The Moment The Race Was Won: Amstel Gold Race

With 7km to go Roman Kreuziger ditches his breakaway companions to ride away for a solo win in the Amstel Gold Race. We expected a Slovak and got a Czech.

In a season of classics so far dominated by the favourites, this was a surprise result and a reward for attacking riding.

The course might have changed but traditions don’t. As usual an early breakaway went and it broke apart over time as the distance and speed took their toll. Tim De Troyer (Accent Jobs-Wanty), Alexandre Pliuschin (IAM), Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel), Arthur Van Overberghe (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Johan Vansummeren (Garmin-Sharp) got away first with Nicolas Vogondy (Accent Jobs) and Klaas Sys (Crelan-Euphony) bridging across. They took 11 minutes’ lead at one point.

But in time only Astarloza, Vansummeren and Pliuschin made it to the final 50km and soon Astarloza took off solo. Vansummeren and Pliuschin tried to chase, Pliuschin had a broken front mech and was could only use the 39T inner ring. Vansummeren’s efforts won him the Herman Krott trophy as the day’s most aggressive rider.

The race sped through Gulpen, the right kind of name for a race sponsored by a brewery no? By now the riders were gulping for air. The Amstel is a race where the maths is simple: 34 climbs in 390 minutes means one climb every 11 minutes. For sure each effort isn’t long and not every climb is a sprint but this is a hill rep session with as many vertical metres as an Alpine stage of the Tour or Giro.

As ever selection in this race often happens via the back with riders dropped on the climbs and the less fortunate crashing out. Andy Schleck was down and out. Thomas Voeckler got a broken collarbone meaning he’ll be pulling faces at home for some time. Philippe Gilbert was involved but escaped injury. Later Joaquim Rodriguez went offroad and was out with injuries that could cost him in the days to come. This is just to list a few big names, many others crashed.

But for the intense effort and chaotic crashes the landscape looked so tidy. At times the course resembled a municipal version of the Ikea catalogue, orderly roads packed with neat street furniture designed to contain untidy motorists. But the bunch was immune to the traffic calming measures.

With 37km to go Pieter Weening (Orica-Greenedge) took off on the Eyserbosweg and was soon joined Andrey Grivko (Astana) and Blanco pair David Tanner and Petter Nordhaug. It meant we had a Dutchman on an Australian team and two non-Dutchmen on a Dutch team in the lead along with Astarloza dressed in orange, the Dutch national colour. Just who did the big crowds cheer?

Talking of colour a brief effort by Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Merida) saw a flash of pink, blue and lime green. The TV producers helpfully beamed up an on-screen graphic to remind us who the Italian was. But Cunego was stuck between the break and the bunch and reeled in. Onto the Cauberg and Weening and Co. had 27 seconds with Cannondale leading the bunch. It was here that Roman Kreuziger (Team Saxo-Tinkoff) jumped, taking Damiano Caruso (Katusha) and Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM). The trio joined the four up the road to make seven although Astarloza was cooked. Behind what looked like Peter Velits (OPQS) had sat up and so his OPQS team started to chase.

The breakaway rode up the Bemelerberg and Grivko was the first to attack, he was chased by Nordhaug and… dropped, with Marcato going out of the back door too. This showed how disparate the group was and it Kreuziger who did the damage. A strong climber, powerful in time trials, this was not a speculative move but a purposeful attack and he left the others in the break trailing.

You can see from the photo above that Kreuziger is in a tuck and turning on the power. Behind Weening is chasing but upright style, his head above his shoulders, his jersey open and his hands on the hoods. Caruso’s pain is visible via the white teethed grimace whilst Nordhaugg is one of those riders who turns his head to the side when things get painful.

Further back the bunch was not working as hard. OPQS were leading but the pace allowed Ryder Hesjedal to take a flyer. The Giro winner bridged across to the group up the road. The Canadian is looking strong but with Kreuziger further ahead, this was no more than a demonstration of strength. Because if it was one thing to bridge across to the group up the road, it would be another to pass them and catch Kreuziger.

