Amstel Gold Race Preview

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After two years of bother the organisers promise they’ve upgraded the photofinish equipment so there’ll be no doubting the winner. Perhaps they won’t need all this given Tadej Pogačar is riding? It’s a tough course where he’ll find plenty of rivals.

The Route: 253.6km and all in a corner of the Netherlands and not the low country but Limburg, the hilly part. It’s relative as the race rarely gets beyond 200 metres altitude but there are 3,200 metres of vertical gain spread across 33 marked climbs.

One difficulty you don’t see from the profile nor map is the mix of narrow roads and tight corners, it’s part part-labyrinth, part-Mario Kart course, part street furniture showroom. It means those at the front get to chose their line while anyone beyond, say, 20th wheel is stuck in a cycle of braking and sprinting. Local knowledge and a couple of strong team mates help here, arguably more than the Ronde and Liège.

The Finish: the Keutenberg and then the Cauberg to cross the finish line. Then it’s out into the apple orchards and and the Bemelerberg climb, a soft gradient but sometimes just enough to split the field. Over the top it’s via Mathieu van der Poel Allée and to the finish on a big wide road.

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The Contenders
The organisers have hired a different company to handle the timing and photofinish in order to avoid the hiccups of the past two years but maybe they need not worry as Tadej Pogačar (UAE) is in town. Of the Fantastic Five, only he starts so at least he doesn’t have to worry about Mathieu van der Poel. The course suits with its succession of hilly climbs, he’s handy for a sprint in a group and he’s binned the mythology of having to learn the lay of the land in the Ronde. That said the Amstel course is more technical and so he can’t be too nonchalant here especially as he’s only started once in 2019 but didn’t finish. Plus while he’s spoken about racing on to Liège the following Sunday he’s said the results depend on being able to hold onto form.

Tom Pidcock (Ineos) back to a race where he was less photogenic in 2021 when Wout van Aert just beat him to the line. Last year’s winner Michał Kwiatkowski was dropped in Wednesday’s Brabantse Pijl but he’s got the race craft and could surprise, if not he’ll be there to guide Pidcock.

Jumbo-Visma are the home team but won’t have it easy and their best riders aren’t here, no Wout van Aert, no Primož Roglič. Tiesj Benoot and Attila Valter team up again after their Strade Bianche ride where you can pick the letter “t” or “l” to place after due- depending on how you saw things. Both can work well here with Benoot as the battering ram and Valter as the more incisive rider for the climbs.

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Bora-hansgrohe have Ide Schelling and Sergio Higuita with the former an outsider capable of taking a flyer, a Schelling versnelling, while Higuita won a stage of the Tour of the Basque Country and not by scaling a wall or ramp but bossing a bunch sprint, albeit one reduced thanks to some climbing.

Briefly announced as the winner last year Benoît Cosnefroy (Ag2r Citroën) is in form but faces the perpetual problem of riders who target “the Ardennes” races in there are only four races here and competition is fierce. Still he’s world class on his day and is suited to these sharp climbs.

Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ) fell ill for the Ronde but looked ripe for Paris-Camembert and the longer the race, the better he’ll go. David Gaudu’s here too after a decent Basque Country result despite being ill while Romain Grégoire’s worth watching.

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Neilson Powless (EF Education) is having a great season and when he got his first win in the GP La Marseillaise he said his goal was really the Ardennes. The terrain suits as he climbs well, the hard part will be positioning and if it comes down to a sprint, his rivals could be quicker. Ben Healy is climbing well, Mikkel Honoré is strong but Andrea Piccolo should be their second option only his form doesn’t look so hot.

A hilly race for a punchy Dutch climber? Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) has featured in the race but how to win. Mattias Skjelmose is another option with Quinn Simmons and Toms Skujiņš bringing more support.

Alpecin-Deceuninck must be the most gravity-challenged team in the World Tour, especially now Jay Vine’s left. They can clean up in flat races but it’s harder for them in the hills. Søren Kragh Andersen, Robert Stannard are their best options but how to win? SKA can try to float away during a lull.

With the pressure to perform easing now the Flemish calendar’s done, Soudal-Quickstep have a better chance here, plus a team that resembles their “wolfpack” style with younger riders able to take risks so Mauro Schmid and Andrea Bagioli have a shot. Rémi Cavagna is in form too and was decent on the climbs in the Brabantse Pijl before deciding to ride up one on the pavé standing on the pedals while his breakaway companions rode up the smooth gutter, seated and he blew up trying to match them.

Intermarché-Circus-Wanty have a solid team with Kobe Goosens, Rui Costa, Lilian Calmejane and Lorenzo Rota but translating their Majorcan wins into a World Tour victory is a big ask, Costa is normally the best bet – fourth in Strade Bianche – but doesn’t seem in form now.

Finally is this race too hilly for Matej Mohorič (Bahrain) as he can get a result but risks being fried by the finale. Jayco-Al Ula are having a discreet classics campaign to put it politely, but Matteo Sobrero is a rising talent, a TT rider capable of more but he’d have to take some long range move. Lotto-Dstny’s Andrea Kron is due a big result one day but how to get past all the names cited above? Movistar’s Alex Aranburu is a fast-finisher if he can be there in the finish. Astana are beginning to pick up and Alexey Lutsenko and Samuele Battistella are worth watching but translating Lutsenko’s Sicilia summit finish from Friday to this is a big leap.

Tadej Pogačar
Tom Pidcock, Benoît Cosnefroy
Neilson Powless, Valentin Madouas, Tiesj Benoot
Valter, Higuita, Schmid, Mohorič, Lutsenko, Kron, Kwiatkowski

Weather: cloudy and some rain showers, a top temperature of 12°C.

TV: the race starts at 10.50am and the finish is for 5.00pm CEST. 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. It’s a heuristic but it’s a wrong one. The Ardennes are a western part of the larger Eifel mountain range. The Ardennes begin far to the south of this race, think Liège and instead the Limburg hills are clay and sand deposits. Now you know.

Women’s Amstel: this starts at 10.15 CEST and finishes around 2.20pm with TV coverage from midday onwards. For a good preview, see’s Amstel picks

63 thoughts on “Amstel Gold Race Preview”

  1. “…translating Lutsenko’s Sicilia summit finish from Friday to this is a big leap.” This guy looked pretty strong yesterday though the finish wasn’t on a summit. He certainly won the race on that last climb with maybe a bit of extra on the descent back down to the sea.
    He might be a surprise on Sunday and I’d give him at least two chainrings, but what do I know?

      • I like: “ One difficulty you don’t see from the profile nor map is the mix of narrow roads and tight corners, it’s part labyrinth, part Mario Kart course, part street furniture showroom.” Fun to read, witty, and deftly sizes up the race.

        I also loved the brief discussion that this race isn’t actually in the Ardennes. One great thing about cycling is you learn so much history, culture, and geography along the way.

  2. This race always feels like the odd one among all the classics between Strade and LBL, just looks less epic. Pogacar question is how far from the finish does he attack? And what chance for his team mate Hirschi?

    From Denmark got my eye on Alexander Kamp, form seems good. Oscar Onley was going well in the Volta Limburg race before he crashed out.

    • Hirschi is such a shadow of his former self that it makes one wonder what happened; either back then or now. Pogacar must be delighted that his two biggest challengers are not in the race, despite him being the grand tour rider and one of the top favourites for the Tour de France and them being classics specialists.

        • He had some wins last year. There was some kind of bust up with DSM and what seems like a confidentiality agreement meant neither side could say why which only added to the mystery, then moving he had dental problems then injuries from changing his shoes/cleats.

    • I don’t think LBL feels so epic either. When I first was told it was a Monument I didn’t understand. In my viewing experience it’s no better than ASG but sure it’s older and a bit longer. Also as a recreational cyclist I think Limburg is better riding than the Ardennes.

      • I’ll come in to bat for Liege-Bastogne-Liege. The oldest of the five monuments and characterised by some truly epic editions, including Merckx’ win in 1971 and Hinault’s definitive Neige-Bastogne-Neige in 1980 which probably limited the rest of his career.

