Mathieu Van der Poel wins Amstel Gold Race

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

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#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 - ScottRow 9 - Cell 2
11Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky0:00:02
12Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek - SegafredoRow 11 - Cell 2
13Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates0:00:46
14Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) CCC TeamRow 13 - Cell 2
15Daryl Impey (RSA) Mitchelton - Scott0:00:54
16Michael Matthews (Aus) Team SunwebRow 15 - Cell 2
17Jay Mc Carthy (Aus) Bora - HansgroheRow 16 - Cell 2
18Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Dimension DataRow 17 - Cell 2
19Dion Smith (NZl) Mitchelton - ScottRow 18 - Cell 2
20Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Israel Cycling AcademyRow 19 - Cell 2
21Robert Gesink (Ned) Team Jumbo - VismaRow 20 - Cell 2
22Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team EmiratesRow 21 - Cell 2
23Toms Skujins (Lat) Trek - SegafredoRow 22 - Cell 2
24Ben Hermans (Bel) Israel Cycling AcademyRow 23 - Cell 2
25Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Team Katusha AlpecinRow 24 - Cell 2
26Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora - HansgroheRow 25 - Cell 2
27Xandro Meurisse (Bel) Wanty - Gobert Cycling TeamRow 26 - Cell 2
28Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La MondialeRow 27 - Cell 2
29Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col) UAE Team EmiratesRow 28 - Cell 2
30Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Deceuninck - Quick - StepRow 29 - Cell 2
31Dylan Van Baarle (Ned) Team SkyRow 30 - Cell 2
32Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama - FDJRow 31 - Cell 2
33Dries Devenyns (Bel) Deceuninck - Quick - Step0:04:02
34Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Israel Cycling Academy0:04:19
35Gianni Vermeersch (Bel) Corendon - CircusRow 34 - Cell 2
36Nathan Haas (Aus) Team Katusha AlpecinRow 35 - Cell 2
37Grega Bole (Slo) Bahrain - MeridaRow 36 - Cell 2
38Bryan Coquard (Fra) Vital Concept - B&B HotelsRow 37 - Cell 2
39Clement Venturini (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 38 - Cell 2
40Dries Van Gestel (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 39 - Cell 2
41Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Team Dimension DataRow 40 - Cell 2
42Huub Duijn (Ned) Roompot - CharlesRow 41 - Cell 2
43Benoit Cosnefroy (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 42 - Cell 2
44Maurits Lammertink (Ned) Roompot - CharlesRow 43 - Cell 2
45Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain - MeridaRow 44 - Cell 2
46Lawrence Warbasse (USA) AG2R La MondialeRow 45 - Cell 2
47Paul Martens (Ger) Team Jumbo - VismaRow 46 - Cell 2
48Nick Van Der Lijke (Ned) Roompot - CharlesRow 47 - Cell 2
49Patrick Müller (Swi) Vital Concept - B&B HotelsRow 48 - Cell 2
50Mikael Cherel (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 49 - Cell 2
51Marcel Meisen (Ger) Corendon - CircusRow 50 - Cell 2
52Michael Valgren Andersen (Den) Team Dimension DataRow 51 - Cell 2
53Marc Hirschi (Swi) Team SunwebRow 52 - Cell 2
54Serge Pauwels (Bel) CCC TeamRow 53 - Cell 2
55Thomas Sprengers (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 54 - Cell 2
56Marcus Burghardt (Ger) Bora - HansgroheRow 55 - Cell 2
57Wout Van Aert (Bel) Team Jumbo - VismaRow 56 - Cell 2
58Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Lotto SoudalRow 57 - Cell 2
59Michael Albasini (Swi) Mitchelton - ScottRow 58 - Cell 2
60Maxime Monfort (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 59 - Cell 2
