Two podium results in the Ardennes
After an animated race of the BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM, Enrico Gasparotto rode to a podium result at the Amstel Gold Race, finishing in 3rd. A couple of days earlier Sonny Cobrelli had finished the Belgian one-day race Brabantse Pijl in 2nd after a strong performance.
The week with the two one-day races Brabantse Pijl and Amstel Gold Race signals the change from the cobblestones to the Ardennes. The BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM fielded a strong team for these two races, showing quite some ambitions. As for the Amstel Gold Race, the team had many options to play with Sonny Colbrelli as a pure-bred sprinter, Enrico Gasparotto, and Gorka Izagirre as strong allrounders with a good sprint and Ion Izagirre and Vincenzo Nibali as strong climbers for a long-range attack. The only two riders heading into the race held in the South of the Netherlands without ambitions of their own were Grega Bole and Franco Pellizotti. The race course had seen some slight modifications to make for a more exciting finale, offering no less than 35 climbs over a distance of 263 kilometers, with some of these climbs getting ridden up to three times. After many rainy races throughout this year’s spring campaign, the sun was shining for most of the race in Limburg, with only a couple of raindrops falling in the last hour of racing, but not enough to make for wet streets.
A short while after the start nine riders set off and built a lead that maxed out at more than a quarter of an hour until the peloton upped the pace and started to bring back the group. When their lead dropped under two minutes, the first riders started to attack from the peloton and the BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM was in the thick of it: First Gorka Izagirre tried his luck without success, his brother Ion took a flyer in the upper ramps of the Fromberg, but his attack got neutralized at the Keutenberg. Shortly after that Enrico Gasparotto countered a move of Roman Kreuziger, and this duo managed to bridge the gap to the lead group. But on the last local loop a strong group of riders caught up with the leaders, and the decisive move came from this larger group with two kilometers to go on a narrow concrete road. Enrico Gasparotto tried his best to counter this move, but he could not close the gap to Michael Valgren and Roman Kreuziger anymore. In the end, he missed out by a couple of bike lengths, having to settle for third place.
Four days earlier the BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM had been competing at the Brabantse Pijl, fielding a strong team in support of last year’s race winner Sonny Colbrelli. This team included Yukiya Arashiro, Grega Bole, Borut Bozic, Enrico Gasparotto and Hermann Pernsteiner. Sadly Ramunas Navardauskas could not start due to a fever, but even with one man less the riders in red, gold and dark blue set the pace in the peloton, carefully timing their effort not to catch the last two attackers too early. Throughout the finale, Enrico Gasparotto countered multiple attacks, but just like all others, he had no answer to Tim Wellens’ decisive acceleration. In the sprint of a whittled-down peloton for 2nd, Sonny Colbrelli showed that last year’s win had been no fluke. He showed no weakness and won the uphill sprint for 2nd. With Austria’s Hermann Pernsteiner another rider of the team managed to score a top20 result, crossing the line in 18th. For Borut Bozic, the race ended in hospital, as he fractured his collarbone when he crashed in the last hour of racing.
53RD AMSTEL GOLD RACE: MAASTRICHT - BERG EN TERBLIJT, 263KM
1. Michael Valgren, DEN, in 6:40.07 hours
2. Roman Kreuziger, CZE, st
3. Enrico Gasparotto, ITA/BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM, + 0.02
58TH BRABANTSE PIJL: LEUVEN - OVERIJSE, 202KM
1. Tim Wellens, BEL, in 4:42.48 hours
2. Sonny Colbrelli, ITA/BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM, + 0.09
3. Tiesj Benoot, BEL, st