Chantal Blaak has won the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday. After the lead group of six shattered on the last ascent of the Cauberg, the world champion beat Lucinda Brand (Team Sunweb) and Amanda Spratt (Michelton-Scott) in a sprint, to win the second UCIWWT edition of the Amstel Gold Race.
"Awesome! I think this is one of my greatest victories,” said Blaak. "It's really beautiful to win the Amstel Gold Race in front of a home crowd wearing the rainbow jersey."
The first half of the race passed without any mentionable events and the peloton stayed together for a long time. At 60 kilometers from the finish, it was Blaak herself who forced a breakaway. With all the big teams represented, the group was allowed to stay away by the peloton.
Blaak was joined in the lead group by Brand, Spratt, Alexis Ryan (Canyon-SRAM), Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Wiggle-High5), Giorgia Bronzini (Cylance Pro Cycling), Riejanne Markus (Waowdeals) and Lotta Lepistö (Cervélo-Bigla).
“The race-winning move had happened quite early in the race, earlier than we expected,” said last year’s Amstel Gold Race winner Anna van der Breggen. “The situation was ideal for us. A lot of strong women were part of the breakaway and all the big teams were represented, so the peloton let them go.”
The group worked well together and Blaak was clearly one of the strongest. But with a couple of fast sprinters in the group, the world champion wanted to thin out the group. She attacked on the last climb of the Cauberg, which caused Bronzini and Lepistö to drop. The duo was only able return the the front group at the bottom of the last climb up the Cauberg, at which point their roles were played.
"When I attacked, it was a test to see how my legs felt,” said Blaak. “And to see how the rest was feeling. I realised that I was one of the strongest in the lead group. So I knew they had to attack me.”
The six remaining leaders went into the final together. With only Blaak and Ryan who would be able to count on their sprint, it was up to the others to ride away on the last climb. Brand tried several times, but it was only when Spratt attacked that the leading group shattered, with only Brand and Blaak able to follow the Australian rider.
"When we were with only three, I knew that there was a big chance that I could win the sprint," said Blaak. "Of course I know Lucinda very well, we train a lot together. So I knew she would start her sprint early, because there’s nothing else she could do. It was perfect for me. "
Blaak calls winning this Amstel Gold Race one of her finest victories, partly because she did so wearing the rainbow jersey. At the beginning of the season, Blaak had set herself a goal, to race like a worthy world champion. She has definitely succeeded in that goal.
“I think I already succeeded before this victory, we had a very good spring and I have been riding well for weeks," said Blaak. "I have had some great results this spring already, but I still missed that victory. I have been waiting for that a bit. I was very focused on the Tour of Flanders, where I didn’t win myself but we did win with the team, which was great too. But going on to win the Amstel Gold Race, that's just great.”
Ardennes week continues with the Flèche Wallonne Femmes on Wednesday and Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday.