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The peloton has assembled in Valkenburg for the start of an unusual but still somehow familiar edition of Amstel Gold Race, which returns to the calendar after a pandemic-enforced hiatus. Ongoing coronavirus restrictions mean that the crowds are absent today, while the race takes place on laps of a circuit rather than on the usual, snaking route across the hills of Limburg. Even so, some old friends are here: namely, the Geulhemmerberg, the Bemelerberg and the Cauberg.

The women's race concluded a short while ago, with Marianne Vos emerging victorious. Read more here. The men's peloton rolls out at 12.05 local time and is slated to hit kilometre zero at 12.11. They will tackle 12 laps of 16.9km circuit that takes in the Geulhemmerberg, Bemelerberg and Cauberg, and then they will take in one, slightly different lap over the Geulhemmerberg and Bemelerberg before the finish in Berg en Terblijt.

The peloton is soft-pedalling through the neutralised zone ahead of the start proper. There is a distinct feel of World Championships to this course - Valkenburg has hosted the event three times, after all - and it's hard to shake off the feeling that the action will be condensed into the final couple of laps, as Marc Hirschi suggested yesterday. "I think it will be a little bit like the Canada races [the GP Montréal and Québec], where things stay together until three laps to go, and then when everybody’s a little bit tired, the race will actually start,” Hirschi said. Alasdair Fotheringham has more here.

VALLTER 2000 SETCASES VALL CAMPRODON SPAIN MARCH 24 Marc Hirschi of Switzerland and UAE Team Emirates during the 100th Volta Ciclista a Catalunya 2021 Stage 3 a 2031km stage from Canal Olmpic de Catalunya to Vallter 2000 Setcases Vall Camprodon 2125m VoltaCatalunya100 on March 24 2021 in Vallter 2000 Setcases Vall Camprodon Spain Photo by David RamosGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Hirschi's former Sunweb/DSM teammate Tiesj Benoot appears to be roughly in agreement with that analysis. "It's a bit easier to control things when it's laps of a circuit and I think it's a shame that we don't race 260 kilometres," Benoot told Sporza before the start. "But 220 kilometres is also enough for a nice race."

-217km

The peloton has passed kilometre zero and the 2021 edition of Amstel Gold Race is formally underway. The first ascent on the circuit is the Geulhemmerberg, followed by the Bemelerberg and the Cauberg, which will be strangely silent this afternoon in the absence of the usual masses on the roadside.

The race is not entirely without spectators. Some local residents are out on the course, while Tom Dumoulin, who lives nearby, has also been spotted at the start. The Dutchman has placed his career on hiatus and has yet to indicate whether he will return to professional peloton or not. On Friday, Primoz Roglič said his Jumbo-Visma teammate was wise to take as much time out as he needed. "We had a little contact. He just wrote to me that he’s still not sure. And I just wrote him back that there’s no pressure,” Roglič said. “It’s his decision what he does. I think he can do whatever he thinks is the best and we will all accept it.”

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There is an early crash to report in the peloton, though it does not appear that any riders have been forced out of the race as a consequence. Out in front, a small group is attempting to forge clear.

-210km

A group of ten riders has established a lead over the peloton on this opening lap: Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo), Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Stan Dewulf (AG2R-Citroën), Sébastien Grignard (Lotto Soudal), Maurits Lammertink (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Loïc Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Chad Haga (DSM), Ryan Gibbons (UAE Team Emirates), Kenny Molly (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB) and Anders Skaarseth (Uno-X).

-207km

The escapees are over the Cauberg for the first time with a lead of 30 seconds on the peloton.

-205km

Break:

Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo), Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Stan Dewulf (AG2R-Citroën), Sébastien Grignard (Lotto Soudal), Maurits Lammertink (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Loïc Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Chad Haga (DSM), Ryan Gibbons (UAE Team Emirates), Kenny Molly (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB) and Anders Skaarseth (Uno-X)

Peloton at 0:33

With one lap completed, this looks very much like the morning break, but the gap is still hovering around the half-minute mark for the time being. It remains to be seen whether the teams that missed the move are now minded to bring it back.

The pace relents in the peloton early in the second lap, and the break's lead expands accordingly. 1:30 the gap.

-196km

Break:

Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo), Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Stan Dewulf (AG2R-Citroën), Sébastien Grignard (Lotto Soudal), Maurits Lammertink (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Loïc Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Chad Haga (DSM), Ryan Gibbons (UAE Team Emirates), Kenny Molly (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB) and Anders Skaarseth (Uno-X).

Peloton at 1:30

Dutch Maurits Lammertink of Intermarche WantyGobert Materiaux pictured in action during the men elite Amstel Gold Race one day cycling race 21836 km from Valkenburg to Berg en Terblijt The Netherlands Sunday 18 April 2021 BELGA PHOTO ERIC LALMAND Photo by ERIC LALMANDBELGA MAGAFP via Getty Images

Maurits Lammertink and Chad Haga in action in the early break at Amstel Gold Race. (Image credit: Getty)

-190km

The escapees are over the Cauberg for the second time as they approach the end of the second lap, still with a buffer of 1:30 on the peloton.

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) had to settle for second place at Brabantse Pijl in midweek but he remains the favourite for victory today in what is the final race of his Classics campaign. On the cobbles, Van Aert was - Nathan Van Hooydonck's fine cameo at Gent-Wevelgem notwithstanding - often isolated at key moments, but he can count on a supporting cast of considerable depth this afternoon. "We also have Primoz Roglic and Jonas Vingegaard. That is pleasant and that is also a completely different approach to the previous classics," Van Aert told Sporza. "I hope we can play that out. It is now a bit easier for me to race defensively. We have multiple options and I want to take advantage of that."

Tour de Flanders 2021 Ronde Van Vlaanderen 2021 Recon at the parcours 01042021 Wout Van Aert BEL Jumbo Visma Timo Roosen NED Jumbo Visma Nathan Van Hooydonck NED Jumbo Visma Nathan Van Hooydonck Germany Team JumboVisma photo Jan De MeuleneirPNBettiniPhoto2021

(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

-185km

Precise and speedy information on the time gap is often intermittent before live television pictures begin, but it appears that the pace in the peloton dropped considerably on the second lap of the course. The ten leaders now have an advantage of 5 minutes.

Situation

Break:

Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo), Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Stan Dewulf (AG2R-Citroën), Sébastien Grignard (Lotto Soudal), Maurits Lammertink (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Loïc Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Chad Haga (DSM), Ryan Gibbons (UAE Team Emirates), Kenny Molly (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB) and Anders Skaarseth (Uno-X).

Peloton at 5:05

Jumbo-Visma are setting the tempo at the head of the peloton. There is, understandably, no particular urgency to the chase at this early juncture.

At the Tour of Turkey, Mark Cavendish has claimed his fourth stage win of the week, while Jose Manuel Diaz (Delko) has sealed overall victory. More details to follow here.

Mark Cavendish new Oakley sunglasses

(Image credit: Getty Images)

-170km

Break:

Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo), Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Stan Dewulf (AG2R-Citroën), Sébastien Grignard (Lotto Soudal), Maurits Lammertink (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Loïc Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Chad Haga (DSM), Ryan Gibbons (UAE Team Emirates), Kenny Molly (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB) and Anders Skaarseth (Uno-X).

Peloton at 4:50

The race situation remains stable, with the Jumbo-Visma-led peloton content to allow these escapees some early leeway. It's interesting to see two Trek-Segafredo riders in the move, preparing the ground for Bauke Mollema and Jasper Stuyven later on.

-160km

Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo) performed very strongly on the penultimate stage of the Tour of the Basque Country, but the Frenchman had the misfortune to find himself alone in the winning move with two Deceuninck-QuickStep riders, and he had to settle for third in Ondarroa behind Mikkel Honore and Josef Cerny.

ONDARROA SPAIN APRIL 09 Julien Bernard of France and Team Trek Segafredo during the 60th ItzuliaVuelta Ciclista Pais Vasco 2021 Stage 5 a 1602km stage from Hondarribia to Ondarroa Breakaway itzulia ehitzulia on April 09 2021 in Ondarroa Spain Photo by David RamosGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Julian Alaphilippe is kicking off the most important week of his Spring this afternoon at a race he could - and perhaps should - have won in 2019. "Flèche suits me the best, but I dream of winning Liège. Of the three Ardennes Classics, Amstel is probably the one that suits me least, but I'm taking all three races to heart to close this part of the season," Alaphilippe said on Friday. Like many, the world champion compared the circuit race version of Amstel to, well, the World Championships. "It's also on a circuit and it requires a lot of energy and concentration," he explained. Read more here.

BERG NETHERLANDS APRIL 18 Start Julian Alaphilippe of France and Team Deceuninck QuickStep during the 55th Amstel Gold Race 2021 Mens Elite a 2167km race from Valkenburg to Berg en Terblijt Mask Covid safety measures Amstelgoldrace amstelgoldrace on April 18 2021 in Berg Netherlands Photo by Bas CzerwinskiGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty )

Movistar have taken over from Jumbo-Visma at the head of the peloton. The gap to the break has dropped slightly and now stands at 4:35. 

The break is approaching the end of the fourth lap of the Amstel Gold Race circuit. The average speed thus far is a brisk 42.5kph. 

-152km

Break:

Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo), Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Stan Dewulf (AG2R-Citroën), Sébastien Grignard (Lotto Soudal), Maurits Lammertink (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Loïc Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Chad Haga (DSM), Ryan Gibbons (UAE Team Emirates), Kenny Molly (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB) and Anders Skaarseth (Uno-X)

Peloton at 4:35

Tom Dumoulin was a welcome presence at Amstel Gold Race.

