Tadej Pogačar rampages to solo victory at Amstel Gold Race

Pogačar adds hilly classic to his huge palmarès with 28km solo raid, Healy and Pidcock complete the podium.

Photo: Getty Images

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Emirates) delivered the latest huge solo victory of his career in the Amstel Gold Race.

Just two weeks after he decimated the Tour of Flanders, Pogačar rode away from breakaway rivals Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) and Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost) some 28km from the line and galloped into the horizon for his 11th victory of the year.

Healy distanced Pidcock in the race for the podium to land a marquee second-place finish as he blitzes a breakout spring.

Pidcock held off a pair of chasers to round out the podium in Berg en Terblijt.

U.S. star and outside favorite Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost) was caught in a nasty crash 50km from the line and wasn’t in contention through the final.

Pogačar looked like he was playing pro cycling PlayStation in the Dutch Limburg while “big three” rivals Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel sat out the relentlessly hilly race.

The Slovenian made the winning split at 90km to go, tested his rivals 80km from the line, and then waited for the final hour of racing to start despatching riders from his 11-rider escape group.

“It’s unbelievable today, I didn’t expect we’d be in the break so early,” Pogačar said.

“I was on a flat tire for many Ks in the front and I was doubting that I could come to the finish solo. But in the end, I squeezed as much as possible to come to the finish line, and I made it.”

Pogačar spent more than 30km nursing what looked like a slow puncture before he jumped onto a spare bike and began his winning blitz.

“I was really frustratred, we didn’t have cars for a long time,” he said. “We managed to get the bike just in time for the final climbs – it was really tight and nervous at that moment.”

Pogačar is set to race the Ardennes double of La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège next week.

Could he become the first rider since Philippe Gilbert to sweep the hilly classic triple in the space of one season?

Pogačar sounds like he’d back himself.

“Flèche is a hard race for me, I never did a good result there. But I have good shape now, and with a good team, I think we can do a great result there,” he said.

Pogačar added another line to his palmarès at the AGR on Sunday.

At 254km long and littered with 33 marked climbs, the Amstel Gold Race is one of the hardest days on the calendar.

Pogačar started the day Sunday without the Dutch classic on his palmarès, and it was evident he wanted to make the race his own on a cool grey day in the Limburg.

UAE Emirates was set to work catching the early break before Pogačar, Pidcock, and Healy made a heavy-hitting split that went 90km from the line.

The group of 11 also included Pidcock’s U.S. teammate Magnus Sheffield and the on-form Alexey Lutsenko (Astana-Qazaqstan), Axel Zingle (Cofidis), and Gianni Vermeersch (Alpecin-Deceuninck).

Powless was a key absentee from the split and was later caught in a nasty nine-rider crash around 50km from the line. EF Education-EasyPost’s leader clambered seen back on his bike but looked scuffed up and dazed.

The group of 11 pulled through effectively while behind, only Trek-Segafredo and Bahrain-Victorious looked committed to chase.

The tight twisty roads and relentlessly hilly terrain meant the bunch couldn’t bridge the 30-40 second gap to the well-oiled escape group.

Pogačar looked committed to put the hurt on all day long. The all-slaying Slovenian piled his power into the breakaway paceline and made a testing surge on the Cauberg at 80km from the line.

That first Cauberg kick proved just a taste of things to come.

Pogačar started despatching breakaway riders with a sizzler acceleration on the Eyserbosweg 36km from the line. Pidcock and Healy latched on, while Lutsenko and Andreas Kron (Lotto Dstny) tried to chase.

Less than 10km later, Pogačar did it again.

He blasted away from Pidcock and Healy on the grinding Keutenberg climb 28km from the line, and his two rivals were left choking on fumes.

“Mathieu van der Poel told me I should go on the Keutenberg, it was the hardest climb and it suits me the most – he sent me a message,” Pogačar joked at the finish. “I will thank him for the advice!”

Once Pogačar got the gap, he didn’t look back. The UAE Emirates star was all over the bike on the climbs, but aero and compact on the flats, and soon had a gap of more than 30 seconds.

Healy exploded away from Pidcock 13km from the line and held back the Brit to place second in what has been a breakout spring for the 22-year-old Irishman.

Kron and Lutsenko came close to reeling Pidcock back in the finish straight, but the fast-fatiguing Brit held on for the third step of the podium.

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