KWIATKOWSKI RISES TO THE OCCASION FOR INEOS GRENADIERS
It had been such a long time since Michał Kwiatkowski’s last win that he had not really been talked about as a potential winner for Amstel Gold.
The Pole’s winless run stretches all the way back to the 2020 Tour de France, and he had been off colour all season through illnesses and injuries.
But from his surprise World Championships victory as a 24-year-old, Kwiatkowski has always been a man to rise to the big occasion, and did so once again to claim his second Amstel Gold career title in a photo finish.
His rivals also seemed to underestimate his winning potential when nobody covered his attack, made just after the Cauberg had been crested, 24km from the finish. With Benoit Cosnefroy (AG2R Citroën) bridging up to join and help him, that was the last they saw of him.
His sprint finished off a dominant performance from Ineos Grenadiers, who were the only team with more than one representative in the decisive 12-man selection that was made on the Keutenberg climb. Tom Pidcock might have complained of going down with illness during the week, but he was the other Ineos rider there, and his presence gave Kwiatkowski the freedom to make his race-winning attack.
After such a strong performance, Ineos Grenadiers could be the team to beat come the Ardennes Classics.
CAVALLI UPSETS BIG TEAMS TO CLAIM BREAKTHROUGH VICTORY
Marta Cavalli’s Amstel Gold victory caused an upset, especially considering the calibre of riders who trailed her at the finish, but a big win had been on the cards for the young Italian.
Despite never before having won a Women's WorldTour ranked race, she has made the top six in races like the Tour of Flanders and Gent-Wevelgem, and has become a regular presence in the business end of the biggest races.
She also entered this race riding for an FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope team that was looking in great shape, having placed Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, Grace Brown and Brodie Chapman in the top ten at the Tour of Flanders last weekend.
Optimism heading into today’s race had nevertheless been diluted by an outbreak of illness in the team that meant all three of these riders did not compete. But Cavalli pounced upon the chance to ride as a more clearly defined leader, and leaped away from everyone on the Cauberg to take victory.
Her triumph marks the first time that a WorldTour race has been won by a rider from a team other than SD Worx, Trek-Segafredo, DSM or Movistar rider in twelve months, adding a welcome competition to the peloton.
COSNEFROY MISSES OUT IN PHOTO FINISH DEJA VU
What is it with Amstel Gold and photo finishes?
For the second year in a row, it took close examination of a photo finish to determine whether an Ineos Grenadiers rider had either won or lost the race by a matter of millimetres.
Unlike last year, when Tom Pidcock was eventually deemed to have been defeated by Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), this time Ineos were triumphant, as Michał Kwiatkowski was confirmed victor over Benoit Cosnefroy (AG2R Citroën).
That finish last year provoked much controversy, with different angles seeming to suggest different winners, and a huge delay preceded the announcement of who had won.
This time, however, Cosnefroy was actually announced as winner of the race, only for the verdict to be dramatically overturned a few minutes later.
It was devastating news for Cosnefroy, but the Frenchman can take heart in how strong his legs were to bridge over to Kwiatkowski while the rest of the chasers were unable to do so.
The Frenchman now has another runner-up finish to go alongside his runner-up finish at Fleche-Wallonne and third-place at Brabantse Pijl in 2020. A major spring classic win surely can’t be far off the horizon?
SD WORX BLOW STRONG POSITION
SD Worx appeared to be in the perfect position to take victory on the Cauberg. They were the only team with more than one rider in the seven-woman group that formed on the climb, and one of those riders, Demi Vollering, was on paper the quickest sprinter present.
All they needed to do, therefore, was have Ashleigh Moolman Pasio set a pace over the short distance from the climb to the finish, and deliver Vollering in the sprint.
However, in what Moolman-Pasio described as ‘a moment of hesitation,’ she let the wheel of Cavalli go when the Italian accelerated, in what ultimately proved to be the decisive moment of the race.
SD Worx had ridden typically aggressively earlier in the race, with almost their entire roster going up the road. But big names like Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) and Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) were also involved in these moves, discouraging SD Worx to press on with them, and the race had all come back together for the crucial climb of the Cauberg.
Vollering did indeed win the sprint in the group, but in a contest that was only for second-place rather than first. Given her team’s superiority and high expectations, plus the fact that she’s already finished a frustrating second at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad already this season, that will come as little consolation.
CONTRASTING FORM AMONG THE FAVOURITES
The pre-race favourites for both races, Mathieu van der Poel and Annemiek van Vleuten, both ultimately finished fourth, as they missed out on the race-winning moves.
Both tried to go clear, with Van Vleuten accelerating from the bottom of the Cauberg, and Van der Poel trying to burst out of the group of chasers 2km from the finish, but didn’t time their moves as well as the race winners.
The selection in the men’s race was partly made up of riders who have already starred this spring, with Jumbo-Visma’s Tiesj Benoot taking third in his promoted role as team co-leader, and Kasper Asgreen (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) and Stefan Kung (Groupama-FDJ) also finishing in the top ten.
The freshness of those who have been delaying their peak for the Ardennes Classics seemed to be a factor, with Cosnefroy breaking clear to take second, and Marc Hirschi (UAE Team Emirates) also looking especially strong leading from the front. The Swiss rider looks like he’s nearing his formidable 2020 form once again.
There were also resurgent rides from riders who have so far had quiet springs in the women’s race, with Liane Lippert (DSM) taking third and Mavi Garcia (UAE Team ADQ) sixth. Both made the selection having only registered one top five finish between them so far this season, and appear to be coming into form just in time for the Ardennes Classics.
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