Tom Dumoulin was on hand at the start of Amstel Gold Race.  (Image credit: Getty)

-138km

Astana, Deceuninck-QuickStep, Movistar and Jumbo-Visma are all combining to the pace-making in the peloton, which is 4:07 down on the ten leaders. 

The escapees are onto the Cauberg for the fifth time. The ten men in front are collaborating smoothly for the time being and nobody is pushing on the pace too much on the steepest section of the climb.

Tom Pidcock is sitting comfortably on Greg Van Avermaet's wheel deep in the peloton. The Briton was an impressive winner of Brabantse Pijl in midweek, and he lines out in a very strong Ineos team that includes 2015 winner Michal Kwiatkowski, Dylan van Baarle, Richard Carapaz and Eddie Dunbar. 

Brabantse Pijl 2021

(Image credit: Getty Images)

-131km (8 laps to go)

Break:

Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo), Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Stan Dewulf (AG2R-Citroën), Sébastien Grignard (Lotto Soudal), Maurits Lammertink (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Loïc Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Chad Haga (DSM), Ryan Gibbons (UAE Team Emirates), Kenny Molly (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB) and Anders Skaarseth (Uno-X).

Peloton at 3:56

-125km

So far, the race is unfolding as per expectations. A coalition of the favourites' teams is keeping tabs on the early break and there's precious little sign of movement out of the peloton. Like a World Championships road race, the tension should ratchet upwards lap by lap in the final 80km or so.

Alejandro Valverde has never enjoyed Amstel Gold Race quite as much as Fleche Wallonne or Liege-Bastogne-Liege, but he has finished on the podium three times - 2008, 2013 and 2015 - and he is signalling his ambition with the work of his Movistar squad here. 

Paris-Nice winner Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) is likely to be a factor today and, indeed, all week, though he insisted his team had several options at Amstel Gold Race. "I’m feeling good. Basque was a hard race but I had some time in between. We’re here with a strong squad with some cards to play and I think overall we have more or less guys here with the opportunity to do something today," Schachmann told Eurosport. He is accompanied in Limburg today by Wilco Keldermann, Ide Schelling and Patrick Konrad.

Max Schachamann (Bora-Hansgrohe) leads Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) and Tiesj Benoot (Team DSM) over the line on stage 4 of Paris-Nice 2021 Chiroubles

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

-109km

Break:

Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo), Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Stan Dewulf (AG2R-Citroën), Sébastien Grignard (Lotto Soudal), Maurits Lammertink (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Loïc Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Chad Haga (DSM), Ryan Gibbons (UAE Team Emirates), Kenny Molly (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB) and Anders Skaarseth (Uno-X).

Peloton at 3:57

-106km

Schachmann, like Julian Alaphilippe, is content to sit towards the rear of the peloton for the time being, while Movistar, Astana and Jumbo-Visma perform the pace-making on the Bemelerberg. 4:19 the gap to the break.

Paul Martens is among the riders present at the head of the peloton for Jumbo-Visma. The German is in his final season as a professional and this is his 15th appearance at Amstel Gold Race. Only two riders have competed here more often: Davide Rebellin lined out 18 times and Maarten den Bakker raced Amstel Gold Race 16 times. Martens has spent his entire career on Dutch teams, starting with Skil-Shimano and then moving on to Rabobank (later Blanco, Belkin, LottoNL-Jumbo and Jumbo-Visma) in 2008, and this race has always been the centrepiece of his spring.  "When I heard that Paris-Roubaix was cancelled, and that Wout van Aert could add the Amstel Gold Race to his programme, it was an extra motivation," Martens told Wielerflits in an interview this week.

SANREMO ITALY AUGUST 08 Paul Martens of Germany and Team Team Jumbo Visma during the 111st Milano Sanremo 2020 a 305km race from Milano to Sanremo MilanoSanremo MilanoSanremo on August 08 2020 in Sanremo Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

-93km

With six laps of the race remaining, the ten leaders have an advantage of 3:43 over the peloton. Soren Kragh Andersen (DSM), meanwhile, has dropped to the rear of the race. It's not immediately clear if he has a mechanical problem or if he is in difficulty. 

There has been a definite increase in tension in the peloton in recent kilometres. For the first time, perhaps, we saw something of a scramble for position as the race swung onto the narrowest section of the course. 

Soren Kragh Andersen, incidentally, is back in the peloton. 

A number of contenders are content to station themselves near the rear of the peloton for the time being, among them Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) and Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe). 

-87km

Milan-San Remo winner Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) also sits comfortably near the back. The Belgian is seeking to become the first man since Erik Zabel in 2000 to win La Primavera and Amstel Gold Race in the same year. Only Eddy Merckx and Jan Raas had previously managed that double.

SANREMO ITALY MARCH 20 Arrival Jasper Stuyven of Belgium and Team Trek Segafredo Celebration during the 112th MilanoSanremo 2021 a 299km race from Milano to Sanremo MilanoSanremo La Classicissima UCIWT on March 20 2021 in Sanremo Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Deceuninck-QuickStep, Movistar and Jumbo-Visma have been the teams contributing to the pace-making duties in the peloton in recent laps, but delegations from Ineos and Alpecin-Fenix are now beginning to move up behind them.

-84km

Break:

Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo), Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Stan Dewulf (AG2R-Citroën), Sébastien Grignard (Lotto Soudal), Maurits Lammertink (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Loïc Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Chad Haga (DSM), Ryan Gibbons (UAE Team Emirates), Kenny Molly (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB) and Anders Skaarseth (Uno-X)

Peloton at 4:03

Jasper Stuyven's hopes of joining Merckx, Raas and Zabel ends on the eighth ascent of the Cauberg, where he is distanced from the peloton. Despite the sheer succession of climbing on today's route, the course hasn't forced much of a selection in the bunch, but that will inevitably change in the closing laps. 

Soren Kragh Andersen (DSM) is again distanced by the peloton, and this time it looks definitive. 

-80.5km (5 laps to go)

Break:

Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo), Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Stan Dewulf (AG2R-Citroën), Sébastien Grignard (Lotto Soudal), Maurits Lammertink (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Loïc Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Chad Haga (DSM), Ryan Gibbons (UAE Team Emirates), Kenny Molly (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB) and Anders Skaarseth (Uno-X)

Peloton at 3:43

Alaphilippe, buried in the body of the peloton for much of the day, moves up on the Geulhemmerberg, as does Marc Hirschi. Bora-Hansgrohe, meanwhile, have joined the chase effort at the head of the peloton for the first time. 

Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) and Michal Kwiatkowski (Ineos) are also prominent towards the head of affairs. There's still a long way to go, but the favourites are beginning to pay closer attention to their positioning as the race approaches a new phase.

The ten leaders are still together as they tackle the Bemelerberg once again. This climb, remember, will be the final ascent of the day, as the last lap misses out on the Cauberg. 

-74km

The injection of urgency in the peloton has seen a few flakes crumble from the break's lead. The gap is down to 3:19.

-72.5km

Robert Power (Qhubeka-Assos) attacks alone from the peloton on the Bemeleberg. It seems ambitious to try to get across to the break alone. He could do with some company, but there's no response from the bunch.

Oscar Riesebeek (Alpecin-Fenix) clips across to Power, but this duo hasn't managed to open much of a lead over the peloton just yet. 

-68.5km

Power and Riesebeek's brief cameo is snuffed out by the bunch. The gap to the beeak, meanwhile, remains at 3:16.

Ineos and Bora-Hansgrohe are both present in numbers at the head of the peloton where the speed is edging ever upwards. On the next lap, we could well see some more lasting counter-attacks.

Qhubeka-Assos try again when the bunch hits the Cauberg, with Sean Bennett accelerating. He doesn't get away but his effort has strung out the peloton and several riders are losing contact at the back.

Jan Tratnik (Bahrain Victorious) accelerates as the road flattens out and his effort means a group of 9 or so riders has forged clear. Dangerman Jonas Vingegaard (JUmbo-Visma) is present in this group...

Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe), Peter Serry (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Jan Tratinki (Brahin Victorious), Jan Bakelants (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert), Krists Neilands (Israel Start-Up Nation) are among the riders in this nine-man group. Ineos have missed the move and are chasing...

-64km (4 laps to go)

Eddie Dunbar (Ineos) clips across to the counter-attack as they hit the end of the 9th lap. Shortly afterwards, however, UAE Team Emirates and Bike Exchange bring the counter-attack back, although the race is still very stretched...

The break's lead, meanwhile, has dropped to just 2:32, and there is no sign of the speed relenting in the bunch...

Dylan van Baarle tries to get away, and then Robert Stannard has a go. Neither man manages to forge clear, but these efforts are stringing out the peloton still further and also making significant inroads into the break's advantage.

-61.5km

Several riders have been distanced from the peloton on the Geulhemmerberg, while the break's lead is down to 2:07. Eddie Dunbar attacks again after the climb. The Corkman doesn't get away, but his effort has stretched the peloton out all over again. This is breathless fare now.

Florian Senechal hits the front of the bunch with Julian Alaphilippe on his wheel. The world champion would like to restore a semblance of order to proceedings rather than see the race break into shards.

-60km

Break:

Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo), Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Stan Dewulf (AG2R-Citroën), Sébastien Grignard (Lotto Soudal), Maurits Lammertink (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Loïc Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Chad Haga (DSM), Ryan Gibbons (UAE Team Emirates), Kenny Molly (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB) and Anders Skaarseth (Uno-X)

Peloton at 2:04

The peloton has split in two, with Bauke Mollema and Sergio Higuita among those caught on the wrong foot when it broke up. This bunch should reform but it's an additional effort they could do without.

Another counter-attack forms under the forcing of Tosh Van Der Sande (Lotto Soudal), but the move might be doomed by the presence of one Wout van Aert, who bridged across in the presence of Richard Carapaz.

