Amstel Gold Race Preview

A calendar change because of presidential elections this Sunday in France means the Amstel Gold Race swaps slots with Paris-Roubaix, a hilly race instead of the flattest of them. Some things stay the same though: it’s Mathieu van der Poel vs the field.

The Route: the profile says plenty, a day in Heuvelland, “hill land”. The stats too as it’s 254km, with 33 marked climb and almost 3,500m of vertical gain, a lot for a course that rarely ventures beyond the altitude of 200m, there are buildings in the Netherlands that stand taller than most of today’s climbs.

The one thing harder to count from afar is all the corners and junctions. The difficulty is combination of small roads, turns and climbs which combine to make the accordion effect of the peloton harder than usual for those left at the back, a lot of repeat efforts just to stay in contention. Not that being at the front is easy, there’s the fight for position as well.

The Finish: the now-familiar ascent of the Cauberg and over to the finish line and then the loop via the orchards and the Bemelerberg climb, a soft gradient but sometimes just enough to split the field. Then via Mathieu van der Poel Allée and to the finish on a big wide road.

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The Contenders: Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) is a past winner, is in form and is hard to beat. As ever his squad is not as strong as rival outfits so he’ll have to force events himself and get into a group where he can then hope to win by sprint going solo. Easy said than done…

…so next comes a long list of convincing contenders. But it’s hard to pick among them, especially since a lot of the usual names aren’t here because they’ve been racing in the Basque Country. Jumbo-Visma compete on home soil but without Wout van Aert. Christophe Laporte and Tiesj Benoot showed good form in Flanders and if they can both get to the finish they can hope to play a numbers game on Alpecin and the rest.

Bahrain are another strong team with several cards to play. Dylan Teuns, Fred Wright and Matej Mohorič can feature.

UAE rest Tadej Pogačar and instead come with Marc Hirshi instead. He’s not been the same force he was in 2020 but looks to be back on track and has the experience needed for this race. Matteo Trentin’s on hand for experience on a young team with Juan Ayuso worth watching.

Quick-Step haven’t quite brought their A-Ardennes team, instead it looks like some riders are getting a workout ahead of Roubaix. So no Alaphilippe but Florian Sénéchal and so on. Kasper Asgreen is in form and versatile but will have to take risks to win, to go early and long. Andrea Bagioli is handy for a hilly course.

Tom Pidcock is back at the race where he proved less photogenic than Wout van Aert in a photofinish one year ago and in rising form. Ineos have deputies in Dylan van Baarle and past Amstel winner Michał Kwiatkowski.

Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ) is in great form, only he could follow van der Poel and Pogačar up the Koppenberg. But how to win here? He’s strong on the endurance front, less so in a sprint but will be confident.

Lotto-Soudal bring Philippe Gilbert to race up the Cauberg for the last time, the climb has been essential to his career as he won the Amstel four times, took the 2012 World title here. In 2011 the Amstel Gold race was part of his “Ardennes” sweep of Amstel*, Liège, Flèche Wallonne and Brabantse Pijl. Tim Wellens and Andreas Kron though have better chances of winning here.

Michael Valgren (EF Education) has won here too and just like before can pop-up, this is a race that suits him and he likes. Søren Kragh Andersen has been aiming for this race and the Ardennes. He was a late call-up for DSM last week only to not start so his condition’s a mystery. Benoît Cosnefroy (Ag2r Citröen) is knocking on the door of a big result but how to cross the line first in a race with such a deep field. His speciality is hitting the climbs hard. Michael Matthews (BikeExchange) has had three top-5s here before and found winning ways in the recent Volta a Catalunya. Simon Clarke has been a useful last minute signing for the Israel-Premiertech team and has the race craft to do well here. Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic) is an infrequent winner but in good shape and his team are flourishing this spring.

Mathieu van der Poel
Tom Pidcock, Marc Hirschi, Michael Matthews
Laporte, Benoot, Mohorič, Madouas, Cosnefroy, SKA
Valgren, Kwiatkowski
Kron, Clarke, Bagioli, Teuns, Barguil, Ayuso, Wellens

Weather: much of western Europe’s been blasted by storms but these have blown away and it’ll be a cool with some sunshine and clouds, 12°C.

