Amstel Race Report: At the end of a tactical race in the Netherlands, Michal Kwiatkowski beat Benoît Cosnefroy by a tyre width. Tiesj Benoot soloed to third as top favourite, Mathieu van der Poel won the sprint from the chasers for 4th place.
Very close… again
The Amstel Gold Race 2022 was won by Michal Kwiatkowski. After an entertaining race of over 254 kilometres between Maastricht and Vilt, the INEOS Grenadiers rider was first over the finish-line, although a photo finish had to give him the win from Benoît Cosnefroy. Tiesj Benoot joined them on the podium in 3rd place. Mathieu van der Poel took fourth place.
The Vrijthof in Maastricht
The start of the 2022 Amstel Gold Race is in the Vrijthof in Maastricht, before a race of just over 254 kilometres. After the start in Maastricht, there are three large loops through South Limburg. The peloton passes climbs many hills in Limburg: Slingerberg, Raarberg, Bergseweg, Camerig and Gulperberg; 33 climbs, including the famous Cauberg three times, which is at 200, 91 and 24 kilometres from the finish. Then there is the Eyserbosweg and Keutenberg at 42 and 34 kilometres respectively, before the finish in Berg en Terblijt.
The peloton passes the finish line three times, before the actual finish on the fourth occasion. After the Cauberg for the last time and a third passage in Berg en Terblijt, a final loop of around 20 kilometres follows. The riders will leave the Eyserbosweg, Keutenberg and Cauberg behind, on their way to the last two climbs: The Geulhemmer and Bemelerberg. These are not the most difficult climbs in South Limburg, but after more than two hundred kilometres of racing and countless climbs, the legs will feel their gradients.
After the climb of the Geulhemmerberg, the riders will descend from the Kuitenbergweg towards Maastricht. Once down, it goes via the Molenweg and the Peutgensweg to the Rasberg, before heading to Bemelen. The Bemelerberg is on the east of the village. Once at the top, the riders turn left, towards Terblijt. Via the Rijnsbergweg you arrive at the Sibberweg, where they hit the last kilometre. The finish line is on the Rijksweg.
The fans were out in Maastricht
The peloton passes the Beek windmill
A six-man break formed early: Ide Schelling (BORA-hansgrohe), Emils Liepins (Trek-Segafredo), Owain Doull (EF Education-EasyPost), Johan Jacobs (Movistar), Aaron Van Poucke (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and Luca Rastelli (Bardiani-CSF-Faizane). Rastelli’s teammate, Davide Gabburo, was also there, but dropped back to the peloton.
The countryside of the Provence Limburg
The early break: Ide Schelling (BORA-hansgrohe), Emils Liepins (Trek-Segafredo), Owain Doull (EF Education-EasyPost), Johan Jacobs (Movistar), Aaron van Poucke (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and Luca Rastelli (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè)
The six got about a 5 minute lead on the peloton, where Alpecin-Fenix, INEOS Grenadiers and UAE team Emirates took the lead. Those teams were working for Mathieu van der Poel, Tom Pidcock and Marc Hirschi. The gap to the leading group closed down as the final approached. Victor Campenaerts and Nathan Van Hooydonck managed to cross to the leaders just before the Cauberg at 90 kilometres from the finish, to put seven men in the lead as Rastelli had been dropped.
The first time up the Cauberg
Top favourite Mathieu Van Der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix)
Florian Sénéchal also tried to cross to the leading group, but the Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Frenchman was pulled in by Alpecin-Fenix. By this point the break had less than 1 minute on the leading group. In the peloton, the nervousness was high and that led to crashes of Andrea Bagioli, Anthony Turgis and Jack Haig and others.
The peloton were not in a big hurry to catch the break
After the Loorberg, Van Hooydonck, Jacobs, Van Poucke, Doull and Liepins remained in the lead. As the first attacks came in the peloton, but the race really opened up the next time on the Gulperbergweg. Tim Wellens and Christophe Laporte didn’t get away, but the thinned out peloton got even closer to the leading group on the Kruisberg. Van Hooydonck held out the longest, but he was caught with 45 kilometres from the finish.
