Mathieu Van der Poel wins Amstel Gold Race

Dutchman comes from nowhere in thrilling finale

Mathieu Van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) shook his head in disbelief as he crossed the finish line, and so did everyone watching. The simple fact is that the Dutchman won the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday. Quite how he did so is another matter entirely.

Van der Poel, wearing the Dutch national champion’s jersey on his Amstel debut, was dead and buried with seven kilometers to go. He’d attacked from the main chase group with a handful of others but, a minute down on leaders Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), it looked like any chance of victory had sailed.

However, in a remarkable finale - surely the most thrilling in the race’s 54-year history - the Dutchman dragged that small group back up to those chasing in between and then to the front of the race with just 300 metres to go. He hadn’t quite made the junction when Alaphilippe started sprinting but, after swooping left onto Fuglsang’s wheel, he ripped out to the right and moved clear to take a sensational victory.

It is the third in what has been an extraordinary debut spring Classics campaign for the cyclo-cross world champion. Victories at Dwars door Vlaanderen and Brabantse Pijl - not to mention fourth at the Tour of Flanders and Gent-Wevelgem - were one thing. This was another. It was a bigger race, a longer race, with a deeper field, and then there was just the mind-bending manner of it.

“I can’t believe it," Van der Poel said. "I didn’t believe I could win. I didn’t expect that at all. I still can't understand what has happened."

Simon Clarke (EF Education First) finished second, having been one of the riders caught by Van der Poel’s advancing group in the closing kilometers, while Fuglsang hung on for third place.

Alaphilippe, winner of Strade Bianche and Milan-San Remo already this spring, finished a dejected fourth and will be kicking himself, having been well and truly in the driving seat. Indeed, while it was Van der Poel who launched the first big attack of this Amstel Gold Race on the Guiperberg with 44km to go, it was Alaphilippe who triggered the decisive selection soon after.

The Frenchman forced a small split with Fuglsang, Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) and teammate Dried Devenyns on the following climb of the Kruisberg, before attacking himself on the Eyserbosweg with 37km to go. Fuglsang set off in pursuit and the duo would spend the next 35 kilometers together at the front of the race, in what bore shades of last month’s Strade Bianche.

They collaborated well to hold off Trentin and Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) - who’d attacked to bridge to the Italian - but their alliance waned in the closing kilometers. Fuglsang, who’d failed to drop Alaphilippe on the final climb of the Bemeleberg with just under 7km to go, sensed he’d be picked off in a sprint and so decided to sit in and stop contributing. Alaphilippe dropped the pace and the gap began to fall.

It was not so surprising, then, to see Kwiatkowski, who had dropped Trentin on the Bemeleberg, come back into the picture inside the final kilometre. No one, however, saw Van der Poel coming.

The Dutchman attacked from the main chase group ahead of the Bemelemberg, when they were half a minute behind Kwiatkowski and just under a minute behind the leading duo. He attacked with Bjorg Lambrecht (Lotto Soudal), Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ) and Michael Schar (CCC) and they linked up with Romain Bardet (AG2R LA Mondiale), who’d gone shortly before.

With just over two kilometres to go they reached Clarke and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), and shortly after Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), all of whom had attacked over the Cauberg with 16km to go. The dropped Trentin was with Schachmann at that point and that newly-formed group of nine somehow managed to come back into the picture in the final kilometre.

As they came into the home straight, Alaphilippe, Fuglsang, and Kwiatkowski looked nervously over their shoulders. They saw Van der Poel on the front of the group, the gap getting closer and closer. It was high drama. Alaphilippe decided to jump from range, but it wasn’t enough. Van der Poel’s sprint was emphatic in and of itself. When you consider he’d just done the lion’s share of the work to plug that seemingly insurmountable gap - not to mention his attack from 44km out - it was nothing short of breathtaking.

How it unfolded

The riders set off from the centre of Maastricht under blue skies and sunshine, with temperatures of 20 degrees. For all the drama in the finale, it was a calm, quiet affair for the first few hours. The day’s breakaway formed after the Lange Raarberg, the third of the 35 punchy climbs on the 265.7km route in the Limburg region of south-western Holland.