TV: the race starts at 10.20 CEST and finishes at around 4.45pm. Tune for the last hour to catch most of the action. It’s on NOS locally and Eurosport/GCN for most other territories.

* Ardennes?  the Amstel Gold Race isn’t in the Ardennes. Cycling sometimes label it as an “Ardennes classic” because it’s hilly, on at the same time of year and not far from the Ardennes, a heuristic that helps paint a picture even if it’s a bit wrong. The Ardennes are a western part of the larger Eifel mountain range in Germany. The Ardennes begin, if you were to ride from today’s race, further to the south than today’s race, think Liège. Today’s hills in the south of Limburg are not the Ardennes hills, rather clay and sand deposits.

Women’s Amstel: this starts at 10.35 CEST and finishes around 2.00pm with coverage from midday onwards. For a good preview, see’s Amstel picks

56 thoughts on “Amstel Gold Race Preview”

  1. Looking at the field it’s hard to see past MVDP, but that’s often when it all goes wrong with such a red hot favourite. Søren Kragh Andersen has been quietly picking up some good top 10s, so I’ll take him to slip away in the last few KMs from a small group.

  2. Bit tangential, but how is it that a cycling-mad nation like the Netherlands has only a 55 year old event named for a beer company as its major race? Belgium has a ton of storied events, France even more … though Germany not even that…

    • “Germany not even that”
      “Rund um den Henninger Turm” is 4 years older than AGR and has also the name of a beer brand in his name. So what’s your point then?
      That this classic now has been renamed stupidly and there is no Turm anymore?

      • You’re right, there is Henninger Turm! (Or Frankfurt-Eschborn anyway). But that just reinforces the point: Belgium, France, Italy, even Spain all have races well over a century old, and while some of them have waxed and waned in stature, they’re still around. Others, on the other hand, are the biggest races in the sport. Why were the Netherlands (and Germany) so late to the game?

        • There were races way before that. The 5th ever Worlds were held in the Netherlands. But none of them made it to a famous race that lasted. Olympia’s tour for example was first held in 1909, but these days it’s an U23 race of mostly national importance. Netherlands may be cycling mad, it’s more mad about riding bikes than about organizing pro races in the tiny piece of the country that is remotely interesting to have a pro race on.
          I’m no historian but I would guess that WWII killed many races and new races were started once people had cleaned up the mess and had tires on their bikes again etc in the early 50s.

          • “Netherlands may be cycling mad, it’s more mad about riding bikes than about organizing pro races …”
            I think this is correct. I’ve lived in Amsterdam for the last four years and have been surprised how little interest there is in watching or talking about bike races among the Dutch people I know. I asked a Dutch guy I met online before I came here, a fellow vintage racing bike enthusiast, if he watched races. This for four years ago, mind you, but he answered that he was only recently interested “now that we have a contender in the Tour de France” (i.e., Tom Dumoulin). He seemed largely uninterested in the Classics or other races. I think there may be more interest in the south, closer to Flanders, but I’m not sure.

    • Perhaps they prefer speed skating in the Netherlands where flat terrain is not a problem and a pair of skates are more affordable than a bicycle.

      • One thing they need to do is get more parked cars out of the way. Way-too-many times riders had to avoid cars that should have been prevented from being parked along those roads. If pro cycling’s a big a deal there as some claim, it should be no-big-deal to get owners of these things to get ’em off the streets for one f__king Sunday!
        People complain all the time about Italian race routes being dangerous for various reasons, but I think they do a much better job of clearing the roads of parked cars than was demonstrated at Amstel Gold 2022. Now if I could just get ’em to run this week’s Tour of Sicily over the route cancelled by the pandemic (practically at my front door!) instead of 2022’s route I’d be “as happy as Larry” or something like that.

        • I remember reading somewhere (…) that it’s illegal to make people move their cars off the street in the Netherlands. Hence the Ronde van roundabouts, street furniture and parked cars.

  3. The weakened field may lead to a less intense pace and bring some dark horses into it … or MVdP may just ride off the front on his own!