But what if Hesjedal didn’t know what was going up the road? Certainly TV commentators weren’t getting much information from race radio. It looked as if the producers had bought a high speed camera earlier this week and were proudly showing it off with all sorts of high speed shots. Look a cyclist cornering! A rider sweating! In fact these production techniques were being used to mask problems with the outside broadcast and lost signals, a way to fill time until the moto cameras were working again.

Into the final corner before the Cauberg and the televisual uncertainty was still there. Kreuziger was away… but by how much? When the bunch the gap could be timed and the Czech had just 25 seconds, far from a decisive lead. Until this race Sagan had finished no lower than second place in a one day race this year. But the Slovak had no reply to Gilbert’s searing acceleration on the Cauberg. The Belgian went earlier than his winning move in the Valkenberg Worlds last year and left many hesitating. Simon Gerrans and Alejandro Valverde both jumped with him. Over the top of the climb the world champion persisted solo before realising he could not repeat last year’s efforts. Was Gilbert’s move too early? Perhaps it was too confident but it was the only solution possible. Ahead Roman Kreuizger had won.

Kreuziger Part II
The 26 year old has been touted as a champion since his junior years but hasn’t lived up to the expectations reflected in the gold of his junior world champion medal. A win in the 2008 Tour de Suisse, a stage of the Giro last year, he’s had other wins and placings too but hasn’t emerged into the threat many suspected after his early years. There have been lows, for example he was the USADA investigation published testimony by Leonardo Bertagnolli as a client of Dr Ferrari in the past. It’s probably something he wants to forget… but do those who follow the sport also forget this?

If you want to “move on”, let’s lighten the tone with talk of beer. Kreuziget got to sample some Amstel on the podium. He is from the Czech Republic and hails, appropriately for this beer-sponsored race, from near Plzeň, the place that gave the world Pilsener beer. But these days home is Bardolino on the shores of Lake Garda. Still, he retains a taste for beer, even during the season:

A new cast of characters
Just as the sun came out to warm the race, we got to see the riders who will be shining from spring into summer. Kreuziger’s landed a big win here and won’t get so much room for manoeuvre in Liège-Bastogne-Liège next week, but he’s looking strong for the Ardennes and beyond into the Alps, whether the Tour de Romandie or the Giro.

Was the new circuit any better?
We got an attacking race and the win came from a breakaway, what more do you want? But whether this was the circuit or the riders is less obvious. In the last 15km we saw Cannondale, BMC and OPQS try to chase but they ran out of manpower. By contrast there were no shortage of fans and the crowd on the Cauberg got to see Kreuziger attack and, a lap later, ride solo on his way to the finish line. What was telling is that the “sprint” finish saw a range of riders in the mix, meaning this finish seems to suit an all-rounder rather than a sprinter. Next year’s too far away but for now the course change works.

1 Roman Kreuziger, Team Saxo – Tinkoff CZE 6:35:21
2 Alejandro Valverde, Movistar Team ESP + 0:00:22
3 Simon GerransOrica – Greenedge AUS s.t.
4 Michał Kwiatkowski, Omega Pharma – Quick Step POL s.t.
5 Philippe Gilbert, BMC Racing Team BEL s.t.
6 Sergio Henao, Sky Pro Cycling COL s.t.
7 Bjorn Leukemans, Vacansoleil – DCM Pro Cycling Team BEL s.t.
8 Pieter Weening, Orica – Greenedge NED s.t.
9 Enrico Gasparotto, Astana Pro Team ITA s.t.
10 Bauke Mollema, Blanco Pro Cycling NED s.t.

36 Peter Sagan, Cannondale, + 0:00:57

It was a lively race but only came alive in the final 40kms with Weening’s move. But that’s the TV perspective, inside the bunch riders were fighting for place, climbing, descending and turning all the time.