In there were Michael Schär (CCC Team), Nick van der Lijke, (Roompot-Charles), Paolo Simion (Bardiani-CSF), Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Thomas Sprengers (Sport Vlaanderen Baloise), Aaron Verwilst (Sport Vlaanderen Baloise), Grega Bole (Bahrain-Merida), Jimmy Janssens (Corendon-Circus). They were soon joined by Tom Van Asbroeck (Israel Cycling Academy), and later by the Wanty-Gobert duo of Marco Minnaard and Jerome Baugnies to make it 11.

They built a lead of eight minutes before Fuglsang’s Astana team - who would later lose Alexey Lutsenko to a crash - set about upping the pace in the peloton. Things really started to intensify as they reached the Cauberg and the finish line for the second time with 85km to go. The iconic climb - formerly the last key test - would appear once more, but the new finale that has been in place since 2017 would take the riders over the Guelhemmerberg and Bemeleberg on one extra loop.

The break had been brought back to just one minute when Van der Poel launched his first roll of the dice, bursting clear on the Guiperberg, the 28th climb and the first in a crucial condensed stretch with just over 40km to go. Gorka Izaguirre (Astana) managed to go with him as the peloton fragmented behind, but refused to collaborate, and it wasn’t long before they were back in the main bunch.

On the next climb, there was a successful attack. More by stealth, Devenyns hit the front with Alaphilippe on the wheel and a gap opened. Trentin and Fuglsang were alive to it but the rest of the field were caught behind. Those four soon caught the breakaway before Alaphilippe, almost led out by Devenyns, attacked alone on the Eyserbosweg. Fuglsang responded and joined up with him on the other side.

Kwiatkowski then attacked with Michael Woods (EF) and joined Trentin in a three-man chase, though Woods was dropped on the viciously steep Keutenberg - the fourth-to-last climb - with 28km to go. The main group was already well thinned out by this point, the notable absentees being Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), who were caught in another group a minute behind. Peter Sagan had already been dropped well before, so there would be no redemption in what has been a trying spring campaign for the three-time world champion. 

Alaphilippe and Fuglsang reached the foot of the Cauberg with 19 seconds on Kwiatkowski and Trentin. The main chase group were led by EF but had slipped to 55 seconds. Despite attacks from that group on the Cauberg, the main moves came beyond the summit, through the finishing straight as the bell rang. Schachmann, who had attacked on the Keutenberg, went again and set about hunting down Trentin, taking all manner of risks on the winding roads. Mollema and Clarke formed another duo a little further back.

Alaphilippe and Fuglsang began to look at each other on the Guelhemmerberg and their lead dropped to 12 seconds as Kwiatkowski rode away from Trentin, who made it back on beyond the summit. The leading duo then began to work well again, and they seemed certain to go to the finish together, opening 30 seconds on the two chasers and just under a minute on the rest of the field.

Fuglsang launched an attack on the final climb of the Bemeleberg with just under 6km to go but couldn’t shake Alaphilippe. From then on, he gambled and refused to collaborate, and that’s when the gap started to come down. Kwiatkowski dropped Trentin on the Bemeleberg and dragged himself back into contention under the flamme rouge. That would have been dramatic enough, but what happened next took it to another level. Van der Poel’s group, ignored by the TV cameras, came roaring back into view in the home straight.

The Dutchman, undoubtedly now one of the biggest stars in world cycling, then finished off a race that will live long in the memory.

