Attacking multiple times paid off for Denmark’s Michael Valgren, as the Astana rider won Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race, the 2016 runner-up outsprinting two previous winners for the victory. Valgren adds the Amstel Gold triumph to his Omloop Het Nieuwsblad win in late February–Eddy Merckx is the only other rider to have won both in the same year. He is only the second Dane to take the title.
— Équipe Cycliste Groupama-FDJ (@GroupamaFDJ) April 15, 2018
The course featured 36 hills over 260-km. A couple of years ago, organizers moved the iconic Cauberg climb of Valkenburg 17-km from the finish line, with the Geulhemmerberg and the Bemelerberg the closest ascents to the line, the latter peaking with 5.7-km to go. The real action would start on the 29th hill, the Kruisberg, starting with 38.7-km remaining and kicking off four climbs within 10-km.
The final seven climbs:
Kruisberg – 800-metres of 8.5 percent, max of 15.5 percent
Eyserbosweg – 1-km at 8 percent, max of 17.1 percent.
Fromberg – 1.6-km of 4.5 percent, max of 8 percent
Keutenberg – 1.7-km of 5.5 percent, max of 22 percent
Cauberg – 900-metres of 7 percent, max of 13.1 percent
Geulhemmerberg – 1-km of 6 percent, max of 8 percent
Bemelerberg – 1.2-km at 4 percent, max of 7 percent
🏁 Berg en Terblijt
➡️ 261,3 km
🕥 10:30 Start
🕔 17:10 Finish
— Team Bahrain Merida (@Bahrain_Merida) April 15, 2018
After 35-km a nine-rider breakaway including wily vet Bram Tankink broke loose. The nontet forced a maximum gap of 15:30 before Movistar began to chip away at it.
— LottoNLJumbo Cycling (@LottoJumbo_road) April 15, 2018
With 14-hills and 100-km to go, the escape’s lead was 8:20. Quick Step, Sky and BMC all appeared at the front of the field.
By the time they reached the Kruisberg, the fugitives still had a 2:00 lead. The breakaway began to fragment, Lotto-Soudal taking the reins in the peloton. Action on the Kruisberg and Eyserbosweg created gaps in the main bunch, with a 40-rider group chasing the break. Michael Woods was still in the mix.
After the Fromberg, Jon Izagirre of Bahrain-Merida attacked, attempting to bridge over to the escape, still 1:25 ahead.
— La Flamme Rouge (@laflammerouge16) April 15, 2018
Izagirre was brought back on the Keutenberg. Former winners Enrico Gasparotto (Italy/Bahrain-Merida) and Roman Kreuziger (Czech Republic/Mitchelton-Scott) were the next to make a move.
On the final ascent of the Cauberg, Gasparotto and Kreuziger made the breakaway junction 30-seconds ahead of the chasing pack. The Geulhemmerberg saw Valverde push the pace to capture the escapees. Woods was in the group of 12.
Only the Bemelerberg was left. Valgren’s teammate and compatriot Jakob Fuglsang led the way up. After the crest, Woods drifted off the back. The number was down to eight. Valgren scampered away with 2.3-km to go, drawing Kreuziger and Gasparotto. The trio would fight it out for the win, Valgren’s final kick earning the biggest win of his career.
Sagan was fourth and Valverde fifth. Woods came in with the chase pack 53-seconds down.
2018 Amstel Gold Race
1) Michael Valgren (Denmark/Astana) 6:40:07
2) Roman Kreuziger (Czech Republic/Mitchelton-Scott) s.t.
3) Enrico Gasparotto (Italy/Bahrain-Merida) +0:02
20) Michael Woods (Canada/EF-Drapac) +0:53