How the race finished
Demi Vollering (SD Worx) launched a peerless attack at the top of the Cauberg to ride away to the win at Amstel Gold. Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx) was fastest of the chasing bunch, with Shirin van Anrooij (Trek-Segafredo) crossing the line in third.
Full results are available below.
How it happened
On a rainy Sunday Morning, the damp air hanging low to the ground, the womens’ peloton raced over 158km from Maastricht to Valkenburg, where they took on four laps of the hilly finishing circuit, featuring the endlessly steep Cauberg, alongside the Bemelerberg and Geulhemmerberg.
Racing was on from the get go. All the major teams were attentive, and keen to attack the race from the beginning. An early break saw a number of strong riders from key teams go up the road. Gladys Verhulst(FDJ-Suez), Niamh Fisher Black (SD Worx), Juliette Labous (Team DSM), Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma), Lucinda Brand (Trek-Segafredo), Jelena Eric (Movistar), Soraya Paladin (Canyon//Sram Racing), Alena Amialiusik (UAE Team-AQD) and Sabrina Stultiens (Liv TeqFind) were all present, each of them potentially very dangerous on their day. The situation changed a little when Jelena Eric was dropped, forcing Movistar’s hand. Annemiek van Vleuten attacked from the peloton behind, but of course was marked closely by the other favourites – the change in pace bringing everything back together.
Two riders from that break, Brand and Stultiens, weren’t done yet – and a few kilometres deeper into the race they attacked over the top of one another to eventually distance the peloton together. Behind, the peloton couldn’t corral a solid chase, choosing instead to work through a series of attacks. After each attack, the pace eased again. The gap to the duo slowly creeped out to two minutes. The favourites were biding their time.
The pace, however, did remain high enough to see a number of strong riders dropped fairly early, including defending champion Marta Cavalli (FDJ-Suez), former world champion Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo) and climbing domestique Niamh Fisher Black (SD Worx). Instead of Fisher Black it was Lorena Wiebes pacing up the Cauberg for SD Worx, the sprint star looking strong on less familiar terrain. Over the top, Nina Buijsman (Human Powered Health) jumped and Wiebes followed, the pair setting out to bridge across to the duo still out in front of the race. An increase of the pace in the peloton, led by Soraya Paladin (Canyon//Sram Racing), saw it all come back together.
Despite the cold weather and foggy air affecting visibility at times, the race was largely unaffected by bad luck – with crashes and mechanicals appearing to be few and far between. There was, however, a bad moment for Rejanne Markus, who had problems with her gears which left her spinning the pedals out on the flats. She was finally able to get a bike change from the team car, and to find her way back to the main peloton with the help of teammate Amber Kraak. Around the same time, Lotte Kopecky showed us all how cold it was, going back to the car for a jacket. This deep in the race, we typically see jackets coming off.
It was Kristen Faulkner (Team Jayco-AlUla) who found the next opportunity to get ahead solo, only a few kilometres after we had seen her drop out the back. Once again it was Wiebes who was able to bridge across. With the strong sprinter on the wheel the move was neutralised, but not for long, as Soraya Paladin and then Quinty Ton (Liv TeqFind) went over the top. Nothing stuck, but everyone was keen to be involved.
Into the last lap Paladin tried again, and this time she was able to find a few metres, and then a few more. Grace Brown inched her way steadily across the gap, and with five kilometres to go the pair held a slender margin. Onto the final climb up the Cauberg, and Paladin looked strong, riding away from Grace Brown. But all of a sudden the favourites were on her heels, and then just as quickly a small group of around six riders were in the lead. Over the top of the climb, as everyone’s legs were screaming to stop, Vollering gave Kopecky a quick nod, and then put her head down and launched a searing attack. No one could follow immediately. Liane Lippert, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, Rejanne Markus, Kasia Niewiadoma and Soraya Paladin were still there alongside Kopecky, but the group couldn’t get organised to chase. Once she was gone, she was gone.
As Vollering raised her arms and rolled across the finishing line, the chasing group swelled. Kopecky sealed the 1-2 for SD Worx, but Shirin van Anrooij was hot on her heels for third.
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