The Van Aert group is brought back, but while the move is diffused, the t3ension remains... All the while, clumps of time of tumbling from the break's lead, which now stands at 1:47.

-58km

Dylan van Baarle kicks again ahead of the Bemelerberg. When he is brought back, Tratnik has another go, but there are plenty of riders eager to respond behind, including Sam Oomen (Jumbo-Visma).

Oomen takes over at the head of the peloton and sets a brisk tempo. It's proving very, very difficult for any group to get away on this course, but it's also proving exceedingly difficult for any team to control matters amid this flurry of attack and counter-attack. Something has to give eventually.

-56km

Break:

Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo), Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Stan Dewulf (AG2R-Citroën), Sébastien Grignard (Lotto Soudal), Maurits Lammertink (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Loïc Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Chad Haga (DSM), Ryan Gibbons (UAE Team Emirates), Kenny Molly (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB) and Anders Skaarseth (Uno-X)

Peloton at 1:43

Mauri Vansevenant (Deceuninck-QuickStep) is chasing back on at the rear of the peloton. One imagines the Belgian had a mechanical issue. At the head of the peloton, meanwhile, Jan Tratnik tries to get away yet again. Florian Senechal comes across to him. Behind them, the peloton is stretching to breaking point again...

Senechal and Trantik have brought a group of 11 men clear, with Alex Howes (EF Education-Nippo), Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) among the riders aboard. 

Ineos have missed the move, and so it's fallen upon Luke Rowe to close the gap. The Welshman puts in a mammoth turn on the front and he is clawing them back inch by inch.

-52km

A touch of wheels in the peloton sees Max Schachmann, Bob Jungels and Mauri Vansevenant among the fallers. Schachmann and Vansevenant remount quickly and give chase, but it looks as though Jungels' race is over.

Rowe's spirited effort on the front of the reduced peloton brought back that group of dangermen containing Vingegaard, Senechal and Woods, but this race could ingire all over again when it hits the Cauberg shortly...

Vansevenant's gears looks to be stuck in crash mode as he chases on the Cauberg, and the Belgian is unlikely to see the front of the race again.

Matej Mohoric, junior world champion on the Cauberg in 2012, kicks on the climb, but while he stretches things out, he can't open a gap.

Alexey Lutsenko, the U23 world champion that same year, is also prominent at the head of the peloton. Mohoric jumps again when the road flattens out with Esteban Chaves (BikeExhange) on his wheel. They open a small gap but they'll struggle to get away.

-49km

Mohoric and Chaves are brought back. The lined out peloton approaches the end of the lap now barely over a minute down on the ten escapees.

-49km (3 laps to go)

Break:

Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo), Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Stan Dewulf (AG2R-Citroën), Sébastien Grignard (Lotto Soudal), Maurits Lammertink (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Loïc Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Chad Haga (DSM), Ryan Gibbons (UAE Team Emirates), Kenny Molly (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB) and Anders Skaarseth (Uno-X)

Peloton at 0:58

Vansevenant has managed to get his gears sorted out and he hasn't given up the ghost. The youngster is chasing back on through the team cars. At the head of the bunch, meanwhile, Mohoric leads flings himself wholeheartedly into the descent that leads towards the Geulhemmerberg.

Anthony Perez (Cofidis) attacks from the peloton on the Geulhemmerberg. he opens a small advantage but like the men who went before him, he will struggle to stay away.

Robert Stannard leads the peloton back up towards Perez and then Roglic hits the front over the top of the Geulhemmerberg. The Slovenian, in policing rather than attacking mode, slows the pace once he comes to the front.

Over the other side, Roglic's fellow countryman Mohoric accelerates for the umpeenth time, but escaping from the peloton is all but impossible at this high speed.

-43km

The pace drops a notch in the peloton and a group of dangerman escapes... Dylvan van Baarle leads this move, which also includes Rui Costa, Simon Clarke and Florian Senechal. 

This counter-attack of Dylan van Baarle (Ineos), Florian Senechal (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Simon Clarke (Qhubeka-Assos), Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates), Tosh Van Der Sande (Lotto Soudal) and Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious) has established a gap over the peloton and they are closing in on the early break.

-40km

Break:

Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo), Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Stan Dewulf (AG2R-Citroën), Sébastien Grignard (Lotto Soudal), Maurits Lammertink (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Loïc Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Chad Haga (DSM), Ryan Gibbons (UAE Team Emirates), Kenny Molly (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB) and Anders Skaarseth (Uno-X)

Chasers at 0:33

Dylan van Baarle (Ineos), Florian Senechal (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Simon Clarke (Qhubeka-Assos), Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates), Tosh Van Der Sande (Lotto Soudal) and Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious)

Peloton at 0:55

Jumbo-Visma and BikeExchange have missed this counter-attack and the onus is on them to lead the chase in the peloton. Meanwhile, Van Baarle et al are on the cusp of catching the early break.

