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The Moment The Race Was Won: Amstel Gold Race

Enrico Gasparotto wins the Amstel Gold Race after a late attack on the Cauberg with 2km to go. After over six hours of racing the late attack was enough to hold off the sprinters. This was the brief moment the race was won.

Trek-Segafredo’s Fabio Felline jammed his hand between the front wheel and forks and somersaulted into the pavement while Lotto-Soudal’s Tiesj Bennot was a non-starter because of illness. Once the race began there was a lively first hour covering  48km covered. 11 riders finally went clear including Alex Howes of Cannondale who in 2012 made the same move with others including Romain Bardet and the pair stayed away until late in the race. CCC-Sprandi’s Adrian Kurek was also in the move, he made the break in the Milan-Sanremo and is mushrooming into a decent rouleur.

Danny van Poppel

Orica-Greenedge were deploying the tractor beam all day and the 11 riders never had a chance such was their slim lead. Anyone that tried to get away was dragged back. Luke Durbridge was at work for long time on the front and later the others took over, Michael Matthews and his sprint finish was clearly Plan A. Team Sky were also visible at the front and equally interested in locking down the race.

It was on the way to the Keutenberg that things suddenly picked up, the peloton resembled a wasp nest that had been poked and the attacks started to buzz. Yet nothing much was going clear and the presence of the breakaway up the road was ideal for the teams hoping for a sprint up the Cauberg. It meant anyone escaping early would have to work just to get to the front group and then find a queue of wheelsuckers.

As ever a lot of the action was happening at the back of the peloton with crashes and dropped riders. Alexis Vuillermoz and Joaquim Rodriguez were just three of the contenders who found themselves sprawled on the pavement at one point, many suffered the same fate. The Dutch call a crashes a valpartij, a fall party and many were getting on down. Others like Tom Dumoulin had mechanicals and punctures which means game over in this race where the hilly twisting roads mean a chase through the vehicles is hard. Some were just dropped, notably Philippe Gilbert, Diego Ulissi and Edvald Boasson Hagen. Michał Kwiatkowski was out too, iced by a cold downpour that struck the race late on. The Pole can be brilliant at times but also capable of a jours sans in a one day race.

Tim Wellens tried a late attack and got into his customary tuck that involves imaginary tri bars. It obviously works, he won the Eneco Tour with a strong solo attack but behind Orica-Greendge kept the tractor beam switched on and he started the final climb up the Cauberg with only a few seconds lead.

Once again the race sped into the Cauberg only it was missing Philippe Gilbert. Sep Vanmarcke led the charge, the Belgian looking a little out of place, the cobble eater taking a bite of the Ardennes. Then Enrico Gasparotto jumped and Jan Bakelants followed, a contrast of styles with Gasparotto dancing on the pedals and fleet of cleated foot while Bakelants was wrestling with his bike like Crocodile Dundee fighting a Saltie. Sure enough Bakelants cracked and was passed by the seated Michael Valgren who kept the power on. Behind riders craned their necks to find Michael Matthews lurking and so they shut down their efforts. Finally after 246km the race came alive and there was tension. Would Gasparotto and Valgren stay away or would the chase get them?

Valgren began to work and behind the hesitations continued. Jelle Vanendert, the spectral figure who appears once a year in this race, did his turn. Others did too but the chase had no structure and it was as if some, like Petr Vakoč, were deliberately trying to avoid taking a premature pull and hoping someone else would. No such poker for the lead two and by now the finish was in sight. Valgren led and seemed almost generous as his large frame sheltered the waif-like Gasparotto. The Italian jumped, passed and pulled away. Behind Sonny Colbrelli – his father liked Miami Vice, true story – took third place in the sprint with Bryan Coquard fourth and Michael Matthews in fifth place.

The Verdict
Few if any would have predicted the podium but the scenario was too obvious. An attack on the Cauberg versus the efforts of the chasing sprinters: 248km and an uphill sprint. You probably could fit the highlights of the race into a Vine or an animated GIF such was the predictable scenario and outcome. Still you’d have to scrub some subtleties, for example why Gilbert and Dumoulin were not around the last time up the Cauberg. The previous Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix showed how great a race can be only for this one to show us how others can’t always guarantee the action.

