At the end of the men’s Amstel Gold Race, the unthinkable happened. For the second consecutive year, the win came down to a bike throw, and the race radio gave the call: “Benoit Cosnefroy has won Amstel Gold.” The Frenchman had led out the sprint ahead of his late-race breakaway companion Michał Kwiatkowski, and with the naked eye, it looked as though the Frenchman had won it.
But after the instant replay flashed across our screens, the all-telling photo finish revealed the truth: Kwiatkowski’s perfectly timed bike throw had won him the race. It was heartbreak for Cosnefroy, who had the admirable and humble response of being quite pleased with second after thinking he had won.
Kwiatkowski’s victory at Amstel Gold Race was his first since the famous Ineos 1-2 on Stage 18 of the 2020 Tour de France when the Pole crossed the line arm-in-arm with teammate Richard Carapaz. Tiesj Benoot used a late attack to seal a place on the podium, while Mathieu van der Poel won the sprint for fourth despite having thrown down a 1,300-watt attack with 1.8km to go.
Hours before, the women’s Amstel Gold Race had been a much more chaotic affair. While Ineos Grenadiers executed careful dictation over the end of the men’s race, the women’s race had blown up with 80km to go. In the end, it was a surprise winner in 24-year old Marta Cavalli, who rode away from the group of favorites over the top of the Cauberg with 1.9km to go. Demi Vollering cleaned up the sprint for second ahead of Liane Lippert, while Annemiek van Vleuten settled for fourth after a long day of attacking.
To understand what makes the women’s and men’s Amstel Gold races so different, we have to go back to the beginning. One of the biggest reasons these two pelotons raced differently was the race’s distance. The women’s race was over in 128.5km, after completing three loops of the finishing circuit around Valkenburg. In contrast, the men’s race covered a mammoth 254km with more than 3,460 meters of elevation gain.
Action in the women’s race kicked off with over 60km to go when van Vleuten attacked and was only (or could only be) followed by Demi Vollering (SD Worx) and Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM). Vollering maintained a Normalized Power of over 300w while riding in the breakaway, and was still punching up the climbs at over 6w/kg.
Vollering – breakaway with van Vleuten and Niewiadoma
Average Power: 230w
Normalized Power: 304w
The Keutenberg was one of the hardest climbs in the entire women’s race, despite its position in the route at 65km to go. The 20-year-old Kata Blanka Vas, one of the best young riders in cycling, stayed coy in the field with her teammate up the road, saving energy for the crucial role that she would play later in the race.
Blanka Vas – Keutenberg
Average Power: 321w (6.4w/kg)
Peak 90-second power: 376w (7.5w/kg)
Van Vleuten – Keutenberg
Estimated Average Power: 443w (7.5w/kg)
The women’s peloton came back together inside 50km to go, but it wasn’t long until the race split again on the Cauberg. On the first lap of the finishing circuit, attacks flew up the famous Cauberg climb with its average gradient near 9 percent. Vollering and Blanka Vas were both near the front, pushing 6w/kg for nearly three minutes as the peloton was decimated in their wake.
Vas – first ascent of the Cauberg
Average Power: 298w (6w/kg)
Vollering – first ascent of the Cauberg
Average Power: 344w
The attacks kept coming, but they were brought back each and every time, and as the women’s peloton approached the final ascent of the Cauberg – cresting with just 1.9km to go – it would all come down to this. Predictably, van Vleuten went full gas from the bottom of the Cauberg, dropping nearly everyone off her wheel apart from a select group of favorites. Among them were Vollering, Niewiadoma, Mavi García, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, Liane Lippert, and Marta Cavalli.
As the lead group crested the climb, Cavalli attacked from the back and everyone started looking at each other. Vollering – the team’s sprinter – yelled at her teammate Moolman-Pasio to start chasing, but the South African couldn’t close the gap. She pulled at nearly 6w/kg, but Cavalli was speeding towards victory.