61G Lawson Craddock (USA) EF Education FirstRow 60 - Cell 2
62Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Astana Pro TeamRow 61 - Cell 2
63Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain - MeridaRow 62 - Cell 2
64Luis León Sanchez (Spa) Astana Pro TeamRow 63 - Cell 2
65Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 64 - Cell 2
66Diego Rosa (Ita) Team SkyRow 65 - Cell 2
67Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro TeamRow 66 - Cell 2
68Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain - MeridaRow 67 - Cell 2
69Alberto Bettiol (Ita) EF Education First0:07:53
70Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain - MeridaRow 69 - Cell 2
71Logan Owen (USA) EF Education FirstRow 70 - Cell 2
72Alex Howes (USA) EF Education FirstRow 71 - Cell 2
73Dennis Van Winden (Ned) Israel Cycling AcademyRow 72 - Cell 2
74Quentin Pacher (Fra) Vital Concept - B&B HotelsRow 73 - Cell 2
75Floris De Tier (Bel) Team Jumbo - VismaRow 74 - Cell 2
76Mathias De Witte (Bel) Roompot - CharlesRow 75 - Cell 2
77Simone Petilli (Ita) UAE Team EmiratesRow 76 - Cell 2
78Carlos Barbero (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 77 - Cell 2
79Michael Gogl (Aut) Trek - SegafredoRow 78 - Cell 2
80Michal Golas (Pol) Team SkyRow 79 - Cell 2
81Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar TeamRow 80 - Cell 2
82Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Bora - HansgroheRow 81 - Cell 2
83Tom-Jelte Slagter (Ned) Team Dimension DataRow 82 - Cell 2
84Jimmy Janssens (Bel) Corendon - CircusRow 83 - Cell 2
85Bert-Jan Lindeman (Ned) Team Jumbo - VismaRow 84 - Cell 2
86Pieter Weening (Ned) Roompot - CharlesRow 85 - Cell 2
87Christopher Juul Jensen (Den) Mitchelton - Scott0:07:56
88Michael Schär (Swi) CCC Team0:09:12
89Julien Bernard (Fra) Trek - SegafredoRow 88 - Cell 2
90Mikkel Frølich Honoré (Den) Deceuninck - Quick - Step0:10:59
91Romain Seigle (Fra) Groupama - FDJ0:11:17
92Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty - Gobert Cycling TeamRow 91 - Cell 2
93Clément Chevrier (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 92 - Cell 2
94Odd Christian Eiking (Nor) Wanty - Gobert Cycling TeamRow 93 - Cell 2
95Julien Vermote (Bel) Team Dimension DataRow 94 - Cell 2
96August Jensen (Nor) Israel Cycling AcademyRow 95 - Cell 2
97Oscar Riesebeek (Ned) Roompot - CharlesRow 96 - Cell 2
98Stijn Devolder (Bel) Corendon - CircusRow 97 - Cell 2
99Kevin Deltombe (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 98 - Cell 2
100Edward Dunbar (Irl) Team SkyRow 99 - Cell 2
101Jerome Baugnies (Bel) Wanty - Gobert Cycling TeamRow 100 - Cell 2
102Koen Bouwman (Ned) Team Jumbo - VismaRow 101 - Cell 2
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 SkyRow 105 - Cell 2
107Carlos Verona Quintanilla (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 106 - Cell 2
108Lennard Kämna (Ger) Team SunwebRow 107 - Cell 2
109Enrico Barbin (Ita) Bardiani CsfRow 108 - Cell 2
DNFBernhard Eisel (Aut) Team Dimension DataRow 109 - Cell 2
DNFLars Bak Ytting (Den) Team Dimension DataRow 110 - Cell 2
DNFMichael Hepburn (Aus) Mitchelton - ScottRow 111 - Cell 2
DNFIvan Garcia Cortina (Spa) Bahrain - MeridaRow 112 - Cell 2
DNFJan Tratnik (Slo) Bahrain - MeridaRow 113 - Cell 2
DNFOmar Fraile Matarranz (Spa) Astana Pro TeamRow 114 - Cell 2
DNFDavide Villella (Ita) Astana Pro TeamRow 115 - Cell 2
DNFLaurens De Vreese (Bel) Astana Pro TeamRow 116 - Cell 2
DNFPeter Sagan (Svk) Bora - HansgroheRow 117 - Cell 2
DNFDaniel Oss (Ita) Bora - HansgroheRow 118 - Cell 2
DNFPatrick Bevin (NZl) CCC TeamRow 119 - Cell 2
DNFJonas Koch (Ger) CCC TeamRow 120 - Cell 2
