Monday, April 15, 2013

The day Astarloza returned on the big stage

He's been back in the sport for almost two years now, but Sunday's Amstel Gold Race may turn out to be Mikel Astarloza's rebirth on an international level.

The 33-year-old spent an astonishing 241 kilometres of the Dutch WorldTour event in the break, only succumbing to the fatigue with nine clicks to go. Saxo-Tinkoff's Roman Kreuziger would eventually go on to win the race thanks to a surprising and daring late-race move, holding off a select group led home by Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) after more than six and a half hours in the saddle.

The majority of those six and a half hours saw Astarloza up the road animating the race and giving his team some vital presence in the race. The native of San Sebastián formed part of the day's original seven-man move early on, but then decided to go it alone inside the last 50 clicks in search of an upset win.

While triumphing was always going to be an order taller than most, Astarloza gave it his utmost and cut a satisfied figure post-race.

"I'm very pleased, though I'm really exhausted", he told Cyclingnews. "I decided to try it from a long way off because I knew I wouldn't have much of a chance if I left it for the finale. The break was good, we worked together well, but there came a point when I had to strike out alone. Hope is the last thing you lose, but with 40 kilometres to go I only had a gap of one and a half minute, so I just went for it as much as I could.

"I've done some long breaks (before). It's the big changes of rhythm that aren't my strong point. In a race like this with one, short punchy climb after another I prefer to go on my own pace".

Astarloza's heroics overshadowed what was otherwise a lacklustre team performance: Igor Antón was the team's top finisher in a distant 31st, while all the rest (bar Astarloza in 49th) abandoned. Antón made a half-hearted attack inside the final ten clicks, but he could only stay away for a matter of seconds and appears to still be looking for top shape.

  • (1, Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinfoff), 6:35:21)
  • 31, Igor Antón, 0:47
  • 49, Mikel Astarloza, 1:31
Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi


Stephen said...

Good work by Astarloza but a poor effort by the others. Looked a strong team on paper and having a man up the road would, I thought, have inspired them to at least finish.

Magnus said...

Most def. Quite a no-show - doesn't bode well for Fleche or Liège


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