The classic races continue on Sunday with the Amstel Gold Race, as the peloton heads to the Netherlands for just over 254km of action.
That’s right, the weekend after the Tour of Flanders will feature some of the hilliest roads in the WorldTour and not the cobbled roads of Paris-Roubaix, as the elections in France forced the organizers to make some changes to the traditional calendar this year.
As such, we’ll be treated to the Amstel Gold Race and its many climbs this weekend, with plenty of big names ready to do battle in the Limburg region of the Netherlands. Abby Mickey has the preview for the women’s event, which should be great. In the meantime, here’s what you need to know about the men’s Amstel Gold Race…
The Amstel Gold Race will take the men over 254.1km from the historic university town of Maastricht to the finish line in the small town of Valkenburg. Along the way, riders will traverse a series of hard-hitting climbs, many of which will be climbed more than once on a course that loops back on itself multiple times.
Having already covered six climbs, the riders will make their first trip up the iconic Cauberg around an hour after the start of the race. They will cross the finish line then embark on a wide loop through the surroundings before approaching the Cauberg and crossing the finish a second time. They will then follow a slightly narrower loop in the surroundings before tackling the Cauberg and crossing the finish a third time with 21.3 km to go. From there, the Geulhemerberg and the Bemelerberg await you before the final crossing of the finish line.
The constant ups and downs will wear down the field over the course of the day, but it’s that final trio of Cauberg, Geulhemerberg and Bemelerberg where kills are most likely to fly. The Cauberg is an 800 meter climb with an average gradient of 6.5%, and it features a double-digit stretch that will be a tempting launching pad. The riders will cross the top of the climb for the last time with 23.9 km to go, which will make the subsequent visit to the Geulhemmerberg particularly interesting with 19.3 km to go. It’s only a 5% incline but it’s a mile long towards the end of a very long day.
Finally, there is Bemelerberg there, just under a kilometer at about 4.5%. From the summit there are only 7.3km to go, and on Limburg’s notoriously difficult roads this last stretch could see a late attacker hold off even a strong pursuit group.
The starting list remains provisional as of Wednesday, but we are already quite sure of quite a few stars expected in Maastricht. 2021 winner Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) appears to miss the race as he continues to recover from COVID-19. In the absence of Van Aert, his longtime rival Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) looks like a fitting favorite.
Three years after his spectacular victory in 2019, Van der Poel will make home fans optimistic for a Dutch winner. Van der Poel’s climbing legs and ability to deliver powerful pushes over short periods of time make him an obvious contender on this profile, and he’s clearly in good shape after the Tour of Flanders. He will be hard to beat on Sunday.
Tom Pidcock, second last year, is probably the driver in the best position to challenge Van der Poel. Pidcock is a great climber in his own right with a strong finishing kick. The Ineos Grenadiers will have plenty of firepower in the form of Dylan van Baarlewinner 2015 Michal Kwiatkowskiand Jhonatan Narvaez.
Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl hopes to right the ship amid what has been a disappointing Classics campaign with the likes of Kasper Asgreen and Zdenek Stybar. Matej Mohoric will pave the way for Bahrain Victorious. Tom Dumoulin, Tiesj Benootand eventually Christopher Laporte give Jumbo-Visma plenty of big names even in Van Aert’s absence. Michael Matthews (BikeExchange-Jayco), Marc Hirsch (UAE Team Emirates), Pierre Sagan (Total Energies), and Michael Valgren (EF Education-EasyPost) are others to watch.
Stay tuned for a more in-depth look at the Amstel Gold Race favorites as the start list continues to take shape.