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Astana’s Gasparotto wins Amstel Gold Race

With a perfectly timed sprint on the Cauberg climb, Astana’s Enrico Gasparotto won the Amstel Gold Race Sunday, edging out Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol) and Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale).

Three-time world road champion Oscar Freire (Katusha), who launched an audacious solo attack with 6km remaining, was caught 50 meters from the finish but held on to finish fourth. French rider Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) finished fifth, while defending champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) was sixth.

The win in Valkenberg, The Netherlands, was the biggest of Gasparatto’s career after finishing third in the race two years ago; his other top results include a stage win at the 2007 Giro d’Italia and the 2005 Italian national road championship.

“[In 2010] I was too slow in the last 20 meters, and this year I remembered that,” Gasparatto said. “I was really concentrated for the race today, I’ve always felt it’s a good course for me.”

Perhaps as notable as the top finishers were the riders not among those fighting for the win. Pre-race favorites Rodriguez and Alessandro Valverde did not finish in the top 20; Frank Schleck finished 12th while Andy Schleck finished 91st, 5:39 back; and 2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans abandoned with 75km to go. Evans’ BMC Racing team issued a brief audio interview with the Tour champ, citing an ongoing illness as the reason for his lack of performance.

The 257km race, with its winding, undulating roads and 31 climbs, was marked by a nine-rider breakaway that braved the cold and windy race conditions. Among those in the breakaway was American neo-pro Alex Howes, the Garmin-Barracuda rider who rode impressively last week at Brabantse Pijl, where he finished sixth.

Along with Howes in the break was his Dutch teammate, Raymond Kreder, as well as Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale), Pello Bilbao (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Steven Caethoven (Accent Jobs-Willems Veranda’s), Cedric Pineau (FDJ-BigMat), Simone Stortoni (Lampre-ISD), Sébastien Delfosse (Landbouwkrediet-Euphony) and Eliot Lietar (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator).

Following a nature break within the main group, the nine-man escape opened up a maximum advantage of 13 minutes before the peloton, led by BMC Racing, RadioShack-Nissan and Katusha, began chasing in earnest.

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