Valgren wins Amstel Gold Race

Michael Valgren (Astana) took victory at Amstel Gold Race on Sunday, beating Roman Kreuziger (Mitchelton-Scott) in a two-up sprint, with Enrico Gasparotto (Bahrain-Merida) crossing the line just behind for third after failing to catch the duo. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) won the sprint for fourth place. 

It's the second major one-day victory for the Dane after his Omloop Het Nieuwsblad triumph in February, and it came about in similar circumstances as Astana once again exploited a numerical advantage in the lead group in the race's finale.

When Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) attacked on the Guelhemmerberg, the penultimate climb of the day, a group of eight riders – plus a few breakaway remnants – went clear, and Astana were the only team with two riders, Jakob Fuglsang joining his compatriot.

Fuglsang attacked repeatedly in a bid to put pressure on Valverde and the other big-name favourites in the group, which also contained Sagan, Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors), and Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal), along with Kreuziger and Gasparotto, who'd previously attacked ahead of the Cauberg.

With five kilometres remaining, and the final climb of the Bemeleberg out of the way, Valgren launched his first attack, but it was swiftly closed down by Wellens and Sagan. There was no such response on the second time that Valgren went with 2.5km to go.

Sagan was on the front of the group but while Kreuziger went off in pursuit, the world champion stayed put in a game of brinksmanship with Valverde and Alaphilippe. Gasparotto then set off in pursuit, but nothing came from the five-star favourites, and in the blink of an eye they effectively marked each other out of the race.

Wellens finally caved in but it was too late, and Valgren and Kreuziger headed under the flame rouge with a large enough advantage to play out the sprint among themselves, while Gasparotto dangled behind but never managed to regain contact. Kreuziger led it out but Valgren soon responded and won convincingly.

After getting off the phone with Astana boss Alexander Vinokourov, Valgren was in high spirits in his post-race interview.

"He said that he saw a great team today, and I can only agree with him. We were super focused today, we had some really strong riders, Laurens de Vreese was working super hard at the beginning, Omar [Fraile] was working hard for me, then Jakob was setting up the finale for me, so in the end, it was perfect for us today," said Valgren.

"Me and Jakob worked well together. He was super strong and made the other guys tired. My second attack was the good one and I finished it off. He was yelling in the radio 'come on you can finish this!'. I did so, and I'm so happy for myself and for the team."

Sagan led the rest of the group home for fourth, followed by Valverde, Wellens, and Alaphilippe, with Fuglsang a few seconds back. Lawson Craddock (EF-Drapac), who had been part of the original breakaway that survived deep into the race, hung on for ninth place, while Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Soudal) attacked from the chase group in the finale to clinch a top 10.

Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Sergio Henao (Team Sky), Ion Izaguirre (Bahrain-Merida), and Michael Woods (EF-Drapac) all finished in the main chase group of 10 at 53 seconds. 2015 champion and last year's runner-up Michal Kwiatkowski slipped back to eventually finish at 2:11 in a group with Dylan Teuns (BMC), Rui Costa (UAE), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), and Michael Matthews (Sunweb), who'd punctured ahead of the Cauberg.

How it unfolded

The riders gathered in Maastricht under clear blue skies for the 53rd edition of the Amstel Gold Race, the first part in the Ardennes Classics triptych, even if the race takes place in the hills of Limburg, Holland, rather than the Belgian Ardennes.

After a minute’s silence in memory of Michael Goolaerts, who tragically died after Paris-Roubaix last week, the riders rolled out, with 263 kilometres ahead of them. The course would twist its way through the Limburg countryside, with no fewer than 35 climbs on the menu. The organisers replicated last year’s format – where the Cauberg preceded the Guelhemmerberg and Bemelerberg instead of acting as the final climb – and even chose some narrower roads in the finale in hope of repeating the spectacle of 12 months ago.

