Olympic road champion Anna van der Breggen soloed to victory in the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday off the back of a perfectly-timed attack, with her teammate Lizzie Deignan winning a five-up sprint for second place to make it a Boels-Dolmans one-two.
Boels-Dolmans had indicated it planned to target the three Ardennes races, but a slower start to the team’s spring compared to a dominant 2016 classics season has invited endless questions over the last month. The one-two punch at the sixth round of the UCI Women’s WorldTour served as as an emphatic response to the naysayers in Valkenburg.
The fourth edition of the Amstel Gold Race was the first edition following a 14-year hiatus and, joins the new Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the existing Flèche Wallonne to provide the women’s peloton with its first proper Ardennes Week. The biggest names eagerly embraced the opportunity to race over Holland’s most iconic hills and by the time the live broadcast began, with 20 kilometres left to race, the bunch had been decimated.
Van der Breggen’s race winning-move was made when she marked an attack by Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica-Scott) on the third time up the Bemelerberg. With UCI Women’s WorldTour leader Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb) following, the pair bridged across to Deignan, Kasia Niewiadoma (WM3 Cycling) and Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5). With eight kilometres left, including the fourth and final time up the Cauberg, the six riders had a 13-second advantage over approximately 16 chasers.
Van der Breggen waited less than a kilometre to launch her attack. She immediately pocketed 10 seconds over her five former break-mates, and hit the base of the Cauberg with a 30-second lead. Although Deignan and Niewiadoma proved two seconds quicker up the final climb, Van der Breggen’s gap was big enough to fend off any challenges on the flat, fast run-in to the finish. Relieved and elated, she reached the finish line alone.
“This was the big goal of the spring – not only this race but the upcoming two races,” said Van der Breggen. “I’m happy to have this shape finally now. You can gamble on this week, but it’s always hard to have the right shape at the right time.
“It’s difficult to have this shape for three months,” she added. “It’s not possible. If you’re good at the beginning of the season, it’s difficult to be as good this week, and this is an important week because if you’re good, you have three big races."
How it unfolded
Van der Breggen and Deignan shared a leadership role on Easter Sunday. Both had contended with illness during the opening weeks of the season but arrived on the start line in Maastricht feeling fit and motivated ahead of the 121-kilometre day.
“We planned for an aggressive race,” said Deignan. “With both me and Anna healthy again, we felt it was possible to shoulder the responsibility of four of the team tasked with putting the rest of the peloton in the hurt box.”
Chantal Blaak, Karol-Ann Canuel, Amy Pieters and Megan Guarnier, back in the bunch for the first time since her crash at Omloop Hageland in February, attacked the early climbs and put the race in the gutter in the wind over the top. Their work translated into early attrition and mid-race splits. Before the first 66-kilometre opening lap had been completed, the peloton was reduced to 35 riders. All six Boels-Dolmans riders had made the selection.
The second ascent of the Cauberg further split the group. Blaak, Deignan and Van der Breggen were part of an eight-rider breakaway that led across the second passage of the finish line. When they were caught, Pieters countered. She gained a small gap before she was joined first by Audrey Cordon (Wiggle-High5) and then Roxanne Knetemann (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope) and Tatiana Riabchenko (Lensworld-Kuota).
When the quartet was swept up on the lowers slopes of the Cauberg, Deignan lifted the pace further, escaping with Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5) and Kasia Niewiadoma (WM3 Energie).
“I was contributing as much as Elisa and Kaisa,” said Deignan. “I was confident if I went to the line with them that I could win, but the commitment from all three of us was not enough to really stay away.”
With the leaders not fully committed to the escape and a strong chase led largely by Ellen van Dijk (Team Sunweb), the gap held steady between 10-20 seconds for the first half of the final lap.
Van Vleuten attacked the third time up the Bemelerberg, the 16th of the 17 climbs. Van der Breggen marked the move, as did Rivera. The trio bridged across to Deignan, Longo Borghini and Niewiadoma. With eight kilometres left, including the fourth and final time up the Cauberg, the six riders had a 13-second advantage over approximately 16 chasers.
“That was the plan – for me to attack on the Cauberg two laps out and for Anna to counter,” Deignan explained. “It was exactly to plan as Anna bridged over to the break I had formed. It was difficult to communicate but I knew if Anna had good legs she would go. When she made her move I had a smile on my face because I knew she would win.”
Van der Breggen made that race-winning move with a bit more than seven kilometres left to race. Her jump afforded her an immediate ten-second gap, and she hit the base of the Cauberg with a 30-second lead and plenty of time on the finishing straight to celebrate her first victory for her new team.
Rivera had been distanced up the Cauberg but clawed her way back to the chasers as they cat and moused their way to the finish line. Deignan slowed and pulled to the left side of the road while Niewiadoma, Van Vleuten and Longo Borghini stayed to the right. The Briton then swung across the road and onto the front of the chase group before opening her sprint in the final 150 metres.
