Marianne Vos finally added the Amstel Gold Race to her palmarès after a hugely aggressive edition of the Dutch one-day Classic.
The former world champion sprinted from a small group which caught two leaders in the closing 300m after Elisa Longo Borghini refused to work with defending champion Kasia Niewiadoma.
Vos was perfectly positioned and opened her sprint with 150m to go, taking a clear lead into the closing metres. After missing out on Brabantse Pijl in mid-week, Demi Vollering’s (SDWorx) effort was hugely assured, and she was close to catching her compatriot on the line, finishing second.
After an aggressive showing where she was unable to open a conclusive gap European champion Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar), who was third.
The entire race was dramatic and entertaining, BikeExchange’s Grace Brown escaping late on and leading solo not the final ascent of the Cauberg, but as she stood up out of the saddle on the steepening gradient, Van Vleuten made a move, opening a gap at the front.
However, 2019 winner Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) hunted her down followed by WorldTour leader Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo), the pair building what seemed a race-winning gap at the front. However, the Italian knew she would not be able to out-sprint her rival and refused to work, and they were caught.
How it happened
After the pandemic ensured the 2020 edition was cancelled, this year’s race was significantly altered from the route used for previous editions.
Instead of the usual start in Maastricht city centre, which is traditionally followed by a long transition to though the hills of Limburg, this year the race was held on a 16.9km circuit starting and finishing in Berg An Terblijt, the regular finish of the race.
Each lap included three climbs, the Guelhemmerberg, the Bemelerberg and the Cauberg, the finish line coming a desperate 1500m after the top of this, the race’s signature climb.
On the first circuit two women escaped, Quinty Ton (GT Krush-Tunap) and Kathrin Hammes (Ceratizit-WNT) crossed the finish line for the first time with a lead of 1-10. However, shortly afterwards, on the Guelhemmerberg a group of around 20 women escaped the peloton joining the two leaders on the second ascent of the Bemelerberg.
With most of the top teams represented in this group the peloton briefly shut up shop and the gap was soon out to 1.30. However, this did not last long, as Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) was distanced somehow, and SDWorx, in the form of world champion Anna van der Breggen put the hammer down, leading a group of around 40, and closing the gap.
With Grace Brown (BikeExchange) on her wheel Van der Breggen bridged to the leading group, but they were followed by the bunch and the race came back together on the third ascent of the Bemelerberg.
After 50km of action and constant changes in complexion the race finally settled, though Trek-Segafredo and Liv Cycling made it hard for a second group to bridge the gap and their advantage went out to an apparently unassailable 1-40 as the race entered the final 45km.
With just over two laps to go, Annemiek van Vleuten forced a split on the Cauberg, and while this was not sustained, Lucinda Brand (Trek-Segafredo) continued the effort over the final line, and was soon joined by Brown, though they were unable to get much of a lead ahead of the Guelhemmerberg.
A group of around 20 women emerged onto the penultimate lap, but attacks meant that even that group kept on splintering and on the Bemelerberg BikeExchange’s Grace Brown attacked hard, taking Dutch rider Pauliena Rooijakkers (Liv Racing) with her.
The Dutch rider was dropped on the descent ahead of the Guelhemmerberg tough, and Australian Brown forged alone, building a lead of 30 seconds ahead of the the penultimate climb, the Bemelerberg.
Behind her, though, SDWorx, with four in the group, and Trek-Segafredo began to work hard together, eating away at the lead, and while she led into the last two kilometres, it was not to be for the Australian.
Amstel Gold Ladies Edition, Berg an Terblijt – Berg an Terblijt (116.3km)
1. Marianne Vos (Ned) Jumbo-Visma in 3-00-20
2. Demi Vollering (Ned) SDWorx, at same time
3. Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Movistar
4. Amanda Spratt (Aus) Bike Exchange
5. Soraya Paladin (Ita) Liv Racing
6. Mavi Garcia (Esp) Alé BTC Ljubljana
7. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den) FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope
8. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
9. Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (RSA) SDWorx
10. Kasia Niewiadoma (Pol) Canyon-SRAM, all at same time