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Amstel Gold Race: Michał Kwiatkowski edges Benoît Cosnefroy in photo finish

Polish star takes his second Amstel title from two-up sprint after lighting up the race at 20km to go.

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Michał Kwiatkowski (Ineos Grenadiers) edged Benoît Cosnefroy (Ag2r-Citroën) in a photo finish at Amstel Gold Race.

Kwiatkowski won his second Amstel title by a tire-width after outsprinting breakaway companion Cosnefroy in a finish echoing the fine-margin sprint of 2021.

Tiesj Benoot (Jumbo-Visma) was first of the chasers across the line to claim third.

Pre-race favorite Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) finished fourth after looking a percentage point off his Flanders-crushing best.

The victory was the second of Kwiatkowski’s illustrious career after he previously won in 2015, and was due reward for an aggressive ride by his whole Ineos Grenadiers team.

Much like so many of the other classics this spring, the Brit crew piled on the pressure in the final hour of racing with Ben Turner and worked the two-up dynamic between Kwiatkowski and Tom Pidcock to put options into play for all scenarios.

Kwiatkowski seized the advantage at 20km to go with a solo attack out of a powerful group including van der Poel and Pidcock, and only Cosnefroy took the initiative to solo across.

The chasers malfunctioned behind, setting up the dramatic 200-meter dragstrip sprint in Valkenberg which Kwiatkowski won with his bike-throw.

“Cosnefroy did most of the work in the breakaway, because with Tom (Pidcock) behind me, I didn’t have to make the difference,” Kwiatkowski told Sporza.

“The sprint was very tough. I was very confident that I could win, but Cosnefroy kept accelerating. I knew from last year’s finish with Tom that you have to wait a bit after the finish to find out the result. It is unbelievable that it is happening again.”

Kwiatkowski was one of the stars of the hilly classics in the middle of last decade after winning Amstel, road worlds, Milan-Sanremo and twice Strade Bianche.

The 31-year-old had a tricky start to the season and is hoping for more of the upward trajectory as he closes down on the Ardennes.

“I’ve had corona, the flu too … My entire program was turned upside down. And now I win the Amstel,” he said. “I knew that victory would come.”

Ineos Grenadiers started to take control at around 35km to go, lighting the fuse on the Keutenberg climb.

Kwiatkowski and then Benoot threw separate haymakers to stretch the group, and van der Poel briefly looked in trouble before bridging back to the bunch of 10 top talents that went on to compete for the win.

The leaders took a 25-second advantage over a chase group into the final of repeat ascents of the Cauberg at 24km to go.

Marc Hirschi (UAE) accelerated first before Ineos duo Kwiatkowski and Pidcock lit things up over the summit.

Kwiatkowski took advantage of a cagey dynamic in the group to ride off the front at 20km to go and dashed up the road. The rest didn’t coordinate in a chase before Cosnefroy darted across to the charging polish rider.

Pidcock briefly surged in a half-attempt to go across before dropping into the group and playing the team game for Kwiatkowski.

TT engines Kasper Asgreen (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) and Stefan Küng (Groupama FDJ) were forced into much of the chasing and van der Poel, seemingly a touch from top-form, followed the wheels.

Cosnefroy and Kwiatkowski took around 30 seconds of a lead into the final climb of the day, the short, shallow Bemelerberg.

The chase group continued to malfunction as some sat on for a sprint and others didn’t want to fully commit to chasing.

Asgreen was most active out of the group and almost went clear, but van der Poel finally lit things up at just 1700 meters to go as the leaders closed in on the finish.

The group countered van der Poel first time, and the Dutchman continued hammering to no effect.

Kwiatkowski sat on his French rival through the majority of the final, taking advantage of having his teammate in the group behind.

Cosnefroy led the pair into the final 500m as the chasers closed in, just 10 seconds back.

Kwiatkowski sat poised on the wheel before Cosnefroy was forced to open the sprint at around 200m to go. Kwiatkowski drew level and the two engaged in a long, grinding drag-strip sprint.

Cosnefroy was initially awarded the victory and he started celebrating with teammates.

However, just seconds later the result of the photo finish came through and the Frenchman discovered he had been just centimeters from the biggest win of his career.

“Based on the finish photo, there is no discussion,” Cosnefroy said. “But they should have waited [to confirm the result] for that photo.”

“I don’t really understand why they’ve been so fast,” he continued. “This is a blatant mistake, because the photo finish clearly shows that Kwiatkowski was the first to cross the finish line. Now I have to make peace with this. “

Benoot escaped the chase group in the final 500m to take third, a few seconds in front of the rest of the leaders.

Results will be available once stage has completed.

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