Peter Sagan takes strong fourth after punishing Amstel Gold Race parcours
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 UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, one of them after his BORA-hansgrohe teammates had worked hard to keep him safe over the day’s 261km distance. However, after a flurry of late attacks in the closing kilometres, Peter was just out of contention in the finale, taking fourth as the first of the second group to cross the line, ending his successful Classics season with a top five finish.
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.
The Team Tactics
While the UCI World Champion had taken his first victory at Paris-Roubaix a week ago, the course at the Amstel Gold Race is very different from that of north-eastern France. As in previous races though, the aim would be to control the pace early on before ramping things up ahead of the finale to go for the win. Riding the race for the first time, Pascal Ackermann would be instrumental in keeping things together at the start, along with Cesare Benedetti, while Gregor Mühlberger, Patrick Konrad and Jay McCarthy would be focusing on preventing attacks and to be in the right position to follow if the chance arises. For the finale, German National Champion, Marcus Burghardt will take on his usual role of keeping Peter Sagan safe, before letting the UCI World Champion take his chances at the finish.
The flag dropped to start the day and it didn’t take long for a break to form. The jagged look of the route map clearly didn’t put off the escapees, with the advantage going out to more than fifteen minutes before the peloton was spurred on to bring their lead back under control. As always, the strength of the BORA-hansgrohe riders was the driving force in reducing the gap, bringing the lead down under ten minutes and then with less than 50km remaining, to just 2:30. A crash involving Jay McCarthy meant that Peter was without a valuable teammate in the finale, as the Australian rider had planned to support Peter by attacking close to the finish. With 18km remaining, the race really came to life, as the attacks came and the scent of the finish line filling their noses, the contenders sprung into action. The UCI World Champion was among this group of twelve, the renewed vigour in this small group brought the remnants of the breakaway into view and was passed with ease a little after crossing the finish line for the final lap of the finishing circuit. After the dust had settled from multiple attacks, there were two groups on the road, with three riders on the front and Peter’s group just out of touch behind, the Slovak rider taking fourth position as the first of the chasing group to cross the line.
01 M.Valgren 6:40:07
02 R.Kreuziger +0:00
03 E.Gasparotto +0:02
04 P.Sagan +0:19
05 A.Valverde. +0:19
From the Finish Line
“It was a tough Amstel Gold Race with a very strong pace from the start. The breakaway managed to build a very big gap and was brought in, but that required a strong effort. In the final 20km there was a split and a selection in the group and I was right there in the front. I had good sensations but I think that last week's Paris-Roubaix could still be felt in my legs. Nevertheless, I finished fourth and, in my view, the overall assessment of my Classics campaign is good.” – Peter Sagan
"The team put a great effort in first part of the race and its hard work was crucial to close the gap of 15 minutes the breakaway had managed to build. Peter had a strong race as well but, unfortunately, we didn't fully support him in the last 40km, where he had to work hard and close many gaps by himself. He was in the chasing group, just a few seconds behind the leaders but he wasn't able to bridge the gap. Still, he took a strong fourth place in the end. Overall, it was a hard Amstel Gold Race with a really high pace in the finale." – Jens Zemke, sports director