Alaphilippe places seventh in intense Amstel Gold Race
The Frenchman was our highest-ranked rider in the opening race of the Ardennes Week.
Julian Alaphilippe kicked off his classics campaign with a solid display in Amstel Gold Race, where he returned after a one-year hiatus caused by a knee injury. A double stage winner earlier this month at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, where he also enjoyed a three-day spell in the yellow jersey, Julian was one of the prominent figures of the 52nd Amstel Gold Race, which this season packed 35 climbs in the 263 kilometers route between Maastricht and Berg en Terblijt.
The race was brought to life inside the last 30 kilometers, when the nine escapees' advantage had already been cut to two minutes after they previously enjoyed a 15-minute buffer over the peloton. Enrico Gasparotto (Bahrain-Merida) and Roman Kreuziger (Mitchelton-Scott) where the ones to attack, forcing a response from the amazing Bob Jungels and Pieter Serry, who led the chase and made sure the advantage didn't go over the 20-second mark.
On the mythical Cauberg, as the duo linked up to the remnants of the breakaway, Julian Alaphilippe put in a fierce acceleration, thinning massively the elite group, which included also defending champion Philippe Gilbert. A new series of attacks, this time on the 1000m-long Geulhemmerberg – the penultimate climb of the day – created further damage and left only a handful of riders to contest the victory on Sunday afternoon.
Alaphilippe was there and remained attentive as the kilometers ticked down and responded to a strong attack of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), before setting the pace in the group some five kilometers from the finish. New skirmishes soon followed but didn't bring anything new into the race, until with two kilometers to go, when Kreuziger and Michael Valgren (Astana) joined forces and opened up a gap which they carried into the last meters, where the latter outsprinted his companion and took the spoils, with Gasparotto rounding out the podium.
The first group arrived 19 seconds later and Julian crossed the line in seventh place for his third consecutive top 10 finish at Amstel Gold Race, Netherlands' only World Tour race: "The team did a great job today, keeping in control a very strong breakaway and protecting me at all times. In the last 20 kilometers, I followed three attacks and was always there, but it was really tough to cover everything. The race was hard and I felt this in my legs in the final. I'm sad to miss the chance to fight for the win, but I am not disappointed because I did my best today."
With 16 World Tour events done and dusted this season, Quick-Step Floors – who has amassed staggering 25 victories so far – continue to lead the World Tour team standings. Next race for our squad will be Flèche Wallonne, scheduled on Wednesday, April 18th.
Photo credit: ©Bryn Lennon/ Getty Images