Try as some might the chance of an attack working before the Cauberg seems minimal and Tim Wellen’s brave move showed it, not only was he reeled in but he was solo as nobody else wanted to try. Gasparotto’s name is inscribed in history but this wasn’t a memorable race. You feel for the Dutch public who love the sport and surely deserve a better spectacle. Can the course be changed?

Gasparotto won before in 2012 when his team was whispered to be working with Michele Ferrari, now the focus was on Wanty-Groupe Gobert’s loss and the Italian gave an eloquent interview in English about the death of Antoine Demoitié with thoughts about family, life and more that went far beyond the usual interview clichés. For someone who’d spent six hours racing, climbing 34 hills and avoiding the polynesia of traffic islands this was a creditable and eloquent discourse. His win was tactically perfect, staying hidden until it mattered and then launching one decisive move.

“Uphill sprint week” continues with La Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday and then Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The latter has a new cobbled climb to spice up the finale but it’s late in the race.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • HWSB Sunday, 17 April 2016, 11:32 pm

    Spot on summary. Fun to watch Hayman doing such a strong turn on the front. No-one could jump ahead while he was drilling it, but as soon he dropped off, the attacks started flying!

  • Sam Sunday, 17 April 2016, 11:34 pm

    Uphill Sprint Week, I like the ring of that.

  • inthedrops Monday, 18 April 2016, 12:02 am

    Pretty dull race to start an overrated week of racing. It’s sad that Tro-Bro Léon gets overshadowed by it, much better racing on offer there.

    That said, nice to see Wanty get a big win after Demoitié’s death. Would’ve loved to see Colbrelli take it for Bardiani though. Have to say it was pleasing to see GreenEdge and their usual unexciting tactics fail to work out too.

    • MultiplexRant Monday, 18 April 2016, 12:41 pm

      Pfff… all the cycling hipsters have moved on from TBL as one-dayer of choice now. All about the Asmara Circuit & Cyklo Gdynia these days 😉

    • NickV Tuesday, 19 April 2016, 12:55 am

      “GreenEdge and their usual unexciting tactics”
      I think you’ll find it’s called bike racing – when you have a strong finisher suited to a bunch kick after a tough climb you race to make that type of finish happen.
      Just like Sky ride tempo for the whole of July because they have the best high tempo climber – some people think that’s pretty unexciting racing …and it goes for 3 weeks!

  • Steve Potts Monday, 18 April 2016, 12:17 am

    Thank you for a thorough summary. Every year it seems that there are criticisms that the race is dull, despite recent changes to the latter section. It appears that 4000+ metres of climbing and almost 250 km of dodging road furniture is not hard enough! Having lived and ridden in the area the only thing I can suggest is that the race makes a greater use of the hills just across the border in Belgium. There are numerous short climbs in the Voeren and Aubel areas, for example. Whether the “Dutch Classic” would include more Belgian roads though may be unlikely. Still, an enjoyable race, and a deserved win for Gasparotto and Wanty.

    • StevhanTI Monday, 18 April 2016, 9:32 am

      The smaller “Volta Limburg Classic” borrows a lot of those roads, it was ridden a few weeks ago. BMC delivered their youngster Floris Gerts to his first pro victory. With some more stars it could be a nice race.

      • Steve Potts Monday, 18 April 2016, 10:52 am

        Volta Limburg is a great, hard early season race.

  • Michael Monday, 18 April 2016, 12:41 am

    If i were Matt Haymand and the rest of the Orica support crew i’d be pretty pissed that they didn’t make better use of their teamwork today. Would love to have been the fly on the wall in the team bus at the finish!

    • Augie March Monday, 18 April 2016, 10:40 am

      Tactically I think OGE did well, the real problem seems to be that Matthews is perceived as the new Sagan. That last time up the Cauberg every other team seemed to be looking around and when they saw Matthews was still their stopped any real chase, unwilling to tow him to the finish line. A pretty dull and defensive race.

      • Travis Monday, 18 April 2016, 2:20 pm

        Tactically I wonder when OGE are going to realise you can’t have two leaders hoping to sprint for the win. They did a great job until the end when only Gerrans and Matthews were left. If you have two of the favourites on your team and they’re both there at the end then one should have tried to go with Gasparotto. Last year Matthews got caught out by himself in this race having to chase down an attack because noone wanted to drag him to the win. Two years ago it was Gerrans in the World Championship race. Last year they had Gerrans and Matthews and neither would try chase down Sagan in the World Championship. I cringed when i heard both being considered favourites for this race and thought this would happen. No point having two guys left to sprint for second or third.

        • Augie March Monday, 18 April 2016, 5:28 pm

          Fair point, it’s getting to be a bit like the Gilbert/GVA situation at BMC or everyone at EQS: having multiple options in a team and even in a race is great, but you can’t go in with multiple Plan As. Gerrans proved in the Tour Down Under that, like Valverde, he’s not slowing down, but Matthews really deserves a full team behind him with the results he’s had and could have.

          Interesting fact apropos of not much, Matthews is now the 4th Australian to win silver at the World Championships, and all four of those riders have ridden for Orica GreenEdge at one time: McEwen in 2002, Goss in 2011, Gerrans in 2014 and Matthews in 2015.

          • Nicktarios Tuesday, 19 April 2016, 2:27 am

            There’s no way the OGE guys didn’t have the legs (like White said). If you watch the last 3k very closely, Mathews is tracking Valgren as he is attempting to bridge to Gasparotto. He’s grimacing and max gas, but he’s holding the wheel. As the Cauberg flattens as they go under the 2k banner, Valgren is 20m from Gasparotto’s wheel and the Mathews and a lotto guy are right there and decide to drop Valgrens wheel – they literally stop riding. Obviously deciding tactically not to follow at quite that stage. And Gerrans is literally right behind Mathews here. Right behind him. As Valgren keeps pushing for Gasparotto, Gerrans should have followed to keep the gap manageable – he literally sits on his team mates wheel and you have 2 guys from the same team doing exactly the same thing. There’s no doubt in my mind that Gerrans could have kept riding when Mathews and the Lotto guy stopped, and they would never have let Valgren gap across. Thus ensuring a bunch finish, Gasparatto wouldn’t have lasted without that 1000m pull from valgren.

            Very very poorly played by OGE.

  • Ecky Thump Monday, 18 April 2016, 12:53 am

    The write-up’s more entertaining than the race was!
    A fall party and many were getting on down. Love it.
    What’s the Dutch for ‘mechanical’ – break dance?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aavnWd5dh0U

    • kokolores Monday, 18 April 2016, 2:31 am

      ‘Partij’, the part translated as ‘party’, refers to the kind of political party, not a celebrating type of party.

      • Ak Monday, 18 April 2016, 7:41 am

        I’m not a linguist, but I would say that ‘partij’ originally means a gathering of people, hence the use in birthday or political party. Or to describe a group of people and bikes gathered on the ground… Interestingly though, you can also use the word for a tumble that involves only one person.

        • DJ Monday, 18 April 2016, 9:29 am

          Correct Ak – in Dutch you (especially if you’re still a kid) can be invited for a verjaardagspartijtje (bit old-fashioned) which would be a birthday party.

        • Steve Potts Monday, 18 April 2016, 10:41 am

          The race also passes through the village of Partij – it’s near the start of the Gulpenerberg.

    • alex Monday, 18 April 2016, 1:50 pm

      I say this with the greatest possible respect for INRNG’s work – I’m a long time reader and fan.

      The jokes in these articles are peculiarly sans humour. Structurally, in terms of the constituent parts & mechanics of how a joke works they make perfect sense, but they lack a human spark. They are almost as though someone described the idea of a joke to a computer and these are its well meaning attempts.

      There is clearly appreciation for the jokes below the line which I guess suggests I could be wrong. But, my thesis is that INRNG is either a bot (explaining the incredibly encyclopedic level of knowledge) or is not a native English speaker, and that those enjoying them might not be either native english speakers either, or are perhaps just Americans…

      I don’t say all of this to cause offence, but I’m sure it might, but because this is something that I have been thinking on for a while,

      • AK Monday, 18 April 2016, 2:19 pm

        I’m not a native speaker but nevertheless I reserve the right to strongly disagree. If there is anything un-human about INRNG it’s not his humor. That is of a specific kind that not all may appreciate but it’s very well executed if you ask me. His ability to remain calm and rational in heated debates about doping and corruption, and his refusal to sell out and produce more articles of lower quality with more ads, that’s how you can tell he is not human.