Results

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Mathieu Van Der Poel (Ned) Corendon - Circus6:28:18 
2Simon Clarke (Aus) EF Education First0 
3Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team0 
4Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck - Quick - Step0 
5Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Bora - Hansgrohe0 
6Bjorg Lambrecht (Bel) Lotto Soudal0 
7Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) CCC Team0 
8Valentin Madouas (Fra) Groupama - FDJ0 
9Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0 
10Matteo Trentin (Ita) Mitchelton - Scott  
11Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky0:00:02 
12Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek - Segafredo  
13Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates0:00:46 
14Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) CCC Team  
15Daryl Impey (RSA) Mitchelton - Scott0:00:54 
16Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb  
17Jay Mc Carthy (Aus) Bora - Hansgrohe  
18Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Dimension Data  
19Dion Smith (NZl) Mitchelton - Scott  
20Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Israel Cycling Academy  
21Robert Gesink (Ned) Team Jumbo - Visma  
22Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates  
23Toms Skujins (Lat) Trek - Segafredo  
24Ben Hermans (Bel) Israel Cycling Academy  
25Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Team Katusha Alpecin  
26Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora - Hansgrohe  
27Xandro Meurisse (Bel) Wanty - Gobert Cycling Team  
28Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale  
29Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col) UAE Team Emirates  
30Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Deceuninck - Quick - Step  
31Dylan Van Baarle (Ned) Team Sky  
32Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama - FDJ  
33Dries Devenyns (Bel) Deceuninck - Quick - Step0:04:02 
34Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Israel Cycling Academy0:04:19 
35Gianni Vermeersch (Bel) Corendon - Circus  
36Nathan Haas (Aus) Team Katusha Alpecin  
37Grega Bole (Slo) Bahrain - Merida  
38Bryan Coquard (Fra) Vital Concept - B&B Hotels  
39Clement Venturini (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
40Dries Van Gestel (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
41Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Team Dimension Data  
42Huub Duijn (Ned) Roompot - Charles  
43Benoit Cosnefroy (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
44Maurits Lammertink (Ned) Roompot - Charles  
45Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain - Merida  
46Lawrence Warbasse (USA) AG2R La Mondiale  
47Paul Martens (Ger) Team Jumbo - Visma  
48Nick Van Der Lijke (Ned) Roompot - Charles  
49Patrick Müller (Swi) Vital Concept - B&B Hotels  
50Mikael Cherel (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
51Marcel Meisen (Ger) Corendon - Circus  
52Michael Valgren Andersen (Den) Team Dimension Data  
53Marc Hirschi (Swi) Team Sunweb  
54Serge Pauwels (Bel) CCC Team  
55Thomas Sprengers (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
56Marcus Burghardt (Ger) Bora - Hansgrohe  
57Wout Van Aert (Bel) Team Jumbo - Visma  
58Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Lotto Soudal  
59Michael Albasini (Swi) Mitchelton - Scott  
60Maxime Monfort (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
61G Lawson Craddock (USA) EF Education First  
62Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Astana Pro Team  
63Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain - Merida  
64Luis León Sanchez (Spa) Astana Pro Team  
65Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team  
66Diego Rosa (Ita) Team Sky  
67Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team  
68Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain - Merida  
69Alberto Bettiol (Ita) EF Education First0:07:53 
70Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain - Merida  
71Logan Owen (USA) EF Education First  
72Alex Howes (USA) EF Education First  
73Dennis Van Winden (Ned) Israel Cycling Academy  
74Quentin Pacher (Fra) Vital Concept - B&B Hotels  
75Floris De Tier (Bel) Team Jumbo - Visma  
76Mathias De Witte (Bel) Roompot - Charles  
77Simone Petilli (Ita) UAE Team Emirates  
78Carlos Barbero (Spa) Movistar Team  
79Michael Gogl (Aut) Trek - Segafredo  
80Michal Golas (Pol) Team Sky  
81Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar Team  
82Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Bora - Hansgrohe  
83Tom-Jelte Slagter (Ned) Team Dimension Data  
