Amstel Gold Race director brushes off accusations of car draft assist for Tadej Pogačar

Race boss Leo van Vliet questions slipstream advantage provided by lead car's close-drive: 'I raced myself and I can't imagine it.'

Photo: Eurosport / GCN

Organizers of the Amstel Gold Race brushed off allegations that a close-driving race vehicle assisted Tadej Pogačar in the depths of Sunday’s Dutch classic.

The finale of the beer-branded race gained added fizz Sunday when the driver of the organizer’s lead car made a close pass around the Slovenian as he galloped toward solo victory.

The vehicle went around and then lingered a few dozen meters in front of Pogačar for several kilometers on the narrow Dutch lanes, during which time the UAE Emirates leader’s gap over the chasing Ben Healy inched upward.

Social media duly frothed with rage at the slipstreaming influence the car could have made.

“I mean COME ON,” wrote Healy’s EF Education-EasyPost team boss Jonathan Vaughters.

“Again, vehicles are influencing the race. Drafting at two meters behind a car gives drag reduction of 65 percent(!) and time gain of about 36 seconds per kilometer(!),” wrote aerodynamicist Bert Blocken. “We still have a lot of educating to do …”

Amstel Gold Race director Leo van Vliet – who was riding in the circumspect blue BMW – defended the action when he spoke on In Het Wiel podcast Sunday.

“I’ve heard the criticism,” Van Vliet said. “We drove behind Pogačar, and then at some point Healy got closer, so we had to pass.

“I know the course, it only gets narrower,” Van Vliet continued. “When we drove past [Pogačar], we still had to be careful because the road was not very wide. If someone takes a picture and a car is driving in front of him … What am I supposed to do with that?”

Van Vliet, who raced through the early 80s and saw a half-dozen Tour de France starts, doubted how the car’s draft could advantage Pogačar.

“I raced myself and I can’t imagine it,” he said. “And what good is it for me to do so? Oh well, let them talk, I can’t do anything about it.”

Pogačar dismissed the incident when he spoke after the podium ceremonies, marking it as just one of the many occasions when in-race convoys advantage or disadvantage riders.

“I didn’t like it. But this happens all the time when they are at the front of the race. They pass and they sink back again. That’s how it always goes,” Pogačar told Wielerflits.

“I can’t do much about it. I can only ride as fast as possible. The car was too close, but I don’t think the moment lasted too long.”

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