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“Amstel is also available on draft”: Controversy erupts over Amstel Gold Race car slipstream, as Tadej Pogačar says vehicle was “too close”

EF Education-EasyPost’s Jonathan Vaughters, whose rider Ben Healy was closing in on Pogačar at the time of the controversial draft, says vehicle interference “denigrates the racing”

Tadej Pogačar yet again underlined his status as the best rider in the world this afternoon with a crushing solo victory at the Amstel Gold Race, adding yet another line to a frighteningly successful spring campaign that has also featured wins at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Nice.

However, the Slovenian superstar’s rampaging victory has been overshadowed somewhat by a brief period in the final ten kilometres when he benefitted, if completely unintentionally, from the slipstream provided by the driver of the race director’s car, who appeared to linger for a moment too long in front of the double Tour de France winner in what former UCI president Brian Cookson described as an “inexplicable and unacceptable” manoeuvre.

The incident – which has sparked the third controversy in three years for the race organisers, following two photo finish dramas in 2022 and 2021 – occurred just as Ben Healy, the Irish rider who eventually finished second, began to close in on Pogačar.

After dropping Tom Pidcock with around 13km to go, EF Education-Easy Post’s promising 22-year-old had cut Pogačar’s lead from 35 seconds to just 19 in the space of three kilometres. However, following the Slovenian’s 300 metre spell a handful of metres behind the race director’s car, the gap once again crept up, with the impressively strong Healy ultimately finishing 38 seconds back.

While most onlookers were convinced that the relentless Pogačar would have won either way – either solo or in a two-up sprint with the Irishman – the drafting incident has nevertheless sparked something of a social media controversy, with pundits noting the effect race vehicles and motorbikes had on the finale of both the men’s and women’s Amstel Gold Races today, with Demi Vollering another apparent beneficiary of an inadvertent draft during her race-winning attack at the top of the Cauberg.

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

Jonathan Vaughters, Healy’s team manager at EF Education-EasyPost, was one of those to voice his frustration on social media, posting a video of the incident with the caption, “I mean. COME ON.”

Rather surprisingly, the American was backed up by two former UCI presidents, with whom he hasn’t always seen eye to eye.

“I have to agree with you Jonathan,” former UCI head Pat McQuaid replied on Twitter. “He gave Pog ten seconds at a critical moment.”

Meanwhile, McQuaid’s successor Brian Cookson concurred, posting: “Full house. I agree with Pat! Inexplicable and unacceptable.”

Elaborating on his stance later this evening, Vaughters wrote: “The issue is, we see vehicles changing the race results all the time. Sometimes in our favour, sometimes not. It just gets tiresome.

“Pog prob would have won in sprint; NOT the point. It just denigrates the racing.”

Tadej Pogačar drains his beer at the 2023 Amstel Gold Race (Zac Williams/SWpix.com)

Pog drains his beer… after staring at a pint on top of the race director’s car during the race (Zac Williams/SWpix.com)

Pogačar himself has sought to downplay the effect of his brief spell behind the race director’s car, though the 24-year-old did acknowledge that the vehicle “was too close” for a moment.

“I don't like it,” he told WielerFlits after the race. “But this happens all the time when they are in the head of the race. They pass, they sink back again.

“That’s how it always goes in the race. I can’t do much about it. I can only cycle as fast as possible.

“The car was too close, but I don’t think the moment lasted too long.”

> No more photo finish controversies (hopefully) at Amstel Gold, as race organisers upgrade equipment

Amstel’s race director Leo van Vliet was rather more abrupt in his appraisal of the situation and the subsequent furore.

“I’ve heard [the criticism],” he told podcast In Het Wiel. “But yes, if you take a picture when we pass… We drove behind Pogačar, and the moment the differences become smaller, you have to pass.

“And I know the course, it only gets narrower. Then we drove past him, but then you still have to be careful because the road was not that wide there. If someone takes a picture at that moment and says: here is the car driving in front of him. What should I do with it? We’re better looking at what a nice race we got.”

When asked if Pogačar had benefited from the draft, Van Vliet said: “I raced myself and I can’t imagine that. And what good is it for me to do so? Oh well, let them talk, I can’t do anything about it.”

In any case, this year’s Amstel Gold Race certainly put the car in Pogačar, as well as supplying an endless source of memes…

Ryan joined road.cc 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 road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’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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23 comments

Avatar
daturaman | 10 months ago
0 likes

This is Jon Vaughters getting himself some more attention over nothing. Yes, vehicle drafting is an issue but in this race the main decisive factor in the outcome of the race was Pogacar being head and shoulders above everyone else.

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peted76 | 10 months ago
1 like

Meh.. a no story story by the looks of it..  cars causing drafts does need to be sorted out..and sometimes it's race changing.. BUT this doesn't look like an extreme case of it.. and doesn't look like it would have changed any outcome.. a couple of seconds.. humbug.

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ChuckSneed | 10 months ago
0 likes

Tip of the iceberg for Pogacar's cheating ways. Ask him why he loves riding without a power meter, and watch his nose grow when he fails to mention the hidden motor.

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Hirsute replied to ChuckSneed | 10 months ago
5 likes

His lawyers will be in touch soon.

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RobD replied to ChuckSneed | 10 months ago
1 like

I don't understand what having a power meter or not has to do with it? they don't take up the same space in the bike, you wouldn't have to have one or another? 

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mark1a replied to RobD | 10 months ago
1 like

Because in this hypothetical situation, it would be easy to deduce additional assistance if Pog was pushing out 350W and other riders with similar weight were pushing 500W at the same pace. It's one reason why Team Sky published Froome's diet, power & weight data after his "big day out" solo break at the 2018 Giro. 