        The monument perhaps most attainable to Grand Tour contenders, and still sought-after by the greats, even after they started to specialise more in the 1980s. Criquelion (RIP), Roche and Lemond certainly all did their best to win, and the list of past winners I think very solidly cements its place among the five monuments.

        • …years? How many? Both races have had a relatively hard time in the 2010s, but Amstel’s (again, “relative”) crisis had started midway through the 2000s. Barring Gilbert, many athletes just looked at it as the first step towards the Liège, a situation which of course opened up some occasions for second-line riders but which didn’t make the race greater. I always liked it as it’s – ahem, sometimes – very entertaining, but it’s a bit like comparing E3 with the Ronde (although with less difference in value between the two). The former may have more action, but no doubt about which is the big one. Both races have been growing back again to their name in the last three or four seasons. However, in sheer terms of startlist, the Liège tends to be among the 4-5 bigger races in absolute terms, Amstel is more like top-10. The hype may depend on the fact that it opens the côte week, but that may also be related to watching or not the Brabantse Pijl and what sort of race you classify it as.

    • The course does have a suburban feel in places, it’s less of a journey across the landscape, a story. But that’s what makes it hard, it’s probably one of the races that wears out riders and brake pads alike the most, the stop-start efforts.

      Hirschi? UAE seem to be going all in for Pogačar, it’s obviously worth backing him all the way, they don’t have to try several cards when they hold the ace.

      As for Onley, a result is hard today. Don’t think he crashed out in the Volta Limburg, it was more some problem with his bike in the wet.

      • The “suburban feel” was what tarnished last year’s world road race in my mind. When Woollongong was announced I imagined a challenging course on the escarpment but all we got was wheelie bins.

  3. It will take a brave man to bet against Pogačar, although we don’t know his form and he has been very active since February. Even with his dad shouting in his ear, Icarus flew too high, so youthful Pogačar might make a mistake.
    Would like to see Madouas finally get a major win after all his podium spots, but that all depends on Pogačar’s form.

    • Madouas has quietly impressed this season. Some bad luck at times but he was very strong in Strade despite a big crash. He’s a real 4×4 rider who is strong in the classics and handy for mountain domestique work, said before he’s a French version of Van Baarle. His contract’s up this year.

    • One thing that makes road races interesting, compared to many sports, is that even when there is a huge favorite, it is still ‘one against all’ with 95% of the other riders looking to bring down the favorite. As a result, the prohibitive favorite often finishes in the top 3 or top 5, but they don’t win even the majority of the races in which they’re the top favorite. I think Inring made a great point that, unlike when MvdP and WvA or other top riders are in the final group, this time it’s unlikely that anyone at all will close any gaps for him. I won’t be surprised if he still wins easily, but I will be no more surprised if he suffers the death of a thousand cuts and bleeds out by the finish.

  4. Heart would say Kwiato. He had been slowly building momentum but that crash at Ghent-Wevelgem ruined everything. Still hoping he somehow finds his form and stays with the front group. It’s hard being a Polish fan these days as almost all that’s left is Maciejuk literally tearing the whole peloton apart.

  5. The mysterious Marc Hirschi is riding today I see. Boggles the mind that his 2020 form has never returned 🧐. See also Michael Valgren.

    I am surprised that both Remco and Alaphilippe are waiting until next week to appear.

    • And at the end of Hirschi’s curiously stellar 2020 (the season when testing was much happening less because of covid), Hirschi’s team bafflingly wanted rid of this tremendously up-and-coming rider. And then a confidentiality agreement was signed. And then he had a load of rubbish excuses for his form not returning, involving his shoes and teeth. Never trust anyone who buys silence legally.

      • Completely agree with comments on Hirschi and his career’s flying start, but that guy sure knows how to descend at speed. Cancellara connection right there.

