A sports journalist might start writing a report before an event is over, but state the winner or their manner of doing so? We dare not for fear of the journo’s curse.
But then there’s Tadej Pogačar.
About an hour ago I sent a message to our esteemed Escape Collective editor: “Hey Caley, cool if I publish the report before the finish?”
It was the middle of the afternoon on Amstel Gold day. There were 28 kilometres left of the men’s race, and Pogačar had just bid adieu to his surviving companions.
Sure, Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) had only just lost his grip and Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost) was not far off the Brit’s wheel, but as the Slovenian danced up what remained of the Keutenberg, we all knew it was over.
And frankly, though the final blow was dealt here, it was basically already decided with 90km to go when Pogačar made it into an elite selection ahead of the peloton. Pidcock’s super-strong teammate Magnus Sheffield was also there, along with on-form Gianni Vermeersch (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Kevin Geniets (Groupama-FDJ), Andreas Kron (Lotto Dstny) and recent Giro di Sicilia champion Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Qazaqstan), but you have to imagine that the presence of the 24-year-old phenom was ominous to say the least, and at worst, devastating.
With a floundering peloton chasing behind, there were a few moments of hope as the gap dropped below 20 seconds going into the last hour, but a lack of bodies and cohesion, not to mention Matteo Trentin’s (UAE Team Emirates) dogged parachute imitation, the group stayed clear.
Even a leaky tube and bike change couldn’t stop Pogačar; his half-a-dozen remaining rivals must have known it was over when he caught back on with such ease, and on a steep climb too.
Moments after regaining contact with his fellow leaders, Pogačar attacked on the Eyserbosberg, reducing the race to three as Pidcock and Healy followed, with Lutsenko and Kron left in purgatory behind — what was left of the peloton was now flailing minutes back.
What more is there to say? Pidcock did a decent job of matching Pogačar for a while, but the latter was simply waiting for a particular launchpad – as advised by a former winner – and launch he did.
“Mathieu van der Poel told me that I should go on the Keutenberg,” Pogačar told media after the race. “It is the most hard climb, and suits me the most.”
Evidently the time Pogačar and Van der Poel have spent shoulder to shoulder this spring is paying off in unexpected ways for the 24-year-old. In the run-up to Amstel Gold, Pogačar admitted that he didn’t know the hilly Ardennes Classic very well and certainly wasn’t familiar with its iconic/infamous climbs. Lucky for him, Van der Poel had his back.
When did he tell you to attack there?
“Three days ago. He sent me a message,” Pogačar answered.
Will you send a message back?
“Yeah of course, I will thank him for the advice.”
Ben Healy was best of the rest 38 seconds after the unstoppable Slovenian, and Pidcock just held off Kron and Lutsenko to take third 2:14 down. The peloton’s arrival was a further minute delayed.
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