    • Was the field really weakened? Yes, a big deal was made by Pro Cycling Stats of the starting list being weaker than most recent editions but does that necessarily make the list of probable winners any the less?

      PCS has previous start lists for Amstel in their Top 10 races of the year. Nobody thinks Amstel is in the Top 10 races of the year. Looking at the winners and those who finish in the Top 10 at Amstel it is clear that the quality is not as high as could be inferred from the start list.

      An explanation for this could include the possibilities that Amstel attracts some stars from the cobbled races who are trying to eke out the last dregs of their form for a result, but usually don’t after two hard Monuments back-to-back the previous weekends; and that it attracts star climbers who ride the Ardennes week but who are really focusing on Fleche Wallone and Liege and either aren’t really suited to this race or aren’t trying too hard in it; so the start list looks good but the riders who are most likely to get a result include many from further down the food chain or for whom this type of race is just right – no cobbles, no big climbs, hard but not too hard, hilly but not too hilly.

      It might be counter-intuitive but it’s possible that the start list was worse this year while the Top 10 was better than average. Top riders in the Basque Country often start Amstel but don’t often place well, their skillset being better suited usually for Fleche and Liege. Cobbled stars could race here this year without Paris-Roubaix in their legs so more may have had their chances of success raised accordingly.

    • Pidcock, kwiat, mvdp, Mohoric, Matthews, etc

      You always hear statements like “oh it is a weak field” making it sound like anyone can win… Silly, the winner was a past Monument champ who has had some of the biggest Olympic and TdF rides that never led to podiums… Seems like a legit race winner to me.

      Chapeau to Cosnefroy. He took Kwiatkowski to a jury decision.

  4. ‘Pidcock proved less photogenic’ – indeed, but did we ever see the actual photo to know?!

    I’d say redemption for Pidcock, whatever last year’s photo outcome. But he’ll need to use himself and Turner, plus the team fantastically well to do it when MVP is there.

      • Cycling Tips is now behind a paywall for me. I refuse to pay for information that is free all over the internet. Paywalls for cycling sites simply reduce the number of hits. Their end game is obvious.

        Amstel was a good attacking/tactical race and probably the best man won!

  5. Great preview. One minor error. “Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ) is in great form, only he could follow van der Poel and Pogačar up the Cauberg” Cauberg should be Koppenberg.

  6. I am assuming mvdp is racing next week. Is so i wonder if they could have thought of leaving him out of this one even though hes a past winner.
    Having in top condition for roubaix it must have been a consideration to prevent burnout and the risk of an accident.
    I had the last 40 km’s of this on my tacx trainer and i was shocked at how severe the hills were. The race sort of seemed formulaic when it finished on the cauberg i assumed it was not as hard as it is.

  7. I really hope that WVA is back for Paris-Roubaix, and in good form. And now that he’s had a break, he has even more reason to race Liege-B-L. He’s good enough on climbs to be a favourite for that race anyway, and I can’t see why he wouldn’t always do it. Actually, I think MvdP should do it too, although he probably has a lesser chance of winning. Many riders used to do all the Monuments (and Pogacar is doing most of them), and what else do they have to keep themselves fresh for? (I realise that MvdP is doing the Giro, but winning LBL is more important than finishing the Giro.)

    • Agree on a few points here:
      ~ MVdP’s Giro goal is only to help the team or win a stage or something small, shouldn’t avoid any Classic/Monument in order to achieve that
      ~ Pogacar’s ride at Flanders is EXACTLY why MVdP should attempt LBL – having that mix of riders at Flanders made it a very interesting race, normally it’s a variety of roleurs, and this was a very welcome change.
      ~ Would be great to see WVA back at LBL, had a great start to the season, and then voluntarily (or not – obviously because of covid) he’s hopefully had a chance to step back, reset and come back strong for another peak – really hope he wasn’t too bad with covid. Watching WVA climb in GT’s or P-N and you can see he clearly has the ability to compete at LBL

      In the next 5-10 years I look forward to many battles between WVA/MVdP/Pogacar and others, perhaps Bernal (already back riding, amazing), Pidcock, Girmay, Pedersen, Alaphallipe (while he’s in his prime), Madouas, Mohoric, etc. We have a very exciting batch of riders to watch right now. And, they’re a huge mix of riding types too, so it makes it very interesting. Plus there are a handful of older riders that still have serious power who can make things happen (not as consistently as before, but that’s fine) – this year we’ve had great rides from Kristoff, Kwiatkowski and Roglic to name a few.

