Niewiadoma hangs on to take Amstel Gold nail-biter

Niewiadoma attacked on the final ascent of the Cauberg before holding off searing chase from van Vleuten in thrilling finale.

Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) held off a charging Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) in the final kilometer of Sunday’s Amstel Gold race to take her first major spring classic. The Polish rider attacked on the final ascent of the Cauberg from a select final group, dropping Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv) and holding off a chase from van Vleuten in a race she could have lost were the finish line only a few seconds further away.

“To be honest, I still can’t believe what happened,” said Niewiadoma. “I’m just filled with so many different emotions. I’m just shivering now, inside, like ‘oh my god what have I done?’ I’ve been wanting so much to win Amstel Gold Race. I’ve been dreaming about it, and it just happened. A dream came true. It’s just so amazing. It’s beautiful.”

The 127-kilometer race featured four ascents of the iconic Cauberg, and it was on the second of these that the action started hotting up, when a strong chase group including Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans), Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (CCC-Liv), Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott), Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo), Vos, Niewiadoma and van Vleuten caught the remainder of a seven-rider breakaway.

Numerous attacks went from the front group, only to be reeled back, including an attack from Deignan with 40km remaining. Katie Hall (Boels-Dolmans), Elisa Longo-Borghini (Trek Segafredo) and Spratt tried their chances next, and this trio gained a significant gap before being caught on the penultimate ascent of the Cauberg.

Longo-Borghini tried again on the final lap, with Spratt and Moolman-Pasio catching her before the trio were inevitably engulfed by a large chase group containing all the pre-race favorites.

The decisive move occurred on the final ascent of the Cauberg. Niewiadoma kicked with such ferocity from the group of leaders that Vos was soon distanced, while van Vleuten had to come from the back of the group to start her chase, already several seconds down.

With Niewiadoma in time trial mode in the dragging final kilometers, her Dutch chaser gave it everything and gained ground rapidly. With 200 meters remaining, the race could have gone either way, and without the favorable tailwind, the Pole would likely have lost out in a thrilling finale. Vos came home in third place.

“I had a flashback to La Course!” said second-place van Vleuten, referring to her incredible last-gasp chase and victory in 2018. “I had moments when I thought ‘she’s too far away’, then I started to believe I could do it and that it was still possible. I gave everything I had, I saw a small rise and I got out of the saddle and I was coming closer and closer, but it wasn’t long enough.”

Next up in the trio of Ardennes races is La Flèche Wallonne, Wednesday.