Another year at the Amstel Gold Race, another photo finish involving an Ineos Grenadiers rider.
Last year, Tom Pidcock was narrowly judged to have been beaten by Wout van Aert on the finish line at Valkenburg, something that is still contentious. In 2022, Michał Kwiatkowski was initially told that it would be another second place for Ineos, with Benoît Cosnefroy declared the winner.
However, seconds later, the decision was reversed once the finish line photos were looked at closely, with Kwiatkowski clearly beating Cosnefroy by a matter of centimetres.
The reversal of the decision created an interesting tableau in the area post the finish line, with Kwiatkowski and teammates Tom Pidcock going from devastation to elation, while the AG2R Citroën camp looked like they had gone from being told they were each being bought a puppy to being told that those puppies had died.
Kwiatkowski had learned from last year's drama to not fully base his reactions off the first result, as it might change.
"After the finish line I learned a little bit from last year with Tom that you have to wait with the euphoria, and I still can’t believe it," the Pole explained.
Julien Jurdie, the AG2R DS, was exasperated by how the announcement played out; the rollercoaster of emotions could have been avoided if the declaration of the winner had been delayed until after the photo finish was looked at.
He told Eurosport: "Obviously we’re frustrated, because radio tour announced that Cosnefroy had won… I would have preferred radio tour to announce a photo finish. Mixed emotions. Huge joy, and then of course very big disappointment as well."
However, he did not seem too down, praising his team's performance across the day, adding: "We’ll take a lot of positives from today."
There was no extended delay like there was in 2021, with the organisers possibly working on their finish line technology since last year, but there was still confusion.
Kwiatkowski said that he was "confident" he could win in the sprint against Cosnefroy, but his dreams were almost dashed in the final 200m as the Frenchman appeared to have a second kick.
The Pole stuck to his rival's back wheel until just 150m to go, with the knowledge that he had Pidcock behind if the groups came back together, as a result he was not obliged to work hard to maintain the gap, unlike Cosnefroy.
"A lot of luck I would say, it was very tough," Kwiatkowski said. "Tough finish, tough sprint. I was super confident I could win, but at the same time the last 50m were super tough. Cosnefroy still accelerated when I was beside him, and for me it was all about the win. Knowing Tom was in the front group, it was all about winning the race. I was only there to win the race."
On the drama of the decision being switched, the Ineos rider described it as "very confusing" admitting that after feeling unlucky, he now felt incredible.
"It was very confusing, I was super sad in the first place, because as I said it was all about the win," Kwiatkowski explained. "They were all counting on me doing the right thing, Cosnefroy did most of the job, and with Tom in the back I knew we could win the race in a few different ways.
"It wasn’t up to me to make the gap, and after the finish line I learned a little bit from last year with Tom that you have to wait with the euphoria, and I still can’t believe it. Maybe it’ll come up again and they got the photo finish wrong. It felt unlucky, being here is just incredible.
"I love this race, and after all the bad moments I’ve had this season with covid and before that with flu, being sick, not being able to follow my race programme, and now being here winner of Amstel it is an incredible feeling."
Amstel was just his 13th race day of the season after his stop-start beginning to 2022. He rode the UAE Tour and Milan-San Remo, where he has won in the past, without showing himself much. The Ineos rider was later forced to abandon the Volta a Catalunya due to illness, and this was his first race in April.
The win was also Kwiatkowski's first since his Tour de France stage win in 2020, and proved that the 31-year old still has a lot to give this team which is increasingly looked younger.
"It’s not only about this race," a clearly emotional Kwiatkowski said. "I think I proved to myself that I have to be patient and sooner or later the victory will come, the performance, and I would be able to perform. The beginning of the season was very tough, when your family is getting sick, and you are not able to even train, and all the races are postponed. The racing calendar was upside down and it was very difficult to be back on track."
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