Thirty-six year old, Oscar Freire sharpened his claws and produced a brave attack with seven kilometers to go in the Amstel Gold Race. Given the chance to go for fame, by teammate Joaquin Rodriquez, the Kat-usha veteran looked every ounce to pounce for the win.
He hit the final climb of the Cauberg giving it his all. It was both exciting and hard to watch as he clawed his way to the top and then began to slow.
It was not to be for the three-time world champion. For a sturdy group chased; Gilbert, Gasparotto (3rd in 2010), Sagan, Vanendert and Voeckler. Eventually passing Freire were the three to battle for the line as Sagan drove ever closer to his first classic victory. Sagan was my pick for the win and he looked like a bull running wild.
Not today for the young Slovakian as Gasparotto timed his move and beat a frustrated Vanendert and a tired Sagan for one of the most exciting Amstel finishes in a long time.
Oscar Freire finished gallantly in fourth, planning to retire at the end of the season with one last goal to accomplish... a fourth world road championship on the same roads in September. Before that, he's in good form to win either of the next two Ardennes Classics, too. A huge win just might be in the bag for this Cat!
The Cat... pounces!
Gasparotto 1st, Vanendert 2nd, Sagan 3rd,
Friere 4th, Voeckler 5th & Gilbert 6th.