How the Race Finished
Marta Cavalli (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine) won the Amstel Gold Race, making a last minute solo attack after the final climb. Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) made a characteristic attack on the final ascent of the Cauberg; as a select group crested the peak, the pressure eased for a moment. As they looked over their right shoulders, Cavalli swung out on the left; she was gone almost by the time they’d noticed her move. With gritted teeth, Cavalli stayed away for the final two kilometres to take the biggest victory in her career. Demi Vollering won the tightly-contested sprint for second – taking second at Amstel Gold for a second year – with Lianne Lippert (Team DSM) in third.
The Main Action
A break struggled to form for the first kilometres of the race; eventually, a few went, but the peloton kept them on a tight leash. The first major attack came from Anna Henderson (Jumbo-Visma) and Pauliena Rooijakkers (Canyon-SRAM), who together got a gap of fifteen seconds or so, but were caught with 77km left. Shortly after they were caught, Kasia Niewiadoma attacked on the Eyserbosweg, and a very strong group formed: a trio from SD Worx, with Demi Vollering, Marlen Reusser and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, along with Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar), Yara Kastelijn (Plantur-Pura), and Lucinda Brand (Trek – Segafredo), as well as Henderson and Rooijakkers, still up for an attack after their early escapades.
By the Keutenberg, only Vollering, Niewiadoma and van Vleuten were left; they were joined by Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo), Chantal van den Broek-Blaak (SD Worx) and Henderson. They had almost forty seconds on the peloton; their gap dipped as the speed behind increased, but a crash behind, involving Arlenis Sierra and Katrine Aalerud (both Movistar) disrupted the chase, and they had nearly a minute. Ane Santesteban (Bike-Exchange-Jayco) bridged across on her own, and it seemed as if the leaders might stay away.
However, there were two problems: UAE ADQ suddenly took an interest in chasing them down, and simultaneously, cooperation among the leaders began to break down. Their lead swiftly collapsed, and they were all back together by the next time they came to the bottom of the Cauberg.
Attacks started to flow; SD Worx were again adopting the tactic of ceaselessly attacking. On the Cauberg, the bunch started to split, but without any clear leaders emerging. With 34km to go, Pauliena Rooijakkers attacked up and over the group of leaders; in short order, she was joined by Amanda Spratt (Bike-Exchange Jayco) and Arlenis Sierra (Movistar). For the next twenty kilometres, they attempted to stay away, but the peloton were never far behind. Mavi Garcia (UAE Team ADQ) tried to bridge across on her own, but was stuck out in no-man’s land, and ended up absorbed back into the group. The reduced peloton loomed behind the leaders, volatile with attacks. Chantal van den Broek-Blaak came to the front for SD Worx, and the gap tumbled down; the leading group was caught with ten kilometres to go.
It was a reduced but still sizable group that fought for position, with attacks flying, as they approached the final ascent of the Cauberg. SD Worx repeatedly used their numbers, forcing van Vleuten to close down attacks. For some time, Victorie Guilman (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) maintained a gap of five seconds off the front, but was caught with less than three kilometres to go.
As they hit the Cauberg for the final time, Annemiek van Vleuten made the expected attack, but the hill wasn’t long enough for her to get entirely free; a select group followed, made up of Cavalli, Lippert, Niewiadoma, Moolman-Pasio, van Vleuten and Vollering. They perhaps expected to contest it in a reduced sprint for the line, but as the pressure came out of the group, and they looked around for a moment, Cavalli attacked, and no-one followed. Rapidly, there was daylight between her and the rest of the group. Ashleigh Moolman Pasio was on the front for SD Worx, trying to set up a sprint for Demi Vollering, but couldn’t claw back the gap to Cavalli. In the last few hundred metres, the chasers launched their sprints, just behind Cavalli, but they were only sprinting for second.
Van Vleuten, dogged by SD Worx all day, came in just off the podium, in fourth. Elisa Balsamo missed the final selection on the Cauberg, and came in eighth, but remains leader of the WWT. SD Worx and UAE Team ADQ both had two riders in the top ten.