47 thoughts on “The Moment The Race Was Won: Amstel Gold Race”

  1. The TV showed the expression of Ryder when he reached the chasers. He shook his head on desparation. Instead of working together to catch Kreuziger, they were looking at each other. Great race! I always love it when an outsider wins. A great ride by Astaloza too.

  2. New circuit makes the race more open. We’ve got great race with breakaways, pursuits and fantastic finish.

    Michał Kwiatkowski once again proven himself as great talent. I hope that Omega will know what to do with his talent.

    INRNG you should consider writing something about him 😉

  3. That was a great ride by Kreuziger. It’s not often a climber would get a gap on something as gentle as the top of the Bemelerberg but it was a tough race in windy conditions so they were tired and he timed it well.
    When he got into TT mode and the chasers started looking around there was still a lot to do but he was solid on the Cauberg and there was a tailwind to push him home.

  4. It’s not the first time that the NOS messes up the coverage of the Amstel Gold Race. Of course their commentators are always complaining about the coverage of other races, but when it happens during AGR they claim ‘technical difficulties like this are unavoidable’. They better admit that with just one Classic in the Netherlands (and no other races of any importance) they just lack the expertise and hire the technical people from the VRT, who always do an excellent, although sometimes too Boonen-centric, job.

    Great performances by Kreuziger, Weening and Astarloza. My guess is that L-B-L will see a lot more of early attacks by that type of rider, instead of them just waiting to be slaughtered by Gilbert, Sagan or Valverde. Even the big teams like BMC seem to lack the ability to really control the race and Cannondale looked extremely weak as a team. At a certain point they had just two riders left chasing the Astarloza/Vansummeren group.

    • The same team did the Olympics too. There’s a real problem in production with the lack of race information in time gaps and the composition of breakaways. It’s not the end of the world, just something that could be improved.

  5. Had i not watched this Race on Eurosport , today , i would have been able to visualise the action as a result of your report ! BRAVO !

    Agree with your summation of the TV ” stills “!

    Many will now be aware that the ” Muppet Show (Cycling Ireland )” fell victim to phat mc splat’s dishonesty on Friday ! @paulkimmage , @ttworldchamp & many other Irish , have disowned their decision with derision .

    Whilst this was about to take place the ” U niversally C orruptly I ncompetents ” using the left foot , kicked ” Rule 1.2.019 ” into 2014 and with the right foot stuffed in their mouth , revisited the 2001 Tour de Suisse samples ! Since the Synthetic EPO was below 80% , u..c..i.. , say this is NOT a COVERUP , further they asked USADA & WADA , to agree !

    WADA & USADA on friday , asked phat to supply MORE samples , so now there will be a NEW 3 Ring CIRCUS kicking off any time soon !

  6. Well,as proven by Cancellara and now Kreuziger: TrainingCamps on the Canary Islands do work in fact,you just have to choose the right isle…and stay down to earth rather than sky-high maybe…

  7. ” we had a Dutchman on an Australian team and two non-Dutchmen on a Dutch team in the lead along with Astarloza dressed in orange, the Dutch national colour.”


  8. ‘Thomas Voeckler got a broken collarbone meaning he’ll be pulling faces at home for some time.’
    Awesome! Lol! Can imagine him in front of the mirror practicing his fake I-am-tired look and showing how he can lick his own adam’s apple while climbing!

    By the way, big congrats to Kreuziger! One of the most enjoyable races so far in 2013!

    • Sorry to see Vockler hurt (any rider for that matter) but I too am sick of his grimaces, antics, and TV time. I hear he is notorious for not working on a break and then attacking the break to win the race. And that when someone does that to him he lets the other rider have it at the finish. The balls. Bored with BS like that in cycling even if I know it is part of the sport. Take a rest Tommy.

    • I remember it from the Worlds last year, did the TT course go through Gulpen? But we can’t mention rival brands during the Amstel 😉

      Although I suspect Gulpener’s annual production is a tiny percentage of Heineken.

