Amstel Gold – some thoughts

The Roads
Today’s race is one of the most manic competitions of the year. Whilst the Tour of Flanders has its bergs and Paris-Roubaix has the pavé, the Amstel has… street furniture.

A collection of traffic calming measures, from sleeping policemen to chicane filter points to curb extensions to traffic islands, footage from this race should be made available to municipal authorities around the world. The Netherlands is the most dense country in Europe with 393 people per square km, and by some way. In second place comes Belgium (337/km²), Holland is more than 50% more dense than third placed Britain (244/km²). Holland has loads of people crammed into a small place, meaning there’s little real countryside and every small village has a suburban feel to it, complete with traffic calming measures.

The Course

Double dutch

One other thing to note is the course. It looks like someone’s dropped a bowl of spaghetti on the map, it twists and turns and includes repeat sections. It makes for a technical race, riders are constantly turning left and right and this makes it hard work. Anyone not in towards front of the bunch in the second half of the race is going to sprinting out of every corner just to keep up.

The Hills

Holland does have hills. Look at the map and that little finger of land to the south reaches down from the flatlands and right into south. It’s only 25km from the finish today to Liège, home of the hilliest classic going. Now we’re not talking mountains but they are enough to make a difference after all that twisting and turning earlier on. Robert Gesink is a candidate to win after all.

The People

The Dutch love their bike racing. As I pointed out above, it’s a crowded country and so there are lots of people on hand to watch the race go by. But add on the fact that the race is sponsored by a brewery and you have a recipe for fun in the sun. The crowd on the Cauberg can get especially lively but in a nice way, there’s no hooliganism, just people draped in orange, often with their face painted in the colours of the Dutch flag with faces getting ever redder.

All in all, it’s my least favourite spring classic. I don’t like a major race repeating sections of road and the course has nothing special going for it. But I won’t be harsh on the race, the Dutch are great cycling fans and the race is hard fought. It makes for good TV too. But my thoughts are already racing ahead to next Wednesday’s rendez-vous on the insane Muur de Huuy.

4 thoughts on “Amstel Gold – some thoughts”

  1. It might not be the Liege, Flanders or Roubaix, but it's not a bad race at all. It's usually pretty exciting, without a certain result.

    In terms of 'nothing special', with apologies to the Belgians, I think that's what I like about their races: they don't have 'special' places like the Alps to race through, so they make the best of what they have; little hills, muddy farm roads, and gritty, gray towns that few would call beautiful compared to some of the scenery of the Giro or Tour. The Dutch Amstel is similar: I'm certainly not inspired to go there on vacation for the great riding, but by using what they've got, they make a good race.

  2. Your least favourite. OK, that is you opinion, I respect that. BUT…as Mr. Welton said, although not as much tradition and maybe spectacle as the named one, but definitely more entertaining than Milan-San Remo or the Flêche Wallone.
    Milan-San Remo: It is good that there is something for the sprinters, also I think it is OK for it to be that long for the selection, but except for the beautiful country side it has not much going for itself.
    Flêche Wallone: Except the Mur itself, only nameless and faceless and less challenging climbs than the Amstel. Also crippled to an half classic of 200km.
    And it is a spectators dream. You can cover like 50 to 70 km on your bike and see the race up to around 10 times while doing so. And as a personal bonus to me, I know every street and climb they ride. But I admit the landscape at LBL or MSR is much prettier. Although I prefer riding in Belgium aswell, but those Amstel climbs are some nasty bastards and always nice for a change.
    In my opinion it is much better than the Flêche and for riding it is a great place, maybe just not the prettiest. On a side note, it is a very popular vacation area for the Dutch themselves and the Vaalser Berg is the highest mountain in the Netherlands and kind of their mekka.

  3. My least favourite… but that doesn't mean I don't like it! It's still a very good race as this year's vintage proved.

    It's just the course is less than inspiring for me, but as they say, the riders make the race, not the course. Although vendeeu's Millar quote made me laugh out loud!

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