      • BenW Monday, 18 April 2016, 3:05 pm

        I’m a native speaker (English) and I find INRNGs jokes funny, but not so much the ones BTL. It takes all sorts.

      • Kjetil Haaland Monday, 18 April 2016, 8:53 pm

        That’s actually quite funny, alex. INRNG quality, almost.

      • Francisco Tuesday, 19 April 2016, 1:57 am

        There’s more than one type of humor. Inrng’s mostly work by connecting disparate ideas in startling ways – lets call it lateral joking. It is more conceptual than linguistic, and that’s why it can be readily appreciated by non-native speakers.
        Many traditional jokes by contrast have a strong linguistic element, exploiting homonyms, turns of phrase and other expectations of the hearer and work better for native speakers.
        Wasn’t it Voltaire by the way that said puns are the lowest form of humor?

        • Francisco Tuesday, 19 April 2016, 2:03 am

          *homophones*

    • AK Monday, 18 April 2016, 2:07 pm

      Forgot this part in my earlier reply: a mechanical is referred to as ‘materiaalpech’, or simply ‘pech’. Literally that means ‘bad luck’ (‘materiaal’ is used here in its meaning of ‘equipment’, not ‘material’). The same word is used when e.g. your car has problems so it has a strong association with mechanical breakdown, but it can be used for any form of bad luck.
      So in Dutch, a mechanical is bad luck but a crash is a party.

  • Dan Caz Monday, 18 April 2016, 12:55 am

    Was Gerrans in the final selection not working for Mathews again?

    • Matt Monday, 18 April 2016, 1:19 am

      Thats what it looked like to me. Two riders with the same style trying to do the same thing doesnt work. Somebody wasnt following team orders and it backfired.

      • Patrick Monday, 18 April 2016, 4:05 am

        interesting comments from mat white suggesting that matthews should have followed the late moves – seems he was in ideal position. either he didn’t have the legs or thought it was gerrans role to follow moves as would make sense, saving bling for a sprint. regardless, unless matthews was feeling really bad gerrans should have either worked to close the gap or led out to help matthews get 3rd. seems like a repeat of worlds with aussie/oge/gerrans messing up the planning and/or implementation of tactics around this pair.

        to be fair though, there were plenty of other teams with multiple riders in the bunch of 30 odd and nobody organised a chase. nobody else with the same level of riders though so reasonable to put the responsibility on oge. a great team effort until when it really counted.

        • Nicktarios Monday, 18 April 2016, 6:42 am

          I must I thought the same thing regarding Gerrans, in the sense that he’s similar to Matthews but in some ways the mantle has passed and he should have been working. I find it difficult to believe that Matthews couldn’t have covered the Gasparotto move if he had chosen, he followed a withering attack from Gilbert last year in the same situation. And we know how that played out, to me he looked but decided to stay put this year and take his chance it came back together.

          If Gerrans had the legs to come 8th in the bunch sprint he had the legs to pull a bit before/after Vanendert to help Matthews out. He didn’t. You could make a case that Matt White said what he said about the riders not having the legs to pour water on any talk of poor tactical execution or team disorganisation. All speculation of course, maybe Gerrans wasn’t in a position to close the gap due positioning, but if he was then he should have. Mathews is top dog now.

          • Ronan Monday, 18 April 2016, 11:03 am

            I would have to think that last year’s race was running in the back of Matthews’ mind. He didn’t want to close that gap and then have no legs for the sprint. Again.

            I think he was right to sit tight, but OGE missed one final team mate to close that gap or bridge and sit on the wheels.

          • OJT Monday, 18 April 2016, 2:59 pm

            +1. Time is on Matthews’s side. Better to roll in fifth or tenth this year than come second or third. He’s done that before and has the ‘need’ to win, not repeat a podium. Looking forward to Fleche and Liege

  • pax Monday, 18 April 2016, 1:02 am

    Excellent summary.

    Fitting Winner.