        Doesn’t Pogacar only enter races to win them? It’s going to take fearful gamesmanship to beat him.
        And after 2019 edition, who doesn’t love Amstel Gold Race

        • You simply cannot ride with him in a one day race now unless you are MVDP, Rog, Remco, WVA… those in the break did what seemed sensible but today was the final nail in the coffin of giving Pog any help if you or your team have any ambition to win the race. The only way to beat him is to get ahead of him/the race and at no point to ride with him. Even then you’ll still likely lose.

          I thought today was the first time the Pog show got a little dull… even if I kind of just still love watching him and seeing his full talent on show. He and the other big5 are electrifying cycling but when only one of them is in the race it’s a near foregone conclusion… and when none are in a race you wonder whether it’s really worth watching. I saw the advert for the TouroftheAlps after and just thought, why would I be excited without any of the big5? Despite having regularly enjoyed that race in recent years.

          I’ve recently argued for a revised calendar for various reasons despite knowing it’s impossible – one of those reasons was for the value of races to be clearer but Pog is doing that on his own by just turning up.

          • I’m more interested in watching the Tour of the Alps because none of the big 5 are riding it. It means there’s a chance there will be a number of riders contesting it closely rather than a couple of riders miles ahead of the rest of the field.

          • I agree on the part where it gets dull. It’s amazing to watch but it’s also predictable. It will be interesting to see what teams do in e. g. Liege. They would need to team up on him if he keeps this form. Although a 50k pursuit race between Tadej and Remco could be interesting too if they are well matched.

          • The Fleche and Liege should be interesting then. Liege to see if Evenepoel on his home grounds can take the fight to Pogacar, the Fleche because the longer and harder it gets the more the scales tip to Pog and the Fleche is < 200km.

          • I still fail to see what you can’t find clear enough in race value, barring obviously the institutional attempts to tilt such values for political reasons (but that’s not a problem depending on the calendar or any intrinsic aspect of the sport).

            Well, to be honest if you are able to sort out the few manifestly odd ones there (doesn’t require much insight, just scroll their list of previous winners on PCS), for the rest you can even use UCI points as a reference…

          • It’s a fair point Gabriele.
            I won’t go too far into it here as it’s irrelevant to the race and I’ve already but (rightly) been shut down on comments once this week! To be clear, it’s not that I do not understand the value, I very much know which races are and are not important – the reason is two fold: primarily to enable new fans to come to the sport easier with a more comprehensible calendar, I noticed in the cuts to the crowd post Amstel the average age was well into 40s so despite a golden generation and many young cyclists, it still feels like the sport as a whole struggles to connect with young people/audiences. Secondarily with WVA palming off a victory at GW, it’s clear certain races just do not matter that much the best riders so how can we expect them to matter to people outside of you and I and other hardcore fans? I will obviously watch TouroftheAlps but I do think any sport needs to try and think beyond people like us who will love it whatever and engage with more passing fans and first timers, less warm up races and more racing with proper value like Flanders, Roubaix, TDF, Giro, Amstel would help this.

            It’s partly why I’m very much in favour of race weekends with a women’s race on Saturday and men’s Sunday or vice versa – as it creates an event feel, that seems to me much better tailored to attracting women’s fans to men’s races and again vice versa.

            My only religion is attracting more people to watch what I think is the greatest sport on earth! Admittedly I do very little beyond the power of a keyboard so should likely be ignored.

          • Watching sport live is a middle aged thing. Its not just cycling. To watch sport live you have to put your ‘devices’ down and leave the house. Young people struggle with that.

          • ps Gabriele, I won’t answer any further on this, as I’ve already commented far too much in the last week since Roubaix and probably should take a little time off from INRNG.

