Michael Valgren wins the Classic Amstel Gold Race
Valgren attacked a select group and outsprinted Kreuziger and Gasparotto after a grueling 263 kms and 35 leg breaking climbs
Valgren added the Amstel Gold race to his palmares after winning Omloop Het Niewsblad earlier this season.
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 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.
How It Happened
After 30 kms raced, nine riders established the day's breakaway; Lawson Craddock (EF-Drapac), Tsgabu Grmay (Trek-Segafredo), Matteo Bono (UAE Team Emirates), Oscar Riesebeek (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij), Eddie Dunbar (Aqua Blue Sport), Marco Tizza (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Willem Smit (Katusha-Alpecin) Bram Tankink (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Preben Van Hecke (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise).
The breakaway of nine riders built up a lead of over 15 minutes, before the peloton decided it needed to organize a chase. Movistar, Quick-Step, Lotto Soudal and BMC all helped in the chase, the gap started to come down.
On the climb of the Cauberg with 20 kms to go, the attacks started, Sagan and then Greg Van Avermaet. With 13 kms to go, Valverde put in a decisive attack with Alaphilippe, Fuglsang, Gasparotto, Wellens, Valgren, Kreuziger and Sagan followed, and the first selection was made. Behind those who missed the initial surge started to bridge across with Van Avermaet leading the chase.
With 6.5 kms to go the final climb of Bemelerberg, Fuglsang attacked, Valverde attacked, with Alaphilippe, Gasparotto, Sagan and Wellens closing the gap down.
Behind the chase group couldn't close it down, the distance in their legs catching them out. Valgren, Fulsang's Astana team mate put in the invitable counter attack but it was closed down. Everyone was looking at Sagan and Valverde knowing they could win if they took them to the line.
Valgren attacked again and only Kreuziger could follow, behind Sagan looked for his rivals to chase. In that moment the race was lost and won.
Valgren and Kreuziger pushed on with 3 kms to go, behind only Gasparotto attacked out of the Sagan / Valverde group.
In the final sprint Valgren had the strongest legs with Kreuziger and Gasparotto just behind.
Valgren thanked his team and Jacob Fuglsang for his huge amount of work and big attacks against his rivals in closing kilometres.
VIDEO: 2018 Amstel Gold Race Final Kilometres
2018 Amstel Gold Race Top 10
1 Michael Valgren (Den) Astana Pro Team
2 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Mitchelton-Scott
3 Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
4 Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
5 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team
6 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal
7 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors
8 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team
9 Lawson Craddock (USA) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
10 Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Soudal