April 16, 2018
Valgren and Blaak triumph at the Amstel Gold
The first of the Ardennes trio of races saw the men's edition go to Astana's Michael Valgren ahead of Roman Kreuziger of Mitchelton-Scott, while in the woman's race, Chantal Blaak (Boels - Dolmans Cycling Team) beat Sunweb's Lucinda Brand.
Mens - Maastricht to Berg en Terblijt (263km)
The gamble by organisers of changing the routing of the last section of the race to include narrow roads to thwart the peloton's ability to dominate and generate attacks paid out on Sunday. The 260km race was highlighted by a nine-man breakaway that enjoyed a gap that maxed out at 16 minutes. Hard riding on the front of the peloton by various teams eventually hauled the gap back to around a minute before Valgren and teammate Jakob Fuglsang bridged over.
With two kilometes remaining Valgren attacked taking Kreuziger with him. As the pair battled along the finishing straight the rest of the breakaway well and truly distanced Enrico Gasparatto was hot on their heels. With a 100m to go a very strong Valgren pulled around Kreuziger and surged ahead to win by two bike lengths.
Valgren gave his reaction to the win, "It was a hard start and then the breakaway got a really big gap, but we had Laurens de Vreese in the front to close this gap, he did a great job. The other riders kept me out of trouble, it was perfect teamwork during the whole day. In the final Jakob Fuglsang worked hard for me, he made all the other riders tired and after that I could attack and I’m happy that I could finish it like this".
Women's - Maastricht to Berg en Terblijt (116.9km)
Reigning World Champion Chantal Blaak took her first single day win in the rainbow stripes. The first half of the race saw teh peloton crusing as one group but coming into the final chunk of the race Blaak was part of an eight rider group comprising Amanda Spratt (Michelton-Scott), Brand, Alexis Ryan (Canyon-SRAM), Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Wiggle-High5), Giorgia Bronzini (Cylance Pro Cycling), Riejanne Markus (Waowdeals) and Lotta Lepistö (Cervélo-Bigla).
It was a strong group and with most of the major teams represented it was given its head. While Blaak was in a strong position but a sprint finish with the likes of Bronzini would be a risk. With that clearly in mind she attacked on the Cauberg and succeeded in shedding Bronzini and Lepistö.
Now down to six riders, and it would take a climber to take the initiave. Spratt duly did, fracturign the group in favour of Blaak and Brand who kept her wheel. Blaak now had th advantage and seized it to outsprint Brand for the win.
"When we were with only three, I knew that there was a big chance that I could win the sprint," said Blaak. "Of course I know Lucinda very well, we train a lot together. So I knew she would start her sprint early, because there’s nothing else she could do. It was perfect for me. "
"Awesome! I think this is one of my greatest victories,” said Blaak. "It's really beautiful to win the Amstel Gold Race in front of a home crowd wearing the rainbow jersey."
“I think I already succeeded before this victory, we had a very good spring and I have been riding well for weeks," said Blaak. "I have had some great results this spring already, but I still missed that victory. I have been waiting for that a bit. I was very focused on the Tour of Flanders, where I didn’t win myself but we did win with the team, which was great too. But going on to win the Amstel Gold Race, that's just great.”