Exactly a year ago Mathieu van der Poel wrote cycling history by winning the Amstel Gold Race in an inimitable way as a debutant. A look back at an unforgettable day in Limburg with the help of Marcel van Hoorn, who won the Sports Photo of the Year with a photo of an emotional Van der Poel shortly after the finish.

The start

Can a two-time cyclocross world champion and recognized winner win his breakthrough? Maybe not, but 2019 is the year in which Mathieu van der Poel also takes road cycling to his liking.

In the run-up to the Amstel Gold Race, the last race of his first classic spring, the multi-talent will only have up to fifteen race days, but he will book five victories. And the way in which makes even more impression. Attacks at more than 60 kilometers from the finish on the way to the victory in Dwars door Vlaanderen, out of a beaten position still fourth in the Tour of Flanders, an unprecedented show of power in the Brabantse Pijl; it is not a hyperbole to say that Van der Poel changes cycling in just two months.

All eyes on April 21, 2019 are therefore focused on the man in the national champion jersey, who must become the first Dutch winner of the Amstel Gold Race since Erik Dekker in 2001.

Marcel van Hoorn has only one thought early on the sunny Sunday morning when he drives away from his house in Heerlen: couple Van der Poel wins, suppose he does what every Dutch sports enthusiast hopes for, how do I want to visualize that?

"I already had the moment in mind," says the photographer, who reports on behalf of the ANP news agency the only Dutch cycling classic. "My colleague would be at the finish and I would be 100 meters away. The joy after the line, the fuss around it; that's the image. But then everything has to fall into place."

Mathieu van der Poel on the starting podium for the Amstel Gold Race. (Photo: Pro Shots)

The course

The Amstel Gold Race means 257 kilometers and almost seven hours of running and turning over the narrow roads in the hilly landscape in South Limburg. And it also traditionally means a leading group that gets a big lead in the first hours of the race. This time there are eleven escapees and they pack for a maximum of eight minutes. Despite his tricolor and white bib shorts, Van der Poel is not yet noticeable in that large group.

As always, Van Hoorn has determined a route along all the photogenic spots of the Amstel Gold Race course. He drives his motorcycle to the famous Sint Hubertusmolen near the Adsteeg, to the Eyserbosweg, to the Gulperberg.

The blossom blooms beautifully on the second warmest Easter Monday since the measurements started in the Netherlands, but Van Hoorn actually knows that he is busy for free: "Van der Poel is the only thing today, whether he wins or lose. Nice all those mood pictures, but they will go straight to the trash. "

The peloton drives past the Sint Hubertusmolen. (Photo: Pro Shots)

The finale

Van der Poel's inevitable attack this time comes 45 kilometers from the finish. The top favorite accelerates on the Gulperberg, but he is taken back fairly quickly. Subsequently, the leader of Corendon-Circus cannot join as Julian Alaphilippe and Jakob Fuglsang. The Frenchman and the Dane take almost a minute on the group with Van der Poel and Dekker seems to remain without a successor for another year.

More than an hour before the expected finish time, Van Hoorn takes his place, 100 meters after the finish in Berg en Terblijt. To the right of him it is crowded for all television crews and behind him there are hordes of fans behind a fence.

"Next to me, a colleague is pricking my head, but I don't think so right now," says Van Hoorn. "At such a moment I completely shut myself off and I am only concerned with what could happen, otherwise I cannot work."

To his left, Van Hoorn sees a side street, a possible place where he will be able to avoid the crowd immediately after the finish. But first he looks straight ahead at a large screen, on which a group led by Van der Poel finds the connection with Alaphilippe and Fuglsang out of nowhere. Wow, what's going to happen here? Thinks Van Hoorn, getting goosebumps on his arms and feeling a rush of adrenaline. This is what he's been waiting for eight hours.

Mathieu van der Poel also cannot believe that he has won. (Photo: Pro Shots)

The finish

"No, this is not true, is it?" Shouts NOS commentator Herbert Dijkstra. "It is true! Van der Poel wins!"

In a rarely seen final kilometer, Van der Poel himself closes the gap to the front runners, starts the sprint and shakes his head shaking the winner. After a pat on the back of number two Simon Clarke steers 'MVDP' to the right, squeezes his brakes, puts his bike on the floor and lies down next to it .

In helicopter images from just after the finish you see a man in a red vest around his shoulders and a photo camera in his hand standing first next to the lying Van der Poel. "It's like in a casino, you take a gamble," says Van Hoorn. "At the last minute I sprint to the other side, to the side street. If Van der Poel falls 10 meters earlier on the ground, I am gone and I have no photo. But it is a kind of instinct to know where to stand when photographer."

Within five seconds, a scrum arises around the winner. Security guards, caretakers and journalists form a circle around Van der Poel. "I am entangled in the cables of NOS reporter Han Kok, but that does not matter," says Van Hoorn. "Van der Poel is right in front of me and at that moment I know that I am at something very special. Van der Poel laughs, screams, sighs, cries; all emotions come out one after the other. emotion of an athlete. "

While Van der Poel slowly gets up and is led to the stage, Van Hoorn already knows that he has taken a special photo: Van der Poel from head to toe, lying, with his mouth wide open and his bicycle next to him. Perfectly happy.

The Sports Photo of the Year 2019. (Photo: ANP / Marcel van Hoorn)