          • Not there’s much to complain about when our sport has 5 superstars who’ve each taken it up a level.
            Plus, isn’t Pogacar’s form on the bike absolutely perfect? OK you rarely see him under stress, nor even looking tired but the form has a lot to do with it.
            He only did what MVP has done many times (though I concede the certainty of outcome haha)

            Compare: ‘Coming up this season is Froome’s big challenge to repeat the wins of cycling’s biggest race The Tour of France with the support of Team Sky’
            ‘Who can beat Motorola and their dominant leader Lance Armstrong?’
            [Voiced up as your country’s former commentator on the rare days when we got maybe 25mins highlights of only the Tour ]

            And: The sheer joy of foreseeable future calendars where even races without the big 5 are really battled over – thinking here of Sicily which was great, so why not Tour of the Alps too – and when any of these do ride we know they will win … unless other teams get together to work some tactical magic.
            The real difference with Pogacar is he is so able he never lets the race get ahead of him and can always ride away from stuff he doesn’t like. – unless it’s a hot day in the mountains and Vingegaard is there.

          • @oldDAVE
            And what, beside your gut feeling and maybe anecdotal evidence makes you think this sport doesn’t attract enough people under 40?
            A sport in which people in their early 20s dominate, a sport which is broadcasted more and more in tv stations and streaming services than ever before? We now can watch races we never were able to see before.
            And what makes you think a GW means nothing to WvA? He won it together with Laporte and granted him the first place, a game of give and take in a team, pretty normal politics, nothing new and nothing a 20y old didn’t understand.
            Yeah, I know, cycling has to be like F1, a coruppt capitalistic circus, yadda, yadda. Heard it hundred times before, still don’t care what men loud polluting machines do driving in circles.

          • On cycling’s audience, it is old. Now fans are not the same as audience, people who read niche blogs, ride and race bikes, or have GCN open on a browser tab at work will be younger than a lot of the audience.

            The biggest watchers of bike races in France, Spain, Belgium, Italy and Switzerland? The over-60s. And the second largest component of the audience? Women aged 35-55. It’s not just because cycling is a slow and gradual sport, it’s also availability because there’s a lot of racing on during weekday afternoons so “pensioners” and “housewives” are around to watch a bike race, even kids can’t watch as they’re often still in school for a 3 or 4pm finish. Watch Paris-Nice or the Giro midweek and you’ll see ads for aching joint lotions, incontinence pads and funeral plans, the joys that await us. This typically changes at the weekend and this weekend audience is bigger and also contains more valuable cohorts.

        • There’s a decent number of memes out there showing the different reaction of mainly Belgian riders when facing an Amstel vs. a Chimay…
          The frites things after the Ronde was funny too, with MvdP showing his iron stomach tasting his on the spot (ketchup curry mayonnaise) unlike the rest of men and women podiumers.

    • Yes it was, and again it’s not a problem with the riders. Some of those roads were ridiculously narrow and what exactly was Pogacar supposed to do? If it were a team car the team and rider would quite rightly be penalized — when it’s neutral support, race direction, or media, who’s held accountable?

      • I watched the last 55km and initially thought the peloton letting Pogacar and co. sit at 20-30 seconds might be a legitimate tactic. As time went on the race motos ahead of the breakaway made it easier to be there than among the chasers who had little such assistance and eventually were destroyed by the effort and the disruption of the main crash. A cynic might say the race organisers wanted the prestige of a Pogacar victory and cemented what was already a strong likelihood with their lead car at the end. Shameful really.

        Chapeau too to Ben Healy who announced his place among the big league with a great ride. As good as his recent form and results have been I thought he’d still have been a step down from the podium against this field, even absent MVDP, WVA and others.

  6. Chapeau et merci Inner Ring for packing so much charm into one short piece, very enjoyable. In addition to the great lines referenced above by other readers, I’d like to add my appreciation for the Pidcock “photogenic” quip and the piercing Jumbo due-t or due-l line; I am still scratching my head over that tactical blunder and admit to scolding Valter out loud while watching alone.
    After the finish of Amstel today, I went back and watched the finish of the 2019 edition, just for a shot of adrenaline (though the winner today is no less brilliantly deserving).

    • As regards 2019 Amstel, I find myself re-visiting the last 40km at least a couple of times a year. Being an Australian, the interesting aspect for me is seeing Simon Clarke, who couldn’t believe his luck, jump on the MVDP express as it goes past.
      Simon is a very good finisher from a diminished group, and I could almost read his mind as he was thinking, ‘how good is this for a leadout’?
      He soon realised that he was on the back of an unrestrained rocket, and was the first to congratulate MVDP as they crossed the line.