DNFLukasz Wisniowski (Pol) CCC TeamRow 121 - Cell 2
DNFRémi Cavagna (Fra) Deceuninck - Quick - StepRow 122 - Cell 2
DNFPieter Serry (Bel) Deceuninck - Quick - StepRow 123 - Cell 2
DNFPetr Vakoč (Cze) Deceuninck - Quick - StepRow 124 - Cell 2
DNFMichael Woods (Can) EF Education FirstRow 125 - Cell 2
DNFSean Bennett (USA) EF Education FirstRow 126 - Cell 2
DNFTobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Groupama - FDJRow 127 - Cell 2
DNFBenoit Vaugrenard (Fra) Groupama - FDJRow 128 - Cell 2
DNFLéo Vincent (Fra) Groupama - FDJRow 129 - Cell 2
DNFWilliam Bonnet (Fra) Groupama - FDJRow 130 - Cell 2
DNFTim Wellens (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 131 - Cell 2
DNFTosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 132 - Cell 2
DNFJelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 133 - Cell 2
DNFSander Armee (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 134 - Cell 2
DNFCarlos Betancur (Col) Movistar TeamRow 135 - Cell 2
DNFImanol Erviti (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 136 - Cell 2
DNFJaime Castrillo Zapater (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 137 - Cell 2
DNFJos Van Emden (Ned) Team Jumbo - VismaRow 138 - Cell 2
DNFJenthe Biermans (Bel) Team Katusha AlpecinRow 139 - Cell 2
DNFRuben Guerreiro (Por) Team Katusha AlpecinRow 140 - Cell 2
DNFWillem Jakobus Smit (RSA) Team Katusha AlpecinRow 141 - Cell 2
DNFDmitrii Strakhov (Rus) Team Katusha AlpecinRow 142 - Cell 2
DNFDavid De La Cruz Melgarejo (Spa) Team SkyRow 143 - Cell 2
DNFJohannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team SunwebRow 144 - Cell 2
DNFSøren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team SunwebRow 145 - Cell 2
DNFLouis Vervaeke (Bel) Team SunwebRow 146 - Cell 2
DNFNicolas Roche (Irl) Team SunwebRow 147 - Cell 2
DNFKoen De Kort (Ned) Trek - SegafredoRow 148 - Cell 2
DNFFabio Felline (Ita) Trek - SegafredoRow 149 - Cell 2
DNFManuele Mori (Ita) UAE Team EmiratesRow 150 - Cell 2
DNFTadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team EmiratesRow 151 - Cell 2
DNFEdward Ravasi (Ita) UAE Team EmiratesRow 152 - Cell 2
DNFOtto Vergaerde (Bel) Corendon - CircusRow 153 - Cell 2
DNFPhilipp Walsleben (Ger) Corendon - CircusRow 154 - Cell 2
DNFLars Boom (Ned) Roompot - CharlesRow 155 - Cell 2
DNFVincenzo Albanese (Ita) Bardiani CsfRow 156 - Cell 2
DNFLorenzo Rota (Ita) Bardiani CsfRow 157 - Cell 2
DNFPaolo Simion (Ita) Bardiani CsfRow 158 - Cell 2
DNFAlessandro Pessot (Ita) Bardiani CsfRow 159 - Cell 2
DNFAlessandro Tonelli (Ita) Bardiani CsfRow 160 - Cell 2
DNFMirco Maestri (Ita) Bardiani CsfRow 161 - Cell 2
DNFClément Carisey (Fra) Israel Cycling AcademyRow 162 - Cell 2
DNFRoy Goldstein (Isr) Israel Cycling AcademyRow 163 - Cell 2
DNFBenjamin Declercq (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 164 - Cell 2
DNFEmiel Planckaert (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 165 - Cell 2
DNFPreben Van Hecke (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 166 - Cell 2
DNFAaron Verwilst (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 167 - Cell 2
DNFCyril Gautier (Fra) Vital Concept - B&B HotelsRow 168 - Cell 2
DNFKevin Reza (Fra) Vital Concept - B&B HotelsRow 169 - Cell 2
DNFCorentin Ermenault (Fra) Vital Concept - B&B HotelsRow 170 - Cell 2
DNFArnaud Courteille (Fra) Vital Concept - B&B HotelsRow 171 - Cell 2
DNFWesley Kreder (Ned) Wanty - Gobert Cycling TeamRow 172 - Cell 2
DNFMarco Minnaard (Ned) Wanty - Gobert Cycling TeamRow 173 - Cell 2
DNFLoïc Vliegen (Bel) Wanty - Gobert Cycling TeamRow 174 - Cell 2

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