A thrilling finish to the men’s Amstel Gold race on Sunday saw Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Ineos Grenadiers) narrowly edge out Benoit Cosnefroy (AG2R Citroen Team) for the win. The Frenchman was left heartbroken as he was denied not on the line, but after it, as a tighter than tight finish photo overturned the initial belief - and an oral instruction given in error - that Cosnefroy had taken it. For Kwiatkowski, his first win since the 2020 Tour de France, which came after an illness-interrupted early season, brought only elation.
Neither Kwiatkowski nor Cosnefroy had been among the main favourites 253km earlier, which was perhaps why it was they who were able to slip away in the closing kilometres of the race.
It had been at the initiation of Kwiatkowski himself, on the Keutenberg, that an elite selection of eleven had broken away from the rest of the bunch. As the only team with more than a single rider in that group, Ineos Grenadiers found itself with a significant advantage. Through the final 30km, Kwiatkowski’s team-mate and the second favourite for the race, Tom Pidcock, was in a position to do less than others, save his legs for the sprint that never came.
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With everyone watching him, Mathieu van der Poel was left with it all to do. Although few will forget his extraordinary performance in 2019, in which he dragged an entire train of riders to the finish, on Sunday he did not have the legs to repeat the feat.
Before the tense last 10% of the race, there was an attritional 90%.

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A seven-strong group, made up of a mixture of World and ProTour riders, though none from the favourites’ team, made it away early on. Twenty kilometres later that group was reduced by a seventh, as Davide Gabburo (Bardiani–CSF–Faizanè) dropped back to the bunch.
Over the bergs of the Dutch Ardennes, the sextet rode strongly and cooperated well, even as they must have known they had an infinitesimal chance of being there at the business end of proceedings. No rider from the early break had won Amstel Gold Race since 1988.
Behind, the work was being done by the teams of the favourites, Ineos Grenadiers and Alpecin Fenix. By the half-way point in the race they had allowed the break’s lead to extend to a little over four minutes.
Just ten kilometres later, with the steep slopes taking their toll, that was down to three. With just under a century of riding left it was nearer one minute.

Poland's Micha? Kwiatkowski drinks beer as he celebrates his victory on the podium of the 56th Amstel Gold Race 2022 on April 10, 2022 in Valkenburg. - Netherlands OUT (Photo by ERIC LALMAND / ANP / AFP) / Netherlands OUT (Photo by ERIC LALMAND/ANP/AFP vi

Image credit: Getty Images

That significant reshaping of the race inspired two riders, Victor Campenaerts (Lotto Soudal) and Nathan Van Hooydonck (Team Jumbo Visma) to take it upon themselves to bridge over. Their arrival brought new legs and motivation and the lead went back up again.
With the pace increasing each climb, though topographically much the same as the last, had an accumulative effect on riders legs and heads. The inflicter and the inflicted suffered alike.
The second trip up the Gulperbergweg, which came with one fifth of the race remaining, proved especially caustic. Gradients into the high teens caused riders to fall away in all parts of the race. On its descent Nathan Van Hooydonck misjudged a corner, and although he managed to avoid a complete catastrophic interaction with a car, did not do enough to remain with the leaders.
Into the final 50 and the riders of Ineos Grenadiers took charge. Youngster Ben Turner rode for mile after mile on the front. His goal was to isolate Van der Poel. His successfully accomplished it. While he could not eliminate Van der Poel himself, his effort had a visible effect on the home favourite, as he kept falling back down the line and had to do all the work to bring himself back up again.
On the Keutenberg, with 34.5km remaining, Kwiatkowski raised the level once again. The peloton was reduced to “a group of favourites” with Van der Poel “lucky” to be among the selection.

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There was a lull in the conflict over the next dozen kilometres, as the eleven worked together to solidify their lead over the chasers. With the final ascent of the Cauberg looming, often a launchpad for winning moves in this race, it could only ever be brief.
Not quite then, but not far from there, was where Kwiatkowski made his move. Although not quite able to relax, Tom Pidcock could certainly sit back while those around him wondered who was going to chase.
The answer was Benoit Cosnefroy (AG2R Citroen). Cosnefroy was careful not to take anyone with him, though, and made it across to the experienced rider on his own. That was perfect for the Pole who, with his team-mate behind, could afford to play the Frenchman like a fiddle. He did his time on the front, pushing for the win, no doubt, but Kwiatkowski had two cards in his hand, his ally only one.
With the chasers passing the buck, and the road running out, the duo’s advantage was at one stage as high as 35 seconds. Into the final ten, Adam Blythe on commentary assessed that the riders behind were watching Van der Poel, but the Dutchman did not have the legs. “These riders they have to attack. They need to get away if they can,” Blythe observed.
With 2km remaining Van der Poel tried something but it was not much more than nothing. Kasper Asgreen tried one of his own, which drew the larger group closer, but which never looked like being enough.

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On paper, a two-up drag race favoured Kwiatkowski. He had competed in - and won - more of them than Cosnefroy. Kwiatkowski kept him in front as they passed the signs marking 500m to the line, then 250m. A sharp weave across the road and Cosnefroy launched his sprint. Kwiatkowski maintained missile lock, came round him on the left, at which point they both seemed to stall. Cosnefroy found something more, accelerated again, and Kwiatkowski threw his bike at the line.
From a front-on slow motion replay it looked like Cosnefroy had it, but neither rider was sure, and both were kept waiting. Radio Tour told the Frenchman that he had, indeed, won the race, before viewers around the world saw the photo finish which denied him in the cruellest of ways.
Tiesj Benoot crossed the line ten seconds after the pair to round out the podium.
“I learned a little bit from last year, you have to wait for euphoria,” said Kwiatkowski afterwards. “I still can’t believe it would come up again as a photo finish. Being here is just incredible. I love this race and after all the bad moments I’ve had this year, with Covid and previously with flu, [which left me] unable to follow my race programme, to be here now as the winner of Amstel Gold Race, that’s just incredible.”

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“It’s not only about this race,” the winner added. “I think I’ve proved to myself that I have to be patient. Sooner or later, the victory and the performance will come.”
Speaking immediately after crossing the line, Mathieu van der Poel effectively attributed his own result to being such a strong favourite:
“I didn’t have the legs to react to everybody, so I just gambled, and it didn’t work out today,” Van der Poel said.
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