  7. Leo van Vliet, course director has replied to the criticism of his vehicle seeming to draft by saying the roads were narrow and the driver had to take care when returning to the lead position.
    Jonathan Vaughters straight up called it motorpacing.

    • The car shouldn’t have been there behind, normally either it’s ahead of the race or behind the peloton. Pogačar was probably going to win anyway and Healy held on for second place but it perhaps reduced the suspense and the doubt isn’t good either way.

      Above all it means a lot of people are talking about the organiser for the third year in a row rather than the racing.

      • Agreed, and the organiser would be better to start the comment with “we are sorry, it was our mistake, but as soon as we could safely move the car we did…” or something. Their comment throws fuel on the fire a bit.

        Either way, as a fan, I don’t think this affected the race much and I LOVED it. Pogacar is a beast, and I tip my hat to the guys who battled to stay with him as long as they dared.

      • You are right, Mr. INRNG, the car should not have been there. Most likely Mr. van Vliet had some sponsor on board, that is often thecase when some official car strays from its dedicated purpose.
        It surely would have been better for the organiser to openly admit a minor fault as I am sure he already has done towards the jury. I am certain it was reported.

  8. Age and audience. Not necessarily a problem, if you have decent turnover. Audience within a broad enough perspective hasn’t really gone down in the last quarter of a century, and not even impressively up and down, unlike so many other sports. Which means that it’s not necessarily about a specific generation of fans just growing old and then passing away. A person who’s 60 yo in 2023 was born in 1963 and wasn’t even a teenager when Merckx was already over. It’s “simply” a sport for old(ish) men… So, while people still go on aging, it’s ok for cycling. Of course, you’ve got *potential growth* at hand if you succeed in breaking the age and gender barriers. But it’s worse when your public is simply vanishing away like it happened in Italy, and not only there to boxe, basketball again in Italy, waterpolo to an extent, F1 in Spain etc.
    Not everyone who’s riding will watch the pros, but it’s surely a factor, from a lot of different POVs – and many people use to start cycling as, well, MAMILS.

  9. Am I to assume that the how the race was won was too short to bother:
    Pogacar Signed on.

    And the same goes for Fleche Preview:
    Pogacar is due to race.

    Here’s hoping that someone hangs onto his coat tails when he inevitably attacks and then can come round him at the line, so much easier to write than do i would imagine!

    • Demi Vollering was pretty unreal today – it’s weird to see Fleche end like that when you’ve watched so many men’s races end like Pogacar’s win but full respect to Vollering riding threshold then exploding all from the front, thought it was really impressive – even if a 7.30am start for the women seems pretty disrespectful. This is definitely one race you can the two races can be run close together without the audience missing much!

      Kinda the race’s fault rather than Pog’s that today was 3mins of excitement… I love climbing so am willing to switch on and watch but it’s lucky it’s a Wednesday special as that race on a Saturday would be a nightmare.

      • So what would be *your* nightmare if LFW happened on a weekend? Does somebody put a gun at your head and make you watch races you don’t want to see? And where is this person on Wednesdays?
        All the lamenting every year. Just watch the final 2 km and be happy. Like most people watch MSR just from the Poggio on. On a weekend day…

        • Oh sorry my tone wasn’t quite as intended – I actually kind of enjoy Flèche because I like climbing so much, the unofficial sprint climb world champs grabs me every year and this year started watching at 1km exactly so timed it to perfection. It’s also fun listening to all the podcasts laughing at how bad the race is – really enjoyed Cycling Podcast deciding it’s now the best race on the calendar and then scouring Google maps themselves to try and find a better route – it’s pretty much so bad it’s good now, which it’s hard not to love. I sometimes wonder if they’ll just embrace the hill climb aspect and forget the race all together and do a vs tournament instead, a day of one on one knockout races up the MdeH would be daft but super fun, although I guess that German Hammer event tried similar and didn’t fly recently. Andy Feather could parachute into the World Tour for a day.

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