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.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Michael Valgren (Den) Astana Pro Team||6:40:07|
|2||Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Mitchelton-Scott|
|3||Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Bahrain-Merida||0:00:02|
|4||Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe||0:00:19|
|5||Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team|
|6||Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|7||Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors|
|8||Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team||0:00:23|
|9||Lawson Craddock (USA) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale||0:00:30|
|10||Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Soudal||0:00:36|
|11||Daryl Impey (RSA) Mitchelton-Scott||0:00:53|
|12||Preben Van Hecke (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|13||Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors|
|14||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team|
|15||Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|16||Floris De Tier (Bel) LottoNL-Jumbo|
|17||Matteo Bono (Ita) UAE Team Emirates|
|18||Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky|
|19||Ion Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida|
|20||Michael Woods (Can) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale|
|21||Oscar Riesebeek (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij||0:00:56|
|22||Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida||0:01:19|
|23||Tsgabu Grmay (Eth) Trek-Segafredo||0:01:51|
|24||Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb||0:02:11|
|25||Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC Racing Team|
|26||Serge Pauwels (Bel) Dimension Data|
|27||Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates|
|28||Robert Gesink (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo|
|29||Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale|
|30||Quentin Pacher (Fra) Vital Concept Club|
|31||Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky|
|32||Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida|
|33||Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors|
|34||Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) BMC Racing Team|
|35||Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo|
|36||Mikel Landa (Spa) Movistar Team|
|37||Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin||0:03:15|
|38||Jérôme Baugnies (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert||0:03:26|
|39||Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Israel Cycling Academy|
|40||Toms Skujins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo|
|41||Pim Ligthart (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij|
|42||Anthony Roux (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|43||Tom Devriendt (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert|
|44||Omar Fraile (Spa) Astana Pro Team|
|45||Bert-Jan Lindeman (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo|
|46||Dries Van Gestel (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|47||Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty-Groupe Gobert|
|48||Benoit Cosnefroy (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale|
|49||Marcus Burghardt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|50||Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates|
|51||Thomas Sprengers (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|52||Guillaume Boivin (Can) Israel Cycling Academy|
|53||Axel Domont (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale|
|54||Silvan Dillier (Swi) AG2R La Mondiale|
|55||Rúben Guerreiro (Por) Trek-Segafredo|
|56||Simone Ponzi (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa Ovini|
|57||Marco Canola (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa Ovini|
|58||Lawrence Warbasse (USA) Aqua Blue Sport|
|59||Manuele Mori (Ita) UAE Team Emirates|
|60||Dion Smith (NZl) Wanty-Groupe Gobert|
|61||Benjamin King (USA) Dimension Data|
|62||Grega Bole (Slo) Bahrain-Merida|
|63||Valentin Madouas (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|64||Maurits Lammertink (Ned) Katusha-Alpecin|
|65||Alex Howes (USA) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale|
|66||Jan Bakelants (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale|
|67||José Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar Team|
|68||Andrey Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team|
|69||Ben Gastauer (Lux) AG2R La Mondiale|
|70||Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|71||Marco Minnaard (Ned) Wanty-Groupe Gobert|
|72||Christopher Juul Jensen (Den) Mitchelton-Scott|
|73||Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida|
|74||August Jensen (Nor) Israel Cycling Academy|
|75||Tom-Jelte Slagter (Ned) Dimension Data|
|76||Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale|
|77||Pieter Serry (Bel) Quick-Step Floors|
|78||Simon Gerrans (Aus) BMC Racing Team|
|79||Aleksandr Riabushenko (Blr) UAE Team Emirates|
|80||Michal Golas (Pol) Team Sky|
|81||Edward Dunbar (Irl) Aqua Blue Sport|
|82||Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Lotto Soudal|
