VALKENBURG, Netherlands (VN) — Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) didn’t leave the chase too late this time — at least not in reference to an attacking Philippe Gilbert — but saddle problems in the final hour of racing made things difficult for him in the decisive moments of Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race.
On the same finale last year, Gilbert powered away from Valverde on the Cauberg to win the world title. Fast-forward six months, and Valverde stayed glued on Gilbert’s wheel and then out-kicked him to claim to claim second.
The problem was that Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff) outfoxed the favorites with a late attack to win the 251.8km Dutch classic.
“Roman is the just winner,” Valverde said. “Rather than be upset, I am quite happy with second. It shows I am strong for the coming races. Roman made a strong move and he beat us all.”
That was Valverde in the post-stage press conference, after he had a chance to calm down and consider his thoughts.
At the finish line, Valverde was upset because he had problems with his saddle in the final half of the race.
“My seat slipped down with about 100km to go and I arrived to the finish with my legs a little bit more tired than normal,” Valverde told VeloNews. “That was too bad, but the team rode great today.”
Valverde, 32, comes into the Ardennes looking to make up for last year’s subpar performance.
The double-Liège winner (2006, 2008) returned to competition last year following his controversial two-year ban for links to the Operaciòn Puerto doping scandal. And while he rode well throughout the season, and looked like a contender for the spring classics, he was flat in the Ardennes, with 22nd at Amstel Gold and 46th in Flèche Wallonne (a race he won in 2006). He was disqualified from Liège after accidentally following a motorcycle off-route in a detour for photographers.
Valverde’s best at Amstel Gold was third in 2007, so he seemed happy enough to edge closer to victory.
“It was a complicated final, but I am happy with second,” Valverde said. “I am very, very happy. I have to thank the team for their work. This is a good signal for the rest of the week.”
Valverde next turns his attention to Flèche and Liège. With his performance Sunday, he should be counted on as one of the favorites.