-38km

Van Baarle, Colbrelli, Rui Costa, Clarke, Van Der Sande and Senechal are 17 seconds down on the break, while the Jumbo-Visma-led peloton is at 44 seconds. Israel Start-Up Nation and Bora-Hansgrohe are also beginning to contribute to the pursuit.

The counter-attack looks set to catch the early break ahead of the penultimate ascent of the Cauberg. BikeExchange have joined the chase effort in the peloton, 38 seconds down the road.

16 riders at the head of the race as they tackle the Cauberg for the 11th time: Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo), Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Stan Dewulf (AG2R-Citroën), Sébastien Grignard (Lotto Soudal), Maurits Lammertink (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Loïc Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Chad Haga (DSM), Ryan Gibbons (UAE Team Emirates), Kenny Molly (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB), Anders Skaarseth (Uno-X), Dylan van Baarle (Ineos), Florian Senechal (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Simon Clarke (Qhubeka-Assos), Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates), Tosh Van Der Sande (Lotto Soudal) and Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious)

Ide Schelling sets a vicious tempo in the peloton on the Cauberg, with Roglic on his wheel. Van Aert, Pidcock and Valverde are also well placed here...

Roglic takes over with Pidcock on his wheel... The pace in the peloton is supersonic and by the time they crest the summit of the Cauberg, they have brought back all of the earlier escapees with the exception of Loic Vliegen (Intermarche), who managed to escape the break on the Cauberg.

A remarkable cameo from Roglic. Loic Vliegen reaches the end of lap 11 with a small lead over his erstwhile companion Bernard, Lammertink and Dewulf, while the peloton is just 20 seconds back to what remains of the bunch.

-32km (2 laps to go)

Break:

Loïc Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert)

Chasers at 0:10: 

Maurits Lammertink (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Stan Dewulf (AG2R-Citroën)

Peloton at 0:20

Vliegen is still pedalling with agility as he tackles the Geulhemmerberg  but he surely won't last too much longer out in front given the intensity behind.

Ide Schelling (Bora-Hansgrohe) attacks again from the peloton on the Geulhemmerberg, while Primoz Roglic looks to police affairs behind him.

Schelling manages to make it across to the chasing group, while Esteban Chaves and Richard Carapaz lead the peloton a little further behind.

Vliegen has a lead of 8 seconds over Bernard, Lammertink, Dewulf and Schelling over the top of the Geulhemmerberg, but the peloton is almost upon those chasers.

Schelling and the chasers are brought back by the peloton. Loic Vliegen is the last man standing out in front, 9 seconds ahead of the peloton.

Schelling goes again after the climb with Dewulf for company. The Dutchman has been irrepressible this afternoon, and it's an impressive effort, too, from Dewulf, who has been out in front all day.

-27km

Vliegen leads Schelling and Dewulf by 7 seconds, with the peloton a further handful of seconds back. 

-26km

Break:

Loïc Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert)

 

Chasers at 0:10:

Stan Dewulf (AG2R-Citroën) and Ide Schelling (Bora-Hansgrohe)

Peloton at 0:15

Schelling and Dewulf join Vliegen at the head of the race, a few seconds clear of the Roglic-led peloton.

-25km

Schelling pushes on alone ahead of the Bemelerberg. They'll come up this climb one more time on the final lap.

Dewulf and Vliegen have been brought back by a very stretched out peloton, where the remarkable Mauri Vansevenant - chasing for so much of the last hour - riding strongly on the front.

-24km

The reduced peloton closes to within touching distance of Schelling over the top of the Bemelerberg. Roglic has been prominent in a policing role throughout these final laps, and he's still marking everything on behalf of Van Aert.

Ben Tulett (Alpecin-Fenix) tries to solo across to Schelling, but he is immediately shut down. The next ascent is the final time up the Cauberg, and we can expect a major shake-up on the climb.

-22km

Break:

Ide Schelling (Bora-Hansgrohe)

Peloton at 0:10

Schelling has a lead of 10 seconds or so as he approaches the Cauberg for the final time. UAE Team Emirates are massed at the head of the reduced peloton of 60 or so riders that contains all of the pre-race favourites.

Mikkel Bjerg sets the pace on the front for UAE Team Emirates, who still  have March Hirschi, Matteo Trentin and Rui Costa in this group.

Deceuninck-QuickStep join the pace-making effort for Alaphilippe, who has kept himself well hidden thus far but is now lingering with intent near the front.

-20km

Still 10 seconds for the lone leader Schelling as he enters the final 20km, but this race will surely ignite all over again on the Cauberg. An Ineos train moves up alongside the Deceuninck-QuickStep delegation. 

-18.5km

Schelling begins the Cauberg with a slender lead but he is pegged back just as the gradient bites. 

Nicola Conci (Trek) accelerates but he doesn't get far. Then Wout van Aert hits the front with intent. Alaphilippe is on his wheel and the race stretches out...

