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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, April 16, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception. - Incorrectly attributed to Aldous Huxley, who wrote a phrase that comes close to this. It may have been written by an Elektra Records publicist. No one seems to really know.

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2018 Amstel Gold Race team reports

We posted the report from second-place Roman Kreuziger's Mitchelton-Scott team with the race results.

Here's what winner Michael Valgren's Astana team had to say about the race:

After impressive teamwork during the day, from closing the gap with the breakaway to Jakob Fuglsang attacking in the final, it was Michael Valgren who finished it off with his second win of the season.

- It was a hard start and then the breakaway got a really big gap, but we had Laurens de Vreese in the front to close this gap, he did a great job. The other riders kept me out of trouble, it was perfect teamwork during the whole day. In the final Jakob Fuglsang worked hard for me, he made all the other riders tired and after that I could attack and I’m happy that I could finish it like this, - said Michael Valgren.

The final of the Amstel Gold Race changed this year with an extra lap to give a chance for attacks, and with this in mind the peloton took off from Maastricht for the only Dutch classic race of the season. In the 260-km-long race a breakaway group of nine riders was able to create a gap of maximum 16 minutes. But with Laurens de Vreese and other teams pulling in the front of the peloton, the gap was back to less than one minute before the final started.

In this final, Michael Valgren and Jakob Fuglsang made it into the leading group after the Cauberg. After several attacks of Fuglsang, Valgren took his chance and attacked going into the final 2 kilometers. He took Roman Kreuziger with him, but with a strong sprint to the finish line he left him and Enrico Gasparatto behind, securing victory at the 2018 Amstel Gold Race.

Michael Valgren

Michael Valgren wins Amstel Gold Race. Sirotti photo

- It was a good race. I was a little excited to see how I was after a month without racing. But I was really happy with my feeling today. We ended up in the perfect position, together with Michael Valgren, to race for the victory and it’s great that we could finish it like this. I’m happy that I can be part of this victory, and I’m happy for Michael that he won after his second place of a few years ago, - said Jakob Fuglsang.

Peter Sagan was fourth. Here's the report from his Bora-hansgrohe team:

There were no fewer than thirty-five climbs over the demanding parcours of the Amstel Gold Race, and with some of these exceeding 20%, it was clear that the day’s winner would have to have the legs to not only clear each of these but to still have the energy to contest the finale. In the end, only twelve riders were still in touch for the final 10km, the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, one of them after his BORA-hansgrohe teammates had worked hard to keep him safe over the day’s 261km distance. However, after a flurry of late attacks in the closing kilometres, Peter was just out of contention in the finale, taking fourth as the first of the second group to cross the line, ending his successful Classics season with a top five finish.

The Stage
The Amstel Gold Race might not have the cobblestones of some of the other one-day races, but with thirty-five climbs in just a single race, and the very first climb just 10km from the start, the parcours is just as hard. One of the main reasons for this was because riders would be unable to settle into a rhythm, with constant ascending and descending and barely a kilometre of flat over the 261km route meaning riders will be in the red almost the entire distance. On a parcours that skirts the Dutch city of Maastricht, many of the day's climbs would be ridden multiple times, the steepest of these being the Cauberg, the Keutenberg and the Eyserbosweg. The proximity to the city also means riders would have to contend with parked cars, street furniture and narrow roads. With the finale being different from previous years, riders would be looking to use the terrain of the last few kilometres to their advantage.

The Team Tactics
While the UCI World Champion had taken his first victory at Paris-Roubaix a week ago, the course at the Amstel Gold Race is very different from that of north-eastern France. As in previous races though, the aim would be to control the pace early on before ramping things up ahead of the finale to go for the win. Riding the race for the first time, Pascal Ackermann would be instrumental in keeping things together at the start, along with Cesare Benedetti, while Gregor Mühlberger, Patrick Konrad and Jay McCarthy would be focusing on preventing attacks and to be in the right position to follow if the chance arises. For the finale, German National Champion, Marcus Burghardt will take on his usual role of keeping Peter Sagan safe, before letting the UCI World Champion take his chances at the finish.

The Race
The flag dropped to start the day and it didn’t take long for a break to form. The jagged look of the route map clearly didn’t put off the escapees, with the advantage going out to more than fifteen minutes before the peloton was spurred on to bring their lead back under control. As always, the strength of the BORA-hansgrohe riders was the driving force in reducing the gap, bringing the lead down under ten minutes and then with less than 50km remaining, to just 2:30. A crash involving Jay McCarthy meant that Peter was without a valuable teammate in the finale, as the Australian rider had planned to support Peter by attacking close to the finish. With 18km remaining, the race really came to life, as the attacks came and the scent of the finish line filling their noses, the contenders sprung into action. The UCI World Champion was among this group of twelve, the renewed vigour in this small group brought the remnants of the breakaway into view and was passed with ease a little after crossing the finish line for the final lap of the finishing circuit. After the dust had settled from multiple attacks, there were two groups on the road, with three riders on the front and Peter’s group just out of touch behind, the Slovak rider taking fourth position as the first of the chasing group to cross the line.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan finishes fourth. Sirotti photo.