    It seems to me that the race is so long and with 34 climbs, that the downhill section leading in to the final turn just neutralizes any reason to try something early.

    Perhaps they can change something … as Inrng suggests.

    Impressive that Tim Wellens ended up 10th… after his HUGE effort.

    • Steve Potts Monday, 18 April 2016, 10:48 am

      Agreed re the run up to the final climb of the Cauberg. The flat run from the top of the Bemerlerberg is almost always windy and hard to keep a gap, and the drop into Valkenberg allows the bunch to make up ground. There are other routes through town to the Cauberg, though they are narrow and winding. It might be interesting to see a change on the run in, or to the earlier parcours as I mentioned above.

  • Alex M Monday, 18 April 2016, 2:32 am

    I’m glad I chose to watch Tro Bro Leon instead. Itwoikd Venice to s e all of my he top teams tackle that lovely & exciting course.

    • J Evans Monday, 18 April 2016, 1:28 pm

      Managed to see both – Mortensen was awesome, doing all the attacks and still winning the sprint. A wet TBL would be something.

  • Hayden Monday, 18 April 2016, 2:44 am

    ‘Wrestling a Saltie’, I like that.

  • Sam Monday, 18 April 2016, 3:03 am

    There was something delightfully excruciating about those last kilometers. Even though or partly because we know exactly what’s going to happen (there are literally two options – late break, or late break gets caught and sprint finish) it’s still one of my favourite races. Watching every big name rider sit up and look at each other as the race disappeared ahead of them, even though they knew exactly what was happening made me angrier at the tv at just after midnight than any other race. But I loved it.

  • D. Monday, 18 April 2016, 4:19 am

    Classy pre-podium interview by the 2-time winner.

    Hope you all got to see it.

    • FlandersFields Monday, 18 April 2016, 12:53 pm

      Great remark.

      Certainly the part: ‘Now it’s all journalists and attention. But tonight she has to go home. Alone’ was really chilling. The Hilaire Vanderschueren interview was very emotional as well. How long has this guy been in the peleton?

      • Steve Potts Monday, 18 April 2016, 1:32 pm

        Just watched the press conference and I have to agree with you – he held himself together well and spoke eloquently. Although the subject matter was obviously very sad it was a privilege to be able to hear a rider speak honestly and from the heart about something which must have been difficult for him.

  • Anonymous Monday, 18 April 2016, 4:49 am

    You wrote, “It was on the way to the Keutenberg that thinks suddenly picked up”, but you probably meant, “It was on the way to the Keutenberg that thinGs suddenly picked up”. Great write-up, and thanks for doing it.

  • DaveS Monday, 18 April 2016, 7:16 am

    Didn’t really enjoy this race. Your write up was much better and I could read it in a few mins LOL. Shame after being so entertained by Roubaix last week. Such is life . . . .

  • Igam Ogam Monday, 18 April 2016, 7:35 am

    “polynesia of traffic islands” 🙂

  • ave Monday, 18 April 2016, 8:48 am

    For the winning moment, I’d have choosen a pic, where Valgren was looking back asking Gasparottto to come forward, which of course did not happen. 🙂

    • J Evans Monday, 18 April 2016, 10:58 am

      Having said that, when Valgren caught up with Gasparotto, he sat on G’s wheel for a long time.
      I think V got his tactics right: he had no chance of beating G, so he ploughed on and made sure he got 2nd. I’m not generally for riding for 2nd, but he’s a young rider so it’s a big result.

  • Anonymous Monday, 18 April 2016, 9:17 am

    Your inclusion of Ulissi among the dropped seem to be a mistake. He was after all 7th in the race.

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 18 April 2016, 9:30 am

      It seems he was off the back but he managed to get back on, like Boasson Hagen too but the Norwegian was then dropped again. It’s part of the difficulty of the race, once dropped you can come back but it uses up energy and you pay later on.

      • AK Monday, 18 April 2016, 10:35 am

        The NOS commentators spotted him in a group of dropped riders but later on commented that they had mistaken a team mate for Ulissi and he was not dropped after all.

  • Richard S Monday, 18 April 2016, 9:30 am

    Felt like a strange B-list finish to the race with a lot of the names expected to feature not there. You’d think the finish of Flèche Wallone would be even more to Gasparotto’s liking so he’ll have to be one of the favourites there, but Valverde will be in town for that I presume?!

