Amstel Gold Race 2019
“It’s not true! It ís true!”
That scream comes from the Dutch commentator who cannot believe what he just saw. We all cannot believe what we just saw. One of the most extraordinary finishes in cycling. Ever.
In these strange times without competitive sports I just want to relive that day in April last year. Today exactly one year ago. The Amstel Gold Race of 2019. Mathieu van der Poel.
Since 2002 we have created a tradition for this race.
It is Sunday morning. Mid-April. We meet up for the one and only Cycling Classic of the Netherlands. The Amstel Gold Race. And we not only want to see the race. We want to be part of it!
So, we need a few things; 1) A fast car 2) a detailed map of Limburg 3) the time schedule for the race 4) at least two people to play the crucial roles; driver & map reader.
Breakfast at big square, seeing the ‘drivers’ parade. We drink our coffee and hear the ambitions of the teams before the race. We set our own bets and have one last look at the map.
It is the silence before the storm.
As soon as the peloton and we hear the shot for the start, we also start running. Running through the crowds to our car. Parked on the other side of the river Maas. Positioned in such a way that we can set off in the right direction immediately.
The race has started. Our race has started. Dick, who is our main navigator in these races, sees a car from one of the participation teams and shouts that we have to follow that car. I change gear (since I am the main driver throughout the years) and push the right pedal.
Today is not for Sunday drivers. It is the Amstel Gold Race.
We follow the mechanics car from TREK a few miles but then decide to stick to the plan. Our plan. We suddenly drive through the silent hills of Limburg. Nobody out there. Are we on the right track? Dick? “Continue for 200 meters and then take a sudden right turn! Now!” I feel like I am Sebastian Loeb in the Rally of Corsica. The road is sandy. Is this ok Dick? “Just stay on this road and at the next crossing; park the car on the right side”. Ok. I have learnt to follow Dick’s instruction without hesitation. “Turn the car around” is the next order when I stop. We run out of the car and within 2 minutes we see the first riders passing by. Followed by the peloton a few minutes later. We run back to the car and drive off. To the next stop and meeting with the race.
So, this is the program of the day. It is called “Afsteken” in Dutch and means that since we drive around inside the ‘’circle’’ of the race. The Amstel Gold Race (AGR) is not a race from one town in straight line to the finish town. It is a course where circles can be drawn on the map and the peloton passes by, several times the Cauberg for example. This gives us the opportunity to see the drivers up to 10 times.
But it is hard work 😊. We cannot let our concentration slip for one moment. Parking the car in the wrong way of wrong side of the road means that we are stuck for 30 minutes making the next stop impossible. It is funny since after all those years we see familiar faces, like once those crazy Belgian fans that even drove up the Cauberg. Once we were ón the racetrack just behind the teamcars; the crowd waved at us; probably to let us know we were in the race😉 We often ‘finished’ our race at the Fromberg where we then watched the last 20 km of the race in our car. We allways saw Michael Boogerd, the Dutch favourite, finishing second.
We never saw a Dutch victory! Until 2019. The day that Mathieu van der Poel did the impossible. Attacking early in the race. Blowing up his chances when he got taken in by the peloton. Two absolute favourites then taking a decisive lead. Alaphilippe would probably win in the sprint ‘a deux’.
We decided to watch this time not in the car but at a local café in the area. It coincidentally happened to be a café full of fans of the Van der Poel brothers, Mathieu and David.
After ordering two beers we decided to sit in the back of the room and enjoy the ambiance and our beers. We saw the drivers passing by just 15 minutes ago and the race was done. Our Mathieu (MVDP) was in the chasing group but far behind the two upfront. No chance of winning but we knew that his time would come.
We just did not realize that that time came a lot sooner. Before the end of our second beer…
As the finish drew closer, we heard the noise of the commentators going up a notch. MVDP took charge of the chase and as Armstrong mentioned in this podcast; “And there he was, that F*%^* animal MVPD!” Like a hyena on fire MVDP was chasing. He told afterwards that he had no clue where the two leaders were exactly but that he wanted to finish as best as he could. When the helicopter took the images of the last mile the noise went up once more. Through the trees you could see the chasing group coming closer. How far to go to the finish line? Some of the people in the pub started to wobble on their chairs. I got up to see it better; were the leaders in reach? No. Can’t be.
The last 500 meters of this race will be going into the history books of professional cycling. Difficult to grasp the emotions of that incredible finish. MVDP and the rest of the chasing group dancing and moving from side to side on the road.; The whole pub is losing it; the commentator loses it; “Is that Mathieu van der Poel? That cannot be true…… IT IS TRUE!”
I film during these last minutes of the race. People in the pub just cannot believe it. I cannot believe it.
The owner of the pub and huge fan of the Van der Poel brothers holds his hand to his head. How was this possible?
After many years of chasing the peloton in the Amstel Gold Race this was surely the most iconic day of the them all. A race that mocked with all principles of professional cycling. That made it so beautiful. An utter belief & pure passion that took the victory. A passion that we share and gets us to the Limburg hills every year.
Only this year not in person. So therefore, to relive those emotions, I have made a short video where you can see the images of the race from the pub, but also the remarks of the astonished Armstrong!
And I will watch the race ‘live’ again as if I don’t know the result. And guess what I will shout? “No, that cannot be true…… IT IS TRUE!”
And to all Olympic fans; He will be present in Tokyo2020 next year; mountainbike..