Michał Kwiatkowski (Ineos Grenadiers) won Amstel Gold Race by the narrowest of margins, beating Benoît Cosnefroy (AG2R Citroën Team) on the line by just a few inches.
The duo attacked with 20km remaining before the Polish rider edged the sprint and secured the second Amstel Gold Race victory of his career.
Tiesj Benoot (Jumbo-Visma) took the final spot on the podium after another hectic edition of the Dutch one-day race.
In an aftermath as chaotic as the race itself, Cosnefroy was initially given the win before the photo finish showed that the Ineos Grenadiers rider had narrowly edged it.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Amstel Gold is normally the turning point of the classics season, when riders leave the cobbles behind and head to the hills of the Ardennes.
This year, the Dutch classic was held just a week after the Tour of Flanders, to ensure that Paris-Roubaix didn’t clash with the French Presidential election.
However, despite the date change, Amstel Gold still provided the riders with the same relentless and undulating parcour.
Leaving Maastrich, the 254km route around the Limburg region of the Netherlands, took the riders along narrow country roads and over 33 leg-sapping bergs.
Multiple ascents of the Bemelerberg, Geulhemmerberg and Cauberg helped to whittle down the field before they reached the finish line in Valkenburg.
The day’s early breakaway was formed just 8km after the flag was dropped, with six riders going clear, including Owain Doull (EF Education-EasyPost), Ide Schelling (BORA-hansgrohe), Johan Jacobs (Movistar Team), Emils Liepiņš (Trek-Segafredo), Aaron Van Poucke (Sport Vlaanderen – Baloise) and Luca Rastelli (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè).
The six escapees managed to hold a steady gap of around four minutes until the Vrakelberg was reached with 100km to go.
Rastelli was dropped from the front group as their advantage diminished to 90 seconds, just as Victor Campenaerts (Lotto Soudal) and Nathan Van Hooydonck (Jumbo-Visma) attacked from the peloton.
Alpecin-Fenix upped the pace of the bunch on the Gulperbergweg with 52km remaining, cutting the gap to those in front to just 40 seconds.
But it was the Ineos Grenadiers that put the final nail in the coffin for the remaining breakaway riders on the steep slopes of the Kruisberg and Eyserbosweg.
With 40km left, Ben Turner (Ineos Grenadiers) set an intense pace that strung out the peloton over the hilly terrain as the break was caught.
And when the Keutenberg arrived at 35km to go, Kwiatkowski made another acceleration that forced an elite group to go clear.
Mathieu van der Poel looked to be struggling as the group moved clear, but the Tour of Flanders winner did just enough to keep in touch.
Kwiatkowski and Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers), alongside van der Poel, were joined in the lead group by Tiesj Benoot, Kasper Asgreen (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl), Alexander Kamp (Trek-Segafredo), Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Victorious), Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), Benoît Cosnefroy (AG2R Citroën Team), Marc Hirschi (UAE Team Emirates) and Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange-Jayco).
With 20km to go, and a numerical advantage in their favour, Kwiatkowski attacked as they crossed the finish line for the penultimate time.
Cosnefroy effortlessly bridged over to the Polish rider and the duo built a small gap of 30 seconds with 17km left.
The leaders had an advantage of just 22 seconds as they summitted the Bemelerberg, the final climb of the day, with 6.5km to go.
Attacks came thick and fast from the chasing group, but time and time again they were neutralised by other riders in the group, including Pidcock who was keen to protect his teammate out in front.
The leading pair began to play cat and mouse as they reached the finishing straight in Valkenburg.
Cosnefroy was the man to lead out the sprint before Kwiatkowski, the better sprinter of the two, attempted to go around him on the line.
The Frenchman thought he had it and so did the race organisers.
But just like last year, a photo finish would decide the day.
This time it was Ineos Grenadiers’ saving grace, as Kwiatkowski snatched the win by a tyre-width.
From agony to ecstasy at the finish line, it is Kwiatkowski’s second victory at the Dutch classic, and his first win in two years.
AMSTEL GOLD RACE 2022: MAASTRICHT - VALKENBURG (254KM)
1. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Ineos Grenadiers, in 6-01-19
2. Benoît Cosnefroy (Fra) AG2R Citröen, at same time
3. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) jumbo-Visma, at 10s
4. Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix, at 20s
5. Alexander Kamp (Den) Trek-Segafredo, at same time
6. Kasper Asgreen (Den) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl
7. Michael Matthews (Aus) Team BikeExchange-Jayco
8. Stefan Küng (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
9. Marc Hirschi (Swi) UAE Team Emirates
10. Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain-Victorious, all at same time
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