  • Sam Monday, 18 April 2016, 10:07 am

    ‘Orica-Greenedge were deploying the tractor beam…’

    Mechanical doping really is getting out of hand, isn’t it?

    • Frank Hovis Monday, 18 April 2016, 11:03 pm

      Ba-dum tish!

  • Kit Monday, 18 April 2016, 10:27 am

    Unmentioned, apparently in the light of Matthews having been the favourite is that Coquard won the sprint for 4th place ahead of him. Great to see his continuing progression.

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 18 April 2016, 10:29 am

      Mentioned above in the piece. Similar to Brabantse Pijl too where Coquard passed Matthews. Coquard was also silver medallist atop the Cauberg in the U23 Worlds.

      • Kit Monday, 18 April 2016, 10:32 am

        Sorry INRNG, I meant in the comments! He must be vying with Ewan for littlest- sprinter awards, no wonder the hills are doable.

    • armando Monday, 18 April 2016, 5:05 pm

      well, I’d say that both lost the sprint for third by Colbrelli

  • J Evans Monday, 18 April 2016, 10:55 am

    I found it strange that Orica were working on the front, making the race harder.
    As they (presumably) want a sprint finish for Matthews wouldn’t it be better to have a large bunch at the finish – in order to bring back any riders who pinged off at the end (as happened)?

    • J Evans Monday, 18 April 2016, 11:00 am

      Gerrans should have been pulling back the two riders at the end too. Orica need to sort this out: what they should have said was Gerrans for LBL, Matthews for Amstel.

  • Ronan Monday, 18 April 2016, 11:07 am

    Another thought is that this race lacked A listers for an ardennes race. Martin and Valverde chose to sit it out. I suppose its seen as too sprinter friendly and crash-prone to risk taking part?

    Just a bit of a shame that there’s only one week of ardennes racing and these guys sit out a third of the races.

    Also, expected more from Gilbert. Would have thought he’d be firing on all cylinders in a contract year….

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 18 April 2016, 11:13 am

      He’s got a broken finger and has to ride with a splint on it and can’t brake as hard as he’d like meaning he loses time on every corner as he has to start braking earlier and go gets passed by others who can slam on the brakes later.

      • Larrick Tuesday, 19 April 2016, 9:28 am

        He spent a bit of timing stretching his back too. I think he may have been riding in a slightly different position which must be hard for that long.

  • AK Monday, 18 April 2016, 11:12 am

    I don’t quite understand why a slightly more long-distance move hardly ever works in this race, while it does work in, say, Flanders or Lombardia. It seems to me that is has more to do with psychology than with the race course. Maybe someone with some actual race experience can explain, but here’s my train of thought: 1: The winding up-down course on narrow roads, with the ‘harmonica-effect’ that results, is a disadvantage for a large bunch. 2:There are a few points in the last 30k that are suited for making a jump 3: If a few big names get up the road and work together it will be very difficult to pull them back 4: Just looking at the last two years it is obvious that neither being the fastest up the Cauberg, nor counting on pulling the one who is back in the final flat stretch and winning in the sprint, is a sure-fire strategy. 5: This opens up the race for a strategy where the pace is driven hard all day, attrition thins down the bunch, a group of favourites escapes on one of the last few climbs and battles it out on the final one.

    But seeing how some of the dropped riders got back in the last 20k it did not look like there were teams aiming at thinning down the bunch as much as possible, which is what you typically see in Flanders or Roubaix. If Wellens had gotten a few big shots along I think the move could have stuck, it was just a bit too much for him alone. There seems to be too much hesitation and defensive riding in this race to make it truly great, but I find it quite hard to tell why that is. If teams would allow a slow enough pace in Flanders to have a sizeable bunch arrive together at the foot of the last Paterberg climb there is no way a sole escapee would survive that last 10 flat km. Is it because the AGR does not have monument status, and there are not enough of the real top riders willing to risk everything for a win?

