AMSTEL’21: Wout/Tom Photo Finish!

Race Report: At the end of a most exciting Amstel Gold Race the decision came down to the photograph on the line… After much deliberation the win went to Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) over Tom Pidcock (INEOS Grenadiers) after they made the winning break with Maximilian Schachmann of (BORA-hansgrohe). It was close, very close – 0.004 seconds, four-thousandths of a second.

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1mm!

xpedo cxr pedalbanner with Brian McCullough

A tight photo-finish decided the 2021 Amstel Gold Race. At the end of a sprint from the best three riders of the day, Wout Van Aert and Tom Pidcock fought for victory to the last millimetre. Maximilian Schachmann finished in third position. After a long wait for the decision of the race jury, the Jumbo-Visma rider got his revenge for what happened a few days ago in the Brabantse Pijl where Pidcock stanched the win. For Van Aert it is the fourth win of the year and the 14th for Jumbo-Visma. Michael Matthews (BikeExchange), finished fourth leading the sprint from the chasing group followed by Alejandro Valverde, who finished fifth.

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The 2021 Amstel course

Due to the corona crisis the 2021 Amstel Gold Race was changed to a circuit of 17 kilometres. Each lap had the Geulhemmerberg (1.1km at 5.4%), the Bemelerberg (0.9km at 5%) and the Cauberg (1.2km at 5.8%), with a final lap without the Cauberg.

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Wout Van Aert had the family at the race

Shortly after the start the early escape formed: Maurits Lammertink, Loic Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Edward Theuns, Julian Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Stan Dewulf (AG2R Citroën), Sébastien Grignard (Lotto Soudal), Chad Haga (DSM), Ryan Gibbons (UAE Team Emirates), Kenny Molly (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB), Anders Skaarseth (Uno-X). They had a maximum 5 minute lead on the peloton, where Movistar, Jumbo-Visma, Deceuninck – Quick-Step and Astana-Premier Tech were in control.

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I wouldn’t be the Amstel without a windmill

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The break of the day

For a long time their advantage fluctuated around 4 minutes. Søren Kragh Andersen and Jasper Stuyven had to drop out early. The first attacks took place with 75 kilometres to go. First Robert Power and Oscar Riesebeek escaped and then a leading group with Jonas Vingegaard tried on the Cauberg, but both attempts failed. However, the pace increased in the peloton.

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An easy start

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Fast descent

Next a group of ten with Rémi Cavagna, Vingegaard and Wilco Kelderman were pulled back by INEOS Grenadiers. Bob Jungels crashed and had to abandon. Mauri Vansevenant and Maximilian Schachmann were also in the same crash, but were able to continue. In the peloton there was one attacks after another, Primož Roglič was amongst the action, but no group succeeded.

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Through for the finishing straight

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Movistar were very active on the front of the peloton

42 kilometres from the finish another group formed with Dylan van Baarle, Simon Clarke, Florian Sénéchal, Rui Costa, Sonny Colbrelli and Tosh Van der Sande, they managed to sneak away and take a serious gap. Jumbo-Visma had to chase. On the penultimate climb of the Cauberg, 35 kilometres before the finish, the remainder of the early break was caught by the Van Baarle group. The peloton was at 30 seconds, but Roglič closed the gap at the top of the Cauberg in to time. The only rider left out front was Loic Vliegen.

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The lead of the break was held at around 3 minutes

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A bit of music and the old Raleigh team car on the course

Ide Schelling tried his luck, but the differences remained small and the peloton was still quite large. Schelling caught Vliegen at 25 kilometres from the finish on the Bemelerberg. UAE Team Emirates came to the front of the peloton, but Schelling started the last time up the Cauberg with a small lead. He did not last long, because on the climb Wout van Aert made his move. All the favourites had to go with him, but Roglič had a mechanical problem at the wrong time.

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Maximilian Schachmann, Tom Pidcock, Michal Kwiatkowski, Richard Carapaz, Alejandro Valverde, Julian Alaphilippe, Jakob Fuglsang, Michael Matthews and Guillaume Martin were able to join Van Aert. INEOS Grenadiers sent former winner Kwiatkowski off the front. The Pole was caught on the narrow roads in Limburg, after which Pidcock rode away with Van Aert and Schachmann.