A mechanical issue forces Roglic to a halt at the base of the Cauberg. His challenge is surely over...

Out in front, Alaphilippe comes through near the top of the Cauberg. Caparaz and Pidcock are also following Van Aert and the world champion...

Pidcock takes over when the road flattens out with Van Aert on his wheel. They open a small gap and there is a scramble to get on terms...

-16km (1 lap to go)

Six riders in front at the bell: Van Aert, Max Schachmann, Michael Matthews and three Ineos riders: Pidcock, Kwiatkowski and Carapaz. The remnants of the peloton are splintered behind them...

Alaphilippe is in the second group on the road with Valverde, Guillaume Martin and Jakob Fulgsang. The gaps are still small but it will be hard to get across with Ineos pushing on the pace out in front.

-14km

And then there were seven. Alejandro Valverde solos across to join Van Aert, Matthews, Schachmann, Kwiatkowski, Pidcock and Carapaz in front.

Kwiatkowski attacks from the group and opens a small gap. Valverde leads the chase with Schachmann following as they begin the Geulhemmerberg.

Schachmann takes over on the Geulhemmerberg and he is dragging this elite group back up to Kwiatkowski.

Guillaume Martin, Alaphilippe, Fuglsang, Mike Woods et al join the group of strongmen but the race stretches out again over the Geulhemmerberg...

-12km

Kwiatkowski is brought back over the Geulhemmerberg. Soon after he is pegged back, Pidcock has a go and only Van Aert and Schachmann can follow... This could be the decisive move...

Van Aert seemed to be hesitant about collaborating but now he puts his shoulder to the wheel. The Belgian, Pidcock and Schachmann have a lead of 16 seconds over a chasing group of 13 riders that includes Alaphilippe, Mohoric and Guillaume Martin and 22 seconds over the remnants of the peloton.

-10km

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Tom Pidcock (Ineos) and Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) have a lead of 20 seconds over an expanded chasing group, which is now being led by Mauri Vansevenant.

A rear puncture takes Mollema out of this chasing group, his hopes of a home win are over. Roglic, incidentally, was a minute back at the bell and is not in that sizeable chasing group.

-9km

Pidcock, Schachmann and Van Aert are exchanging turns at the front and their lead over the chasing group of 25 riders is now out to 24 seconds.

-8km

Alexey Lutsenko leads the chase for Jakob Fulgsang on the approach to the Bemelerberg, but the break's lead isn't coming down.

Esteban Chaves joins the chase for Matthews, with Vansevenant working for Alaphilippe, but it will be very, very hard to bring back this elite leading trio.

-7km

Pidcock leads Van Aert and Schachmann to the foot of the final climb, the Bemelerberg.

Van Aert takes over briefly before Schachmann hits the front. The German swings over and Pidcock takes upp the reins again.

-6km

Van Aert, Schachmann and Pidock stay together over the Bemelerbeg. Nobody wanted to show his hand on the final climb, but one imagines Schachmann will try to outmanoeuvre his companions rather than wait for a sprint. 

-5.5km

Pidcock, Van Aert and Schachmann have a lead of 14 seconds over the Israel Start-Up Nation-led chasing group... Kwiatkowski is trying to interfere with the pursuit effort, but the gap is dropping.

-5km

Schachmann, Pidcock and Van Aert can't afford to play games given the slender nature of their advantage. 16 seconds the gap.

-4km

Pidcock, Schachmann and Van Aert continue to exchange turns, 15 seconds clear of the chasing group. Tim Wellens attacks from the chasing group, but he doesn't get very far.

-3km

Fuglsang is the next man to try his luck from the chasing group. This flurry of attacking is doing little to peg back the lead of the three escapees, who still have 15 seconds in hand.

-2km

Mike Woods tries to breathe life into the chase, but it's hard to see Pidcock, Van Aert and Schachmann being brought back at this juncture...

Schachmann attacks viciously on a rather false flat, but Van Aert and Pidcock are glued to his wheel. He can't get away...

Wellens attacks alone from the chasing group on the same section, but he is surely racing for 4th place at this point...

-1km

Pidcock leads the break into the final kilometre. Schachmann is in second wheel, while Van Aert sits at the back...

Pidcock manages to shift Van Aert to the front, and the Belgian looks like he will be forced to lead out the sprint...

Van Aert sits on the front and checks over his shoulder... He is hoping Pidcock or Schachmann will blink first...

Van Aert kicks for home with 150m to go...

Pidcock draws level with him...

It looks too close to call...

Wout van Aert thinks he has won the race, but Tom Pidcock isn't so sure. It's gone to a photo finish...

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) wins Amstel Gold Race.

Tom Pidcock (Ineos) was second by a matter of millimetres. Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) was third.

There were shades of Eddy Planckaert and Steve Bauer at the 1990 Paris-Roubaix about that finish. Van Aert raised his hand past the finish line but then looked decidedly unsure about whether he had won. He was told over his radio earpiece that he had won and the on-screen graphic has pronounced him the winner, and now he's about to perform the flash interview of race winner. To the naked eye, it's too close to call, but the side-on television image is not the photo-finish consulted by the commissaires.  