    • Richard S Monday, 18 April 2016, 11:34 am

      Maybe its the type of riders involved too, to an extent? Teams take puncheurs as their Plan A for these races, riders who by their definition specialise in short burts of acceleration, usually up hills. 20-30 minute TT efforts aren’t their forte and maybe wouldn’t work as effectively as they would for Cancellara or Sagan?! I’m just speculating. Either way, these races are defensive in the extreme.

      • Ecky Thump Monday, 18 April 2016, 11:42 am

        I was just about to type something similar to this.
        Having said that, can you imagine Dumoulin and some assistance in a breakaway? Not a 30k’er, but say 10k to go? Doable?

        • Lord Flasheart Monday, 18 April 2016, 11:54 pm

          I was thinking it might have something to do with the fact that the finish was on/ is just after the Cauberg. That gives too much teams incentive to wait until there. It used to finish in Maastricht and I don’t recall bunch sprints there. To go back to AK, lombardia is different as the climbs are longer, but what I would say: AGR, Fleche Wallone, Milan – San Remo, all have a climb to finish on or close to the finish, so if you are the strongest there you can win it there. And so they always have a large bunch racing up this last obstacle, because the race is kept under control until there.
          Flanders has still some flat to go after the last climb. That means that unless the field is significantly thinned beforehand, you wouldnt stand a chance getting away and staying away there. Hence, you need a war of attrition, so you end up with a just a small group.
          I recall that AGR was more like this with the finish in Maastricht. Hence, moving the finish away from a hill might make the race less predictable

          • J Evans Tuesday, 19 April 2016, 9:45 am

            Yes, it’s the obsession with summit finishes – Vueltaitis as it’s known. Great for a highlights show. Which is why LBL will be so dull on Sunday – again.

    • Pierre-Jean Tuesday, 19 April 2016, 10:06 am

      I think it would help if the DS were brought by journalists to answering for the lack of attrition and all that defensive riding. I see the fans complaining about this poor racing almost everywhere, but the main media do not seem to think this is an issue, and they do not ask many questions about competitive attitudes.

  • Mr K Gorski Monday, 18 April 2016, 12:27 pm

    Mr inrng, masterful write up and as a Pole I appreciate the mushrooming of Mr Kurek greatly 😉

    • David P Monday, 18 April 2016, 2:18 pm

      Hmmm. I took from that comment that this was another one of INRNG’s subtle puns and that Kurek might be Polish for mushroom. Then I typed Kurek into google translate and got a bit of a shock.

      • AK Monday, 18 April 2016, 2:30 pm

        Why? I googled it and it looks like it basically means a stopcock. If that shocks you I would advise against referring to male chickens or certain parts of revolvers. I guess it is derived from the same word as the phonetically related ‘cork’ in English (‘kurk’ in Dutch). The thing you use to close a bottle. In champagne bottles they are mushroom shaped, that would be pretty far fetched.

        • J Evans Monday, 18 April 2016, 2:41 pm

          An interesting titbit (or tidbit for any sensitive American readers).

          • Larry T Monday, 18 April 2016, 3:20 pm

            Sensitive American readers? That made me laugh as they have no problem saying “tit-for-tat” but seem to giggle at things like titmouse, even though it’s a North American bird. Then of course there’s the fanny-pack (belt pack, or marsupio here in Italy) that always gets the Aussies going, same as bonk instead of hunger-knock. I can remember one Australian women having a laugh at that one, going on about “always have a banana for bonking”!

        • Kurek Monday, 18 April 2016, 4:06 pm

          Kurek is a type of mushroom in Poland, hence the joke really is that simple, sorry to disappoint all the conspiracy theorists. P.s. best fried with butter and eaten on toast. The mushroom not the cyclist. Cantharellus cibarius.

          • Ak Monday, 18 April 2016, 9:40 pm

            Right, that makes sense. Clearly Google and the Internet still have some work cut out for themselves before they can truly claim to be the source of all knowledge.

      • David P Monday, 18 April 2016, 11:59 pm

        Ah right, I just clicked translate, saw the 4 letter word and assumed the worst. I’ve lowered the tone somewhat 🙁

  • Joel Simister Monday, 18 April 2016, 3:31 pm

    Nice to see a talented rider like Valgren given a chance rather than being a young dom for Sagan or Contador. More please, Tinkoff.

