OUTSIDER SCHUMACHER SOLOS TO VICTORY IN AMSTEL
13 stitches in one knee after a crash in the Tour of the Basque Country did not stop Stefan Schumacher from winning the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday - a race he did not even want to start.
The 25-year-old German took off from a seven-man break with less than three kilometres to go and then pounded up the final climb of the Cauberg alone for his first ever win in a major Classic.
Second was Schumacher’s Gerolsteiner team-mate Davide Rebellin, who just outsprinted another former Amstel Gold winner, Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas).
“I felt strong at the Pais Vasco but I had a bad crash and I had 13 stitches in my knee and it was very, very sore. I didn’t want to start but my team convinced me and it paid off.” Schumacher said afterwards.
After leading favourite Frank Schleck (CSC) crashed badly in the last hour of racing, Amstel drifted into a phony war with no real attacks from the big names. But then Schumacher was the first to make a move on the Eyserbosweg climb 20 kilometres from the finish, and he was joined by names as important as Rebellin, Di Luca, Rabobank’s Michael Boogerd, Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) and Alejandro Valverde (Caisse D’Epargne).
So many big names were present, in fact, that when Schumacher - nineth in Amstel last year - took off, Boogerd promptly sat up and waited for a reaction from the rest. It didn’t happen.
Instead Schumacher soared up the Cauberg alone and unchallenged - his only problem when his chain briefly jumped off when he tried to change gear.
“We used our numerical advantage in the finale. I was quite sure that Rebellin could win the sprint and so we played team tactics. I was lucky to attack at the right moment and had the legs to stay away.” Schumacher added.
His well-calculated win left the Amstel favourites with egg on their faces for letting the least well-known of the riders in the leading break take the biggest victory of his career. Probably the most disappointed was Boogerd, at 35 riding his last ever Amstel.