|83||Benoit Vaugrenard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|84||Carlos Verona (Spa) Mitchelton-Scott|
|85||Pieter Weening (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij|
|86||Paul Martens (Ger) LottoNL-Jumbo|
|87||Simon Geschke (Ger) Team Sunweb|
|88||Carlos Betancur (Col) Movistar Team|
|89||Winner Anacona (Col) Movistar Team|
|90||Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale|
|91||Gregor Mühlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|92||Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale|
|93||Laurens ten Dam (Ned) Team Sunweb|
|94||Bram Tankink (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo||0:03:35|
|95||Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC Racing Team||0:04:50|
|96||Scott Davies (GBr) Dimension Data|
|DNF||Niki Terpstra (Ned) Quick-Step Floors|
|DNF||Enric Mas (Spa) Quick-Step Floors|
|DNF||Davide Martinelli (Ita) Quick-Step Floors|
|DNF||Michael Albasini (Swi) Mitchelton-Scott|
|DNF||Luke Durbridge (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott|
|DNF||Michael Hepburn (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott|
|DNF||Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky|
|DNF||Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Team Sky|
|DNF||Vasil Kiryienka (Blr) Team Sky|
|DNF||Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol) Team Sky|
|DNF||Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar Team|
|DNF||Imanol Erviti (Spa) Movistar Team|
|DNF||Edward Theuns (Bel) Team Sunweb|
|DNF||Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Sunweb|
|DNF||Mike Teunissen (Ned) Team Sunweb|
|DNF||Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb|
|DNF||Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Tosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Nikolas Maes (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing Team|
|DNF||Alberto Bettiol (Ita) BMC Racing Team|
|DNF||Danny van Poppel (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo|
|DNF||Maarten Wynants (Bel) LottoNL-Jumbo|
|DNF||Pascal Ackermann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNF||Jay McCarthy (Aus) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNF||Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNF||Koen de Kort (Ned) Trek-Segafredo|
|DNF||Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo|
|DNF||Michael Gogl (Aut) Trek-Segafredo|
|DNF||Dario Cataldo (Ita) Astana Pro Team|
|DNF||Laurens De Vreese (Bel) Astana Pro Team|
|DNF||Oscar Gatto (Ita) Astana Pro Team|
|DNF||Nathan Haas (Aus) Katusha-Alpecin|
|DNF||Steff Cras (Bel) Katusha-Alpecin|
|DNF||Baptiste Planckaert (Bel) Katusha-Alpecin|
|DNF||Jenthe Biermans (Bel) Katusha-Alpecin|
|DNF||Willie Smit (RSA) Katusha-Alpecin|
|DNF||Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Groupama-FDJ|
|DNF||Romain Seigle (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|DNF||Davide Cimolai (Ita) Groupama-FDJ|
|DNF||Daniel Martin (Irl) UAE Team Emirates|
|DNF||Rory Sutherland (Aus) UAE Team Emirates|
|DNF||Matti Breschel (Den) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale|
|DNF||Logan Owen (USA) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale|
|DNF||Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier (Eri) Dimension Data|
|DNF||Johann Van Zyl (RSA) Dimension Data|
|DNF||Jaco Venter (RSA) Dimension Data|
|DNF||Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Bahrain-Merida|
|DNF||Elmar Reinders (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij|
|DNF||Jeroen Meijers (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij|
|DNF||Floris Gerts (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij|
|DNF||Nick van der Lijke (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij|
|DNF||Roy Goldstein (Isr) Israel Cycling Academy|
|DNF||Krists Neilands (Lat) Israel Cycling Academy|
|DNF||Benjamin Perry (Can) Israel Cycling Academy|
|DNF||Tyler Williams (USA) Israel Cycling Academy|
|DNF||Mark Christian (GBr) Aqua Blue Sport|
|DNF||Aaron Gate (NZl) Aqua Blue Sport|
|DNF||Lasse Norman Hansen (Den) Aqua Blue Sport|
|DNF||Calvin Watson (Aus) Aqua Blue Sport|
|DNF||Casper Pedersen (Den) Aqua Blue Sport|
|DNF||Edward Planckaert (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|DNF||Aaron Verwilst (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|DNF||Kevin Deltombe (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|DNF||Jordi Warlop (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|DNF||Simon Antonini (Ita) Wanty-Groupe Gobert|
|DNF||Mark McNally (GBr) Wanty-Groupe Gobert|
|DNF||Bryan Coquard (Fra) Vital Concept Club|
|DNF||Yoann Bagot (Fra) Vital Concept Club|
|DNF||Tanguy Turgis (Fra) Vital Concept Club|
|DNF||Justin Mottier (Fra) Vital Concept Club|
|DNF||Patrick Müller (Swi) Vital Concept Club|
|DNF||Kevin Reza (Fra) Vital Concept Club|
|DNF||Damiano Cunego (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa Ovini|
|DNF||Marco Tizza (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa Ovini|
|DNF||Eduard Michael Grosu (Rom) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa Ovini|
|DNF||Marino Kobayashi (Jpn) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa Ovini|
|DNF||Juan Jose Lobato (Spa) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa Ovini|
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