Post-Olympic blues? What’s that? Some could argue that the slow start of the season for Anna van der Breggen in her debut as a Boels-Dolmans rider was due to a lack of real motivation after a successful Olympic year. Her performances in the last two weeks are showing that her qualities are intact now that her recent illnesses are gone. She was strong at both De Ronde and Healthy Ageing Tour, so it was only a matter of time that she won something big. And so she did: she’s the first winner of the revamped Amstel Gold Race, 14 years after its last edition before 2017.
It was smart team tactics (and great legs, of course) that gave her the victory. Boels-Dolmans made a questionable move at the Tour of Flanders two weeks ago, but they played their cards perfectly this time. Van der Breggen won solo as teammate Lizzie Deignan got the 2nd place, being the fastest of the small chasing group.
Boels-Dolmans was indeed the dominating team, and they made the first selection before entering the three laps to the local circuit around Valkenburg. Once the passed the Keutenberg, some 70 km from the finish line, there were only about 35 riders in the first group. After the 2nd time they climbed the Cauberg it was just half that number.
And then there was the Cauberg again on the penultimate lap. Kasia Niewiadoma (WM3) attacked hard. Only Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5) and Lizzie Deignan (Boels-Dolmans) were able to follow. A 14-rider chase lead by the one and only Ellen van Dijk (Sunweb) formed behind. A consistent but somehow fragile gap of 10-20 seconds kept for a few kilometres until Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica-Scott) was able join the leaders following a huge effort on the Bemelerberg. Van der Breggen and the WWT leader Coryn Rivera joined the escapees right after her.
At the top of the Bemelerberg Van der Breggen accelerated as first Longo Borghini and later Niewiadoma tried to keep her within reasonable distance. They couldn’t. With Deignan now sitting at her wheels, it was the perfect situation for Boels-Dolmans. Not even a frantic try by Niewiadoma on the final Cauberg would get Van der Breggen any closer. The Dutchwoman won easily as Deignan took the second place. There was a hugely unusual situation for the third podium spot, as both Niewiadoma and Van Vleuten were given the result. Not even the photo finish could split her front wheels. Ex aequo. Longo Borghini was 5th and Rivera, dropped on the Cauberg but still a valuable 6th, kept her WWT jersey.