Here we go again! The Amstel Gold Race is really getting their money’s worth out of the photo finish. Different year same result. When I say same result, I refer to the margin of victory. Ineos is certainly glad the same result didn’t literally materialize. Much like last year the British team had a rider fight for victory until the last centimeters of the race. Unlike last year, they actually came out on top of the 2022 Amstel Gold Race. Former world champion (and perennially underutilized) Michal Kwiatkowski claimed his second Amstel and the first for British team.
The rider and team that replaced Ineos as the unfortunate party of the photo finish result was Benoit Cosnefroy of AG2R Citroen. The talented Frenchman had to accept another silver medal in WT classics, after the 2020 Fleche Wallone. That second place was surely more palatable for him given that he never really challenged Marc Hirschi for victory. Yesterday, though, he celebrated as he crossed the line only to be denied by the photo finish. Certainly a crushing defeat especially since the 2022 Amstel Gold Race would have been the most notable victory of his career.
As we discussed in the preview of the race, the new route would make the race way more tactical than before, which happened. Kwiatkowski’s move 22km from the finish ended up deciding the race, even if at the moment it felt kind of inconsequential. Cosnefroy bridged from the group of chasers to the Polish rider in front and the duo battled for victory.
In my opinion, one of the most underutilized riders in the peloton. He has the ability to win most races on the calendar, from classics to stage races. Only the Grand Tours are outside of the former world champion’s wheelhouse, and even there he has proven he can win stages and be instrumental as a domestique. In another team I think his career would have gone very differently and he would be seen as one of the greatest riders of his generation.
It’s impossible to fault him for the choice that he made though, seeing as I doubt many riders would have chosen the possibility of individual success over the perks that Ineos provides. Still, it seems obvious that a rider of Kwiatkowski’s ability can’t win one race in almost 4 years. Before yesterday’s Amstel Gold Race, the Polish rider’s only win since August 2018 was the memorable stage 18 of the 2020 Tour de France, in which Richard Carapaz and himself embraced as they crossed the finish line.
His tremendous work as a domestique within Ineos will always be remembered. Of course, he is much more than just his wins (which are superb, by the way). But seeing a rider like that hamstrung by team tactics since he was 27 years old… It doesn’t sit well with me.
What Julian Alaphilippe is to the world is what Cosnefroy is to France. All 12 of his victories have come in French soil, including last year’s Bretagne Classic, a WT level French classic. This was his first and, so far, only WT level victory. One can say though, with relatively certainty, that there will be plenty more. The 26-year-old Frenchman is probably the best classics’ racer in France right now and should only now be getting into his prime.
We obviously know who the best French classics’ rider is. He has the rainbow jersey to prove it. But Cosnefroy is a two-time Coupe de France champion (2019, 2020), a competition that measures success in the most important French classics during a season. Last year he focused more on the major international classics, but he still placed 5th in that ranking while showing promise outside of his home country. I’m convinced that, in 5 years, this will be but a minor disappointment in a career filled with success.
Mathieu Van Der Poel
I wrote that I would take him over the field in the Tour of Flanders but that I wouldn’t do the same here. Sadly for the Dutchman, that proved true. Riding the final part of the Amstel without teammates makes it very difficult for a marked man such as Van Der Poel to be successful. In the Flanders he left everybody but Pogacar behind. The Amstel simply isn’t as tough which makes leaving everybody behind before the last 20km a nearly impossible task. He was the best of the rest which is as good a result as he could have hoped for given how the race played out. As a superstar cyclist you’re going to win more than your competition but you’re still going to lose more often than you win. He probably as the strongest yesterday. But that unofficial law of cycling prevailed.
I think I wrote in the beginning of the year that I thought the Australian’s best years were behind him. Being 4th in a group of 8 riders in a sprint isn’t brilliant. I expected him to be there at the end in one of the leading groups given that he has a good track record in this race. So he didn’t disappoint in that sense. I just expect more from someone who was once considered one of the best sprinters in the world. To be fair, 4th or 7th in the Amstel doesn’t make any difference to a rider like him. But he should still win a sprint like this in his sleep. If not win, at least fight Van Der Poel for 4th place.
The former Danish champion was the surprise of the day. He was there when the selection within the group of favorites was made and was there sprinting strongly at the end. His last win came on stage 3 of the 2019 Tour de Yorkshire, where he was the strongest in a small group. This is his most high-profile result since winning the Danish championship in 2016, and certainly the best result since joining Trek Segafredo in 2020. He is 28 years old so it’s unlikely we’re going to see a major explosion from this rider, but his abilities on hilly terrain combined with his strong sprint can definitely be a factor in breakaways or minor classics.