Europe 1 with AFP 19:13 p.m., April 16, 2023Tadej Pogacar won the Amstel Gold Race solo on Sunday. He is ahead of Ben Healy who was able to make the difference on Tom Pidcock to secure second place. The Slovenian won his eleventh victory this season.
Tadej Pogacar swallowed the Amstel Gold Race. Two weeks after his demonstration at the Tour of Flanders, the Slovenian claimed his eleventh success this season by crushing the only Dutch classic on the calendar, Sunday in Valkenburg. "I'm still hungry," said the Slovenian on the eve of the race, a fortnight after disgusting Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel and Belgian Wout Van Aert at the Ronde, one of three monuments already on his record at only 24 years old, with the Tour of Lombardy (2021, 2022) and Liège-Bastogne-Liège (2021).
Despite a marking on the breeches by his opponents, the double winner of the Tour de France did not find any rider able to challenge him a success built by attacks in the many (33) short but steep climbs of the Limburg course. In the absence of Van Aert and Van der Poel, who ended their springs eight days earlier on the evening of a Paris-Roubaix won by the latter, and Primoz Roglic, Jonas Vingegaard and Remco Evenepoel, Pogacar was the overwhelming favorite.
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But, in a race named after a local beer, "Pogi" didn't experience the pressure, making his opponents waltz in three strokes on this 253-kilometer Dutch turnstile, a continuous zig-zag that mistreats the cardinal points. He first placed a first acceleration that blew up the peloton 80 kilometers from Valkenburg. Poland's Michal Kwiatkowski and France's Benoît Cosnefroy, winner and second last year, were trapped. In a group of ten attackers, he then accelerated again 36 kilometres from the line in the Eyserbosweg where only Pidcock and Healy managed to follow him.
Van der Poel's "advice"
But these two men were helpless in the third attack of the leader of the UAE team in the Keutenberg with 29 terminals from the goal. "Pogi" ended up winning alone. "Three days ago, Mathieu van der Poel sent me a message in which he suggested that I attack in the Keutenberg because it is the most difficult climb of the race. It was the right plan. I thank him for this advice," explained the UAE team leader.
Even a slow puncture and a change of bike at the foot of the Kruisberg, 39 terminals from the finish, could not stop the rider's flight to his 57th professional success. "I was nervous: the team car was far away and it took me a long time to be repaired. It was really stressful," said the winner of the last Paris-Nice, assuring "to have suffered a lot" in the last twenty-five kilometers.
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The Ben Healy Revelation
But Ben Healy, revelation of this week after his second place on Wednesday at the Brabant Arrow, still failed at 38 seconds. In his current condition, Pogacar can look forward with optimism to the continuation of the Ardennes triptych with the Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday and Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday.
"I will go to La Flèche with ambition even if I have never achieved very good results at the top of the Mur de Huy (9th in 2020, editor's note). And then in Liège, I will have to measure myself against Remco (Evenepoel)," he explained when reminded that Belgian Philippe Gilbert had been the last to achieve the fabulous Ardennes treble, twelve years ago. After that, we will have to think about the Tour de France which will be preceded by a rest period, a training camp at altitude and the Tour of Slovenia (from 14 to 18 June) in the middle of an already exceptional season.