Amstel Gold Race review: Kreuziger’s bravery is rewarded

Amstel Gold Race logoIt wasn’t Peter SaganPhilippe Gilbert or any of the other pre-race favourites who took victory at the opening Ardennes classic Amstel Gold, but Roman Kreuziger who upset the odds to take the biggest one-day win of his career. He launched an early move and held off the charging pack behind to take an impressive win, 22 seconds up on Alejandro Valverde and Simon Gerrans, who completed the podium.

Kreuziger upset the odds to take the win (image: official website)

Kreuziger upset the odds to take the win (image: official website)

Race summary

Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Tim De Troyer and Nicolas Vogondy (both, Alexandre Pliuschin (IAM), Arthur Van Overberghe (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baolise), Johan Vansummeren (Garmin-Sharp) and Klaas Sys (Crelan-Euphony) made up the day’s main breakaway and managed to build up an advantage of 11 minutes before the peloton started to close it down.

There was an early scare for one of the race favourites, Philippe Gilbert (BMC), who was caught up in a crash with around 90km to go. He agitatedly stood waiting for a new bike for what seemed like an eternity, and Blanco didn’t make themselves very popular by deciding to make it as hard as possible for the world champion to rejoin, driving the pace on the front of the peloton. However, their efforts were in vain, as within 20km the shredded peloton had regrouped.

With 46km to go Astarloza decided to attack his breakaway companions and managed to open up a gap. Counter-attacks started to fly off the front of the peloton, including one by former race winner Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Merida), though he was swept up on the penultimate ascent of the Cauberg. On this climb Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff) made the key move, attacking with Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha).

The favourites continued to mark each other closely at the front of the peloton, allowing the trio to join a group ahead consisting of counter-attackers Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEDGE), Lars Petter Nordhaug and David Tanner (both Blanco), Andriy Grivko (Astana) and Vansummeren and Pliuschin from the day’s original breakaway. Astarloza was quickly caught as Kreuziger started pushing hard on the front, dropping a couple of riders.

However, more dangerous looking attacks from the likes of Peter Velits (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) had forced the peloton to pick up the pace, and with 10km to go the gap was under 30 seconds. With Grivko beginning to drive the breakaway, riders were falling off the back quickly. Kreuziger decided to take it into his own hands and accelerate on the Bemelerberg with 7km remaining, attempting to solo his way to the finish.

Gilbert attacked on the final ascent of the Cauberg with other favourites in tow, though it became quickly apparent that the peloton had left it too late to close down the gap. Kreuziger won by over 20 seconds, with Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) finishing second and Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) third.

Analysis & opinion

Without doubt this was a result no-one was expecting, with Kreuziger even admitting it was a surprise after the race. However, it’s a great result for the Czech rider, who has been often seen as delivering disappointing results despite his unquestionable talent. Still only 26, the move to Saxo-Tinkoff for this season will hopefully kick-start his career.

As for the manner in which he won the race – it was exactly as the race organisers would have hoped. Adjusting the final circuit for this year’s edition, they tried to encourage attacks before the final ascent of the Cauberg, and they certainly did. As it turned out, the eventual winner attacked extremely early and finished comfortably ahead of those who left it until the climb. However, this can’t be entirely ascribed to the new parcours, but also due to a lack of communication and cooperation in the peloton. The bunch had ample time to bring Kreuziger back but didn’t, holding back until as late as possible. Suffice to say, they paid the price.

However, there’s little doubt that the likes of Gilbert, Valverde and Gerrans are in great form ahead of the remaining Ardennes classics. One notable absentee was Peter Sagan (Cannondale), who finished outside the top two in a one-day event for the first time this season, in 36th place. He put the disappointing performance down to cramps brought on by the weather conditions. He doesn’t yet know if he’ll race Flèche Wallonne. I wonder if his excellent classics campaign is finally catching up with him.


1. Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff) 6:35:21

2. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +0:22

3. Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) same time

4. Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) s/t

5. Philippe Gilbert (BMC) s/t

6. Sergio Henao (Sky) s/t

7. Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoleil-DCM) s/t

8. Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEDGE) s/t

9. Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) s/t

10. Bauke Mollema (Blanco) s/t

Links: Preview, Official website

Rider updates: Peter Sagan, Thomas Voeckler and Niki Terpstra

My picks for this season have not let me down in the panache department! Mr Peter Sagan has been dominating the headlines with both wins and idiotic behavior (hello, Pinch-gate). Thomas Voeckler, has continued his display of 1,000 grimaces while showing he is still one of the most scrappy riders in the peloton. And then there’s Dutch national champion Niki Terpstra who has had some solid results with his cursed classics Omega Pharma-Quick Step team.

Peter Sagan (Cannondale)

Image courtesy of Danielle Haex

Image: Danielle Haex


  • 1st at Gent–Wevelgem.
  • 1st at Gran Premio Città di Camaiore.
  • Won two stages at Tour of Oman.
  • Won two stages at Tirreno–Adriatico.
  • Won one stage at Three Days of De Panne.
  • 2nd at Strade Bianche.
  • 2nd at Milan-San Remo.
  • 2nd at E3 Harelbeke.
  • 2nd at Ronde van Vlaanderen.

WorldTour ranking: 2nd, 312 pts.

2012 showed us that Peter Sagan was a dominating force as he racked up stage wins for fun at the Tour of California, Tour de Suisse and the Tour de France. Many called it the ‘Summer of Sagan’.

In 2013, Sagan has cemented his reputation as ‘the Terminator’. During the Tour of Oman and Tirreno-Adriatico, he racked up four stage wins. But the spring classics revealed what kind of dominating rider Sagan has become as he won Gent-Wevelgem and was second in four other races: Strade Bianche, Milan-San Remo, E3 Harelbeke and the Tour of Flanders. This week he added another win at Brabantse Pijl – his eighth victory of the season, moving him ahead of Mark Cavendish as the most successful rider so far this season.

I knew I had struck gold when I landed Sagan as one of my riders to follow throughout the year. Could this turn out to be the ‘Season of Sagan’? Anyone brave enough to bet against it?

Thomas Voeckler (Europcar)

Image courtesy of Danielle Haex

Image: Danielle Haex


  • 5th at Dwars door Vlaanderen.
  • 14th at Brabantse Pijl.

WorldTour ranking: N/A, 0 pts.

We are just beginning the time in the season when Thomas Voeckler shines. He’s a man made for races like the Ardennes classics and Europcar has publicly stated that those are his targets this year. For the last two years he has performed at the highest level in the Tour de France. In 2011 he held the maillot jaune from stage 10 to 19. Last year he was resplendent in polka dots as he claimed the mountains classification.

He did show some early good form and real toughness in the cobbled classics where  he was ten metres away from winning Dwars door Vlaanderen with a solo attack before Sky’s Ian Stannard chased him down.  We thought we were witnessing another ‘Voeckler moment’ but it was not to be.

Europcar is not a WorldTour team, so I don’t get to see as much of Tommy V as I would like. I really enjoy the  spontaneous attacks and wonderful grimacing faces that he makes when suffering. I hope to see many of  the thousand faces of Voeckler during the Ardennes and in person when I attend the 100th Tour de France in July!

Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick Step)

Image courtesy of Omega Pharma-Quick Step

Image: Omega Pharma-Quick Step


  • 1st at Six Days of Rotterdam (with Iljo Keisse).
  • Won team time trial at Tirreno–Adriatico.
  • 3rd overall at Three Days of West Flanders.
  • 3rd overall at Three Days of De Panne.
  • 3rd at Paris-Roubaix.

WorldTour ranking: 23rd, 70 pts.

Omega Pharma-Quick Step is built to dominate the classics but lady luck seems to have abandoned the team in 2013 with Tom Boonen suffering a broken rib at the Ronde and the OPQS lead-out train failing to work well together in support of sprint superstar Mark Cavendish. Dutch national champion Niki Terpstra has been in the midst of all of the action but has failed to return to winning ways like he did last year when he won Dwars door Vlaanderen with a solo attack.

Despite not being atop the podium, Niki has seen the podium multiple times during the classics with a third place finish in support of Sylvain Chavanel’s victory at Three Days of De Panne and a very impressive third place at the Queen of the Classics, Paris-Roubaix.

Websites: Peter Sagan, Thomas Voeckler, Niki Terpstra

Twitter: @nikiterpsta @petosagan