Roman Kreuziger gains a face at Amstel Gold
There was once an unsettling Hong Kong Phooey story in which a master of disguise is found lying on the floor at the end with an entirely featureless face; just a smooth patch of skin where eyes, nose and a mouth should be. “I guess he just ran out of faces,” says the police officer or our hero or someone.
That’s kind of how I’ve tended to think of Roman Kreuziger up until yesterday. He often gets a mention halfway through a race as being a potential winner, but it’s generally been hard to work out why. He’s one of a whole batch of riders who seem to specialise in finishing about 15th, 20 seconds down, no matter what the terrain.
Clearly, he’s a good rider, but when you finish 15th, no-one interviews you and you don’t get too many close-ups during the race either. To viewers, you’re basically just a helmet with a brightly-coloured torso hanging off it. I guess that’s changed for Kreuziger now that he’s won Amstel Gold.
He joined the breakaway group with about 17km to go, shed them with about 7km to go and then held off the closing pack on the final climb up the Cauberg to win by 22 seconds. The favourite, Peter Sagan, came 36th. Phil Gilbert came fifth, trailing Alejandro Valverde, Simon Gerrans and Michael Kwiatkowski, having made an ultimately futile late bid to catch Kreuziger with a typically savage dig on the final climb, dragging a few riders with him in the process. Never mind. As World Champion, he already had a face.