      Either way, it looks like a great season – thank you Inrng for all your great blogs, it’s my first stop every morning. Thank you.

    • Haha. How long did Belgium go for recently with no government?!
      So maybe it’s a case of cycling being as important in each country, just that the business of elections is relatively more important in France than in Belgium. 😀

  8. I’d have never expected Kwiato to take this, haven’t seen that kind of form for a long time, great prediction to even put him on INRNG

    • I’m Polish so I’m biased here, but I’d say he was sharp in the last two seasons if a little unlucky. Rode well after the 2020 season restarted – first in Dauphine, then during TdF (also grabbing that memorable stage with Carapaz) and in one-day races, finally placing 4th at the Worlds. 2021 was no different although the Spring campaign – just like this year – was a bit of a start-stop because of the crash at Trofeo Laigueglia and broken ribs. He came back strong at TdF, i.e. being the last to support the leader at Mont Ventoux. The focus though was on the Olympics, where he denied the commentators and coped well with Mikuni Pass and then risked with a long range attack but to no avail.

      • Thank you for the message inabstracto – appreciate the indepth info.

        You are most likely right.

        I like Kwiato a lot, feel he’s one of those riders who’s versatility means he’s an incredible rider but doesn’t win as often as his talent deserves. I had however started to feel that like Sagan he was being slowly moved on by younger riders and no longer at a level where he could win a MilanSanRemo, StradaB or other similar races, leaving only races like a favourable Worlds course or the Ardennes or GT stages to win as they suit his tactical awareness and skillset.

        I still think he’d be hard pushed to win MSR or SB now but should he win LBL or similar I’d be very happy – and saying ‘only’ those races is a bit daft as they’re obviously great wins any rider would be happy with. There’s just a side of me that would like to see him (and Sagan) win more big races before he retires.

        My reason for liking him is he seems extremely smart/calm at crucial moments are wins with brains – even yesterday, the bike throw won him the race and he might have been humble playing it down but it takes a cool head to remember to throw the bike at the right moment to win a sprint like yesterday. All his major wins seem to come down to great tactics, be interesting to see if he makes a good DS one day?

        So maybe rather than his form seeming less impressive than previous years, it’s just the level of WVA, POG, MVDP and a few others make it harder to see him winning a few monuments than it was a few years ago – but you never know obviously!!

        • As far as I remember Kwiatkowski even admitted this himself – I think it was this INEOS’ backstage video recorded last Spring. He said something along the line that a few years back he had felt like he could have won almost any one-day race and all the Monuments bar P-R were within his reach but now – due to shortened 2020 season, a few setbacks caused by injury/illness and the sudden emergence of the new generation he realized the chances are suddenly slipping away.

          I agree with you and also believe that there’s still plenty of room for seasoned, experienced riders, especially in the classics where you have to “read” the race and be aware of the route. It’s not Zwift after all. As for the future DS-role, I see many similarities between him and Michal Golas (in the road captain role), who has taken up this position shortly after ending his career last year.

          • A wily move to get away when the ineos rider everyone had eyes on was Pidcock. I get the impression he also sensed everyone was on the limit at the top of the Cauberg. Some smart drafting on the run in just spending a little less time on the front than Cosnefroy and a sprint and bike throw timed to perfection. Out and out racecraft – chapeau Kwiato!!!

          • Tomski- I wouldn’t call it wily – more like “Bike Racing 101”. When your team has one of the favorites (as in 4 chainrings above) other team members go up the road so your competitors have to chase while you sit back and relax. If they catch him you are now fresh for your attack if your moves as “stopper” (as the Italians like to call it) don’t work. I’d say the difference for Kwiato was nobody had to remind him about any of this through an earpiece, but then of course he had to finish it off since Pidcock gave up his chance to win. Kwiato looked more relieved than happy when he pulled it off IMHO.

          • Yes Larry but I thought Tomski’s take was bit more nuanced?

