In a golden edition of the 50th anniversary of the Amstel Gold Race, Michal Kwiatkowski played it as cool as a cucumber on the Cauberg to deliver his first win in the rainbow jersey. Alejandro Valverde claimed second, with Michael Mathews holding on for third.
Rider of the race
It must have felt like Groundhog Day for Michal Kwiatkowski today. As they did last year, the winning moves all happened on the final ascent of the Cauberg. The drive off the front of the reduced group by Ben Hermans (BMC) setting up the powerful attack by his team leader Philippe Gilbert that only Michael Matthews could cling to. I really thought he had been beaten as the gap widened.
But unlike last year, this time #Kwiatcrush was prepared. He didn’t panic, he gritted his teeth on the leg-breaking climb, even when Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) overtook him to bridge to the two leaders. He was almost at the back of the regrouped pack with 500 metres to go, but then he opened up a devastating long-range sprint and seemed to come from nowhere to soar over the line, arms aloft, rainbows on show.
I cannot describe my emotions, it’s really great and I really want to enjoy it. I was really pushing for it from the start of the season. I was close in Paris-Nice and in Algarve and the classics. It’s not an easy thing to do and it’s an amazing day to win a classic that I was aiming for.
I nearly cried – and this from someone who says she isn’t a fan of these hilly classics. I may have to revise this opinion. You can see the closing metres of the race below, he’s hardly mentioned until the very end.
Four thoughts from the race
1. Remember that name. When a rider clad in orange burst from the peloton on the Cauberg, I knew it had to be Maciej Paterski (CCC Sprandi Polkwice). The Polish rider has been on fire this season. Sixth at the Vuelta a Murcia, a stage win at the Volta a Catalunya, second at the recent Volta Limburg, and ninth at Brabantse Pijl. Definitely a name we are going to have to get our tongues around in the coming races, maybe even as soon as Wednesday at Fleche Wallone.
2. Making the break work. There are plenty of riders who can’t afford to wait for the last-gasp punch on the Cauberg. I did have a wry smile at Vincenzo Nibali getting irritated with his breakaway companions. However, it was one of my long-time favourites Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) who made me think. He made a strong attack just as the group were cresting the Bemelerberg with 8km to go and was joined by Greg Van Avermaet of BMC who policed the move for his team leader Gilbert. Somewhat disgusted by receiving no help from his companion Fuglsang sat up, and the chance was gone. Post-race he said, “I am almost sure that if we both had run, we could have had a head start on the top of the Cauberg. And so they had to put in an effort in the back.” I do wonder what might have happened if he had just gone for the solo run. It might not have worked, but what’s the worst that could have happened? 17th or 47th, it makes so little difference at the end of the day.
3. Wild cards. 25 teams were on the start line at Maastricht, eight of whom were Pro-Continental wild cards. For Cult Energy Pro Cycling today was a huge deal. This is their first year at the professional level and their first wild card for a WorldTour race – make no mistake about the importance of the race for riders and sponsors alike. They had a two-part plan: get a man in the break and hope to run either of their two favoured riders for the final. The first objective was fulfilled with flying colours and I was thrilled to see Linus Gerdemann getting plenty of airtime for that eye-catching black-and-red kit. They were unlucky with the second part with both team leaders suffering problems before the finale.
4. Podium attire. I LOVE the podium outfits at Amstel. Where else would you see skirts and dinky matching hats made out of beer mats? This year the whole ensemble was only made better by rainbow stripes and the jaunty casquette of the winner.
The race in numbers
Well, one number anyway. Here are some little known facts on the Amstel Gold Race brought to you by the number nine (courtesy of our resident stats expert Tim):
1. Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-Quick Step) 6:31:49
2. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) same time
3. Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) s/t
4. Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) s/t
5. Greg van Avermaet (BMC) s/t
6. Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal) s/t
7. Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quick Step) s/t
8. Enrico Gasparotto (Wanty-Groupe Goubert) s/t
9. Maciej Paterski (CCC Sprandi Polkowice) s/t
10. Philippe Gilbert (BMC) s/t
Link: Official race website
Featured Image: Race Facebook