stick to the plan even though they left the race empty-handed.


"We did all of our tactics right, we waited the same as the other teams, and we were very, very strong," he said. "But the new course was a risk, and in the end we made the mistake of taking the wrong risks."


Seeldrayaers back

The race marked the comeback for the team's Belgian climber Kevin Seeldraeyers who had a bad crash in the Paris-Nice. The Belgian was seen doing a lot of work to protect his leaders from the wind in the early part of the race before he lack of racing showed and he had to abandon.


Nonetheless, he was happy to be back in competition after his injury.


"It's nice to be back at work, doing my job," he said. "The first nine days after my crash I couldn't ride at all, and once the wounds healed I could only train a few hours at a time. Today was a welcome return to the peloton."


Astana will now turn its attention to the Fleche Wallonne. The steep finish on the Mur de Huy does not suit the team perfectly and they may have to wait until Sunday's Liege-Bastogne-Liege to once again be major protagonists.



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