            As in it’s obviously a fairly usual tactic to put riders ahead if you have a favourite… but it doesn’t always work… there’s many rider who either go too early (Remco in last years worlds) or time their efforts poorly so fail to break away etc etc.

            Tomski’s right that Kwiato choose a good moment when others were recuperating plus he ghosted the first few meters rather than telegraph by zipping past at a full sprint – made me think of a Terpstra-esq attack.

            Then he managed to do less work without breaking the alliance between he and BC, and finally timed his bike throw to perfection which BC failed to do and likely would have won if he had – all in all expert tactics from start to finish.

            Obviously he’s not always perfect and you still have to have the legs – but his Worlds win in Spain when he watched the U23 race and took his notes from that to the win, plus his MSR win where he outfoxed Sagan are a pretty impressive examples of a master tactician. SKAnderson looks like his most natural successor – despite not winning MSR I thought he still rode a strong race and just needed a little luck to pull it off with a well timed attack.

            Sagan and WVA seem like the poorest tacticians although it is harder when you’re the strongest. I will never understand why Sagan in his prime did not go at the exact Poggio spot he did the year Kwiato beat him year after year after year, as he would have won with the same attack more often than not but strangely never did again.

        • He also said he’s had both Covid and the flu this spring, and is just now getting into form. Should be interesting to watch. He’s riding Pijl, Roubaix, Flèche, and LBL.

          • oldDave- lot’s of Monday-morning-quarterbacking there, as they say. And calling someone wily because they are more tactically astute than Evenepoel is a pretty low bar, don’t you think?
            I’d say Sagan, WVA and pretty much anyone at this level has more tactical smarts in their little finger than any of the “keyboard lion” out there.

    • I’m surprised he could even lift it! In reality it must be an almost empty coloured glass with a small quantity of beer and froth on top, otherwise, after >250km, chapeau Kwiato.

      A great race too.

  9. A side issue, but who insisted on the P-R Amstel inversion. Yes we had the first round for president yesterday but first division football went ahead as usual (Bordeaux – FC Metz etc.)

    • You can hold a game inside a stadium but a bike race is going to close roads around the course, presumably all the voting stations inside schools, town halls etc along the way will have issues.

  10. When Kwiato took Sagan and Ala at MSR I remember a writer saying the he was know for beating Sagan in Juniors. He most certainly has a deadly bike throw! A real nice win and gracious Cosnefroy.

    • Yes Cosnefroy took it so well, what a nice bloke.

      Think he needs to leave a French team if he wants to win more.

      I love France but their cycling teams are bizarrely awful and even if funding is partly the issue they seem poorly managed and unready to take chances like yesterday when they come…

      I’m sure I’m not the only person to think/say this – but even from yesterday I wonder if you can tell they rarely win from the last moments of the race and immediately after – ie: the way they told him too soon that he had won, race radio apparently made the initial mistake but their own DS said after how he’d complained multiple times about race radio’s mistakes so surely (especially given last year) that would have meant they should have held back for confirmation… seems they got exciteable, which is nice but not really what you want behind the scenes overall…

      It makes me wonder whether the DS reminded BC to throw his bike in the final kms? Or whether they make the small details like this a part of their training camps so it becomes second nature?

      The french teams win big races so rarely despite having talent that I can’t help but assume a lack of organisation leads to them not building a winning culture the way QS or even DSM a few years back have – and that’s aside from Cofidis & Total awful selections in the rider market that again scream a lack of a coherent plan.

      I feel like despite his age it was fairly predictable GVA would not win once with AG2R and I expect the same for Sagan – can’t see either team giving them a renaissance they way Gilbert and Cavendish have had. Although I’m ready to have egg on my face when GVA wins Roubaix next wkend.

      • oldDave,Cosnefroy’ lack of a bike throw seemed to be everything. He beat Kwiatkowski to the point a meter after the line! Kwiatkowski left every once of his race at the line itself.
        I get a certain thrill from seeing someone who wins infrequently, but BIG when they do.

        • Cosnefroy’s shoulders are well ahead at the line, but he didn’t throw his bike. Shame, but only himself to blame… and certainly it’s not down to the DS to explain this basic point to him.
          Cosnefroy seemed to know he’d messed it up; pounding the bars immediately after the finish.

