The Take out - Amstel gold
1. Astana’s Team Chemistry – There’s been heap of rumours about how integral “chemistry” is to Team Astana, but it was the other sort of chemistry that won them Amstel. With two men in the final selection, they had a great chance of winning, even if neither Fuglsang or Valgren were going to beat Sagan, Alaphilippe or Valverde in a sprint. They were calm, attacked three or four times each and finally, Valgren got away
2. The Race Organisers – It was a big call to take the iconic Cauberg out of the finale, even if the race was becoming predictable; you wouldn’t take Lindsay Lohan out of Mean Girls, would you? But two years in a row now, Amstel’s been one of the most watchable races of the year, with the action kicking off 25-30km from the end. It really started when one of the Izagirre brothers (don’t ask which one) jumped off the front into the Keutenberg, and never ceased being fun from then onwards.
3. Procrastination - I’m a big fan of procrastinating (just ask my uni assignments), but it was a ballsy move by the peloton to give the group in front 15 and a half minutes worth of fresh air. Normally at the classics, the break gets five minutes or so, as the big teams are too scared to mess it up. 15 and a half minutes was insane. It was Stage 14 of le tour type stuff. Using Phil and Paul’s time-proven rule of one minute taking 10km to chase down, it wasn’t that surprising that they nearly made it to the end of the race… A few of the guys even mixed it in the finale like Lawson Craddock who finished ninth or Oscar Riesebeek who came home in 21st after being very active in the run-in to the finale.
An underrated part of Amstel – Eurosport televised the final hour of the Women’s Amstel Gold before they crossed to the Men's’ race. More races need to start doing that.
Great to see Simon Geschke back racing after his broken collarbone - he’ll be a big support for Michael Matthews this week
Amstels’ podium always provides a great money shot with the post-race adult beverages. The race is sponsored by Amstel Beer company, and if you’re wondering if their beer is any good, the website says it has a “distinctive and mildly bitter taste”, while it’s got an average customer rating of 4.8/5 on the Dan Murphy’s website – go and buy some to drink while watching Liege and Fleche.
Tough luck today for Michael Matthews, puncturing just as the final stanza of the race was kicking off. Bling had a pretty interrupted spring, not racing much, but at Pais Vasco he went hard, trying to find some form for this week. He’ll ride well at Liege, but Amstel was his best chance for a win.
- The new course changes have made it clear that Amstel is now a properly tough race
- It's a big ask to be flying all spring
- Amstel is Philippe Gilbert’s race to win as much as anyone else with four wins in his career, and he was slightly off.
- Greg Van Avermaet found himself in the group behind the main contenders when the action kicked off and ended up rolling in with Gilbert
- Niki Terpstra didn’t finish
- While those guys all raced Roubaix, Valgren had the week off and looked in far better shape than the rest.
- There isn’t a hard enough hill for Valverde to hurt his competition at Amstel - he won’t have that problem at Fleche - the Mur de Huy is as hard as it gets.
- Tim Wellens is itching for a big win. Yeah sure, Brabantse Pijl is a decent sized race, but he’s got his eyes on bigger things. Fleche might be in his wheelhouse if he can hold his attacks until the final climb.
See you back at the social club,