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VALKENBURG, Netherlands (VN) — Orica-GreenEdge rode strongly in the final moments of the Amstel Gold Race Sunday and used its cards. It kept Michael Matthews for a small bunch kick and attacked with Simon Gerrans, who took third for the third time in four years.
“But no one could stop Philippe Gilbert,” general manager Shayne Bannan told VeloNews. “It’s hard to look at it another way, he just rode away from us and had a super day.”
A TV helicopter circled overhead to film the finishing straight where Gilbert (BMC Racing) just rode away from his rivals. He climbed the second half of the Cauberg solo and arrived five seconds ahead of Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol). Gerrans, this year’s Aussie road champion, placed a further second back ahead of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).
Further down the hill, Orica rode impressively. Along with BMC and Omega Pharma, it put on one of the most united performances. The Australian team in white and blue strung out the group after the remnants of an escape were caught with 7 kilometers remaining.
Tall Dutchman Pieter Weening motored on the front with teammates Simon Clarke, Gerrans, and Matthews in tow. Omega took over at the foot of the Cauberg. And, as the helicopter TV shots showed, BMC won with Samuel Sánchez’s attack and Gilbert’s counter-attack.
“We couldn’t have done much more,” Bannan said. “The guys — Pieter Weening and Clarke — were exactly where they needed to be. They did what they needed to do earlier in the race. So the race panned out as we thought it was going to, but when Gilbert went on the climb, Gerrans could not react, not because he’s not a good rider but because Gilbert was having a super day.”
Gerrans looked like he might have had more in him than a third place. He and Kwiatkowski jumped to follow Sánchez’s wheel with 3km to race. They held an advantage but Gilbert quickly closed it and fired away solo. Bannan explained that Gerrans did not hesitate but chased and evaluated his situation.
“When you are on a climb you know your capabilities,” Bannan added. “I don’t think it was hesitation, just a matter of sussing the situation out and looking at who was behind. Was there a possibility to get a group together to minimize the distance? Which Gerro did.”
Belgium’s Vanendert gained some ground and took second. Gerrans placed third to match his 2011 and 2013 results. His 23-year-old teammate Matthews placed 12th. Matthews’ result, after earning two wins this season to go along with a runner-up to Gilbert in Brabantse Pijl (Brabant Arrow) on Wednesday, gave Bannan further reason to smile.
“Mike Matthews was behind Gerro coming into the climb. He backed off trying to get his own group going up the climb in anticipation of the group coming together for a sprint,” Bannan said. “He’s been progressing well and we are happy with the way he’s gone. He had a possibility to get a good result but if anything, it adds to his progression.”
Bannan walked the 500 meters to the finish line where the organizer rewarded Gerrans for his third place.
“I turn my back on this Amstel Gold Race pleased,” Bannan said. “We came with the goal to win, we didn’t do that, but we took third and rode well. I walk away pretty satisfied.”