A breakaway of 12 riders went clear early on, containing: Bram Tankink (LottoNL-Jumbo), Tsgabu Grmay (Trek-Segafredo), Matteo Bono (UAE Team Emirates), Lawson Craddock (EF-Drapac), Oscar Riesebeek (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij), Eddie Dunbar (Aqua Blue Sport), Marco Tizza (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Willem Smit (Katusha-Alpecin), and Preben Van Hecke (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise). They were allowed to open up a huge lead of 16 minutes, and as a result were able to go deep into the race, with Craddock even landing a top 10 finish.

The early afternoon passed without major incident as the peloton, suddenly awake, set about steadily reducing the deficit, with Movistar and Bora-Hansgrohe the chief contributors. The climbs came and went but the real action would be preserved for later in the day.

Well aware of the role the Kruisberg played 12 months ago in igniting the race, the favourites and their teams begun to assert themselves as they entered the final 50km of racing. Bahrain-Merida turned up the gas ahead of the Gulpenerberg, and then teams sent second-tier names – such as Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors) and Tosh van der Sande (Lotto Soudal) to raise the pace and thin out the peloton.

That they did, and while there were no attacks on the Kruisberg this time, Gorka Izaguirre attacked over the top of the Eyserbosweg shortly after, and the peloton began to split under the pressure. The other Izaguirre brother, Jon, was the next to go and went solo for a couple of kilometres, before being caught on the Keutenberg, where the favourites were now fully to the fore.

Kreuziger was the next to attack and, as would happen later, Sagan let it go. Gasparotto joined Kreuziger and by the middle of the Cauberg they had caught the six leaders – Tizza, Tamkink, and Smit having lost contact. Meanwhile Pieter Serry led the main peloton – now containing around 30 riders – to lay the foundations for an Alaphilippe attack. The Frenchman’s move was short-lived, as was one from Fuglsang, but Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) did succeed in going clear with FDJ’s Rudy Molard, and they crossed the finish line for the penultimate time a few seconds clear, but 16 seconds behind the lead group.

Sergio Henao (Team Sky) helped bring that duo to heel in time for the Guelhemmerberg, but Team Sky would ultimately miss out as the group split and Valverde made his acceleration. Wellens, Alaphilippe, Valgren, and Sagan were all swift in their response, but Gilbert, Kwiatkowski, Van Avermaet and other pre-race favourites missed out.

Fuglsang initially didn’t make the cut but eventually managed to drag himself across. How important that would turn out to be.

The lead group were soon caught, while those who’d missed the boat drifted to 20 seconds, despite Daryl Impey’s attempt at a counter-attack. Onto the Bemeleberg and remarkably it was Riesebeek, who’d been out in the break all day, who was the chief aggressor. Fuglsang responded both times, forcing Valverde onto the defensive on the second occasion.

As Fulgsang then set about leading the group, Valgren could be seen lurking right at the back of it, and soon came the inevitable attack. While his first attempt was swiftly stamped out, his second succeeded in turning the bigger names against each other.

So, while Valverde, Sagan, and Alaphilippe had seemed like the strongest riders in the race, they were outmuscled tactically by what turned out to be the strongest team.