          • Agree he lost it on the bike throw, but after pushing so hard to maintain the gap, starting his sprint long and kicking again as Kwiato came alongside him, I’m not surprised he didn’t have the wherewithal and blood flow to the brain and arms to effect it. Probably lacking experience in that kind of finish too.

          • Cepheus Grylle, good points. Have to say, I was gutted for him, having ridden such a brilliant race and then been so strong in the sprint. He handled the disappointment of the ridiculous false announcement with aplomb too.

      • “It makes me wonder whether the DS reminded BC to throw his bike in the final kms? Or whether they make the small details like this a part of their training camps so it becomes second nature?”
        Has it come to this? Really? The riders are just robots who can do nothing without instructions through an earpiece? C’mon, it was Kwiato’s race-to-lose coming to the line, the look of relief on his face when the result was announced was pretty obvious while Cosnefroy never looked like he really believed he’d won.

  11. Ha! Didn’t realise Kwiatkowski won until just now. I watched the race late at night and turned off as Cosnefroy was celebrating.

  12. I realise this is the accepted dogma and I’ll probably be shot down in flames immediately by Larry but is it proven by physics that a bike throw at the line is actually effective? In order to push your bike forward by extending your arms and legs are you not also having to stop pedalling and therefore no longer contributing to forward momentum. If the rider is still accelerating rather than at terminal velocity would maintaining pedalling not reach the line faster? Be gentle.

    • Someone might respond with the old “Let me Google that for you!” as Alan has done below. Perhaps it IS just me but sometimes it seems there way-too-may comments here about things that are easily looked up before questions are asked or half-baked declarations made. Here’s an example: ” The french teams win big races so rarely despite having talent that I can’t help but assume a lack of organisation leads to them not building a winning culture the way QS or even DSM a few years back have – and that’s aside from Cofidis & Total awful selections in the rider market that again scream a lack of a coherent plan.” I’d love it if Marc Madiot, Vincent Lavenu or Jean-Rene Bernaudeau could sit at the same bar as the author of that paragraph so he could school them on how to properly organize their squads 🙂

      • I’m afraid not many of us would be worthy of forming an opinion and making a comment if the reqquirement is that we should be as experienced and as succesful team managers as Madiot, Lavenu or Bernaudeau.
        But I’ll take the risk of receiving a,,,my daughter would have a word for it…comment from Larry T, but although it is no doubt so that all three have done an excellent job considering the budget available and have done so under a long time, but when I look at the period I remember best, that is to say, the past two years and the ongoing season, it seems to me that (1) their teams aren’t winning as much as they perhaps should (considering who their best riders are), and that (2) I don’t see in which direction the teams are going or how they intend to improve their stats.

      • Thanks Larry, you didn’t let me down. Thanks Alan, your link was very helpful for a newbie less knowledgeable than Larry (everyone?).

        • I don’t think it’s “less knowledgeable”. I’d never claim to be more knowledgeable than others here, but the difference is in the BS declarations – something that plagues the internet. My wife describes it as that local bar where there’s one guy who really doesn’t know anything but goes on and on like he’s an expert on anything/everything, even arguing with those who really KNOW. Social media seems to be a world-wide bar full of these people. Eurosport’s resident Italian expert (so it’s not just Anglo-Saxons) laments the same thing when his fellow commentator relays email messages like the one I noted – Magrini asks “Who is this person? I don’t remember seeing this name on any results sheets at any races or on the list of directors of any teams. Why should anyone care about their half-baked opinion?”
          What (used to anyway) set this blog apart was the low-level of this type of stuff, but perhaps because our host posts mostly graphs about points that few (other than him, and I have to admit it is HIS blog) care about these days, this kind of stuff seems to be more prevalent?

    • I thought Peter was asking about bike throws, no?

      Peter – short answer – yes, bike throw seems to be the resounding winning solution. On your last pedal stroke you push down and use the momentum from that stroke to launch the bike forward. But, I could never sprint so I’m not really the one to ask. When timed right it gives you a tiny advantage over merely pedaling through the line.

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