Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) was in happy tears after the finish of the Amstel Gold Race Ladies Edition on Sunday. She had attacked on the Cauberg to go solo with two kilometres to go and just held off Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) at the finish line to take her second victory in a Women’s WorldTour one-day race.
Even after the podium ceremony, the Pole was still in a state close to disbelief.
"I am still buzzing, feeling overwhelmed with emotions," she said. "Once I am back in the hotel and have dinner with my team, I will realise what happened today. It was a beautiful Easter Sunday, I am happy. That is why we all do it and push our limits – to finally cross the finish line with our hands up in the air."
The 24-year-old had the victory in sight on the finishing straight, but Van Vleuten was coming up strong from behind. The time trial world champion edged closer and closer to Niewiadoma on the final kilometre, but the Pole never turned around to gauge the distance and kept her focus on the goal.
"I was not thinking about her, only about the finish line," Niewiadoma said. "I was like, 'I have to get there first'. I was not thinking about what was happening behind my back. I heard my sports director screaming, ‘Look to the front’, so I kept on pushing. It really felt like the longest two kilometres of my life."
Niewiadoma had achieved good results this spring season with a third place in Strade Bianche and top 10s in the Trofeo Binda and Tour of Flanders. She explained how her victory was down to having confidence in herself, and this included racing aggressively. In earlier years, Niewiadoma was often attacking as soon as the road ramped up; recently, she was somewhat more reactive. But this tactic did not work for her.
"I have been told over the past few months that I should be saving myself and waiting for the final," she said. "But then I just burn myself within. I need to feel that I am racing in order to be able to really put all my energy in the last attack. If I feel that I am in the race and in charge of every single situation, then I am more confident.
"I wanted to attack the second-to-last time up the Cauberg, I did not want to wait for the final. I wanted to go on the offensive, ride like I used to ride in the past. I just wanted to win, and I knew I was coming here to win. I felt strong, and once your head is ready for that, you can achieve amazing things."
Niewiadoma finished by thanking the people around her, including boyfriend and fellow cycling pro Taylor Phinney, for helping her achieve just that.
"Our career is like a rollercoaster; you have ups and downs," she said. "So, whenever I had those downs, I would take a lot of lessons from that. After Flanders, I knew that I was strong, but somewhere I did not really believe in myself. I had two weeks to put everything together. I have my amazing team, an amazing boyfriend, my family, and they all helped me win this race."