Tadej Pogacar engulfed the Amstel Gold Race. Two weeks after his demonstration at the Tour of Flanders, the Slovenian won his eleventh success this season by crushing the only Dutch classic on the calendar, Sunday in Valkenburg.
“I’m still hungry,” said the Slovenian on the eve of the race, a fortnight after disgusting the Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel and the Belgian Wout Van Aert at Ronde, one of the three monuments already on his list of winners in Only 24 years old, with the Tour of Lombardy (2021, 2022) and Liège-Bastogne-Liège (2021).
Despite being marked in the pants by his opponents, the double winner of the Tour de France did not find any rider able to challenge him with a success built with attacks in the many (33) short but steep climbs of the Limburg route.
In the absence of Van Aert and Van der Poel, who ended their spring eight days earlier on the evening of a Paris-Roubaix won by the latter, and Primoz Roglic, Jonas Vingegaard and other Remco Evenepoel, Pogacar was the great favourite.
But, in a race named after a local beer, “Pogi” didn’t know the pressure, waltzing his opponents in three stages on this 253 kilometer Dutch turnstile, a continuous zig-zag that abuses the cardinal points.
He first placed a first acceleration which blew up the peloton 80 kilometers from Valkenburg. The Pole Michal Kwiatkowski and the French Benoît Cosnefroy, winner and second last year, were trapped.
Within a group of ten attackers he then accelerated again 36 kilometers from the line into the Eyserbosweg where only Pidcock and Healy managed to follow him.
– Van der Poel’s “advice” –
But these two men were helpless during the third attack of the leader of the UAE team in the Keutenberg 29 terminals from the goal. “Pogi” ended up winning alone.
“Three days ago, Mathieu van der Poel sent me a message in which he suggested that I attack in the Keutenberg because it is the most difficult climb of the race. It was the right plan. thank you for this advice”, explained the leader of the UAE team.
Even a slow puncture and a change of bike at the foot of the Kruisberg, 39 terminals from the finish, could not slow down the rider’s flight towards his 57th professional success.
“However, I was nervous: the team car was far away and it took me a long time to be repaired. It was really stressful,” said the winner of the last Paris-Nice, claiming “to have suffered a lot” in the last twenty-five kilometers.
But Ben Healy, this week’s revelation after his second place on Wednesday at the Brabant Arrow, still failed at 38 seconds.
In his current condition, Pogacar can optimistically see the continuation of the Ardennes triptych with Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday and Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday.
“I will go to La Flèche with ambition even if I have never obtained very good results at the top of the Mur de Huy (9th in 2020, editor’s note). And then in Liège, I will have to measure myself against Remco (Evenepoel)” , he explained when he was reminded that the Belgian Philippe Gilbert had been the last to achieve the fabulous Ardennes hat-trick, twelve years ago.
After that, it will be necessary to think of the Tour de France which will be preceded by a period of rest, a training course at altitude then the Tour of Slovenia (from June 14 to 18) in the middle of an already exceptional season.