We're still waiting for the official verdict on whether Wout van Aert or Tom Pidcock has won Amstel Gold Race. Van Aert is in the tent near the podium for the traditional race winner's flash interview - but said interview has not yet taken place... 

Pidcock, meanwhile, is still at the finish line, waiting for the definitive verdict from the commissaires.

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A commissaire shows the official photo finish image on his phone to the television cameras. From that image it looks as though Van Aert just edged out Pidcock. 

Van Aert is the provisional winner per the on-screen graphic. Schachmann was certainly third at 2 seconds. Matthews won the sprint for 4th, also at 2 seconds, just ahead of Valverde and Alaphilippe.

Result

1          Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma 05:03:27

2          Tom Pidcock (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers

3          Max Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe      00:00:02

4          Michael Matthews (Aus) Team BikeExchange

5          Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team

6          Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep

7          Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Alpecin-Fenix

8          Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain Victorious

9          Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Ineos Grenadiers

10        Tosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto Soudal

The on-screen graphic describes those results as 'provisional' but it appears that Wout van Aert has now been formally declared the race winner. 

BERG NETHERLANDS APRIL 18 Arrival Sprint Thomas Pidcock of United Kingdom and Team INEOS Grenadiers Maximilian Schachmann of Germany and Team Bora Hansgrohe Wout Van Aert of Belgium and Team Jumbo Visma during the 55th Amstel Gold Race 2021 Mens Elite a 2167km race from Valkenburg to Berg en Terblijt Amstelgoldrace amstelgoldrace on April 18 2021 in Berg Netherlands Photo by Bas CzerwinskiGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty)
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BERG NETHERLANDS APRIL 18 Arrival Sprint Thomas Pidcock of United Kingdom and Team INEOS Grenadiers Maximilian Schachmann of Germany and Team Bora Hansgrohe Wout Van Aert of Belgium and Team Jumbo Visma during the 55th Amstel Gold Race 2021 Mens Elite a 2167km race from Valkenburg to Berg en Terblijt Amstelgoldrace amstelgoldrace on April 18 2021 in Berg Netherlands Photo by Bas CzerwinskiGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty)
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Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) on his victory: "It was so close. I learned from the jury just two minutes ago that I won. Normally a long sprint is in my favour, but today I started from the worst possible position. Apparently it was just enough to win.

“Before the final, Primoz and Jonas pulled back a lot of attacks. Ultimately, Primoz had a mechanical problem on the Cauberg, but I already knew then that I had a good chance of winning. This Spring, I won a few nice races and was good in every race."

Even at a distance, Van Aert and the absent Mathieu van der Poel continue their seemingly constant and almost involuntary one-upmanship. This weekend two years ago, Van der Poel claimed a most dramatic edition of Amstel Gold Race. Today, Van Aert emerged victorious from a race where the suspense endured long after the finish. Take your pick...

Tom Pidcock looked to have done everything right by deftly forcing Van Aert to the front, but he admitted to some regrets to NOS. "I went too late. I should have gone first, I think I was the fastest. I think I was the strongest of the race. It's a bit frustrating by losing with such a margin. But it's still second so I'm still happy."

Amstel Gold Race 2021 - 55th Edition - Valkenburg - Berg en Terblijt 218,6 km - 18/04/2021 - Wout Van Aert (BEL - Jumbo - Visma) - Tom Pidcock (GBR - Ineos Grenadiers) - Maximilian Schachmann (GER - Bora - Hansgrohe) - photo Nico Vereecken/PN/BettiniPhoto©2021

(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Max Schachmann was caught up in a crash ahead of the finale but he had the strength to make the winning move. "I had like probably the two fastest with me and I knew I had to try something before that endless home straight. From the last edition, I knew the last hill was quite hard, but it was just 220k and not 260k this time. I tried it and hoped they would look at each other but they immediately followed. There was not much more to do today."

Amstel Gold Race 2021 - 55th Edition - Valkenburg - Berg en Terblijt 218,6 km - 18/04/2021 - Wout Van Aert (BEL - Jumbo - Visma) - Tom Pidcock (GBR - Ineos Grenadiers) - Maximilian Schachmann (GER - Bora - Hansgrohe) - photo Davy Rietbergen/CV/BettiniPhoto©2021

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Thanks for following our live coverage this afternoon. A full report, results and pictures are available here.

Amstel Gold Race 2021 - 55th Edition - Valkenburg - Berg en Terblijt 218,6 km - 18/04/2021 - Wout Van Aert (BEL - Jumbo - Visma) - Tom Pidcock (GBR - Ineos Grenadiers) - Maximilian Schachmann (GER - Bora - Hansgrohe) - photo Nico Vereecken/PN/BettiniPhoto©2021

(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

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