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Unbeatable Tadej Pogačar destroys the field at Amstel Gold, as Ben Healy attacks Tom Pidcock to secure second

The relentless Slovenian, who slipped into a decisive move with 90km to go, shrugged off a bike change before launching a trademark long-range solo attack to continue his spectacular spring

How do you solve a problem like Tadej Pogačar? That’s the tune that will be stuck in the heads of every pro bike rider on the planet this evening, as the cannibalistic Slovenian continued his dominant, spectacular spring by dispatching Tom Pidcock and the mightily impressive Ben Healy to secure a trademark long-range solo win at the Amstel Gold Race this afternoon.

Even a niggling bike problem wasn’t enough to derail the freight train that is Pogačar’s early-season form, with the UAE Team Emirates rider launching a series of relentless, charging attacks on the similarly unrelenting terrain of the Netherlands’ Limburg region, before finally cracking the last of his remaining rivals, Pidcock and Healy, with 28km to go on the Keutenberg.

That series of probing moves may have echoed his Tour of Flanders win two weeks ago, but the latest addition to the Pogačar canon offered a subtle variation on the now established narrative.

The 24-year-old superstar, rather than wait for the decisive climbs late on, slipped into a dangerous looking move with around 90km to go, which also included Strade Bianche winner Pidcock, the in-form Irish rider Healy, Alexey Lutsenko, Andreas Kron, Magnus Sheffield, Gianni Vermeersch, and Axel Zingle.

A period of consternation in the peloton, with Jumbo-Visma, then Trek-Segafredo and Bahrain-Victorious, deliberating briefly before moving to the front, allowed that group to gain an advantage of 30 seconds – which, on the constantly twisty, up-and-down roads of the Limburg, proved enough for the attackers to stay away.

Not everything was smooth sailing for Pogačar, however. Soon after his group moved clear, the Slovenian appeared to have a problem with his bike, which he later revealed to be a very slow puncture.

Unable to attain service from his team car, which languished behind the doomed chasing group, the issue persisted for several kilometres – with Pogačar only securing a bike change on the Kruisberg with under 40km to go, just as the likes of Tiesj Benoot attacked from behind.

For a normal rider, perhaps, that may have been it. But not for Tadej Pogačar, who week after week continues to rip up the rules of bike racing.

New bike secured, albeit slower than he might have hoped, the nonchalant Tour de France winner simply cruised back up to the front group by the top of the Kruisberg, and immediately began ferociously battering the door down.

On the Eyserbosweg with 36km to go, he dragged clear EF Education-EasyPost’s Healy, who took a strong second at Brabantse Pijl earlier this week, and Pidcock, working his way back to top form after his spell off the bike due to concussion at last month’s Tirreno-Adriatico.

That trio only lasted for eight kilometres, however, as Pogačar – acting on the instructions of 2019 winner Mathieu van der Poel, according to the Slovenian – attacked on the Keutenberg, dropping first Healy, then Pidcock, to set up a 28km-long victory lap.

Behind the rampaging UAE Team Emirates rider, 22-year-old Healy dropped Pidcock with 13km to go, and even briefly looked to be closing in on the race leader, before ultimately soloing to a career breakthrough second place at one of the sport’s biggest classics – and, with it, the best Irish performance at Amstel Gold for over forty years.

Ineos rider Pidcock, meanwhile, had just enough in the tank to hold off Lutsenko and Kron in the dying metres to secure the final spot on the podium.

But all eyes, naturally, will fall on the frighteningly dominant Pogačar, who – following his wins at Paris-Nice and the Tour of Flanders – proved that there is very little, if anything, he can’t win.

And it turns out his beer drinking isn’t bad either:

Truly unbeatable...

Next stop? La Flèche Wallonne, a race Pogačar himself admitted in the post-race interview he hasn’t excelled at in the past.

I wouldn’t bet against him, anyway.

The women’s race this morning, meanwhile, also expanded upon the dominant theme of the spring campaign, as SD Worx once again underlined their dominance in one-day races with yet another one-two courtesy of Demi Vollering and Lotte Kopecky.

After a strong move by Movistar’s German champion Lianne Lippert on the final climb up the famous Cauberg, Strade Bianche and Dwars door Vlaanderen winner Vollering seized her opportunity as the road flattened at the top.

With Tour of Flanders champion Kopecky in the group behind, all Vollering had to go was keep her head down and time trial to the finish for a win that continues her remarkable run of early season results (of the six races she’s started in 2023, only once has she finished outside the top two).

Kopecky, whose classics consistency is almost as impressive as her teammate’s, duly sprinted for second place, eight seconds behind, while Trek-Segafredo’s rising star Shirin van Anrooij secured third, and Britain’s Pfeiffer Georgi continued her own consistent spring with seventh.

“I cannot quite believe it yet,” Vollering said after the race. “We executed our plan so well again. I knew I wanted to attack on top of the Cauberg, and I saw that a lot of riders were already finished there, so I thought, ‘okay, this is perfect for us’. I saw Lotte was super good still, she looked behind to see if I give the sign to go, and I said ‘yes, I go’.

“I didn’t dare to look behind, I was just thinking, ‘go as fast as I can’. They doubted a little bit behind, and then they will never get me back anymore with the watts that I was riding. It was a hard race, really cold, and I like cold weather, so I kept that in my mind all day.”

Ryan joined in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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stonojnr | 1 year ago
1 like

What happened to the comedy oversized beer glasses they had last year ? Those were proper winning prizes.

NotNigel | 1 year ago

I'm fairly new to following the racing side of things so only just getting to grips with the rules etc but was wondering why it's showing a big percentage of riders in the men's race as 'did not finish'.  Is there some sort of cutoff time? I'm guessing if half the field got wiped out in a crash it would've been reported about?

Off the back replied to NotNigel | 1 year ago
1 like

Many riders are there as domestiques - worker bee type riders who's main effort is to protect their leader. As the race goes on , many will have spent their energy keeping said leader in the race so they bail out instead of riding a race they have no chance of winning. That's the tactics of many teams. 

NotNigel replied to Off the back | 1 year ago

Thank's for explaining,  makes a lot of sense.  I've just about got my head around the grand tours, just these one day races leaving me a bit confused.

Miller replied to NotNigel | 1 year ago
1 like

Note that the last 20km or so was a circuit. A lot of not in contention riders would have headed for the team bus when they reached the finish line with another lap to go.

Awavey replied to Miller | 1 year ago

if it was a finishing circuit they were passing the finish line more than once, then they may well have been called out of the race by the commissaires with 1 lap to go across the finish line so as not to get in the way.

Rendel Harris replied to NotNigel | 1 year ago
1 like

The race went through the finish line with 20km to go and looped back, as the team buses would all be near the finish a lot of domestiques whose work for the day was done would have got off there and headed into the warm - after 237km and with no meaningful involvement in the race remaining, can't blame 'em!

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