The new finale of the Amstel Gold Race didn’t keep Philippe Gilbert from winning for the fourth time. The race exploded early than previous years. Tim Wellens and Tiesj Benoot attacked in the finale. Unfortunately, Tiesj had mechanical problems.
The early break consisted of twelve riders. They had a maximal advantage of 8’20”. At that moment Lotto Soudal set a rider at the head of the bunch, together with Sunweb. Later, BMC took over. The last escapee got reeled in with forty kilometres to go, just before the Kruisberg. Tiesj Benoot accelerated on that hill. The Lotto Soudal rider got in front with seven others. Unfortunately, Tiesj had chain problems after a contact with José Joaquin Rojas and he had to let go of the front group. Tim Wellens immediately set up a counterattack. On the Keutenberg some riders jumped away from the bunch and caught Tim. He became part of a chasing group with Felline, Van Avermaet and Valverde. Michal Kwiatkowski was able to bridge to the front. The group with Tim – which was joined by Barguil, Jungels and Rui Costa – couldn’t close the gap on the leaders and got caught by the bunch. On the Bemelerberg, the last hill of the day, Philippe Gilbert and Michal Kwiatkowski attacked in front. They battled for the win. Gilbert beat Kwiatkowski in the sprint.
Tim Wellens: “The plan was that I, Tiesj Beoot or Jelle Vanendert would attack in the finale. It was a perfect situation when Tiesj was part of the front group, but suddenly he was distanced because of a mechanical. I then tried to bridge to the leaders. I came very close, but not close enough. I had already used a lot of energy when I was joined by among others Greg Van Avermaet. It was impossible to follow Michal Kwiatkowski. The first part of the race went perfectly. Just before the finale, BMC had raised the pace and I was on their wheel together with some teammates. Then we got to the decisive moment. I had good legs, but not good enough. Wednesday I ride Flèche Wallonne, we will determine our tactics in the next days: attack before Mur de Huy or not.”
Tiesj Benoot: “I didn’t want to wait too long to attack. I turned onto the Kruisberg in second position and got in the front group. Perfect so far, until I touched the rear wheel of Rojas. I got out of balance, had to put my foot on the ground and my chain was dropped. I was immediately caught by the bunch. Unfortunately, Tim couldn’t close the gap on the leaders. It was actually a miracle that I was part of the front group, as I had crashed at one hundred kilometres from the end. I have a lot of abrasions on my left side. I was nauseous for a while, but got better. It’s a pity that I was dropped from the break, because they remained ahead till the finish. A podium or top five might have been possible. The course of the Amstel suits me and that’s hopeful for the future.”