From the Finish Line
“It was a tough Amstel Gold Race with a very strong pace from the start. The breakaway managed to build a very big gap and was brought in, but that required a strong effort. In the final 20km there was a split and a selection in the group and I was right there in the front. I had good sensations but I think that last week's Paris-Roubaix could still be felt in my legs. Nevertheless, I finished fourth and, in my view, the overall assessment of my Classics campaign is good.” – Peter Sagan

"The team put a great effort in first part of the race and its hard work was crucial to close the gap of 15 minutes the breakaway had managed to build. Peter had a strong race as well but, unfortunately, we didn't fully support him in the last 40km, where he had to work hard and close many gaps by himself. He was in the chasing group, just a few seconds behind the leaders but he wasn't able to bridge the gap. Still, he took a strong fourth place in the end. Overall, it was a hard Amstel Gold Race with a really high pace in the finale." – Jens Zemke, sports director

And Alejandro Valverde was fifth. His Team Movistar posted this report:

Danish all-rounder Michael Valgren (AST) took yet another prestigious victory this season on Sunday’s 2018 Amstel Gold Race (UCI WorldTour, 262km), as Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) showed more courage than ever in the Dutch event yet left the opening race of the ‘hills trilogy’ just off the podium in 5th spot (+19″).

Carlos Betancur

Carlos Betancur spent the day working for Valverde.

Well-supported from the start by the Blue squad, ‘Bala’ did not have to take on any responsibilities before the climbs of Kruisberg and Eyserbosweg, less than 40km before the end. The work Rojas, Anacona, Betancur, Amador and a very committed Imanol Erviti kept the Spaniard calm and relentlessly reduced the gaps against the early breakaway, which built a massive, 16-minute gap and was only brought down by the race contenders. In turn, Mikel Landa did a fine work for his team leader and controlled several moves at the front as he picked up the pace to make things harder for the sprinters.

Valverde followed all moves from the race favourites until the final Cauberg ascent, and then launched two tremendous accelerations at the Geulhemmerberg (-13km) and the Bemelerberg (-6km). Alejandro got really close to go solo, yet ended up caught by a group from which all three podium finishers jumped away at the twisty finale: Valgren, Roman Kreuziger (MTS, 2nd) and Enrico Gasparotto (TBM, 3rd).

Alejandro finished behind Peter Sagan (BOH, 4th) at the pursuit group’s sprint, after reasserting again his excellent condition before the spring’s two races he loves most: the Ardennes classics, with the Flèche Wallonne (Wednesday 18th, five wins) and Liège-Bastogne-Liège (Sunday 22nd, four triumphs) as next goals.

Lotto-Soudal sent me this Amstel Gold race news:

Lotto Soudal couldn’t claim a podium place at Amstel Gold Race today, but did have two riders on top ten. Tim Wellens crossed the finish line as sixth, Jelle Vanendert got tenth. Tiesj Benoot abandoned the race just before the last lap.

It took a long while before the race really started in the peloton. After Gasparotto and Kreuziger had caught six remaining members of the early breakaway just ahead of the last lap of 15.7 kilometres, also a group with Tim Wellens bridged to the front. There were several attacks, including from Tim Wellens. With two kilometres remaining Michael Valgren Andersen rode away, with Roman Kreuziger; whom he beat in the sprint. Enrico Gasparotto was third. Nineteen seconds after the winner Wellens finished sixth and another seventeen seconds later Jelle Vanendert crossed the finish as tenth.

Lotto-Soudal

Lotto-Soudal checked out the course on Saturday.

Tim Wellens: “I am happy with the way the race developed and with how I felt, but I am disappointed with the final result. We bridged to the front group with six riders, after jumping away from the group of favourites. A bit later we were left with eight at the front. Then it became a cat-and-mouse game. We all attacked in turn and then you need to be lucky that there is some hesitation at the moment that you go. That didn’t happen when I attacked, but it did happen when Valgren and Kreuziger attacked and that marked the decisive moment. Maybe that Valverde and others kept an eye on me. It’s very unfortunate that my attempts didn’t lead to the success that I had hoped for. I can be satisfied with my performance, but I had hoped for more.”

Tiesj Benoot: “I felt very good for most part of the day. When we rode over the Gulpenerberg the second time I was on top five of the peloton at the top and also on the Kruisberg all was going well, but on the Eyserbosweg I lost all power and stood almost still. I left the race before the last lap. I had hoped for more, but this can’t be changed. We’ll see tomorrow if I race both Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.”

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