Amstel Gold Race: Breaking down Cavalli’s nothing-to-lose attack

Cavalli timed her move to perfection and while the rest of the race was looking at each other she rode to victory.

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For any up-and-coming racer or fan of the sport wondering how to properly throw down a late-race attack, look no further than the winning move made by Marta Cavalli (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) at Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race.

When it comes to winning bike races, there are many different factors at play that have to go right to put a rider on that top step. The different factors can be separated into two categories: those you can control and those you can’t. Cavalli’s attack at the end of the Amstel Gold Race was a combination of impeccable timing and also luck. Timing can be controlled, but luck, obviously, can not.

Cavalli was lucky that Demi Vollering picked that moment to radio her teammate in the break, Ashleigh Moolman Pasio. But Cavalli also picked the perfect moment in the race, just after Annemiek van Vleuten had set a blistering pace up the Cauberg while everyone was looking at each other.

“Yesterday we did the recon and we spoke about this moment when you’re in the back and in the front, they slow down, this is the key moment,” Cavalli said at the finish.

Before the final ascent of the Cauberg, the race had been predictably aggressive. Multiple strong riders had tried their hand at escape and been brought back. Going into the base of the climb, the peloton was all together, and surprisingly still pretty big.

Van Vleuten’s pace up the Cauberg whittled down the size of the peloton until only seven riders were left. Of those seven only two represented the same team; Vollering and Moolman Pasio of SD Worx. There was a moment with 1.8 km to go, at the top of the climb, when six in the front group fanned out across the road to look at each other. Liane Lippert went to the right side of the road and looked over to Van Vleuten on the front. Moolman Pasio looked over to Kasia Niewiadoma who was looking at Mavi Garcia.

At that exact moment, Cavalli, who was sitting last wheel in the group, wound up to speed and made her move.

Just as Cavalli increased her pace, Vollering jumped on her radio to direct Moolman Pasio. Instead of immediately chasing down the lone escapee, Moolman Pasio hesitated and looked back at her teammate. A crucial mistake.

With only 1.7 km left in the race, any hesitation can hand the win over to a bold move.

“It’s an incredible feeling, I can’t believe it,” Cavalli said. “When we arrived at the top of the Cauberg the last time we had eight to nine riders and [my sports director] pushed me on the radio, ‘Marta this is your moment, try try we have nothing to lose.'”

Nothing to lose, but everything to gain. With Vollering present, the chasing group left Moolman Pasio to do all the work. If it had been Chantal van den Broek-Blaak or Marlen Reusser maybe Cavalli wouldn’t have been able to hold her advantage, but those two powerhouses were left behind on the Cauberg.

“We started the season with the motto ‘all or nothing,’ and when after 500 meters when I turned my head back I saw a big gap and it was just pushing until the finish line,” said Cavalli.

It was a perfectly timed attack and her all or nothing effort delivered Cavalli and FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope their first WorldTour one-day victory. The race situation handed the advantage to the late-race move and a lack of cooperation in the chase was the final advantage the Italian needed.

Cavalli has been aggressive in races before. She could be seen on the attack at Trofeo Alfredo Binda earlier in the season and was active at last year’s Giro Donne, but it wasn’t until Amstel Gold Race that her efforts finally paid off. In the end, Cavalli stuck to the age-old “keep throwing things at the wall until something sticks” approach, and she came away victorious on Sunday.

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