He hasn’t just arrived, he has conquered. An amazing conclusion to the 54th Amstel Gold Race in the Limburg region of the Netherlands on Sunday saw cyclocross crossover phenomenon Mathieu van der Poel take the biggest win of his road race career. In the race’s shocking conclusion, a leading duo mucked about in the final 2 km and found itself snagged by a chase group containing van der Poel. Van der Poel is the first Dutchman to win the race since 2001. He was six wins on the season, including the WorldTour contest Dwars door Vlaanderen and last Wednesday’s De Brabantse Pijl.
— Amstel Gold Race (@Amstelgoldrace) April 21, 2019
The men’s race contained 35 taxing hills over 265.7 km. The field had three big laps to ride, each containing the mighty Cauberg. On the final lap of 16 kilometers the riders faced the Geulhemmerberg and the Bemelerberg, the latter of which crested 7 km from the finish in Berg en Terblijt.
265.7 kilometers, an up-and-down course consisting of 35 hills – including Kruisberg, Cauberg (the most used climb in the history of the World Championships) or Bemelerberg – and plenty of narrow and twisty roads. This is #AmstelGoldRace. pic.twitter.com/SRJqABjLo9
— Deceuninck-QuickStep (@deceuninck_qst) April 21, 2019
Nine riders bolted in the opening 20 km of the race, and very quickly ripped open a 7:30 gap. Over the Vrakelberg and into the final 100 km, the gap was 5:45, with not much happening in the peloton besides Deceuninck-Quick Step and Sunweb working at its pointy end.
With 60-km to go Astana kicked up the pace.
Heading to the Conclusion
With the break only a minute away, van der Poel went clear from the peloton on the Guiperberg. Gorka Izagirre (Spain/Astana) went with him as a stopper and they were doomed to be caught before the Kruisberg with 38-km remaining.
Julian Alaphilippe (France/Deceuninck-Quick Step) attacked on the Kruisberg and Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark/Astana) sprang onto his wheel. Michael Woods, Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland/Sky) and Matteo Trentin (Italy/Mitchelton-Scott) chased while the peloton continued to be streamlined by the hills. Peter Sagan was dropped.
Heading up the Keutenberg with 28.3 km to go, the duo had a 17-second gap over the Woods chase and 42 seconds over the peloton.
Current situation at #AmstelGoldRace:
Keutenberg now (max 22% gradient) with 28km left. pic.twitter.com/IPsB4DA5dI
— EF Education First Pro Cycling (@EFprocycling) April 21, 2019
Woods dropped away from the countermove back to the peloton. The French-Danish duo pulled out a bigger gap over Woods and the peloton, but Kwiatkowski and Trentin were edging closer. EF Education First pulled the peloton to the foot of the final Cauberg passage with 18 km remaining. Alaphilippe and Fuglsang put more time into Kwiatkowski and Trentin.
Only the Geulhemmerberg and the Bemelerberg were left. On the former, Kwiatkowski got rid of Trentin but only for a couple of kilometres. The Bemelerberg saw Fuglsang try to shake the better sprinter, but all he managed to do was distance the chasers. Fuglsang tried again with 4.5 km remaining to no avail.
First Max Schachmann bridged over to Kwiatkowski and Trentin before van der Poel’s larger group made it over. Fuglsang and Alaphilippe started playing cat and mouse, dooming their aspirations.
Somehow, Kwiatkowski bridged, then the rest of the chase, led by van der Poel, swept up the trio with 650 metres remaining. Van der Poel then powered away to take the famous, fabulous victory. He grabbed his head in disbelief. It was likely that third-place Fuglsang and fourth-place Alaphilippe did the same.
Michael Woods climbed off his bike before the finish, his payoff teammate Simon Clarke’s runner-up spot.
The next Ardennes Classic is Fleche Wallonne on Wednesday.
2019 Amstel Gold Race
1) Mathieu van der Poel (The Netherlands/Corendon-Circus) 6:28:18
2) Simon Clarke (Australia/EF Education First) s.t.
3) Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark/Astana) s.t.