With 100m to go, Cavalli knew that she had it, and she crossed the line with arms aloft, taking the biggest win of her young career. A closer look at the finale shows that van Vleuten flew up the Cauberg at nearly 8w/kg for two full minutes. Vollering put in a similar dig, but had the sprint to finish it off, beating Lippert to the line and claiming second place.
Moolman Pasio – final 2.4km of Amstel Gold Race
Average Power: 308w (6.3w/kg)
Cauberg: 378w (7.7w/kg) for 1:43
Vollering – finale of Amstel Gold
Average Power: 315w
Cauberg: 438w for 1:45
Final Sprint: 785w for 13 seconds
Max Power: 957w
A closer look at Moolman-Pasio’s Strava file and we can see just how hard the women’s Amstel Gold Race was, from start to finish. And don’t forget that Moolman-Pasio mostly sat in the field during this race, rather than attacking on the climbs and getting into breakaways like van Vleuten and Vollering. When all was said and done, we can estimate that van Vleuten finished Amstel Gold Race with a normalized power of around 5w/kg for three-and-a-quarter hours.
Men’s Amstel Gold Race power analysis
In contrast to the action-filled women’s race, the men’s Amstel Gold Race was fairly tame until the final 50km. It was then that Ineos Grenadiers – namely Ben Turner – took to the front and blew the race to bits. With 200km of fatigue in the legs, the peloton hit the Loorberg, Gulperberg, Kruisberg, Eyserboswerg, Fromberg, and Keutenberg in quick succession. Say that ten times fast.
This was the hardest section of the race and made the peloton shrink from about 100 riders to fewer than 10. Kwiatkowski was one of the main protagonists driving the pace that almost cracked last weekend’s Tour of Flanders winner, Mathieu van der Poel.
Kwiatkowski – Ineos destroys the field
Average Power: 312w (4.7w/kg)
Normalized Power: 386w (5.9w/kg)
Loorberg: 437w (6.6w/kg) for 2:48
Gulperberg: 549w (8.3w/kg) for 1:13
Kruisberg: 489w (7.4w/kg) for 1:54
Eyserboswerg: 466w (7.1w/kg) for 2:29
Fromberg: 376w (5.7w/kg) for 3:05
Keutenberg: 480w (7.3w/kg) for 2:38
First 500m of the Keutenberg: 565w (8.6w/kg) for 1:35
Over the top of the Cauberg for the final time, Kwiatkowski attacked through the start-finish line as the group of favorites looked at each other to chase – not too dissimilar from Cavalli’s attack at 1.9km to go in the women’s race.
The former world champion got a healthy gap, and was only joined by Benoit Cosnefroy a few kilometers later after the Frenchman executed a heroic solo bridge. The pair collaborated nicely, and it’s clear from the data that Kwiatkowski had plenty left in the tank. His heart rate had fallen back down into the 160s, and he was riding well below his threshold of 400w. Coming into the final sprint, Cosnefroy looked the favorite on the paper, but Kwiatkowski got the timing just right.
Kwiatkowski – winning breakaway
Average Power: 332w (5w/kg)
Normalized Power: 360w (5.5w/kg)
Final Sprint: 923w (14w/kg) for 15 seconds
Peak Power: 1,194w (18.1w/kg)
Behind the leading duo, van Der Poel attacked out of the chase group with 1.8km, hitting power numbers that most riders would dream of in an all-out sprint. Not more than two minutes later, the Dutchman was at it again, taking the group sprint for fourth at a peak in excess of 1,300w. Many posited van der Poel’s result as an ‘off day,’ but looking at the data, it is clear that he is still on very fine form heading into this Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix.
Van der Poel – Amstel Gold Race finale
Average Power: 390w (5.2w/kg)
Normalized Power: 442w (5.9w/kg)
Attack with 1.9km to go: 1,070w (14.3w/kg) for 15 seconds
Final Sprint: 1,124w (15w/kg) for 15 seconds
Max Power: 1,384w (18.5w/kg)