“There was a cross-wind from the left, so I rode tight on the right-hand barrier, knowing whoever started the sprint would have to do so into the wind,” said Deignan. “I kept one eye on everyone in my wheel and jumped when I saw that they had started.”
Deignan pointed to the Boels Rental and Dolmans Group jersey on her rainbow-banded orange jersey as she crossed the line ahead of Niewiadoma and Van Vleuten, who were afforded a rare tie for third place.
“As a team, we rode very well,” Deignan said. “We all feel confident and excited ahead of the rest of the week. It’s exciting that a team with full health can race aggressively and play the beautiful tactic game again. That’s where we excel.”
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Anna Van Der Breggen (Ned) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam||3:15:57|
|2||Elizabeth Deignan (GBr) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam||0:00:55|
|3||Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol) WM3 Pro Cycling|
|3||Annemiek Van Vleuten (Ned) Orica Scott Women|
|5||Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Wiggle High5|
|6||Coryn Rivera (USA) Team Sunweb Women||0:01:02|
|7||Amy Pieters (Ned) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam||0:01:51|
|8||Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Fra) Canyon SRAM Racing|
|9||Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) Cervelo Bigla Pro Cycling Team|
|10||Ellen Van Dijk (Ned) Team Sunweb Women|
|11||Chantal Blaak (Ned) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam|
|12||Audrey Cordon Ragot (Fra) Wiggle High5|
|13||Tetiana Riabchenko (Ukr) Lensworld-Kuota|
|14||Janneke Ensing (Ned) Alé Cipollini|
|15||Shara Gillow (Aus) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope|
|16||Karol-Ann Canuel (Can) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam|
|17||Flavia Oliveira (Bra) Lares-Waowdeals|
|18||Roxane Knetemann (Ned) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope|
|19||Lisa Klein (Ger) Cervelo Bigla Pro Cycling Team||0:03:36|
|20||Eva Buurman (Ned) Parkhotel Valkenburg-Destil Cycling Team|
|21||Arianna Fidanza (Ita) Astana Women's Team|
|22||Malgorzata Jasinska (Pol) Cylance Pro Cycling|
|23||Alison Jackson (Can) BePink Cogeas|
|24||Anna Zita Maria Stricker (Ita) BTC City Ljubljana|
|25||Sara Penton (Swe) Team Veloconcept Women|
|26||Sofie De Vuyst (Bel) Lares-Waowdeals|
|27||Eugenia Bujak (Pol) BTC City Ljubljana|
|28||Ganna Solovei (Ukr) Parkhotel Valkenburg-Destil Cycling Team|
|29||Thalita De Jong (Ned) Lares-Waowdeals|
|30||Agnieszka Skalniak (Pol) Astana Women's Team|
|31||Kelly Van Den Steen (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Guill D'or|
|32||Lauren Kitchen (Aus) WM3 Pro Cycling|
|33||Polona Batagelj (Slo) BTC City Ljubljana|
|34||Rossella Ratto (Ita) Cylance Pro Cycling|
|35||Floortje Mackaij (Ned) Team Sunweb Women|
|36||Hanna Nilsson (Swe) BTC City Ljubljana|
|37||Soraya Paladin (Ita) Alé Cipollini|
|38||Katrine Aalerud (Nor) Hitec Products|
|39||Vita Heine (Nor) Hitec Products|
|40||Anouska Koster (Ned) WM3 Pro Cycling|
|41||Emilia Fahlin (Swe) Wiggle High5|
|42||Megan Guarnier (USA) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam|
|43||Nina Buysman (Ned) Parkhotel Valkenburg-Destil Cycling Team|
|44||Amanda Spratt (Aus) Orica Scott Women|
|45||Anna Potokina (Rus) Servetto Giusta|
|46||Pauliena Rooijakkers (Ned) Parkhotel Valkenburg-Destil Cycling Team|
|47||Clara Koppenburg (Ger) Cervelo Bigla Pro Cycling Team||0:03:45|
|48||Leah Kirchmann (Can) Team Sunweb Women||0:03:55|
|49||Esther Van Veen (Ned) Parkhotel Valkenburg-Destil Cycling Team|
|50||Eri Yonamine (Jpn) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope|
|51||Sarah Roy (Aus) Orica Scott Women||0:04:06|