  9. The other production issues aside, I rather liked the super slomo. On a better produced race, it could be a nice – and undoubtedly dramatic – addition to race coverage…

  10. Great report! And good to see the attack rewarded. Gulpen, by the way, has its own brewery. It’s called Gulpener, a small brewery that has gone all biological (organic) in recent years.

  11. It seems like those hideous aero helmets are having no impact on the classics – 1 podium place so far for a wearer of a ridiculous lid?

      • I though Magnus Backstedt made a good point on the Eurosport commentary today.

        Riders spend a year or two working to up their average power output by 15 or 20 watts, so if you could get that benefit by simply putting on a helmet, even if it’s ugly, why wouldn’t you?

          • IIRC Giro claims a power saving of ~5 W @ 40 km/h with an Air Attack compared with an Aeon. Even in the pack your head is pretty exposed to the wind, no?
            5W @ 40 km/h becomes 25W @ 80 km/h. What if those 25W you didn’t have to win the superfast sprint came free with the helmet you wore?

          • The thing I find most odd about the Air Attack helmet is that most new kit the pros use is stuff that their sponsor wants them to use, in order to sell more of it.
            I don’t imagine that shimano 11sp is very much better or different than 10sp – the upper and lower range on the bike will be the same, so its a marginal gain like the helmets. The whole 11sp change from Shimano is a strategic marketing move – and they’ll sell 11sp groupsets to millions of everyday cyclists who want the newest, coolest, shiniest kit that the pros use.
            I just can’t see that being the case with the aero helmets – at least not the Giro one. As much as weekend warrior types love marginal gains, they also like to look cool on a bike. The day I see a single Giro air attack on a weekend group ride, I’ll be absolutely amazed.

          • @Scott

            I guess as new people come to the sport, they start emulating the Pros, and whatever they or the Pros are wearing becomes ‘cool’. Give it a couple of years, and there’ll be a Velominati rule declaring helmets with holes in them to be ‘not Pro’.

          • For me it makes commercial sense, first get people to buy a helmet, now get them to buy two. One for hot days or normal riding and then a second one for cold days or when speed matters.

            It’s probably a matter of time until we get more shoes designed for different conditions etc 😉

        • Backstedt, like Millar in the WC RR last year, was excellent for me. Maybe it’s just the new anecdotes but more reecently retired riders seem to have much more to contribute than the same old stories from the eighties told in a drawling irish accent. I’m not knocking his racing record, but Sean Kelly doesn’t have much to say for me (“Oh yeah, they’re going real hard now”, “Playing the waiting game” and “Doing the calculation”).

  12. I really liked the new course as it differentiates the race from the other Ardennes classsics. As much as I love the finish at Huy I do not like that in essence the race is decided at the last km…

  13. Where is the “This was the moment the race was won.” statement!?

    haha just giving you a hard time, unfortunately I only got out of bed in time to see Ryder make his foray, agree with the earlier comment it seemed like the group that he caught was more concerned with each other than Kreuziger!

  14. An excellent and exciting race. I found myself rooting for Mikael even when he was caught. 🙁

    Personally, I prefer the finish at the top of the Cauberg.

    Heard Maggy on Eurosport talk about he felt RK could win L-B-L but not FW. Why not? Can anyone shed some light on his observation ?

    • The Flèche Wallonne has such a steep finish that it tends to suit riders with a good acceleration and sprint on the steep slopes. Kreuziger is more of a steady rider, he can ride fast but changes of pace are harder compared to the likes of Rodriguez.

  15. Bit late but don’t you think it was a bit harsh giving the combativity to Van Summeren, not Astarloza.

    He was in the same break and then did another 40km solo, and stayed with the group that caught him for a while too.

    On the coverage/organisation, it wasn’t just the camera issues, they took ages to get the places confirmed and listed on screen, and then they put Meersman instead of Kwiatkowski. No doubt the TV and race organisers will point at each other for being at fault, but in a race sponsored by a brewery you have to just be grateful they weren’t also organising a piss-up.

  16. Yeah, that video feed was all sorts of poorly done.

    If I wasn’t watching a pirated video feed, I might actually complain….

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