The break on the Cauberg for the second time
Through the finish line
On the Eyserbosweg and the Fromberg, the INEOS train was impressively strong, especially Ben Turner who put in a lot of work. The peloton by now was only 40 men going into the final hour. On the Keutenberg a selection followed after the acceleration of first Pidcock and later Tiesj Benoot. Van der Poel looked to have a moment of weakness, but was still in the front group.
Victor Campenaerts crossed to the break
If his health is 100%, Tom Pidcock has to be the other top favourite
Pidcock, Benoot, Van der Poel, Michal Kwiatkowski, Michael Matthews, Dylan Teuns, Kasper Asgreen, Benoît Cosnefroy, Marc Hirschi, Stefan Küng and Alexander Kamp formed the group of favourites in the run-up to the last climb of the Cauberg. The first chase group included Wellens, Valentin Madouas and Warren Barguil, but also riders of Bahrain Victorious and UAE Team Emirates who would slow the chase. The gap was about 20 seconds.
Tim Wellens was keen, but missed the important break
On the Cauberg the leading group was calm, but just after the top it was all action. Kwiatkowski hoped to take advantage of also having Pidcock for INEOS Grenadiers in the group with 21 kilometres to go to the finish. The Pole rode away solo, as the others hesitated behind.
Tiesj Benoot caused the decisive split
Was Van der Poel in trouble?
On the Geulhemmerberg, Cosnefroy crossed to Kwiatkowski in one move, but the pursuers were very close. Teuns tried to cross in the narrow Limburg roads on his own, but he could not get to the Kwiatkowski-Cosnefroy tandem. With a lead of 25 seconds, the front riders started the last climb of the day, the Bemelerberg.
Kwiatkowski was joined by Benoit Cosnefroy in the finalé
At the start of the final 5 kilometres the leaders only had 20 seconds, but the chase just didn’t couldn’t get organised. Pidcock was jumping on all the attacks to protect his teammate. A last effort by Van der Poel to close the gap was of little use. Cosnefroy and Kwiatkowski would sprint for the win.
The final push for the line gave the win to Kwiatkowski
Benoot soloed to 3rd place
The Frenchman started early, but the Pole came alongside in the end. The difference was narrow and the race jury had to look at the finish photo. First Cosnefroy was declared the winner, but the after closer inspection, the win went to Kwiatkowski. He had placed his jump at the right time to win his second Amstel Gold Race. Tiesj Benoot gave Jumbo-Visma third place due to a late attack from the chase group. Mathieu van der Poel sprinted to fourth place.
4th for Van der Poel
Cosnefroy was told he had won, then…
Race winner, Michal Kwiatkowski (INEOS Grenadiers): “It was very unclear. I was very disappointed at first, because for me it was all about winning. With Tom Pidcock in the group behind me, I was fully counted on. Cosnefroy did most of the work up front, and I knew that was a good situation to win. That could be done in different ways, with Tom also behind us. It was therefore not up to me to make the difference bigger. I learned from last year’s situation with Tom, you really have to wait before cheering. That’s why I still can’t believe it. Maybe they (race jury) will come back later that I didn’t win after all. It was a tough race, and a really tough final. I knew I could win, but especially the last 50 metres were very difficult. Cosnefroy kept accelerating, even when I came alongside in the sprint. But I only came here to win.”
Big beer for a big win
Amstel Gold Race Result:
1. Michał Kwiatkowski (Pol) INEOS Grenadiers in 6:01:19
2. Benoît Cosnefroy (Fra) AG2R Citroën
3. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Jumbo-Visma at 0:10
4. Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix at 0:20
5. Alexander Kamp (Den) Trek – Segafredo
6. Kasper Asgreen (Den) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl
7. Michael Matthews (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco
8. Stefan Küng (Swi) Groupama-FDJ
9. Marc Hirschi (Swi) UAE Team Emirates
10. Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain-Victorious.