Van Vleuten falls short in thrilling finale at Amstel Gold Ladies Edition
World time trial champion comes close but unable to catch winner Niewiadoma
The Netherlands' Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) came close, gaining on eventual winner Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) all the time in the final couple of kilometres of the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday, but the world time trial champion wasn't able to catch the Polish rider, and had to settle for second place to add to her third place from the 2017 edition of the race.
Niewiadoma made her move on the final climb of the Cauberg, with just 1.8km from the top of the climb to the finish of the race in Valkenburg. CCC-Liv's Marianne Vos was the first rider to respond to the move, but as the Dutchwoman faded, her compatriot, Van Vleuten, came to the fore in an attempt to close down the gap to Niewiadoma.
"I had a flashback to La Course," Van Vleuten admitted, remembering last July's one-day race run by the Tour de France organisers, when the Dutchwoman was able to catch Boels Dolmans rival Anna van der Breggen just before the finish line to win. "I had moments when I thought, 'She's too far away,' but then I started to believe I could do it and that it was still possible.
"I gave everything I had. I saw a small rise and I got out of the saddle, and I was getting closer and closer, but it wasn't close enough."
As part of a powerful Mitchelton-Scott team, which also included Lucy Kennedy and Amanda Spratt, with the latter finishing 11th, Van Vleuten was one of the favourites ahead of the race, along with 2017 champion Van der Breggen.
"The team was really awesome. We were really racing today from kilometre 30 onwards. We sacrificed Grace Brown, Gracie Elvin and Moniek Tenniglo on the front to make the race hard on the narrow roads until the Eyserboswerg, which was great for me and Spratty. We were just sat in the wheels while the bunch was splitting up. They should be proud to have played a part in this race," said Van Vleuten on the Mitchelton-Scott website.
"We really made the race aggressive today, and made it a hard race from early on," said sports director Martin Vestby. "Looking at the finish and seeing all the top riders looking tired at the end, I think it's clear we managed to make it tough for everyone.
"In the end, it almost worked perfectly with Annemiek and Spratty," Vestby continued. "I think we really went 100 per cent in for one goal, and when you've done more or less everything you can, second place isn't so bad.
"Of course, we wanted to win and it was really close, but I don't think we would change too much looking back at the race, and we should be happy with the result,"he said.
"I think for the team we can take confidence going into Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège," added Van Vleuten, with the Ardennes Classics continuing on Wednesday and next Sunday. "We can be really proud, and I'm also very proud because this is my home country, and to race like this with live TV coverage in front of all these fans is where you want to be."
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