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ErnieC replied to ChuckSneed | 10 months ago
1 like
ChuckSneed wrote:

Tip of the iceberg for Pogacar's cheating ways. Ask him why he loves riding without a power meter, and watch his nose grow when he fails to mention the hidden motor.

you made a funny

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Rendel Harris replied to ChuckSneed | 10 months ago
3 likes
ChuckSneed wrote:

Tip of the iceberg for Pogacar's cheating ways. Ask him why he loves riding without a power meter, and watch his nose grow when he fails to mention the hidden motor.

Assuming you are referring to his ride on Planche des Belles Filles in 2021 (despite your implication he does not regularly ride without a power meter), that ride was estimated by experts to represent an effort of 6.5 W/kilo, generally agreed to be around the upper limit of the FTP that can be achieved by a clean rider. On the Peyresourde on Stage 8 of the same Tour he did use a power meter and released his figures on Strava, which showed that he rode that climb at 6.5 W/ kilo. Thus there are three alternatives: 

i) That he rode both climbs using a hidden motor but decided to release the power figures for one of them despite the fact that they are identical to the power figures on the non-metered climb;

ii) That he rode the final time trial with a motor in his bike but one which did not allow him to perform any better than he could without it, thereby risking his entire career for no advantage whatsoever;

iii) It's all bollocks.

I know where my money is. Honestly, I know you like to tell everyone that nothing is clean and there is of course always the possibility that the doctors have come up with new PEDs that aren't tested for yet, or new masking agents for old ones; as far as I'm aware nobody has yet come up with a motor that would be invisible to the scrutineers.

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wycombewheeler replied to Rendel Harris | 10 months ago
1 like
Rendel Harris wrote:

 

I know where my money is. Honestly, I know you like to tell everyone that nothing is clean and there is of course always the possibility that the doctors have come up with new PEDs that aren't tested for yet, or new masking agents for old ones; as far as I'm aware nobody has yet come up with a motor that would be invisible to the scrutineers.

I'm working on one that can be hidden in the shoe, shhh don't tell the scrutineers

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Jimmy Ray Will | 10 months ago
0 likes

Off topic, but I loved Tom Pidcock's podium performance. Now there's a man that doesn't normally drink Amstel!

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KDee | 10 months ago
0 likes

Something else I spotted during the Amstel Gold...a team car moving up the peloton through a feed zone. Can anyone confirm if that's allowed? Looked really dodgy on TV. Team staff standing at the side of the road with bidons and gels, the peloton coming through, a team car moving up and the team staff having to jump back out of the way.

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AidanR | 10 months ago
2 likes

I'm not sure how Pog could have got a 10 second advantage from a car that was in close in front of him for *checks video* about 7 seconds.

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ooldbaker replied to AidanR | 10 months ago
0 likes

Easily. If it had taken Healy 17 seconds to cover the same distance.

 

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Zebra replied to ooldbaker | 10 months ago
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According to my maths (which, admittedly, is not great),  the stat in the story that the incident took place over 300m is very unlikely to be correct.  If you take the full 11 second video as showing the period of drafting, then he would have needed to be cycling at 98kmh to cover 300m in that time. For the chaser to lose 10 seconds, he would have been travelling at a somewhat more realistic 49kph.  

Let's say Pog was doing 50kph behind the car for 11 seconds.  He would have covered about 153 metres.  For the chaser to lose 10 seconds in that distance, he would have been doing about 26kph.  Even I would have gapped him. 

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Legin | 10 months ago
1 like

..... driver checks betting slip.....

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Blackthorne | 10 months ago
14 likes

"Amstel available on draft", now that one's pure gold. 

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Rendel Harris | 10 months ago
1 like

Definitely unacceptable, though I doubt it would have had any influence on the outcome and unlikely to be deliberate skulduggery. It's worth noting, as was pointed out on commentary, that straight after Healy attacked Pidcock a large camera bike started tailing him very closely, offering a substantial bow wave effect which would have given him a significant advantage in his attempt to catch up with Pogacar.

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dubwise replied to Rendel Harris | 10 months ago
5 likes

Couldn't have happen, Jonathan Vaughters would have called it out...

Oh wait!!

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Sredlums | 10 months ago
1 like

Race director Leo van Vliet is an ass… not so nice person.

The drafting effect of a car so close in front of a rider is well researched and very real. That he 'can't imagine it having much effect' is irrelevant.

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Secret_squirrel replied to Sredlums | 10 months ago
2 likes

"Very real". Show me your academic credentials and your working that proves a brief moment ahead of a rider confers ANY advantage whatsoever.  Working must also show the impact of any turbulence when sitting diagonally off the rear quarter of the car  for some of the time.

In other news.  GET A LIFE PEOPLE.  There is literally nothing to see here.

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RobD replied to Secret_squirrel | 10 months ago
0 likes

Yeah to be fair, I was expecting to see a few minutes of footage, not the ~10 seconds, much of which the car was pulling away into the distance.

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ShutTheFrontDawes replied to RobD | 10 months ago
4 likes
RobD wrote:

Yeah to be fair, I was expecting to see a few minutes of footage, not the ~10 seconds, much of which the car was pulling away into the distance.

Ah but if you look at the photograph for long enough, it is much longer. I've been looking at it for the past 4 hours and the car is still only meters in front.

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Sredlums replied to Secret_squirrel | 10 months ago
1 like

MY academic credentials?

Where exactly did I say it was my research?

In other news: it's not my fault that you are not up to date on those matters, inform yourself or just shut up.

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