84Jimmy Janssens (Bel) Corendon - Circus  
85Bert-Jan Lindeman (Ned) Team Jumbo - Visma  
86Pieter Weening (Ned) Roompot - Charles  
87Christopher Juul Jensen (Den) Mitchelton - Scott0:07:56 
88Michael Schär (Swi) CCC Team0:09:12 
89Julien Bernard (Fra) Trek - Segafredo  
90Mikkel Frølich Honoré (Den) Deceuninck - Quick - Step0:10:59 
91Romain Seigle (Fra) Groupama - FDJ0:11:17 
92Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty - Gobert Cycling Team  
93Clément Chevrier (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
94Odd Christian Eiking (Nor) Wanty - Gobert Cycling Team  
95Julien Vermote (Bel) Team Dimension Data  
96August Jensen (Nor) Israel Cycling Academy  
97Oscar Riesebeek (Ned) Roompot - Charles  
98Stijn Devolder (Bel) Corendon - Circus  
99Kevin Deltombe (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
100Edward Dunbar (Irl) Team Sky  
101Jerome Baugnies (Bel) Wanty - Gobert Cycling Team  
102Koen Bouwman (Ned) Team Jumbo - Visma  
103Rick Zabel (Ger) Team Katusha Alpecin0:13:09 
104Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek - Segafredo0:13:39 
105Nicholas Schultz (Aus) Mitchelton - Scott0:15:41 
106Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky  
107Carlos Verona Quintanilla (Spa) Movistar Team  
108Lennard Kämna (Ger) Team Sunweb  
109Enrico Barbin (Ita) Bardiani Csf  
DNFBernhard Eisel (Aut) Team Dimension Data  
DNFLars Bak Ytting (Den) Team Dimension Data  
DNFMichael Hepburn (Aus) Mitchelton - Scott  
DNFIvan Garcia Cortina (Spa) Bahrain - Merida  
DNFJan Tratnik (Slo) Bahrain - Merida  
DNFOmar Fraile Matarranz (Spa) Astana Pro Team  
DNFDavide Villella (Ita) Astana Pro Team  
DNFLaurens De Vreese (Bel) Astana Pro Team  
DNFPeter Sagan (Svk) Bora - Hansgrohe  
DNFDaniel Oss (Ita) Bora - Hansgrohe  
DNFPatrick Bevin (NZl) CCC Team  
DNFJonas Koch (Ger) CCC Team  
DNFLukasz Wisniowski (Pol) CCC Team  
DNFRémi Cavagna (Fra) Deceuninck - Quick - Step  
DNFPieter Serry (Bel) Deceuninck - Quick - Step  
DNFPetr Vakoč (Cze) Deceuninck - Quick - Step  
DNFMichael Woods (Can) EF Education First  
DNFSean Bennett (USA) EF Education First  
DNFTobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Groupama - FDJ  
DNFBenoit Vaugrenard (Fra) Groupama - FDJ  
DNFLéo Vincent (Fra) Groupama - FDJ  
DNFWilliam Bonnet (Fra) Groupama - FDJ  
DNFTim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
DNFTosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
DNFJelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
DNFSander Armee (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
DNFCarlos Betancur (Col) Movistar Team  
DNFImanol Erviti (Spa) Movistar Team  
DNFJaime Castrillo Zapater (Spa) Movistar Team  
DNFJos Van Emden (Ned) Team Jumbo - Visma  
DNFJenthe Biermans (Bel) Team Katusha Alpecin  
DNFRuben Guerreiro (Por) Team Katusha Alpecin  
DNFWillem Jakobus Smit (RSA) Team Katusha Alpecin  
DNFDmitrii Strakhov (Rus) Team Katusha Alpecin  
DNFDavid De La Cruz Melgarejo (Spa) Team Sky  
DNFJohannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Sunweb  
DNFSøren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb  
DNFLouis Vervaeke (Bel) Team Sunweb  
DNFNicolas Roche (Irl) Team Sunweb  
DNFKoen De Kort (Ned) Trek - Segafredo  
DNFFabio Felline (Ita) Trek - Segafredo  
DNFManuele Mori (Ita) UAE Team Emirates  
DNFTadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates  
DNFEdward Ravasi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates  
DNFOtto Vergaerde (Bel) Corendon - Circus  
DNFPhilipp Walsleben (Ger) Corendon - Circus  
DNFLars Boom (Ned) Roompot - Charles  
DNFVincenzo Albanese (Ita) Bardiani Csf  
DNFLorenzo Rota (Ita) Bardiani Csf  
DNFPaolo Simion (Ita) Bardiani Csf  
DNFAlessandro Pessot (Ita) Bardiani Csf  
DNFAlessandro Tonelli (Ita) Bardiani Csf  
DNFMirco Maestri (Ita) Bardiani Csf  
DNFClément Carisey (Fra) Israel Cycling Academy  
DNFRoy Goldstein (Isr) Israel Cycling Academy  
DNFBenjamin Declercq (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
DNFEmiel Planckaert (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
DNFPreben Van Hecke (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
DNFAaron Verwilst (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
DNFCyril Gautier (Fra) Vital Concept - B&B Hotels  
DNFKevin Reza (Fra) Vital Concept - B&B Hotels  
DNFCorentin Ermenault (Fra) Vital Concept - B&B Hotels  
DNFArnaud Courteille (Fra) Vital Concept - B&B Hotels  
DNFWesley Kreder (Ned) Wanty - Gobert Cycling Team  
DNFMarco Minnaard (Ned) Wanty - Gobert Cycling Team  
DNFLoïc Vliegen (Bel) Wanty - Gobert Cycling Team  

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