World Champion Michal Kwiatkowski of Etixx-Quick Step outfoxed the dozen contenders for the final sprint to win a cagey edition of the Amstel Gold Race. BMC had the firepower on the front as an attack from Philippe Gilbert created the separation over the Cauberg, but Greg Van Avermaet couldn't finish it off. Nor could Michael Matthews of Orica-GreenEdge, seemingly the fastest man in the finale and a rider looking very strong in hauling in Gilbert, the former three-time winner, but he had no answer when Kwiatkowski launched his sprint. Nor could Alejandro Valverde of Movistar, who had bridged across to Matthews and Gilbert, and remained for second in the sprint, just ahead of Matthews.
The race won't be remembered for its attacking action. Vincenzo Nibali bridged up to Tony Martin on the Eyserbosweg, eventually forming the leading group with Simon Clarke and David Tanner (who ignited the attacks of the day), gaining 32 seconds on the peloton as they came to the Cauberg for the penultimate time. Diego Rosa and Damiano Caruso were briefly along til sliding out in a fast corner. BMC and Movistar took primary responsibility for chasing the Nibali group, and managed to haul them in with 16 km. But Nibali had fight left in his legs, and Clarke relaunched with him to escape alone heading into the Bemelerberg, where he was tracked down at last. Jakob Fuglsang of Astana and Greg Van Avermaet departed the peloton after cresting the Bemelerberg and opened up a lead with 7km to go, but Van Avermaet refused to help the attack succeed, reeling in the Dane for his teammate Gilbert. It was all in for the Cauberg today.
For Kwiatkowski, the win is his first notable victory in the Rainbow Jersey, always a major milestone in the cycling season given the difficulties riders have had defending the World Champion's honor in recent times. Kwiatkowski had won the Paris-Nice prologue, but of course as a time trial he wasn't wearing his rainbow stripes that day. Today was not only the first such win for the Pole, but a milestone in its own right as one of the three Ardennes classics. He has two previous top-five finishes, and a reputation for smart racing, with a decent sprint to him as well. The victory is also the first major event for the team in April, a month where they expect to shine but where they have found their fortunes dashed on the rocks so far this year. Winning Amstel Gold will salve some wounds in the Quick Step camp tonight.
- Michal Kwiatkowski, Etixx-Quick Step
- Alejandro Valverde, Movistar
- Michael Matthews, Orica-GreenEdge
- Rui Costa, Lampre
- Greg Van Avermaet, BMC
- Tony Gallopin, Lotto-Soudal
- Julien Alaphilippe, Etixx-Quick Step
- Enrico Gasparotto, Wanty Groupe Goubert
- Maciej Paterski, CCC
- Philippe Gilbert, BMC