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Amstel Gold Race: Marta Cavalli wins with solo Cauberg attack

Italian star attacks out of stellar lead group to stun favorites and secure biggest win of career.

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Marta Cavalli (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) kicked out of an all-star lead group on the final climb of the Cauberg to win Amstel Gold Race solo.

The Italian star attacked took advantage of team captain Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig being on the sidelines to take the biggest win of her career with her daring solo attack just 2km from the line.

The podium positions behind were finished in a photo finish sprint. Demi Vollering (SD Worx) edged second place ahead of Liane Lippert (DSM).

Pre-race favorite Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) took fourth.

It was sunny but cold on Sunday morning as the 139-rider strong peloton rolled out of Maastricht for the ninth women’s Amstel Gold Race. Heading north before looping back to the finishing circuit around Valkenburg, the riders had a hilly 128km ahead of them, taking in four ascents of the iconic Cauberg and a total of 19 climbs.

After just 1.8km of neutral zone, the race was on from the flag drop and the pace in the peloton was high, covering 40km in the first hour of racing. An unidentified break of three managed a short-lived and small advantage in the early stages, but it wasn’t until nearly 50km completed that the serious moves began.

Catching the original trio, an attack was launched by Anna Henderson (Jumbo-Visma) and Pauliena Rooijakkers (Canyon-SRAM), drawing out a 15-second advantage over the Zwartebrugweg climb.

This move sparked a counter-attack from the peloton as the high place and unrelenting climbs split the field, and the duo were joined by a further eight riders: Lucinda Brand (Trek-Segafredo), Yara Kastelijn (Plantur-Pura), Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM), Aude Biannic, Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) and the SD Worx quartet of Marlen Reusser, Demi Vollering, Ashleigh Moolman Pasio and Niamh Fisher-Black.

At the 70km to go mark, the leading group had a 15-second lead, but the chase was on behind as Team DSM and BikeExchange-Jayco pushed a high pace, having missed the move.

Going into the base of the Keutenberg, the final climb before entering the Valkenburg circuit, the peloton was on the cusp of catching the leaders, but a blistering pace from Annemiek van Vleuten up the climb ripped the group apart once again, with only Vollering and Niewiadoma able to follow the Movistar rider.

The trio had a gap as they crested the top of the climb, but were pursued by a chasing group on the flat, and were soon rejoined by Henderson, Lippert, Chantal van den Broek-Blaak (SD Worx) and Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo). The strong and cooperative seven-rider group built a 30-second advantage over the peloton, where UAE Team ADQ was leading the chase.

The leaders remained together over the first ascent of the Cauberg with no one committing to an attack, and had a 32-second advantage on the first crossing of the finish line.

Ane Santesteban (BikeExchange-Jayco) used the Geulhemmerberg to bridge across to the leaders, and it looked briefly like the peloton were happy to yield to the leading group – the gap growing to over a minute – but after a determined chase from UAE Team ADQ, the race came back together in time for the second go up the Cauberg.

Once again, the Cauberg failed to force any significant splits as several attacks were neutralized, but the subsequent Geulhemmerberg saw early aggressor Pauliena Rooijakkers go solo.

Rooijakkers was joined by Spratt (BikeExchange-Jayco) and Sierra (Movistar), who rode with a bloodied leg after a spill earlier in the race. The peloton seemed in no rush to chase down the trio of leaders in earnest, but a flurry of attacks off the front meant their gap never grew to more than 30 seconds.

On the penultimate ascent of the Cauberg, Mavi Garcia (UAE Team ADQ) attacked to try to bridge to the leaders, but was reabsorbed into the peloton once SD Worx started to organize the chase. At the 10km mark, the remaining three leaders were caught as the peloton began to up the pace for the finale.

Jumbo-Visma and Cayon-SRAM led the race into the base of the final Cauberg climb, but it was van Vleuten who attempted to string the race out as soon as the road started to rise.

Van Vleuten’s acceleration drew out a group of seven riders – including Vollering, Lippert and Cavalli – who quickly stretched out an advantage over the main group, but it was a well-timed attack from Marta Cavalli that proved to be the winner. At 1.6km to go, the Italian launched a move from the back of the group, gaining a gap that the chasing six riders could not close.

Cavalli crossed the line arms aloft to take her first WorldTour victory, whilst a sprint between the chasers saw Vollering finish second and Lippert third. Despite her best climbing efforts, van Vleuten settled for fourth.

Results will be available once stage has completed.


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