Full Results

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Michael Valgren (Den) Astana Pro Team6:40:07
2Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Mitchelton-ScottRow 1 - Cell 2
3Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Bahrain-Merida0:00:02
4Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe0:00:19
5Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 4 - Cell 2
6Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 5 - Cell 2
7Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step FloorsRow 6 - Cell 2
8Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team0:00:23
9Lawson Craddock (USA) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale0:00:30
10Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:00:36
11Daryl Impey (RSA) Mitchelton-Scott0:00:53
12Preben Van Hecke (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-BaloiseRow 11 - Cell 2
13Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step FloorsRow 12 - Cell 2
14Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing TeamRow 13 - Cell 2
15Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJRow 14 - Cell 2
16Floris De Tier (Bel) LottoNL-JumboRow 15 - Cell 2
17Matteo Bono (Ita) UAE Team EmiratesRow 16 - Cell 2
18Sergio Henao (Col) Team SkyRow 17 - Cell 2
19Ion Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-MeridaRow 18 - Cell 2
20Michael Woods (Can) EF Education First-Drapac p/b CannondaleRow 19 - Cell 2
21Oscar Riesebeek (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij0:00:56
22Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida0:01:19
23Tsgabu Grmay (Eth) Trek-Segafredo0:01:51
24Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb0:02:11
25Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC Racing TeamRow 24 - Cell 2
26Serge Pauwels (Bel) Dimension DataRow 25 - Cell 2
27Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team EmiratesRow 26 - Cell 2
28Robert Gesink (Ned) LottoNL-JumboRow 27 - Cell 2
29Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 28 - Cell 2
30Quentin Pacher (Fra) Vital Concept ClubRow 29 - Cell 2
31Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team SkyRow 30 - Cell 2
32Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-MeridaRow 31 - Cell 2
33Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step FloorsRow 32 - Cell 2
34Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) BMC Racing TeamRow 33 - Cell 2
35Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-SegafredoRow 34 - Cell 2
36Mikel Landa (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 35 - Cell 2
37Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin0:03:15
38Jérôme Baugnies (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert0:03:26
39Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Israel Cycling AcademyRow 38 - Cell 2
40Toms Skujins (Lat) Trek-SegafredoRow 39 - Cell 2
41Pim Ligthart (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse LoterijRow 40 - Cell 2
42Anthony Roux (Fra) Groupama-FDJRow 41 - Cell 2
43Tom Devriendt (Bel) Wanty-Groupe GobertRow 42 - Cell 2
44Omar Fraile (Spa) Astana Pro TeamRow 43 - Cell 2
45Bert-Jan Lindeman (Ned) LottoNL-JumboRow 44 - Cell 2
46Dries Van Gestel (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-BaloiseRow 45 - Cell 2
47Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty-Groupe GobertRow 46 - Cell 2
48Benoit Cosnefroy (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 47 - Cell 2
49Marcus Burghardt (Ger) Bora-HansgroheRow 48 - Cell 2
50Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team EmiratesRow 49 - Cell 2
51Thomas Sprengers (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-BaloiseRow 50 - Cell 2
52Guillaume Boivin (Can) Israel Cycling AcademyRow 51 - Cell 2
53Axel Domont (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 52 - Cell 2
54Silvan Dillier (Swi) AG2R La MondialeRow 53 - Cell 2
55Rúben Guerreiro (Por) Trek-SegafredoRow 54 - Cell 2
