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Amstel Gold Race: For Benoît Cosnefroy, the thrill quickly turns to agony in photo-finish reversal

Ag2r-Citroën celebrated a much-needed win for only a fleeting moment. In fact, the gap between the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat was barely two minutes.

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Benoît Cosnefroy celebrated the most important victory of his career Sunday at Amstel Gold Race a moment too soon.

The French rider at Ag2r-Citroën thought he won the photo-finish bike-throw against Michal Kwiatkowski. In fact, he was told that he was the winner by a member of the race jury, only to see the result hurriedly rectified when the full race jury reviewed the finish line video.

Ag2r-Citroën staffers celebrated a much-needed win for only a fleeting moment. In fact, L’Equipe measured the time as 117 seconds between the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

“The photo of the finish leaves nothing to the imagination,” Cosnefroy said at the line. “Kwiatkowski was the fastest. But why didn’t they wait to declare me the winner?”

Cruel? Cosnefroy preferred to look at the upside of things.

“I’m someone who puts things into perspective quickly, it’s one of my strengths,” Cosnefroy said. “I was close to winning but if I start crying after a podium at the Amstel, I might as well stop the bike.”

Also readMichał Kwiatkowski edges Benoît Cosnefroy in photo finish

Many observers said that although the result was close, even with the slow-motion replay it appeared that Kwiatkowski pushed his tire first across the line head of the Frenchman. The photo finish later revealed the obvious, especially when compared to the controversial throw last year between Tom Pidcock and Wout van Aert, with the Belgian awarded the victory.

Speaking to Dutch television NOS, a member of the race jury admitted he called the race too soon.

“I was too quick with the broadcasters,” race judge Armand van Mulken told NOS. “It was the same situation as last year. It was very difficult see with the naked eye. I was too quick with the announcement, but everyone wants to have the results immediately. In the photo finish you can see Kwiatkowski won and in this case I was a little too fast. I admit my mistake, and that’s a shame, but at least the right people were honored.”

When asked about his clear disappointment when he was told he was in fact not the winner, Cosnefroy spun the outcome a different way.

“I was incredibly happy when I was announced the winner, but you have to put things into perspective. I’m happy with my second place,” he told journalists Sunday. “When I’m on the line, there is emotion, and these are moments that we rarely experience in a career. Mathieu van der Poel, who was top favorite, is not there. I don’t see why I should cry.”

Also read: Kwiatkowski celebrates much-needed victory after coming out of COVID

It appeared the 26-year-old was poised to become just the third French rider to win Amstel Gold Race, won by Jean Stablinski in 1966 and Bernard Hinault in 1981.

Had he won, it would have been Cosnefroy’s biggest one-day win to date. The highly touted all-rounder has been first 12 times across the line — no question there — including Bretagne Classic-Ouest France last year.

On Sunday, Cosnefroy rolled the dice to chase the attacking Kwiatkowski because he knew he’d have no chance if he stayed in the front group that included the likes of Pidcock and van der Poel.

“I don’t have many regrets. If I stay behind, I’m seventh or eighth,” he said. “I had Mathieu’s crazy sprint (in 2019) in my head. I thought to myself, he could just as well take 20 seconds from us in the 500 meters. It was not easy to manage. I felt stronger than ”Kwiato’ and I hoped that he would mark a sprint launched from a little far.”

Cosnefroy hasn’t won yet in 2022, but he’s been in the top-5 five times. Despite or because of the close calls, his motivation and fitness is flying going into Brabantse Pijl on Wednesday, Flèche Wallonne next week, where he was second last year, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège on April 24.

“When I was told that I have won, I celebrated with my teammates, but then I heard from the radio that I am second,” he said. “I was shown the photo finish, and there is no doubt. It’s like that, I lost. I hope for a bit of revenge in the Ardennes.

“I know I will be marked, but this gives me motivation for the upcoming races. I was already feeling good at the Circuit de la Sarthe, and now I am entering a good period for me.”

It was that close. (Photo: Bas Czerwinski/Getty Images)

Someone called it too early. (Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

Benoit Cosnefroy later celebrated a podium result. (Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images)