|52||Victorie Guilman (Fra) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope||0:04:09|
|53||Marianne Vos (Ned) WM3 Pro Cycling||0:04:38|
|54||Aude Biannic (Fra) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope|
|55||Tatiana Guderzo (Ita) Lensworld-Kuota|
|56||Marta Bastianelli (Ita) Alé Cipollini||0:05:39|
|57||Elena Cecchini (Ita) Canyon SRAM Racing|
|58||Trixi Worrack (Ger) Canyon SRAM Racing|
|59||Alena Amialiusik (Blr) Canyon SRAM Racing|
|60||Sabrina Stultiens (Ned) Team Sunweb Women||0:07:44|
|61||Rozanne Slik (Ned) Team Sunweb Women|
|62||Moniek Tenniglo (Ned) WM3 Pro Cycling|
|63||Jeanne Korevaar (Ned) WM3 Pro Cycling||0:08:02|
|64||Claudia Lichtenberg (Ger) Wiggle High5||0:10:22|
|65||Susanne Andersen (Nor) Hitec Products||0:11:47|
|66||Lisa Brennauer (Ger) Canyon SRAM Racing|
|67||Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den) Cervelo Bigla Pro Cycling Team|
|68||Alice Maria Arzuffi (Ita) Lensworld-Kuota|
|69||Amelie Rivat (Fra) Lares-Waowdeals|
|70||Jelena Eric (Srb) BTC City Ljubljana|
|71||Ilaria Sanguineti (Ita) BePink Cogeas|
|72||Allie Dragoo (USA) Cervelo Bigla Pro Cycling Team|
|73||Jessy Druyts (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Guill D'or|
|DNF||Mayuko Hagiwara (Jpn) Wiggle High5|
|DNF||Annette Edmondson (Aus) Wiggle High5|
|DNF||Alexis Ryan (USA) Canyon SRAM Racing|
|DNF||Gracie Elvin (Aus) Orica Scott Women|
|DNF||Jenelle Crooks (Aus) Orica Scott Women|
|DNF||Katrin Garfoot (Aus) Orica Scott Women|
|DNF||Marie Vilmann (Den) Cervelo Bigla Pro Cycling Team|
|DNF||Romy Kasper (Ger) Alé Cipollini|
|DNF||Daiva Tuslaite (Ltu) Alé Cipollini|
|DNF||Carlee Taylor (Aus) Alé Cipollini|
|DNF||Sheyla Gutierrez Ruiz (Spa) Cylance Pro Cycling|
|DNF||Marta Tagliaferro (Ita) Cylance Pro Cycling|
|DNF||Wubbigje Regina Knol (Ned) Cylance Pro Cycling|
|DNF||Pernille Mathiesen (Den) Team Veloconcept Women|
|DNF||Sara Mustonen Lichan (Swe) Team Veloconcept Women|
|DNF||Amber Leone Neben (USA) Team Veloconcept Women|
|DNF||Christina Siggaard (Den) Team Veloconcept Women|
|DNF||Doris Schweizer (Swi) Team Veloconcept Women|
|DNF||Tereza Medvedova (Svk) BePink Cogeas|
|DNF||Katia Ragusa (Ita) BePink Cogeas|
|DNF||Maria Vittoria Sperotto (Ita) BePink Cogeas|
|DNF||Kseniya Tuhai (Blr) BePink Cogeas|
|DNF||Miriam Bjørnsrud (Nor) Hitec Products|
|DNF||Ingvild Gåskjenn (Nor) Hitec Products|
|DNF||Emilie Moberg (Nor) Hitec Products|
|DNF||Daniela Reis (Por) Lares-Waowdeals|
|DNF||Bryony Van Velzen (Ned) Lares-Waowdeals|
|DNF||Kim De Baat (Bel) Lensworld-Kuota|
|DNF||Maaike Polspoel (Bel) Lensworld-Kuota|
|DNF||Winanda Spoor (Ned) Lensworld-Kuota|
|DNF||Greta Richioud (Fra) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope|
|DNF||Urša Pintar (Slo) BTC City Ljubljana|
|DNF||Isabelle Beckers (Bel) Lotto Soudal Ladies|
|DNF||Jessie Daams (Bel) Lotto Soudal Ladies|
|DNF||Chantal Hoffmann (Lux) Lotto Soudal Ladies|
|DNF||Anna Kiesenhofer (Aut) Lotto Soudal Ladies|
|DNF||Puck Moonen (Ned) Lotto Soudal Ladies|
|DNF||Sofia Beggin (Ita) Astana Women's Team|
|DNF||Sofia Bertizzolo (Ita) Astana Women's Team|
|DNF||Olena Pavlukhina (Aze) Astana Women's Team|
|DNF||Lara Vieceli (Ita) Astana Women's Team|
|DNF||Kseniia Dobrynina (Rus) Servetto Giusta|
|DNF||Ting Ying Huang (Tpe) Servetto Giusta|
|DNF||Laura Camila Lozano Ramirez (Col) Servetto Giusta|
|DNF||Alice Gasparini (Ita) Servetto Giusta|
|DNF||Esra Tromp (Ned) Parkhotel Valkenburg-Destil Cycling Team|
|DNF||Nathalie Bex (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Guill D'or|
|DNF||Valerie Demey (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Guill D'or|
|DNF||Demmy Druyts (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Guill D'or|
|DNF||Fien Delbaere (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Guill D'or|
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