56Simone Ponzi (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa OviniRow 55 - Cell 2
57Marco Canola (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa OviniRow 56 - Cell 2
58Lawrence Warbasse (USA) Aqua Blue SportRow 57 - Cell 2
59Manuele Mori (Ita) UAE Team EmiratesRow 58 - Cell 2
60Dion Smith (NZl) Wanty-Groupe GobertRow 59 - Cell 2
61Benjamin King (USA) Dimension DataRow 60 - Cell 2
62Grega Bole (Slo) Bahrain-MeridaRow 61 - Cell 2
63Valentin Madouas (Fra) Groupama-FDJRow 62 - Cell 2
64Maurits Lammertink (Ned) Katusha-AlpecinRow 63 - Cell 2
65Alex Howes (USA) EF Education First-Drapac p/b CannondaleRow 64 - Cell 2
66Jan Bakelants (Bel) AG2R La MondialeRow 65 - Cell 2
67José Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 66 - Cell 2
68Andrey Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro TeamRow 67 - Cell 2
69Ben Gastauer (Lux) AG2R La MondialeRow 68 - Cell 2
70Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-HansgroheRow 69 - Cell 2
71Marco Minnaard (Ned) Wanty-Groupe GobertRow 70 - Cell 2
72Christopher Juul Jensen (Den) Mitchelton-ScottRow 71 - Cell 2
73Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-MeridaRow 72 - Cell 2
74August Jensen (Nor) Israel Cycling AcademyRow 73 - Cell 2
75Tom-Jelte Slagter (Ned) Dimension DataRow 74 - Cell 2
76Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First-Drapac p/b CannondaleRow 75 - Cell 2
77Pieter Serry (Bel) Quick-Step FloorsRow 76 - Cell 2
78Simon Gerrans (Aus) BMC Racing TeamRow 77 - Cell 2
79Aleksandr Riabushenko (Blr) UAE Team EmiratesRow 78 - Cell 2
80Michal Golas (Pol) Team SkyRow 79 - Cell 2
81Edward Dunbar (Irl) Aqua Blue SportRow 80 - Cell 2
82Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Lotto SoudalRow 81 - Cell 2
83Benoit Vaugrenard (Fra) Groupama-FDJRow 82 - Cell 2
84Carlos Verona (Spa) Mitchelton-ScottRow 83 - Cell 2
85Pieter Weening (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse LoterijRow 84 - Cell 2
86Paul Martens (Ger) LottoNL-JumboRow 85 - Cell 2
87Simon Geschke (Ger) Team SunwebRow 86 - Cell 2
88Carlos Betancur (Col) Movistar TeamRow 87 - Cell 2
89Winner Anacona (Col) Movistar TeamRow 88 - Cell 2
90Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) EF Education First-Drapac p/b CannondaleRow 89 - Cell 2
91Gregor Mühlberger (Aut) Bora-HansgroheRow 90 - Cell 2
92Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La MondialeRow 91 - Cell 2
93Laurens ten Dam (Ned) Team SunwebRow 92 - Cell 2
94Bram Tankink (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo0:03:35
95Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC Racing Team0:04:50
96Scott Davies (GBr) Dimension DataRow 95 - Cell 2
DNFNiki Terpstra (Ned) Quick-Step FloorsRow 96 - Cell 2
DNFEnric Mas (Spa) Quick-Step FloorsRow 97 - Cell 2
DNFDavide Martinelli (Ita) Quick-Step FloorsRow 98 - Cell 2
DNFMichael Albasini (Swi) Mitchelton-ScottRow 99 - Cell 2
DNFLuke Durbridge (Aus) Mitchelton-ScottRow 100 - Cell 2
DNFMichael Hepburn (Aus) Mitchelton-ScottRow 101 - Cell 2
DNFWout Poels (Ned) Team SkyRow 102 - Cell 2
DNFTao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Team SkyRow 103 - Cell 2
DNFVasil Kiryienka (Blr) Team SkyRow 104 - Cell 2
DNFLukasz Wisniowski (Pol) Team SkyRow 105 - Cell 2
DNFAndrey Amador (CRc) Movistar TeamRow 106 - Cell 2
DNFImanol Erviti (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 107 - Cell 2
DNFEdward Theuns (Bel) Team SunwebRow 108 - Cell 2
DNFJohannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team SunwebRow 109 - Cell 2
DNFMike Teunissen (Ned) Team SunwebRow 110 - Cell 2
DNFSøren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team SunwebRow 111 - Cell 2
DNFTiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 112 - Cell 2
DNFMarcel Sieberg (Ger) Lotto SoudalRow 113 - Cell 2
DNFTosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 114 - Cell 2
DNFNikolas Maes (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 115 - Cell 2
DNFMichael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing TeamRow 116 - Cell 2