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The World champion, Alaphilippe looking cool

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Keeping his powder dry – Wout Van Aert

The three took more than 20 seconds on a strong elite group led by Mauri Vansevenant and Esteban Chaves. Bauke Mollema dropped out of that group due to a puncture. On the last time up the Bemelerberg, 6 kilometres before the finish, the three kept the pace high, but Van Aert, Pidcock and Schachmann were playing their cards close to their chests. The difference to the pursuers remained around 20 seconds.

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Unlucky day for Mauri Vansevenant – Mechanicals and crashes

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Tosh Van der Sande was in the action all day

Due to the work by Israel Start-Up Nation, the gap was reduced and some riders tried to cross. Tim Wellens tried twice. The three up front entered the last 2 kilometres with a 15 second lead. Schachmann tried to play a surprise, but Van Aert and Pidcock were on him like a flash and so they were together coming in to the final kilometre.

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Mechanical for Roglič at just the wrong moment

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How close?

Van Aert was in-front of the top favourite, Pidcock, who beat him in the Brabantse Pijl sprint, with Schachmann following. The Belgian eased off the speed which allowed the pursuers to return, but started the sprint at 150 meters. Pidcock came next to his rival as the two riders crossed the line with no visible difference. The photo had to be used to determine the winner; Wout van Aert got the win by a millimetre.

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Did I win?

Race winner, Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma): “I knew that a long sprint was in my favour. That’s why I went a long way. They told me I won, but I refused to believe it for a long time. This is very close. Jonas and Primoz (Vingegaard and Roglic) did a lot of work in the pre-final, but at the decisive moment Primoz suffered a mechanical breakdown, which left me alone. Not a favourable situation. With so many INEOS guys around me, but as three of us got ahead, I knew I had a real chance of winning. In the sprint itself I consciously chose to go from afar. It was not ideal to have to start that sprint in front, but I knew that I had the greatest chance of success in a long sprint. Pidock came up fiercely, but apparently I made it anyway. Also important, thirty years ago our sports director Frans Maassen won the Amstel Gold Race. He has been working on that all year long. For him this is the most important classic of the year. Good thing we won it.”

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Yes I did

2nd, Tom Pidcock (INEOS Grenadiers): “It was really close, but I started the sprint too late. I should have started first because I was faster. That is a great learning moment. I did ride a good race. I think I was the strongest in the race and I am happy with that feeling. But it is frustrating that the difference is so small. (0.004) That is pretty close. I gave Wout a gap in the sprint, but we were too close to the finish. I was too far behind him and should have been on his wheel. We thought I had won because someone was cheering for me. Then they said in my ear that it was not clear. Of course I would have liked to win …”

Amstel Gold Race Result:
1. Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma in 5:03:27
2. Tom Pidcock (GB) INEOS Grenadiers
3. Max Schachmann (Ger) BORA-hansgrohe at 0:02
4. Michael Matthews (Aus) BikeExchange
5. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar
6. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
7. Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Alpecin-Fenix
8. Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain Victorious
9. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) INEOS Grenadiers
10. Tosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto Soudal
11. Alex Aranburu Deba (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech
12. Matteo Trentin (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
13. Michael Valgren (Den) EF Education-Nippo
14. Patrick Konrad (Aut) BORA-hansgrohe
15. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) DSM
16. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis
17. Ben Tulett (GB) Alpecin-Fenix
18. Aurélien Paret Peintre (Fra) AG2R Citroën
19. Markus Hoelgaard (Nor) Uno-X Pro
20. Quinten Hermans (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
21. Daryl Impey (RSA) Israel Start-up Nation
22. Clement Venturini (Fra) AG2R Citroën
23. Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
24. Sergio Higuita Garcia (Col) EF Education-Nippo
25. Warren Barguil (Fra) Arkea-Samsic
26. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) AG2R Citroën
27. Valentin Madouas (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
28. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) INEOS Grenadiers
29. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal
30. Sergio Henao Montoya (Col) Qhubeka Assos.

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