INEOS played Amstel Gold Race 2022 perfectly. After making the race defining move on the Keutenberg, Michal Kwiatkowski attacked from the group which contained strong sprinters such as Mathieu van der Poel and Michael Matthews. Kwiatkowski was joined by Benoit Cosnefroy, who had to do the lion’s share of the work with Pidcock in the group behind. In the end it was a sprint between the two, resulting once again in a photo finish. At first Cosnefroy was announced as a winner, but after looking at the photo finish it was clear that Kwiatkowski won.
Once again Ben Turner proved why he is one of the best domestiques in the 2022 classics races. The 22-year-old INEOS rider drilled hard at the front of the peloton for 20 minutes, thinning it down to 30 riders when his job was finished with 35 km to go. Turner was strong enough to chase down singlehandedly attack from Tim Wellens. Another monster performance by the young Brit, who had Pidcock, van Baarle and Kwiatkowski in his wheel.
After Turner ended his turn, his teammate Michal Kwiatkowski attacked at the base of the Keutenberg climb (1.7 km, 5.6%) with Tom Pidcock on his wheel. Jumbo-Visma rider Tiesj Benoot lit up the climb and only a few riders were able to sit on his wheel. The race favourite Mathieu van der Poel was distanced at the end of the Keutenberg, showing some weakness, but a brief moment later he caught up with the front riders.
An elite 11-man first group was formed with van der Poel, Matthews, Hirschi, Cosnefroy, Pidcock, Kwiatkowski, Kung, Benoot, Asgreen, Kamp and Teuns. Only Pidcock and Kwiatkowski were from the same team. Two of the biggest riders to miss the split were Tim Wellens and Valentin Madouas, but the second group were not willing to work together as many riders had teammates in the first group.
It was inevitable that punchier riders like Kwiatkowski, Hirschi, Teuns, Benoot and Cosnefroy would try to attack, fearing going to the finish against the sprint of van der Poel. The first successful move was done by the former world champion Kwiatkowski, who slid away from the group before going into the last lap of the race. After some watching by the others, van der Poel started to chase when the gap was fairly big, but could not close by himself.
A few kilometres later Cosnefroy bridged to Kwiatkowski. They both were interested in working together, as in the group were faster guys like van der Poel and Matthews. Cosnefroy was forced to work more as Kwiatkowski had in the group, his teammate Pidcock. The chasing group with van der Poel worked together reasonably well, with Asgreen and Kung doing a lot of pulling. Van der Poel even gave Kung a biddon, as the Swiss was his best domestique in Amstel Gold Race.
The gap between Kwiatkowski and Cosnefroy was a mere 20 seconds big in the last few kilometres but Van der Poel had been holding something back and did not chase full-gas as he attacked multiple times in the last kilometres, was marked by Pidcock so the group then slowed down. Not the best strategy to chase down the leaders and so we would not have a repeat of Amstel Gold Race 2019.
Cosnefroy was forced to lead-out Kwiatkowski in the last kilometre, opening his sprint with 200 metres to go, Kwiatkowski got a nice lead-out and in the final metres beat the Frenchman with a perfectly timed bike throw.
At first glance, no one was not sure who won as it was 2021 once again, when it was a photo-finish between Pidcock and Van Aert. Then it was announced over race radio that Cosnefroy won. The Frenchman with his team was already celebrating the win, while Pidcock was commiserating with a despondent Kwiatkowski. Then was the best part, after looking at the photo finish it was Kwiatkowski who won and he was confirmed as a winner, again showing what an amateur sport cycling is.
INEOS almost robbed twice, two years in a row as in 2021 it was impossible to tell who had actually won between Pidcock and van Aert, but van Aert was declared the winner, with the photo-finish camera was moved around 25 centimetres before the finish line.
Excellent report LT.