DNFAlberto Bettiol (Ita) BMC Racing TeamRow 117 - Cell 2
DNFDanny van Poppel (Ned) LottoNL-JumboRow 118 - Cell 2
DNFMaarten Wynants (Bel) LottoNL-JumboRow 119 - Cell 2
DNFPascal Ackermann (Ger) Bora-HansgroheRow 120 - Cell 2
DNFJay McCarthy (Aus) Bora-HansgroheRow 121 - Cell 2
DNFCesare Benedetti (Ita) Bora-HansgroheRow 122 - Cell 2
DNFKoen de Kort (Ned) Trek-SegafredoRow 123 - Cell 2
DNFJasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-SegafredoRow 124 - Cell 2
DNFMichael Gogl (Aut) Trek-SegafredoRow 125 - Cell 2
DNFDario Cataldo (Ita) Astana Pro TeamRow 126 - Cell 2
DNFLaurens De Vreese (Bel) Astana Pro TeamRow 127 - Cell 2
DNFOscar Gatto (Ita) Astana Pro TeamRow 128 - Cell 2
DNFNathan Haas (Aus) Katusha-AlpecinRow 129 - Cell 2
DNFSteff Cras (Bel) Katusha-AlpecinRow 130 - Cell 2
DNFBaptiste Planckaert (Bel) Katusha-AlpecinRow 131 - Cell 2
DNFJenthe Biermans (Bel) Katusha-AlpecinRow 132 - Cell 2
DNFWillie Smit (RSA) Katusha-AlpecinRow 133 - Cell 2
DNFRamon Sinkeldam (Ned) Groupama-FDJRow 134 - Cell 2
DNFRomain Seigle (Fra) Groupama-FDJRow 135 - Cell 2
DNFDavide Cimolai (Ita) Groupama-FDJRow 136 - Cell 2
DNFDaniel Martin (Irl) UAE Team EmiratesRow 137 - Cell 2
DNFRory Sutherland (Aus) UAE Team EmiratesRow 138 - Cell 2
DNFMatti Breschel (Den) EF Education First-Drapac p/b CannondaleRow 139 - Cell 2
DNFLogan Owen (USA) EF Education First-Drapac p/b CannondaleRow 140 - Cell 2
DNFAmanuel Ghebreigzabhier (Eri) Dimension DataRow 141 - Cell 2
DNFJohann Van Zyl (RSA) Dimension DataRow 142 - Cell 2
DNFJaco Venter (RSA) Dimension DataRow 143 - Cell 2
DNFFranco Pellizotti (Ita) Bahrain-MeridaRow 144 - Cell 2
DNFElmar Reinders (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse LoterijRow 145 - Cell 2
DNFJeroen Meijers (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse LoterijRow 146 - Cell 2
DNFFloris Gerts (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse LoterijRow 147 - Cell 2
DNFNick van der Lijke (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse LoterijRow 148 - Cell 2
DNFRoy Goldstein (Isr) Israel Cycling AcademyRow 149 - Cell 2
DNFKrists Neilands (Lat) Israel Cycling AcademyRow 150 - Cell 2
DNFBenjamin Perry (Can) Israel Cycling AcademyRow 151 - Cell 2
DNFTyler Williams (USA) Israel Cycling AcademyRow 152 - Cell 2
DNFMark Christian (GBr) Aqua Blue SportRow 153 - Cell 2
DNFAaron Gate (NZl) Aqua Blue SportRow 154 - Cell 2
DNFLasse Norman Hansen (Den) Aqua Blue SportRow 155 - Cell 2
DNFCalvin Watson (Aus) Aqua Blue SportRow 156 - Cell 2
DNFCasper Pedersen (Den) Aqua Blue SportRow 157 - Cell 2
DNFEdward Planckaert (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-BaloiseRow 158 - Cell 2
DNFAaron Verwilst (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-BaloiseRow 159 - Cell 2
DNFKevin Deltombe (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-BaloiseRow 160 - Cell 2
DNFJordi Warlop (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-BaloiseRow 161 - Cell 2
DNFSimon Antonini (Ita) Wanty-Groupe GobertRow 162 - Cell 2
DNFMark McNally (GBr) Wanty-Groupe GobertRow 163 - Cell 2
DNFBryan Coquard (Fra) Vital Concept ClubRow 164 - Cell 2
DNFYoann Bagot (Fra) Vital Concept ClubRow 165 - Cell 2
DNFTanguy Turgis (Fra) Vital Concept ClubRow 166 - Cell 2
DNFJustin Mottier (Fra) Vital Concept ClubRow 167 - Cell 2
DNFPatrick Müller (Swi) Vital Concept ClubRow 168 - Cell 2
DNFKevin Reza (Fra) Vital Concept ClubRow 169 - Cell 2
DNFDamiano Cunego (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa OviniRow 170 - Cell 2
DNFMarco Tizza (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa OviniRow 171 - Cell 2
DNFEduard Michael Grosu (Rom) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa OviniRow 172 - Cell 2
DNFMarino Kobayashi (Jpn) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa OviniRow 173 - Cell 2
DNFJuan Jose Lobato (Spa) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa OviniRow 174 - Cell 2

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