Schleck's Ardennes campaign starts well despite Amstel miss

Andy Schleck attacks, Amstel Gold Race 2011

The Ardennes Classics have started well for Andy Schleck despite a near miss in the Amstel Gold Race today. His solo attack held until the last 500 metres of the race, just enough time for Belgium's Philippe Gilbert to seize the win.

"I never had more than 15 seconds and I was going flat out," said Luxemboug's Schleck. "When they passed me at 500 metres to go, I felt like I lost everything and I was not able do a sprint, I had just done a 12-kilometre time trial."

Schleck attacked at the top of the Keutenberg, around 11 kilometres to Valkenburg and the base of the Cauberg climb. He gained time, but Gilbert was relentless behind. Once team Rabobank refused to chase, he took responsibility to capture Schleck.

"I had tried to go on that point in the years past. I thought, if they stopped one moment, I'd get 25 or 30 seconds and the cars would come up behind," added Schleck. "It's different when you go into the last climb with 25 seconds than with 12."

Schleck closed the day 11th, but with his pride in place. He faces two more Ardennes Classics: Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday and Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday. He won Liège two years ago, his best result in Flèche is second in 2009

His Leopard-Trek team-mates took a beating today. Fabian Cancellara crashed on a flat section with 24 kilometres to race and just as the race heated up. He nearly also took out Schleck's brother and 2006 winner, Fränk.

General Manger Brian Nygaard reported that Fränk Schleck crashed later and ruined his rear derailleur.

"I am happy with the race, but it's a little bit bittersweet losing two guys for the final," said Nygaard.

"The base of the team is there, barring misfortune, we are in good contention for the next two Ardennes Classics."

They both finished the race, Schleck 22nd and Cancellara 64th. After an already long campaign in the Cobbled Classics, Cancellara is stopping for a break. Schleck will help lead the team with brother Andy in Flèche and Liège.

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Gilbert wins Amstel Gold Race

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