    • J Evans Monday, 18 April 2016, 3:52 pm

      True, but I see no reason for Sagan not to be in this race – especially as Sep Vanmarcke was up there near the end.

      • Morten Knudsen Monday, 18 April 2016, 7:25 pm

        Sagan should ride through the Ardennes, i think he was 5th or 6th in either Fleche or Amstel a few years ago.
        I have also always regreted that Boonen and Cancelara doesn’t ride the Ardennes – at least Amstel should suit them and they wouldn’t exactly fail at Liege. (im not expecting them to do well at Mur de Huy though) .

        Same thing with GC riders – techical supirior riders with reasonable TT skills like Nibali, Valverde and Fugelsang should be able to do well in both Flanders and Roubaix (Fuglsang actually rode Flanders this year and did ok even though he crash near the end).

        • J Evans Monday, 18 April 2016, 9:09 pm

          Yes, I think most of us would like to see this. I wonder if it is the riders or the teams who are reluctant?
          Gilbert frequently says he wants to do Flanders and Boonen has said he fancies the Ardennes – I really can’t see why they shouldn’t: they might not be favourites, but they’d do ok.
          Already, someone like Benoot is going down the cobbles-only route, despite doing well in LBL U23 races – and he said that was the team’s decision.

          • irungo txuletak Tuesday, 19 April 2016, 11:34 am

            I think Boonen fancies the Ardennes to train, but not to race. But yes, I think this guy could have done even more than what he did in his career. He surely was able to win Amstel (at least). Ditto for Cancelara. The problem here is specialisation and peaking.
            Gilbert is one the last riders who has been competitive both in Flanders and in Ardennes. I think his team mate GVA could do well in both types of races, too. (If I remember well he was good in LBL some years ago).
            And to finish this, I am also concerned by the way Benoot’s carreer is taking. Cobbled race only for a potential allrounder as him would be a pity.

          • Richard S Tuesday, 19 April 2016, 12:04 pm

            Amstel and Flanders are very similar in most respects when you think about it. A twisty turny route repeating short sharp hills in a largely flat region with a lot of narrow roads and battles for position. The key differences being that obviously the majority of the climbs in Flanders are cobbled and at Amstel the finish is very close to the top of a hill. But you’d think what works well at one would also work at the other. Certainly you’d think Sagan, Gilbert and van Avarmaet could do well in both, because they have. Therefore Stybar, Trentin, Thomas etc could also. There’s nothing stopping them all doing well at Lombardia either, especially the Bergamo finish.

        • armando Tuesday, 19 April 2016, 8:13 am

          Sagan was third in Amstel 2012, 12th in Flèche 2013, he won Brabantse Pijl 2013

      • Nicktarios Tuesday, 19 April 2016, 2:19 am

        He’s been up for a while though, all through the cobbled classics part of the season. You can’t perform at a high level forever. I do agree if accumulated fatigue wasn’t an issue one year, he would be in the finish up to his ears.

      • Ferdi Tuesday, 19 April 2016, 8:09 am

        Really, Matthews has not proved to be better than Sagan at anything. If Matthews was considered a contestant, all the more should Sagan, even a week after a tough Roubaix, if he put his mind to it. Even Cancellara could have been a contender on a good day. Maybe Amstel and Roubaix should swap dates.

  • irungo txuletak Monday, 18 April 2016, 6:49 pm

    How can the ardennes races be so borign when the cobbled races are so entertaining? It is the same as every year. And yesterday’s Amstel was one of the most defensive I have ever seen. it seemed to me that the only ones who really tried an attack on the Cauberg were the one that made it to the line. The others just looked at each other… A special mention for Orica: I think one of the two leaders had to be in the moves while the other one sat tight, or at least make one ride for the other. Ununderstable.

    • Ferdi Tuesday, 19 April 2016, 8:16 am

      A matter of attitude: cobble-eaters are aggressive and like to select the race at every occasion. Ardennes specialists seem to only think of not letting any rival take advantage of ther slipstream, hence getting no air in their faces (and expecting this to be normal) during the whole day. That’s why cobble-specialists would be so welcome in the Ardennes (but not as domestiques, like poor, humiliated Vanmarcke, working for Robert what’s his name and Wilco who).