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Amstel Lowdown: Phil’s Back!
amstel14wy-philbeer650 Pro Analysis: It’s time for some humble pie for our commentator Lee as a resurgent Philippe Gilbert bounced back to his best on the Cauberg yesterday to take his third Amstel Gold victory. Lee Rodgers analyzes all the action from the Netherland’s only Classic.




Fear not, people. Global warming may well be wreaking havoc upon the environment. The troubles in the Crimea and greater Ukraine could possibly trigger a confrontation that will shake the planet off its axis. And it looks like Justin Bieber has a few more albums left in him yet.

But fear not! Because all is right with the world, for Philippe Gilbert is back and winning again. Normal services have resumed.

amstel14wy-philbeer620

You just cannot keep a good man down, they say, and who doesn’t love the sight of the spiky-haired Belgian doing his thing in the way only he can? I have to admit that I did write him off – a little – after he endured his year of the Curse of the Rainbow Jersey and just generally went off the boil to the point of becoming quite tepid.

The verve was gone. The victories dried up. The smile disappeared. I thought maybe that the younger riders coming up had usurped him for good, and that they’d learned how to beat him. But I was wrong. When Gilbert is on song, truly chirping like the red-breasted robin he is, and on his turf, no one can deal with him.

So yes, a little Humble Pie being consumed with my morning coffee as I write this. Chapeau, Gilbert.

amstel14_gilbert_relaxed

Awesome as the man was, just as scintillating was his team. Rarely do the plans made at the night before’s team meeting come to fruition in anything bearing their original formulation, but it has to be admitted that BMC rode the perfect race. Where others hustled and bustled, flustered and blustered, BMC threw their quite astonishingly talented team into the fray as and when needed, and to devastating effect. And yet, if you wanted to be churlish, you could be a real pain in the lower glute and say that, if anything, BMC are one of the biggest and most consistent group of underperformers on the World Tour.

Look at their Amstel roster for yesterday. Gilbert needs no introduction. Marcus Burghardt, strong as an ox and willing to work like one. Sammy Sanchez, another cracking rider somewhat in the mode of Gilbert but with better mountain legs. Michael Schar and Peter Velits, both very accomplished and solid team men, and then Greg Van Avermaet, a potential winner of almost every one day race he enters.

amstel14_gva
GVA on the attack again yesterday

That is quite a line up. And then you have Cadel Evans, Thor Hushovd, Taylor Phinney and Tejay Van Garderen on the bench. Dream Team? Apart from not having a serious sprinter, they are not far off.

At the end of the race Gilbert praised Schar for “riding 90km on the front ‘cos no one else wanted to do anything,” and stated that he knew he was going well so told his team “to absolutely get me on the front for the bottom of the Cauberg.”

amstel14_schar
Michael Schar: big, strong and Swiss to boot – the perfect BMC team man

I’ve ridden up that hill (and have 67 photos of me crossing the old Amstel line at the top of the hill with arms raised overhead, repeatedly, to prove it), and the descent down to the left turn that starts the climb is fast. The corner is not a true 90 degree bend but if you are coming around that in 25th position with riders around you, it will be a whole lot harder to navigate than for the guys in the top 15.

And, if you are anywhere out of the top 15, the chance of overtaking the men at the front who get 3 meters over the first 1/5th of the hill is nigh on impossible. It is not a steep climb at all but the cumulative effect of the preceding climbs, over 30 of them, is massive.

amstel14_lee_gilbert

I felt a little for Michal Kwiatkowski, or, maybe I should say I feel for Tony Martin. Either way, Kwiatkowski had a guy with great legs burying himself for him for many a kilometer, then he goes and bumps his erstwhile companion into the dirt.

I can imagine the Polish rider is well versed in apologizing by now.

“I am so sorry Tony…”

“It’s OK.”

“Really. Really. Sorry.”

“It’s… OK.”

“Um… Are you gritting your teeth?”

Martin is quite the enigma, isn’t he? He has the legs and the engine to beat Cancellara in a TT, yet is never mentioned as a potential Classics winner. Strange to say about a man who shreds all against the clock, but he does seem a tad too delicate for getting stuck into the biggies, such as Roubaix, a race which, from a physiological viewpoint, he looks genetically designed for.

Thankfully I will not be pontificating on the aero helmets this week, but I do have a word for the Garmin 1984-style ski goggles.

No.

amstel14_dekker

That is all.




Lee Rodgers leads a double life as a pro racer on the UCI race circuit with the Lapierre Asia Cycling Team, competing in the UCI Asia Tour as well as some European events and the likes of the Tour of Qatar and Oman, rubbing shoulders with the best the WorldTour has to offer, whilst keeping up a day job as a cycling journalist. The highlight of his cycling career so far was winning the Singapore National Champs – road race and ITT – as well as claiming the Green Jersey at the 2.1 Tour de Taiwan in 2012, and naturally, writing for PEZ. His writing appears in several magazines and websites and you can catch up with him regularly on his blog, http://crankpunk.com/

 

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